Parshas VaYeshev: December 17, 2022

Verse 37:1 – וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּאֶ֖רֶץ מְגוּרֵ֣י אָבִ֑יו בְּאֶ֖רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן 

Nothing new to report in Toronto.  We are taking it day by day.  It is cold and snow has fallen. 

Friday night my mother in law came to the table and had some Kiddush.  On Shabbos morning I davened at Chabad of Flamingo, a 1.8-mile walk.  The Rabbi is Rabbi Mendel Kaplan and his son was being Bar Mitzvahed.  Rabbi Kaplan Spoke beautifully before each Aliyah for 3 to 5 minutes and then gave a 20 minute speech.  Davening was over at 12:40 PM.  Kiddush afterwards, then walked to Victor and Debbi Janowski who live one block from the Shul.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan:

My Torah:

First Vort:


In last week’s Sedra Pasuk 35:7 we read that Yaakov arrived to Chevron by his father

וַיָּבֹ֤א יַעֲקֹב֙ אֶל־יִצְחָ֣ק אָבִ֔יו מַמְרֵ֖א קִרְיַ֣ת הָֽאַרְבַּ֑ע הִ֣וא חֶבְר֔וֹן אֲשֶׁר־גָּֽר־שָׁ֥ם אַבְרָהָ֖ם וְיִצְחָֽק׃

The next two Pasukim in VaYishlach talk about Yitzchok’s death as follows:

וַיִּֽהְי֖וּ יְמֵ֣י יִצְחָ֑ק מְאַ֥ת שָׁנָ֖ה וּשְׁמֹנִ֥ים שָׁנָֽה׃

וַיִּגְוַ֨ע יִצְחָ֤ק וַיָּ֙מׇת֙ וַיֵּאָ֣סֶף אֶל־עַמָּ֔יו זָקֵ֖ן וּשְׂבַ֣ע יָמִ֑ים וַיִּקְבְּר֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ עֵשָׂ֥ו וְיַעֲקֹ֖ב בָּנָֽיו׃

Chapter 36 is the story of the family of Eisav, which the Torah dispatches in 37 verses covering hundreds of years.

Opening of this week’s Sedra:

Verse 37:1: 

וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּאֶ֖רֶץ מְגוּרֵ֣י אָבִ֑יו בְּאֶ֖רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃  – Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan.


וישב יעקב וגו’. אַחַר שֶׁכָּתַב לְךָ יִשּׁוּבֵי עֵשָׂו וְתוֹלְדוֹתָיו בְּדֶרֶךְ קְצָרָה, שֶׁלֹּא הָיוּ סְפוּנִים וַחֲשׁוּבִים לְפָרֵשׁ הֵיאַךְ נִתְיַשְּׁבוּ וְסֵדֶר מִלְחֲמוֹתֵיהֶם אֵיךְ הוֹרִישׁוּ אֶת הַחֹרִי, פֵּרֵשׁ לָךְ יִשּׁוּבֵי יַעֲקֹב וְתוֹלְדוֹתָיו בְּדֶרֶךְ אֲרֻכָּה כָּל גִּלְגּוּלֵי סִבָּתָם, לְפִי שֶׁהֵם חֲשׁוּבִים לִפְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם לְהַאֲרִיךְ בָּהֶם, וְכֵן אַתָּה מוֹצֵא בְּי’ דוֹרוֹת שֶׁמֵּאָדָם וְעַד נֹחַ פְּלוֹנִי הוֹלִיד פְּלוֹנִי, וּכְשֶׁבָּא לְנֹחַ הֶאֱרִיךְ בּוֹ, וְכֵן בְּי’ דוֹרוֹת שֶׁמִּנֹּחַ וְעַד אַבְרָהָם קִצֵּר בָּהֶם, וּמִשֶּׁהִגִּיעַ אֵצֶל אַבְרָהָם הֶאֱרִיךְ בּוֹ. מָשָׁל לְמַרְגָּלִית שֶׁנָּפְלָה בֵּין הַחוֹל, אָדָם מְמַשְׁמֵּשׁ בַּחוֹל וְכוֹבְרוֹ בִּכְבָרָה עַד שֶׁמּוֹצֵא אֶת הַמַּרְגָּלִית, וּמִשֶּׁמְּצָאָהּ הוּא מַשְׁלִיךְ אֶת הַצְּרוֹרוֹת מִיָּדוֹ וְנוֹטֵל הַמַּרְגָּלִית. 

English Translation from Seferia  

AND JACOB ABODE — After it (Scripture) has described to you the settlements of Esau and his descendants in a brief manner — since they were not distinguished and important enough that it should be related in detail how they settled down and that there should be given an account of their wars and how they drove out the Horites (see Deuteronomy 2:12) — it explains clearly and at length the settlements made by Jacob and his descendants and all the events which brought these about, because these are regarded by the Omnipresent as of sufficient importance to speak of them at length. Thus, too, you will find that in the case of the ten generations from Adam to Noah it states “So-and-so begat so-and-so”, but when it reaches Noah it deals with him at length. Similarly, of the ten generations from Noah to Abraham it gives but a brief account, but when it comes to Abraham it speaks of him more fully. It may be compared to the case of a jewel that falls into the sand: a man searches in the sand, sifts it in a sieve until he finds the jewel. When he has found it he throws away the pebbles and keeps the jewel (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayeshev 1).

 : Analysis

Seemingly Rashi is not telling us a Pshat in the first Pasuk. Rashi is giving us an overview of why in the Torah the storyline of Esiav and other nations of the world are given short shrift.   In fact Rashi did not have to put a heading – Divrei Hamaschil.   Rashi could have labeled it Introduction.

Question #1 – Do we need Rashi to tell us this fact?  We could easily figure it out.  The storylines of the other nations of the world are simply not our storyline.    The Bible is the story of the Jewish nation.  The Torah’s purpose is to tell the story of how the Jewish nation came into being, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, our formative years and the great closeness of our ancestors to Hashem.  It is important to Hashem due to our special relationship with Him. 

Question #2 – A) what does the מָשָׁל  of the person searching for a jewel add to Rashi’s answer.  Rashi’s answer is clear and does need a parable and B) it does not fit.    Rashi’s answer is not that we are searching for anything.   Also, the parable says that once we find the jewel, we throw away the pebbles.  This is not at all what Rashi explained.   


The answer is that Rashi is telling us something very important.  Not only wasn’t their history important and G-d did not include it in the Torah,  but their history is rubble, useless.  We have to learn our history, our Tanach, how our righteous leaders led, and how we failed.  The history of the world is one of brutality. death, and destruction.  The history of the world is about man’s domination of man by brute force.   Even the  Greek empire from which the world got democracy, was harsh.   The Romans  were brutal.   This includes all the way into the 20 century where three madmen of the world  killed over 100 million people.   Read the real story of the British exploitation and domination of India.  This Is the one truth consistent about history.

There is a great story that illustrates this in the book by Herman Wouk,  “The Will to Live On: This is Our Heritage” published in  February 2001.  He writes that when his father died, his philosophy professor who was a secular Jew, Professor Elbaum, came to pay a Shiva call.  Herman Wouk introduced his grandfather, Rabbi Abraham Issac Wouk, to his college professor.  Rabbi Abraham Isaac Wouk came from Minsk and lived in the south Bronx, was a Posak, and spoke little English.  I believe he was a Lubavitcher Chasid.   Professor Elbaum quoted Marcus Auerlous to impress Herman Wouk’s grandfather. Rabbi Wouk asked in Yiddish, Ve is dous Marcus?  Professor Elbaum responds, a Roman. Rabbi Wouk says a Roman, phe, phe!  I do not think Professor Elbaum or Herman Wouk understood what his grandfather was saying.  He was saying, don’t quote me philosophy from a Roman; they were brutal, enslaved and killed millions of people. They have nothing to teach the world about morality.

Rashi says that learning in depth about their wars, conquests, and society is useless; especially since most of these societies discriminated against Jews, suffocated us, made us second class citizens, and threw us out of the country.  European history led to the holocaust.  I am sure that there is some worth but it is crucial for us to understand our history,

I admit I love Gettysburg and have studied the three day battle in depth where in my mind’s eye, I can see the entire three day battle.  I could go to the battlefield site which is a huge empty tract of land, with many monuments and “see” the battle unfolding.  Understanding Gettysburg did lead me to understand the greatness of the Kotzker.  However, I do not know Tanach, which is terrible.  I know Jewish history and I am conversant about the founding of the State of Israel, but do not have deep knowledge.

Moshe Revah
Dec 16, 2022, 2:28 PM (2 days ago)Reply


Great Vourt!

I really like it!

Have a great Shabbos!
Dec 16, 2022, 1:22 PM (2 days ago)Reply

Mitch, excellent! Very good observation. Thank you for sharing that with me. Have a great Shabbos! – Elliott 

Rashi brings down another explanation of וישב יעקב from the Midrash Tanchuma VaYeshev 1:2

דָּ”אַ וישב יעקב, הַפִּשְׁתָּנִי הַזֶּה נִכְנְסוּ גְמַלָּיו טְעוּנִים פִּשְׁתָּן, הַפֶּחָמִי תָמַהּ אָנָה יִכָּנֵס כָּל הַפִּשְׁתָּן הַזֶּה? הָיָה פִּקֵּחַ אֶחָד מֵשִׁיב לוֹ נִצּוֹץ אֶחָד יוֹצֵא מִמַּפּוּחַ שֶׁלְּךָ שֶׁשּׂוֹרֵף אֶת כֻּלּוֹ, כָּךְ יַעֲקֹב רָאָה אֶת כָּל הָאַלּוּפִים הַכְּתוּבִים לְמַעְלָה, תָּמַהּ וְאָמַר מִי יָכוֹל לִכְבֹּשׁ אֶת כֻּלָּן? מַה כְּתִיב לְמַטָּה, אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב יוֹסֵף, דִּכְתִיב וְהָיָה בֵית יַעֲקֹב אֵשׁ וּבֵית יוֹסֵף לֶהָבָה וּבֵית עֵשָׂו לְקַשׁ (עובדיה א’) 

– נִצּוֹץ יוֹצֵא מִיּוֹסֵף שֶׁמְּכַלֶּה וְשׂוֹרֵף אֶת כֻּלָּם:

The camels of a flax dealer once came into a city laden with flax. A blacksmith asked in wonder where all that flax could be stored, and a clever fellow answered him, “A single spark caused by your bellows can burn up all of it.” “So, too, when Jacob saw (heard of) all these chiefs whose names are written above he said wonderingly, “Who can conquer all these?” What is written after the names of these chieftains? — and in this may be found the reply to Jacob’s question: These are the generations of Jacob — Joseph. For it is written (Obadiah 1:18) “And the house of Jacob shall be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau, for stubble: one spark issuing from Joseph will burn up all of these (descendants of Esau) . The passage beginning “Another explanation” is found in an old Rashi text.

This answer is also problematic.  If the house of Jacob is a fire, a spark can burn all the straw.   Why do we need a flame?  Besides that, we had Shimon and Levi.

I am working on an answer.

Second Vort:

Verses 39:1, 39:2, 39:5

וְיוֹסֵ֖ף הוּרַ֣ד מִצְרָ֑יְמָה וַיִּקְנֵ֡הוּ פּוֹטִיפַר֩ סְרִ֨יס פַּרְעֹ֜ה שַׂ֤ר הַטַּבָּחִים֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מִיַּד֙ הַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הוֹרִדֻ֖הוּ שָֽׁמָּה׃

וַיְהִ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ אֶת־יוֹסֵ֔ף וַיְהִ֖י אִ֣ישׁ מַצְלִ֑יחַ וַיְהִ֕י בְּבֵ֖ית אֲדֹנָ֥יו הַמִּצְרִֽי

וַיְהִ֡י מֵאָז֩ הִפְקִ֨יד אֹת֜וֹ בְּבֵית֗וֹ וְעַל֙ כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֶשׁ־ל֔וֹ וַיְבָ֧רֶךְ יְהֹוָ֛ה אֶת־בֵּ֥ית הַמִּצְרִ֖י בִּגְלַ֣ל יוֹסֵ֑ף וַיְהִ֞י בִּרְכַּ֤ת יְהֹוָה֙ בְּכׇל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֶשׁ־ל֔וֹ בַּבַּ֖יִת וּבַשָּׂדֶֽה׃

Why does it say that Potiphar was an Egyptian?  Obviously he was an Egyption.  Plus why in the first Pasik does it say  אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י, using the same word אִ֣ישׁ as in Pasuk 37:15 – וַיִּמְצָאֵ֣הוּ אִ֔ישׁ וְהִנֵּ֥ה תֹעֶ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וַיִּשְׁאָלֵ֧הוּ הָאִ֛ישׁ לֵאמֹ֖ר מַה־תְּבַקֵּֽשׁ?

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan suggested that the  אִ֔יש who was the angel Gavriel who represented Din.  Din is harsh and Joseph had to overcome the din of Shamayim and accept it,    Joseph also had to overcome his harsh reality with Potipher who also represented the ultimate Egyptian.  This is why it says that Potiphar was an  אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י an ultimate Egyptian. When you look up the definition of an Egyptian in the dictionary, you saw a picture of Potiphar.   Yoseph was able to overcome the harsh and brutal Egyptian culture which treat slaves like dirt, worthless human beings.  Yosef was positive despite his circumstances because he had faith in G-d, always mentioned G-ds name in allowing him to be successful.  Having faith in Hashem, giving him credit, and having a positive attitude can overcome the worst of times, depression, and other issues that bring one down.

Torah from Rabbi Mendel Kaplan:

Vort #1)

Verse 37:15 – וַיִּמְצָאֵ֣הוּ אִ֔ישׁ וְהִנֵּ֥ה תֹעֶ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וַיִּשְׁאָלֵ֧הוּ הָאִ֛ישׁ לֵאמֹ֖ר מַה־תְּבַקֵּֽשׁ׃


וימצאהו איש. זֶה גַּבְרִיאֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְהָאִישׁ גַּבְרִיאֵל (דניאל ט כא):

Maskil L’Dovid:

18th century super commentary on Rashi from Reb Dovid Pardo, an Italian Rabbi and poet.

וימצאהו וכו׳ דייק הכי מדלא כתיב וימצא איש ש״מ דזה האיש מבקשו ומצאו ומי הוא זה אם לא מלאך:

Ibn Ezra:

וימצאהו איש. דרך הפשט אחד מעוברי דרך:  

Paanach Raza:

A 13th century commentator by one of the French Baala Tosfes explaining the plain meaning of the text while weaving in Gematrias and word schemes.

וימצאה”ו אי”ש גימט’ גבריא”ל מלא”ך מצ”א, וישאלה”ו האי”ש גימ’ מלא”ך גבריא”ל שאל”ו: 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks, that Rashi normally explains the plain meaning of the text so why doesn’t he say like the Ibn Ezra that the  אִ֔ישׁ was an anonymous person.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains like the Maskil L’Dovid that the word וימצאהו means that this אִ֔ישׁ was looking for Yoseph.  It could not mean that Yoseph encountered any person, but rather it was an angel. 

The Rebbe asks, why Gavriel?  He answered that Gavriel represents Din.  Yosef was facing Din – judgment which was harsh.  Yoseph had to overcome Din by accepting it and looking forward to tomorrow, hoping that it would be better.

Vort #2)  When the wife of Potiphar  ( according to the Sefer haYasher her name was Zulycah) accused Joseph of attacking her, why wasn’t he killed?  A slave was accused of attacking the wife of a high official in Egypt.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan explained that there is a medresh that said Pharaoh did decree on Yoseph death.  However, the angel Gavriel dressed as an official said let us investigate and see whose cloak was ripped.  If it was the wife of Potiphar then we know the Yospeh attacked her, if it was Joseph’s then we know he has been falsely accused.  They looked and saw it was Yoseph gasment that was torn.  There was another test and it was clear that Joseph was innocent.  Even though they knew Yoseph was innocent, they threw him in jail for life.

Vort #3) The Torah relates the story of the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker in 23 Pesukim in detail when many laws of the Torah are one Pasuk or less. The Rebbe or Rabbi Kaplan answered that all the Pasukim were put for the four words Verse 40:7 –  “מַדּ֛וּעַ פְּנֵיכֶ֥ם רָעִ֖ים הַיּֽוֹם”  .

Joseph could have been bitter and ignored the two officials of a regime that imprisoned him for life.  Yet he did not and showed concern for them and wanted to help. This led  to his redemption.

This idea of doing good in the world even one Mitzvah can bring light to the world.

In 1991 there was a hookup from around the world of Menorahs being lit at the same time. This is well before Zoom and it was unique and expensive to do a live hookup from around the world.   The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke and mentioned that we are seeing Menorahs being lit all over the world; in Moscow, Israel and many other locations.  The Rebbe mentioned Calcutta, India.  Rabbi Mendel Kaplan noted this because there was no official hookup from Calcutta.  This mystery was solved about a year ago when someone told him the following story.  The Jewish community in Calcutta was once vibrant and strong.  In the early 1940s the girls school had 400 kids.  By 1991, the community dwindled to a point where it was very difficult to get a minyan.  It was Chanukah 1991 and David Ashkenzey, the leader of the Calcutta Jewish community, was depressed and told himself that he will not lite the Chanukah Menorah.  It bothered him, gnawed at his heart, and eventually he lit the Menorah.  He sat down to watch TV and was channel surfing.  He happened upon the channel that was carrying the worldwide lighting ceremony from New York.  He heard the Rebbe speaking and thought he heard the Rebbe saying that a menorah was lit in Calcutta.  He was not sure if he heard correctly, and the Rebbe mentioned Calcutta a second time.  This simple concern of the Rebbe for the act of David Ashkanezy (besides the miracle fact that there was no hookup from Calcutta) reignited the fire in his heart and he renewed his efforts on behalf of the remaining Jews of Calcutta, helping it survive for a number of years afterwards.

The Rebbe’s concern and mention of Calcutta was enough to change this man and Jewish life in Calcutta.  This is what Yoseph did when he said to these two government ministers, “מַדּ֛וּעַ פְּנֵיכֶ֥ם רָעִ֖ים הַיּֽוֹם” .


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