Illuminations #101, Kislev 5777, Parshat Vayeishev

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Illuminations #101, Kislev 5777, Parshat Vayeishev

Torah Gems

In describing the evolution of idol worship, the Rambam writes that the first idol worshipers didn’t deny the existence of G-d, rather they believed that Hashem was too big to concern himself with human affairs, and thus appointed emissaries in His stead to run the world. Avraham Avinu proved to the world that not only did Hashem exist, but that He was actively involved in the minute details of the world, and every change that occurred in the world was a result of Hashem’s orchestration. The entire episode of Yosef and his brothers clearly demonstrates the hidden hand of G-d, but the following two examples specifically show just how far Hashgacha Pratis (Divine providence) goes. 

Yosef’s brothers viewed him as a rodef (assailant) who wished to rule over them. They therefore ruled that they must kill him, as per the Talmudic dictum, “One who wishes to kill you, you precede and kill him.” Yosef’s two dreams only worked to strengthen this belief, as the Talmud tells us, “A person only dreams at night that which he thought about at day.” As they cast Yosef into the pit, the posuk tells us that they said to each other, “Let us throw him into one of the pits… and we’ll see what will be of his dream.” Rashi quotes a medrash which expounds on this verse that Hashem said they wished to kill him, but we’ll see whose word will be fulfilled, Mine or theirs. In other words, they wished to prevent the dreams from coming to fruition, but Hashem said that, nevertheless, He would ensure the actualization of the dream. R’ Chaim Friedlander points out that Hashem was not merely saying that they would be unsuccessful in blocking Hashems plans, but that they would act as the very conduit to carry out His plan. Indeed, the very act of throwing him in a pit and selling him as a slave caused Yosef to end up in Egypt, which ultimately led to his rise in power.

Later in the parsha, the Torah tells us that the brothers sold Yosef to a caravan of Ishmaelites carrying spices. Rashi explains that the Torah went to great lengths to describe their cargo because normally Arabs traveled with foul-smelling cargo such as tar or naphtha, but in this case, Hashem arranged that Yosef should be spared the offensive odor. Reb Yerucham points out that we see how Hashem cared for the righteous even in the inconsequential details, for noonly did Hashem ensure that no harm shoulbefall Yosef, but that even the smell should be a pleasant one. 

In our lives we often encounter incidents that seem inexplicable and without purpose but in retrospect very often these incidents become clear as very integral   a bigger picture. May we merit to recognize Hashem’s hidden hand in our everyday lives.

Parsha Pearls

In a climactic moment in our parsha Yosef is faced with an incredibly difficult test as he refuses to succumb to pressures from Aishes Potiphar (Potifars wife) to sin with her. Where did Yosef derive such remarkable strength? Rashi writes that the form of his father, Yakov, appeared to him, but that itself begs explanation- why was the picture of Yakov the antidote to the yetzer hora?

The word the Torah uses to tell us that Yosef refrained from sin is וימאן , and he refused. Elsewhere in this parsha we find the very same word. When the brothers came to inform Yakov that Yosef was killed it says  ,וימאן להתנחם , and he refused to be comforted. Reb Shimshon Pinkus says that when he saw the vision of Yakov, he saw that after all these years Yakov had refused to give up on him, and because he saw that his father still believed in him, he determined he wouldn’t give up on himself and remained resolute in the face of this enormous challenge.

Glimpses of Greatness

Sason was a wealthy Jewish man from KalkudaSason developed lung disease and decided to make the long journey from India to Paris to meet some of the world’s foremost lung specialists. The specialist who examined him told him that his chances of survival were slim, but if he attempted an extremely risky surgery there was a small chance he would recover. Sason decided to ask R’ Yehosuah Leib Diskind for his advice. To his shock, R’ Diskind told him that surgery was unnecessary and that he’d be perfectly fine. Sason was swayed by family members to ignore the Rabbi’s advice and he arranged to meet with the surgeon. At the meeting, the surgeon bluntly told him that he refused to operate on him. He explained he didn’t want to gamble his reputation on such a risky patient. Left with no choice, Sason returned home, minus surgery, and lived a healthy life of nearly 100 years.


Halacha Weekly

Q. Can a Jew sit on a jury? [I-513]

A. Shemot 21-1: And these are the Judgments which I place beforthem. Rashi brings  from Gittin 88b, “‘Before them’ and not before idol worshippers. And even if it is known that in the one judgment of theirs they judge according to the laws of Israel, you are not allowed to bring a case to their courts, because one that brings the laws of Israel before an Aramean desecrates the Name of G-d and gives precedence to idols, causing them to be praised.” Mishneh Halachot (R. Menashe Klein, 4-213) writes that it is prohibited for a Jew to join with these to be judged in this, and this is not a case of din demalchuta [that the Law of the land is the Law]….for the laws judged in the courts are not judgments of the Kingdom but the courts judge for themselves based on their books of judgments.

However, Beit Avi (R. Shalom Shaul Munk2-144) writes that this is an obligation on all citizens of the States…and also they are not giving or administering any punishment. This is only relevant to the judges who are only required to consider according to their own judgment if what the accuser says is in fact true and  to decide the level of the punishment.  And even as regards being a judge, it appears this is also permitted. Since he [the judge] does not decree a judgment on his own understandinbut rather follows the statutes of the State. And he is only doing so to fulfill his function.