Parshas VaYigash – December 31, 2022

Danny Berger

Fred Weingust

On December 29th right after the morning minyan,  I plopped down next to Danny Berger and asked him how Rashi in verse 44:18 understood.  It happened to be that he was working on the Rashi in 44:13 and the Rashi 44:18.  Together we put together a very nice explanation.

Danny Berger:

Parshas Miketz and Vayigash – “Prepared for War While Negotiating Peace”

An idea from Rabbi Elie Teitelman

Written by Danny Berger (dberger36@gmail.com)

The black is from Danny Berger and the blue is from Avrohom Meir Morgenstern.

 Yoseph discovers the goblet in Benyamin’s saddlebag. The brothers are devastated and scared for what lies ahead. The pasuk reads:

וַיִּקְרְעוּ שִׂמְלֹתָם וַיַּעֲמֹס אִישׁ עַל־חֲמֹרוֹ וַיָּשֻׁבוּ הָעִירָה

They rent their garments; each one reloaded his donkey and they returned to the city. (Bereishis 44:13)

Simple p’shat is they tear kriah, pack up and leave to head back to the place in Egypt where they were staying. 

Rashi on above:

ויעמס איש על חמרו. בַּעֲלֵי זְרוֹעַ הָיוּ, וְלֹא הֻצְרְכוּ לְסַיֵּעַ זֶה אֶת זֶה לִטְעֹן

They were men of strength and did not require the assistance of each other in loading (Genesis Rabbah 92:8).

וישבו העירה. מֶטְרוֹפּוֹלִין הָיְתָה, וְהוּא אוֹמֵר הָעִירָה, הָעִיר כָּל שֶׁהוּא אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה חֲשׁוּבָה בְעֵינֵיהֶם אֶלָּא כְעִיר בֵּינוֹנִית שֶׁל י’ בְּנֵי אָדָם לְעִנְיַן הַמִּלְחָמָה

It was the metropolis and yet Scripture says העירה — an ordinary city! But this is because in their eyes it was regarded as a very medium-sized city of only ten inhabitants if it became a matter of waging war against it (Genesis Rabbah 92:8).

Rashi explains that they were so physically strong that they did not to need to assist each other in loading up their donkeys. Rashi also tells us while they were in fact headed back to a big, well-fortified city, they were so strong and confident that their perception of the city was one that was like a small town which they could easily defeat if they waged war against it.

But what is the relevance of the Torah telling us about their strength specifically here?

Continuing in Parshas Vayigash, the Torah tells us Yehuda appeals to Yoseph for Binyomin’s release. The pasuk states:

וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי יְדַבֶּר־נָא עַבְדְּךָ דָבָר בְּאׇזְנֵי אֲדֹנִי וְאַל־יִחַר אַפְּךָ בְּעַבְדֶּךָ כִּי כָמוֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹה

Then Yehuda approached him and said, “If you please, my lord, let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears and may your anger not flare up at your servant – for you who are like Pharaoh. (Bereishis 44:18)

Rashi seems to be bothered why Yehuda has to say “may your anger not flare up” if he was talking respectfully to him. Rashi teaches the following on this pasuk:

ואל יחר אפך. מִכָּאן אַתָּה לָמֵד שֶׁדִּבֵּר אֵלָיו קָשׁוֹת

From here you may infer that he (Yehuda) spoke to him (Yoseph) in harsh terms.

כי כמוך כפרעה. חָשׁוּב אַתָּה בְעֵינַי כְּמֶלֶךְ, זֶהוּ פְשׁוּטוֹ. וּמִדְרָשׁוֹ סוֹפְךָ לִלְקוֹת עָלָיו בְּצָרַעַת כְּמוֹ שֶׁלָּקָה פַרְעֹה עַל יְדֵי זְקֵנָתִי שָׂרָה עַל לַיְלָה אַחַת שֶׁעִכְּבָהּ (בראשית רבה). דָּבָר אַחֵר מַה פַּרְעֹה גוֹזֵר וְאֵינוֹ מְקַיֵּם, מַבְטִיחַ וְאֵינוֹ עוֹשֶׂה, אַף אַתָּה כֵן; וְכִי זוֹ הִיא שִׂימַת עַיִן שֶׁאָמַרְתָּ לָשׂוּם עֵינְךָ עָלָיו? דָּבָר אַחֵר, כִּי כָּמוֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹה, אִם תַּקְנִיטֵנִי אֶהֱרֹג אוֹתְךָ וְאֶת אֲדוֹנֶךָ

(בראשית רבה)

This Rashi has  four interpretations:

1 –  In my opinion you are as important as the king. This is the literal meaning, 

2 – but a Midrashic explanation is: You will ultimately be stricken with leprosy for detaining Benjamin even as your ancestor Pharaoh was stricken because he detained my ancestress Sarah one night.

3 – Another Midrashic explanation is: you are as unreliable as Pharaoh — just as Pharaoh issues decrees and does not carry them out, makes promises and does not fulfill them, so also do you. Is this what you meant by “setting your eyes” upon him when you said (Genesis 44:21) “Bring him down and I will set mine eyes upon him”? 

4 – Still another Midrashic interpretation of כי כמוך כפרעה FOR THOU SHALT BECOME EVEN AS PHARAOH: if you provoke me I will slay you and your master (Genesis Rabbah 93:6).

Rashi has 4 interpretations for  כִּ֥י כָמ֖וֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹֽה.  Why?

The simple approach to the narrative leads us to perceive that Yehuda and the brothers were scared and were reacting to this tense situation in a state of weakness. However, Rabbi Elie Teitelman points out this is not so. Considering Rashi’s explanations, what becomes apparent is that Yehuda and the brothers are extremely confident as they are willing and able to act aggressively towards Yoseph and Egypt if they so choose. Rashi is telling us the Torah went out of its way at this juncture to inform us they were strong (“בַּעֲלֵי זְרוֹעַ הָיוּ”) and confident about waging war against Egypt if necessary (“לְעִנְיַן הַמִּלְחָמָה … כְעִיר בֵּינוֹנִית”) even if it meant killing Egypt’s leadership (“אִם תַּקְנִיטֵנִי אֶהֱרֹג אוֹתְךָ וְאֶת אֲדוֹנֶךָ

Therefore, the way to read Rashi on Verse 44:18 is that Yehuda was negotiating with Yosef and outwardly expressed respect, but he was thinking that Yosef is an evil person, one who was a liar and a cheat, and we will fight you on Binyamin.  Meaning that if Yosef does not let Binyamin go there will be a war and based on the Rashis in the previous Parsha they were strong and had confidence that they would be successful.

However, Verse 44:16 is incredible and difficult.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוּדָ֗ה מַה־נֹּאמַר֙ לַֽאדֹנִ֔י מַה־נְּדַבֵּ֖ר וּמַה־נִּצְטַדָּ֑ק הָאֱלֹהִ֗ים מָצָא֙ אֶת־עֲוֺ֣ן עֲבָדֶ֔יךָ הִנֶּ֤נּוּ עֲבָדִים֙ לַֽאדֹנִ֔י גַּם־אֲנַ֕חְנוּ גַּ֛ם אֲשֶׁר־נִמְצָ֥א הַגָּבִ֖יעַ בְּיָדֽוֹ׃ 

Judah replied, “What can we say to my lord? How can we plead, how can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered the crime of your servants. Here we are, then, slaves of my lord, the rest of us as much as he in whose possession the goblet was found.”

Amazingly, Yehuda knows they are innocent yet s willing to go into slavery with his brothers and says that we have previously sinned to God and we are being punished by God.  Despite the fact that they were very strong, he was willing to go into slavery because he assumed that this is G-ds doing.   Here he doesn’t mention any specific sin.  He may have had the sale of Yoseph in mind.

Yet two Pesukim later, Yehuda is negotiating and willing to go to war.  What changed is Pasuk 45:17.

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר חָלִ֣ילָה לִּ֔י מֵעֲשׂ֖וֹת זֹ֑את הָאִ֡ישׁ אֲשֶׁר֩ נִמְצָ֨א הַגָּבִ֜יעַ בְּיָד֗וֹ ה֚וּא יִהְיֶה־לִּ֣י עָ֔בֶד וְאַתֶּ֕ם עֲל֥וּ לְשָׁל֖וֹם אֶל־אֲבִיכֶֽם׃ {ס}     But he replied, “Far be it from me to act thus! Only the one in whose possession the goblet was found shall be my slave; the rest of you go back in peace to your father.”

Yehuda realizes that this decree is not from G-d and is not willing to accept Yosef’s demand to keep Binyomin.  Binyomin  never sinned.  Yehuda is now willing to go to war.  In his negotiations Yehuda does say that I am willing to be your slave if you agree to let Binyomin go. Verse 44:33 –  וְעַתָּ֗ה יֵֽשֶׁב־נָ֤א עַבְדְּךָ֙ תַּ֣חַת הַנַּ֔עַר עֶ֖בֶד לַֽאדֹנִ֑י וְהַנַּ֖עַר יַ֥עַל עִם־אֶחָֽיו׃ Therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord instead of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers.

If Yehuda knew that he was innocent and in the first verse of VaYigash Rashi says that Yehuda was willing to go to war, why would he agree to be a slave.  After all, Yosef initially never said he was not going to let Binyomin go.  All Yoseeh said was I want to see him.

The answer to this is perhaps go9ng back to the theme of 44:16 that he still felt that he sinned and G-d was punishing him or perhaps he was afraid that some of the brothers would be killed and was not willing to risk a war.

Rabbi Yosef Rothbart talked about these Pesukim in his speech today.  He said like what Danny and I said that he negotiated but was prepared for war.   Rabbi Rothbart said that the word  וַיִּגַּ֨שׁ implies three activities negotiation, prayer, and war, see Yalkut below..  Just like Yaakov when he was about to meet Eisav, rashi says והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה. עַל כָּרְחוֹ, כִּי אֶלָּחֵם עִמּוֹ. הִתְקִין עַצְמוֹ לִשְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים, לְדוֹרוֹן, לִתְפִלָּה וּלְמִלְחָמָה.  Negotiation is equivalent to  דוֹרוֹן .  Rabbi Rothbart mentioned a Reb Tzadok that when Yehuda said בִּ֣י אֲדֹנִי֒ he was also saying, in me is G-d.  Yehuda had faith in Hashem and this faith would carry him in battle.  This is why Jews are called Yehudim.  Because we have to always feel that Hashem is within us –  בִּ֣י אֲדֹנִי֒. 

This explains beautifully why in  Verse 44:16 Yehuda was willing for all the brothers to be slaves.     He when he could not say בִּ֣י אֲדֹנִי֒.  He felt that Hashem was punishing the brothers and that G-d was not with them.  Now that Yosef was going to keep Binyomin and let the brothers leave, he realized that this was not a punishment from G-d, he felt בִּ֣י אֲדֹנִי֒ and that he could fight Yosef.

Yalkut Shimoni on 44:18 – 

ויגש אליו יהודה רבי יהודה אומר הגשה למלחמה כמה דאת אמר ויגש יואב והעם אשר אתו למלחמה. רבי נחמיה אומר הגשה לפיוס כמה דאת אמר] ויגשו בני יהודה אל יהושע לפייסו ורבנן אמרי הגשה לתפלה ויגש אליהו.

ד”א ויגש אליו יהודה נכנסו לתוכחות אמר יהודה לנפתלי קפוץ וראה כמה שווקים יש במצרים קפץ וראה אמר שנים עשר שווקים אמר כל אחד ואחד יחריב שלו ואני אחריב שלשה. א”ל יוסף מצרים לא כשכם אם תחריב מצרים תחריב את כל העולם דכתיב כגן ה’ כארץ מצרים. כי כמוך כפרעה אם אשלוף חרבי אהרוג את כל מצרים אמר יוסף אם אתה מוציאה אכרוך אותה על צוארך. א”ל יהודה אני פותח פי ובולעך א”ל יוסף אם תפתח את פיך אני סותמו באבן.

Question #2:

Verse 44:22

 וַנֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־אֲדֹנִ֔י לֹא־יוּכַ֥ל הַנַּ֖עַר לַעֲזֹ֣ב אֶת־אָבִ֑יו וְעָזַ֥ב אֶת־אָבִ֖יו וָמֵֽת׃ 

There Are three explanations as to who will die:   Binyamin, Yaakov, or both of  them.

Rashi says- ועזב את אביו ומת. אִם יַעֲזֹב אֶת אָבִיו, דּוֹאֲגִים אָנוּ שֶׁמָּא יָמוּת בַּדֶּרֶךְ, שֶׁהֲרֵי אִמּוֹ בַּדֶּרֶךְ מֵתָה:

Rashi is saying that Binyomin will die.   However, the Rashbam says that Yaakov will die as a result. (Mesudah).

Sferno – says that both Yaakov and Binyamin will die and explains –  מאז שיעזוב את עגועגי אביו והסברת פניו יתעצב ונפל למשכב ואז ימות: לא יוכל הנער לעזוב את אביו, from the moment he will have left his father, he will pine for his father and become sick or die. Furthermore

ועזב את אביו ומת. ועם זה אביו ימות בלי ספק: ועזב את אביו ומת, also his father will die without question if the lad leaves him.

Further expanaiotn of thethree explanation of Pasuk  וַנֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־אֲדֹנִ֔י לֹא־יוּכַ֥ל הַנַּ֖עַר לַעֲזֹ֣ב אֶת־אָבִ֑יו וְעָזַ֥ב אֶת־אָבִ֖יו וָמֵֽת׃ 

The translation of the pasuk like Rashi is –   We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he were to leave him, his father would die.’

The translation of the pasuk like the Rashbam is “And we said to my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die.”  (Koren and JPS)

The translation of the pasuk like the Sferno is”And we said to my lord.  The boy cannot leave his father because Biyomin will so miss his father, that he will get sick or die and if the boy leaves his father, his father will also die,   

Question #3

Verse 44:29

וּלְקַחְתֶּ֧ם גַּם־אֶת־זֶ֛ה מֵעִ֥ם פָּנַ֖י וְקָרָ֣הוּ אָס֑וֹן וְהֽוֹרַדְתֶּ֧ם אֶת־שֵׂיבָתִ֛י בְּרָעָ֖ה שְׁאֹֽלָה׃   

Verse 44:31

וְהָיָ֗ה כִּרְאוֹת֛וֹ כִּי־אֵ֥ין הַנַּ֖עַר וָמֵ֑ת וְהוֹרִ֨ידוּ עֲבָדֶ֜יךָ אֶת־שֵׂיבַ֨ת עַבְדְּךָ֥ אָבִ֛ינוּ בְּיָג֖וֹן שְׁאֹֽלָה׃   

These Pasukim repeat the same thing and are redundant.  One was בְּרָעָ֖ה – with evil and 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      the second בְּיָג֖וֹן – with sorrow. 

Comments/Question #3:

Verse 45:2

 וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֶת־קֹל֖וֹ בִּבְכִ֑י וַיִּשְׁמְע֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע בֵּ֥ית פַּרְעֹֽה – Yosef is crying , so loud that everyone heard him.

What is the difference between Egypt and the house of Pharah?  How could the entire Egypt hear him?  If anything, say the house of Pharaoh first as that is limited and then Egypt heard him.

Verse 45:3

 וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יוֹסֵ֤ף אֶל־אֶחָיו֙ אֲנִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף הַע֥וֹד אָבִ֖י חָ֑י וְלֹֽא־יָכְל֤וּ אֶחָיו֙ לַעֲנ֣וֹת אֹת֔וֹ כִּ֥י נִבְהֲל֖וּ מִפָּנָֽיו׃ – was Yosef still crying?    

Yosef said אֲנִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף הַע֥וֹד אָבִ֖י חָ֑י all in one breath.  He did not pause after אֲנִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף, but it seemed as if he said both of these ideas in one stream of consciousness.  

Did say  הַע֥וֹד אָבִ֖י חָ֑י to rebuke them saying, you said that if Binyomin does not go back to our father, our father will die.  Why didn’t you worry about our father when you sold me?

As i look at the Sedra, I doubt if he meant to rebuke them. He was crying.   Just saying, “I am Joseph” is enough rebuke.  Besides, he was one of the holy founders of 2 tribes. He had to see G-d’s hand in all the events.  And the best revenge is success.

Rashi in verse 45:4 has to be explained.  Rashi says that he saw them backing up and Joseph said to himself, “Now, I see that they are embarrassed.”Then he called to them in a soft voice and conciliatory voice, and showed that he is circumcised. It seems that when Yoseph said “I am Joseph, is my father alive” he was rebuking them.  

Fred Weingust

At Kiddush I spoke to Fred Weingoth at length.  Comes out he worked for IBM for years and worked on 5/3rds accounts.  He understood their problems when I related to him their customer service issues.   Every summer he would load his 5 kids in their Caravan minivan and go cross country in Canada.  One year they drove route 66, first stopping off at Romanian in Chicago and loaded up with salami, hot dogs, etc.  The Levy family from Florida is also driving Route 66 in May.

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