December 17th 2022

23rd of Kislev 5783

Yaakov's Love of Yosef Brought About the Fulfillment of the Promise

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

"Now Yisrael loved Yosef more than all his sons since he was a child of his old age, and he made him a fine woolen tunic" (Bereishit 37:3).

Yaakov's love for his son Yosef was such an intense love, it was way above natural feelings. Chazal tell us that Yaakov Avinu studied Torah only with Yosef; everything Yaakov learned during the fourteen years he studied in the beit midrash of Shem and Ever, he gave over to Yosef. In addition, Yaakov made Yosef a special tunic as an expression of his great love for him, particularly because he was the son of Rachel whom Yaakov loved dearly due to her exceptionally righteous ways.

Yaakov Avinu also possessed great love for Eretz Yisrael. This is where he desired to live all his life and he did not want to leave. Chazal say (Shabbat 89b), "Yaakov Avinu was supposed to go down to Egypt in iron chains, but he was saved by his merit, as it says (Hoshea 11:4), "With the cords of man I drew them, with bonds of love, and I acted towards them like [farmers] who raise the yoke [from] upon their [animals'] jaws, and I provided food for them."

Yaakov Avinu loved the Land and did not want to leave it of his own accord. He lived in the Land as a (permanent) resident, as it says (Bereishit 37:1), "Yaakov settled in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan." Just as his father Yitzchak lived in this Land and did not leave, Yaakov wished to follow in his footsteps.

But exile had been decreed upon the Jewish people and therefore Yaakov Avinu had to go down to Egypt, as Rashi explains. Normally, Yaakov would have had to be brought down to Egypt in iron chains, meaning against his will. However, Hashem had mercy on him and he was taken down "with gentle ropes".

But how could this be brought about if he was so determined not to leave Eretz Yisrael? For this reason Hashem brought about the selling of Yosef. Hashem caused Yaakov to love Yosef more than all his other sons, which made the brothers jealous. Hashem inserted the thought in Yaakov's mind to make Yosef a special tunic, and this caused the brother to hate him even more. In this way they eventually sold Yosef as a slave, and thus Yosef was taken to Egypt.

However, this was not enough. Yaakov too had to reach Egypt. So Hashem caused Pharaoh to have two dreams, and Yosef was the only one who successfully interpreted them. Pharaoh was very impressed and appointed him as viceroy over the entire land of Egypt.  And since Yaakov loved Yosef greatly, he eventually went down to Egypt to be reunited with his son. This is how Yaakov was taken to the Egyptian exile.

If not for his great love for Yosef, Yaakov would have been content and delighted to remain in Eretz Yisrael. It was all part of Hashem's great plan to bring about the fulfillment of His promise to Avraham concerning the Egyptian exile and eventual redemption (see Bereishit 15).

Walking in Their Ways

A Refined Routine for Retiring

People often ask me why improper thoughts suddenly pop into their heads in the midst of the morning prayers. This question is exacerbated by the fact that these people often wake up very early to pray with a minyan. They pray slowly and thoughtfully and often remain to hear a Torah shiur.

Why, then, do foreign thoughts fill their minds first thing in the morning?

In response, I ask a pointed question of my own: “Did you go to sleep after spending time watching television? Were you immersed in a cheap novel, containing immorality? Did you think improper thoughts as you drifted off to sleep?”

Any of the above-mentioned activities is a sure way of muddling one’s thoughts on the morrow. The defilement of the night lingers in one’s mind the next morning. These thoughts are most liable to disturb his prayers and holy endeavors.

For this reason, Chazal advise (Mishnah Berurah) that one should retire after reading words of Torah. This will result in clear and pure thoughts upon arising. One’s prayers and Torah study will thus be free of all impurity. 

Words of the Sages

It's a Shame to Invest in Temporary Matters

An important insight has become well-known, regarding a wealthy Jew who came from far away to set his eyes on the Chafetz Chaim, world-famous for his righteousness and piety. Much to his astonishment, he found the Chafetz Chaim's home to be dilapidated, with what could hardly be called the barest of furnishings. The rich man could not contain himself and asked, "How can it be that such a respected Jew lives in such a simple house?"

The Chafetz Chaim answered with a question: "And what does your house look like?"

"What's the question?" replied the rich man. "I live in a luxurious, lavishly furnished villa!"

The Chafetz Chaim was not impressed and continued to question the rich man: "And what did the train carriage, in which you traveled to Radin, look like? What did you sit on during the trip?"

"The truth is, the carriage was rickety and unattractive." said the rich man. "And the bench – I prefer not to remember – was nothing more than a rough piece of wood. My entire body aches from the jolts of the road…"

"Then why didn't you make preparations in advance and make sure you were going to travel in a luxurious carriage with the kind of padded seat you are used to at home?" asked the Chafetz Chaim.

The rich man smiled and said, "It's really not important! When on the road I don't worry about comfort and luxury. The main thing is that my permanent home should be large and beautiful."

The Chafetz Chaim then said, "How I travel doesn't matter to me either. Being 'on the road' in This World, I don't worry about comfort and luxury. The main thing is that my permanent home in the Next World should be large and beautiful!"

Yaakov Avinu received great wealth. He merited an entire land, but in spite of this, he continued behaving like a foreigner and not like the owner. The holy Or Hachaim enlightens us: "He behaved in the land as a sojourner… as if he did not belong there."

With this idea, the holy Or Hachaim answers the question of why the Torah had to inform us that Yaakov settled in the land of Canaan. Weren't we already told in the previous Parshah: "And Yaakov came to Yitzchak his father from Mera Kiryat Ha'Arba, which is Chevron, where Avraham and Yitzchak lived" (Bereishit 35:27)? Since we are told that Yaakov came to (visit) Yitzchak, but we are not told that he left, it follows that he settled in Chevron!

And we can ask another question: It seems repetitive to say, "Yaakov settled in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan. If the Torah wishes to tell us the name of the place, it should say "in Chevron." And if the Torah wishes to tell us it was the land of his father's sojournings, haven’t we been told this fact in the previous Parshah?

This is what the holy Or Hachaim wishes to explain. Yaakov Avinu settled in Canaan but never felt as if it was his land. He constantly felt like a foreigner, a temporary dweller who never feels as if he has "come home." He was there simply because this was the place where Hashem had planted him to fulfill his mission in life.

This conduct, writes Rabbi Aryeh Shechter zt"l in his sefer Aryeh Sha'ag, should accompany every Jew throughout his life in this temporary and transient world. We must remember that we live in a transitory world, we are foreigners, therefore our chief occupation must be engaging in eternal, spiritual affairs. What a shame to invest in temporary things that have no eternal value and will not accompany us to the Next World. Let us learn from the Chafetz Chaim and be concerned about establishing a beautiful apartment for ourselves in the World to Come, as Chazal say (Avot 4:16), "Prepare yourself in the lobby so you may enter the banquet hall."

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

The Purpose of Yaakov's Love for Yosef

"Now Yisrael loved Yosef more than all his sons since he was a child of his old age, and he made him a fine woolen tunic" (Bereishit 37:3).

Why did Yaakov Avinu upset his sons so openly by showing greater love to Yosef, more than all his other sons? And why did he make a special tunic only for Yosef? His sons were considered the twelve G-dly tribes, "A testimony for Yisrael." So what made Yaakov favor Yosef over all his other sons?

Yaakov Avinu intentionally wanted to teach all his sons how to control and overcome their negative traits, and instead strengthen their good middot. Even negative traits can and should be used in a positive way, as Chazal say (Baba Batara 21a), "Envy of the wise increases wisdom." Yaakov wanted his sons to learn how to overcome the negative traits of jealousy and hatred.

Indeed, the Torah praises the brothers for not behaving hypocritically, feeling one way in their hearts but acting to the contrary. "They hated him… and they could not speak to him peaceably." Since they hated him they did not outwardly speak peaceably to him. Yaakov Avinu taught his sons a way of life: not to behave insincerely. Work on your middot, overcome your negative traits until you are able to demonstrate sincere positive conduct. As we know, the Torah is acquired through 48 positive attributes.

Yaakov Avinu wished to teach his sons to learn from his own conduct. Just as Yaakov Avinu did not hate his brother despite all the pain Esav caused by coming to fight with four hundred men, and just as Yaakov Avinu did not hate the wicked Lavan even though Lavan changed his salary tens of times and caused him many losses, so the holy brothers should have behaved towards their brother; they should not have hated him. They should have worked to uproot their feelings of hatred and overcome their anger.

Yaakov Avinu was "a wholesome man (ish tam) dwelling in tents." What is the meaning of "wholesome man"? When my dear son, Rabbi Raphael Pinto shlit"a, heard this lecture I delivered at the Ohel Moshe yeshiva in France, he pointed out that the word "tam" enhances this idea. The fact that Yaakov Avinu constantly worked on his middot is proven by the word "tam," since it is an acronym for "Torah, middot." Indeed, Yaakov was an "ish tam."

A Day of Delight

Engaging in Weekday Needs on Shabbat

1. "If you restrain your foot because it is the Shabbat… and you honor it by not engaging in your own affairs, from seeking your own needs or discussing the forbidden" (Yeshaya 58:13). Chazal (Shabbat 113a) derive from the above verse that a person should not occupy himself with weekday matters on Shabbat. Rather, on this holy day one should consider all affairs to be in order. However, if it involves a mitzvah it is permitted.

2. There are two conditions that must be met for a (permitted) act to be forbidden on Shabbat. A: If it is evident. B. If you intend to perform it.

For example: One should not stand at the side of his garden in such a way that it is obvious he is considering its needs and thinking about how to repair and arrange it. But if this is not evident, since he is walking around and it could be that he just intends to take a walk, then it is permitted even if he is really thinking about how to fix it. Likewise, if one is simply studying the garden without thinking about its maintenance, this is permitted.

3. Chazal tell the story of a pious man who had a breach in the fence of his field, and during Shabbat thought about repairing it (after Shabbat). When he suddenly remembered it was Shabbat, he penalized himself to never repair the fence! He merited a miracle and a sniper tree (עץ צלף, a tree with many branches) grew in the place of the breach. This tree, of which three of its parts are edible (Rashi), fenced the gap, and became a source of livelihood for his household (Shabbat 150b).

The Arizal writes: Know that this pious man was Rabbi Yehuda son of Rabbi Ela'i, who contained a spark of the soul of the righteous Tzelafchad who sinned by chopping wood on Shabbat (see Devarim 15:32 and Shabbat 96b). Now this person's piety (he was strict with himself even though contemplation is permitted) rectified Tzelafchad's deed. This is the reason he merited an עץ צלף, alluding to צלפ(חד). Since he repented out of love, his sin became a merit for him.

4. If one is in the midst of constructing a new home, the owner may not check on its progress on Shabbat.

5. One may not visit an empty apartment on Shabbat to check if it is a property suitable for purchase. However, if people are living in it, one may go and see it, if it is not evident he is doing so for the purpose of buying. It must appear like a regular visit and obviously he may not speak about purchasing the apartment.

6. If someone is in the midst of renovating the apartment he is living in, he may inspect it to see what still needs to be repaired, as long as is not noticeable that he inspecting it for this purpose.

7. In the case where it is permissible to observe something, he should not express his conclusions for this would be considered speech which is forbidden on Shabbat. Only contemplation is permitted.

8. One may contemplate something that involves a mitzvah, even if it is obvious one is doing so for the purpose of furthering it during the week. Due to this one may, for example, examine the construction of a beit knesset to verify its progress, even though it is clear that this is one's intention. One may even talk about it, provided one does not mention an amount of money.

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.


Principles in Service of the Heart and Rectification of Middot

Keep Quiet. Don't Lie in Wait.

It once happened on Shabbat that a Bar Mitzvah boy proudly read the Torah portion, but when it came to the Haftarah he recited it very quietly; some were unable to hear.

The congregants asked Harav Chaim Kanievsky zt"l if they had fulfilled their obligation of hearing the Torah reading. Harav Chaim answered that if not for the prohibition of embarrassing the child, he would have instructed them to read the Haftarah again. But since there was a minyan of men who did hear the reading, it can be considered as if they fulfilled their obligation (bedi'eved).

Harav Chaim added a story, wishing to relay an important message:

"It once happened that a Bar Mitzvah boy recited the Haftarah and nobody could hear at all, which means the entire congregation did not fulfill their obligation. However, in consideration of embarrassing the child and his father, I kept quiet. It could be that in this case it would be correct to go and hear the Haftarah in a different beit knesset."

Concerning the seriousness of embarrassing someone, we find a priceless promise in the sefer Menorat HaMa'or (section 58):

"One who merits being saved his entire life from the sin of humiliating others, Hashem will save him from all trouble and his offspring will be upright. As we find with Tamar, in the merit of being prepared to allow herself to be thrown into a furnace rather than shame Yehuda, she merited giving birth to sons who became kings and prophets."

"Salvation from every kind of trouble" – an insurance certificate for a peaceful and safe life, secure against all the tribulations of This World.

"Upright offspring" – the desire of every Jew; the heartfelt aspiration of every Jewish mother who sheds rivers of tears that her sons be upright servants of Hashem.

And to merit these two blessings, what must we do? Take care not to shame or insult others! Don't wait for him slyly and repay him for his exploits. Just keep quiet and forgo!

The source for this is mentioned in this week's Parshah, demonstrated by the righteous Tamar: "As she was taken out, she sent word to her father-in-law, saying: 'By the man to whom these belong I am with child'" (Bereishit 38:25). Rashi expounds: "She didn't want to embarrass him by saying, 'I am pregnant from you.' Rather she said, 'By the man to whom these belong.' She said, 'If he admits it voluntary, well and good; if not, let them burn me, but let me not publicly disgrace him.' From this Chazal learn (Sotah 10b), 'One should let himself be thrown into a fiery furnace rather than expose his friend to public shame.'"

It is also worthwhile considering the words of Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid (Sefer Chassidim 54): "What kind of murder is not visible to the eye, yet the punishment is very great? Which offense is easy to commit but most serious in the eyes of Heaven? This is the sin of shaming someone – disgracing his friend in public, or in front of someone from whom he is embarrassed, and he would rather die than be put to shame."

Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid adds: "Whoever shames his friend and then feels distressed, so he expresses regret, repents and wants atonement for his sin, and therefore approaches G-d-fearing people to hear how he should repent, they will say to him: Know that you did something very evil, because you shed the blood of your friend, as we find with Aviha son of Rechavam who rebuked Yeravam and embarrassed him and became deathly ill.

"Therefore, my son, go and appease your friend until he is reconciled, and be extremely careful never to embarrass or shame anyone."


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