Illuminations #184, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Vayeishev

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Illuminations #184, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Vayeishev

Torah Gems

‘Reuven heard, and he rescued him from their hand. He said, “We will not strike him mortally!”’ (37:21)

In speaking of Reuven’s rescue of Yosef, the midrash says this pasuk teaches that when a person performs a mitzvah, he should do so joyously and completely. Had Reuven known that the Torah would record about him for all eternity that he rescued Yosef, he would have carried Yosef on his shoulders and brought him back to his father instead of suggesting that he be thrown into a pit.
This midrash teaches us an important insight. When one is praised for something he did not do, or his minor action is amplified many times, he should not feel proud about that. If anything, he should feel ashamed to be given credit and recognition for something he did not do, or did only partiallyTherefore, had Reuven known that the Torah would label him as the savior of Yosef, he would have carried him home on his shoulders to his father. He would have done the rescue work in a complete and optimum fashion.
The midrash says that when a person does a special mitzvah, Eliyahu HaNavi records it and mashiach and Hashem, as it were, sign on it. How careful must a person therefore be to do mitzvos to the fullest extent so that he not be shamed by being credited for something he only did partially.

Parsha Pearls

‘The man asked him, “what are you seeking?”’(37:15)

Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk explains that “the man” speaking in the possuk teaches us “what are you seeking,” meaning that it is incumbent on each person to set himself a goal that he wishes to achieve, and when he does so, even if the goal is far beyond his energy and abilities, he will receive divine assistance to reach the goal he set for himself.
A wealthy man once visited the home of the Chafetz Chaim. When he saw the poor conditions under which the Tzaddik lived, he offered to build the Chofetz Chaim a beautiful house with nice furniture. The Chafetz Chaim asked him, “And where do you live?” The man told him about his elegant house filled with all that money could buy. “Tell me,” the Chafetz Chaim said, “when you travel for your many business affairs, do you take all your valuable possessions with you?” The man did not understand what the tzaddik was asking and replied in surprise, “But I am on the road, so why do I need furniture while I am traveling?” 
“Listen to what you are saying”, the Chafetz Chaim replied. “I am also on the road! All of us in this world are only on the road so why do I need furniture?”

Glimpses of Greatness

The Chaftez Chaim writes that although it is usually commendable to speak as little as possible, it is a moral obligation to boost the spirit of someone who is dejected by conversing with him at length. 

A disciple of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter once saw him standing on a street corner, engaged in common place chatter and jokes with a stranger. Since  the student was accustomed to the sincere and serious behavior of Rabbi Salanter, he later asked his teacher about his out-of-character humor. Rabbi Salanter explained to his student that the man had problems that were weighing very heavily on his heart and he wanted to alleviate his depression.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Why are we not allowed to give a free gift to a non-Jew? [I-YD 7-209]

A. It says in Dev 7:2, “Lo tichrot lahem Brit v’lo techanem.” “You shall not make with them a covenant and do not show them favor.”   The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (20a) explains this in two different ways, to mean separate things: Lo techanem [means] that one should not give them a free gift. Another version is: lo techanem  [means] not to ascribe to them gracefulness. That is, we are not to compliment them, ascribing to them ‘chein’, gracefulness. [That is] unless there is some potential benefit to one’s self, or constructive purpose for Jews achieved  by saying such things about them. Why is this action prohibited? What is the reason for the prohibition?

Sefer Hachinuch (426) explains the reason for the mitzvah: ‘Not to give them a [free] gift’ [because] the beginning of every human action is fixing his thought on it and discussing it, … [and] after the thought [and] speech the action is done. Therefore, by refraining in thought and in speech from seeking well-being of idolaters and [mentioning them] favorably, we will refrain from forming bonds with them and pursuing after those things which they love [to pursue after], and from learning anything from their evil actions.’ This is the reason why we refrain from giving anything to them freely [i.e., unless there is some constructive benefit in doing so for the Jew] including [even] a compliment.