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Friday, December 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

This past Tuesday was the Yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr Israel Frankel, o"h. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso,
Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

This week's parsha begins amidst a fierce confrontation between Yosef and his brothers. Yehudah approaches Yosef for a face-to-face encounter in an attempt to plead his case. Alshich asks what should be an obvious question. At the end of last week's parsha, Yehudah offers the entire family as slaves. Yosef rejected this offer in favour of a more lenient arrangement, i.e. the enslavement of only one of the brothers. What place does Yehudah then have to argue with Yosef if his own suggestion was even harsher than Yosef's?

Alshich answers that Yehudah initially saw this crisis as a possible atonement for the selling of Yosef as indicated by the words (44:16) "HaElokim matza es avon avadecha...," HaShem has found the sins of your servants. Had all the brothers been enslaved it would have indeed proven to be a proper atonement. That was why Yehudah seemed so keen on the slavery arrangement. However, once Yosef decided to enslave only Binyomin, who had no part in Yosef's selling, he realized that this was not the time to atone for that sin and he had to fight to vigorously to be able to bring back Binyomin as he had promised his father. Netziv in Hemek Davar gives a similar answer.

With this interpretation of Yehudah's game plan we see how Yehudah easily saw a misfortune that befell him as an atonement for his sins. We see this virtuous quality manifest itself in Yosef as well. When Yosef his identity to his brothers, he assures them (45:5-7) that HaShem has sent him to be put in the position to help out the brothers. It is clear how Yosef attributes his rise to power to the hand of HaShem. However, he also uses the word Elokim rather than HaShem. This word always denotes "midas hadin," the judgmental quality, rather than HaShem which denotes "midas harachamim," the merciful quality. I believe the reason for this is that along with the good fortune of Yosef's rise to power, he endured many rough trials and tribulations. By using the word Elokim, Yosef is not only attributing his good fortune to Divine Providence but is also recognizing that all his troubles along the way came as an atonement for his own sins.

This trait is also found in Yonah who was quick to admit (Yonah 1:12) that the giant storm was all his fault. However, this virtue of realizing one's shortcomings and attributing his misfortune to them is not one expected only of our righteous forebearers. It is expected of each and every Jew. Rashi (Rosh HaShanah 4a) writes that a gentile who gives charity on the condition that his family benefit or that he merits life in the world to come is considered evil for if he is not granted what he requested, he will hold it personally against God. However, a Jew who does so is considered righteous for surely if he does not get what he requested as the condition for his charity, he will realize that it is his own shortcomings that are responsible for his misfortune.

In a more recent illustration of this crucial quality, the Brisker Rav was approached in the midst of much violence and casualty in Eretz Yisroel with the following comment: "Isn't it terrible that all the chilul shabbos is causing all these bad things to happen to Jews." To this he righteously responded, "Who are you to assume that is another's iniquities that are responsible for these difficult times? Perhaps it is your own imperfections that contribute to the suffering. Surely, with the difficult conditions we are facing as a nation today, this is an important lesson to absorb from our predecessors, to respond to adversity with introspection and self-evaluation, figuring out how we may be responsible and what we can do to fix it.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Interesting Calendar Fact by Ari Brodsky
AstroTorah: Happy New Year by R' Ari Storch
Dikdukian: Just Do It


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