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Friday, November 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

    In this week's parsha we have the infamous episode, amongst others, of Yosef and the wife of Potifar. The gemara in Sotah 36b explains that Yosef in fact had a desire to give in to her initially, but in the end he supressed it. One may ask that the psukim make no reference of such a desire and clearly says (39:8) "Vayemaein Yosef", and Yosef refused. What then did Chazal see to suggest that Yosef in fact had an urge? My Rebbe, R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, explains in the name of the Afikei Yehudah that the explanation lies in the meaning of the word "vayemaein." It does not connote a total lack of desire but rather a refusal of an apparent desire. The contrast between "meiun," refusal and total unwant is illustrated in a number of places in the Torah.


    When Bnei Yisroel requested permission from Edom to pass through their land, the language of Edom's refusal is "vayemaein Edom" (Bemidbar 20:21). When they requested of Sichon permission to pass through his land the reply is described as "v'lo avah Sichon" (Devarim20:30) and Sichon did not want. The apparent explanation would be that Sichon was under no circumstances willing to do this favour for B"Y and did not want to at all. Edom would not have inherently opposed B"Y's passage if not for the fact that they were afraid that they would wage war against them. But it seems that the favour itself Edom had no opposition to. (Perhaps this contrast is also seen in the fact that Sichon waged war immediately and Edom did not.) That's why their answer is called a refusal and Sichon didn't want.


When Bil'am is convinced by HaShem not to curse Bnei Yisroel, the messengers of Balak report "mei'ein Bil'am" (Bemidbar 22:14). Surely Bil'am at this point still wanted to curse B'nei Yisroel but because of HaShem's command he could not. That is why the language of refusal is used.


    The final example is the most revealing as it uses both terminologies in the same pasuk. In the parsha of Yivum, the woman is required to come before Beis Din and recite a specific passage: (Devarim 25:7) "Mei'ein yivami lhakim l'achiv shem b'Yisroel, lo avah yabemi". As far as the component dealing with being "meikim shem" which is the essence of the Mitzvah, the verb of refusal is used because deep down every one really wants to do a Mitzvah but nevertheless for a certain reason he has refused (like the famous Rambam in Hilchos Gittin). The end of the pasuk reads "lo avah yabemi", he doesn't want to do yivum to me, i.e. It is ME he "doesn't want".


    This, suggests the Afikei Yehuda, is what Chazal saw to learn as they did. Vayemaein Yosef implies not that Yosef had no desire whatsoever, but that he had a desire and refused it.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: 29 or 30? Both by R' Ari Storch

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