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The Kurland Family Edition
יהודה אריה בן חיים יוסף
Yehuda Aryeh Ben Chaim Yosef
One of the episodes that stands out in this week's parasha, Parashas Vayeshev, is mechiras Yosef. This is one of the yesodos that we need to understand, that our whole past, present, and future are based upon. The mechira is what brought Klal Yisroel to Egypt. In the Sefarim we can see that the entire exile we're going through is also because of mechirasYosef. Even Chanukah, the holiday we are coming up to now, was because of this. The Achronim bring down that the meal Yosef made for his brothers was a seudas Chanukah. This illustrates that mechiras Yosef is a recurring theme woven throughout history.
What is mechiras Yosef? How can we understand it? Taking it at face value is impossible, since it is an unacceptable notion to take a brother and sell him, even for regular people, and here we are talking about the Shevatim.
Before we discuss the actual mechira, we should understand a Chazal that says, 'If the Rishonim were like angels, we would be as people. But if the Rishonim are like people, then we would be like chamorim.' Is this Chazal trying to break our self-esteem and tell us how lowly we are? No; rather, Chazal wanted us to understand that if we look at the earlier generation as if they were incapable of sinning, then you can talk as if you are a man trying to understand an angel. We, as humans, know they are out of our league. But if we regard them as regular people, criticizing their bad traits and the sins they did, then we are like donkeys. It is like two donkeys who are trying to explain humans' behavior. We cannot even understand gedolim like R' Chaim Ozer or the Imrei Emes; we certainly can’t begin to understand all the way back to the Shevatim.
That being said, we need to analyze mechiras Yosef, to understand it and learn the lessons that can be gleaned from it. The truth is, the Meforshim say that mechiras Yosef was lesheim Shomayim and was leshma: The brothers held that Yosef was a rodef, conveying negative reports about them to their father, and so the Beis Din paskened that it was acceptable to do what they did. Either way, when we look at this story, it's like people trying to interpret the ways of malochim. They are something which is beyond us. These people were on a much higher level than us, and everything they did was according to halacha. Yosef makes a statement to his brothers as he sends them back after revealing himself: 'Al Tirg'zu Baderech.' Chazal teach us that this meant that Yosef was telling them not to deliberate about the halacha on their travels. Which halacha? When the Shevatim realized they had made a mistake in the mechira, they wanted to see where they went wrong. Yosef told them not to worry; don't delve back into the halacha. On the way back, after Yosef revealed himself, instead of talking about the future like normal people would, they were worried about the past. It was not about them and their personal lives; rather, it was about halacha.
Even though halacha and the Torah were of utmost importance to the brothers, we know that the mechira was a mistake. So, the question here is: what was the brothers' sin, and what lesson can we learn from it? Ramban in Parashas Mikeitz says that when Yosef's cup was found in Binyamin's sack, the Shevatim started realizing they had done something wrong, but they still did not take responsibility for the mechira. They understood that their sin was a lack of rachmonus: 'Asher Ra'inu Tzoras Nafsho Behitchaneno Eileinu Velo Shomonu, Al Kein Bo'oh Eileinu Hatzoroh Hazos.' Even when confronted with the reality that they might be wrong, they were so convinced that the mechira was justified that they had to find an alternative explanation.
When the Shevatim came and met Yosef and he told them, 'Anochi Yosef,' they were shocked! Yosef then said, 'Ho'od Ovi Chai?'Yosef looked just like his father, so he was asking the Shevatim, 'If your father is still alive, how could you not recognize me?!'
Yosef’s Reflection of Yaakov
Chazal say that when Yosef was tested with Eshet Potifar, 'The image of his father appeared to him in a window.' A chalon is like a mirror, it reflects images. Yosef looked in the window and saw his father's reflection in himself, and this stopped him from sinning. His father did not come, but the reflection helped. It made him bring up the memory of his father from within him. When a Jew is about to do something wrong, they should think to themselves, 'I am the child of Yaakov.' Yaakov loved Yosef'Kee Ben Zekunim Hu Lo,' he was a son who would one day be a grandfather. Yosef realized that people would one day look up to him, like they did to his father, so how could he do this sin? Yosef was therefore asking his brothers, 'Is my father still alive?'
The Shevatim could not see their father in Yosef because of negius, bias. Negius blocks objectivity and clarity. Mechiras Yosef arose from kinoh; it says so clearly in the Torah. The Ba'alei Musser say that jealousy cannot be identified. It cannot be detected. All through the years, the Shevatim thought they were right. Kinoh is one thing that can't be healed; it's a silent killer because it cannot be detected, sometimes even by the person himself. My Zeide used to say, 'A Mentch is Fort a Mentch.' The point is that a person can analyze and see that there is something which is uniquely human. Kelm was very makpid about emes. If someone would ask someone else, 'Is it raining?' They would answer, 'When I was outside it was raining!'
Rivka said to Eliezer, 'To you, I will give to drink, and to your camels, I will draw the water.' She used these words because of her middoh of emes. She cannot force the animals to drink. If kinoh is undetectable, then what should we do to prevent it? When we deal with others, we never know what sensitive chord we are striking. We may be hurting them, even when trying to help. Middos are complicated. People are people!
Michiras Yosef And The Middah of Kinnah
Mechiras Yosef was not just a matter of the brothers being insensitive to Yosef. It was also insensitivity on their father's part; Yaakov had a hand in causing the mechira. The Gemara says that a father may never show favoritism towards one child, even by a small amount. When Yaakov gave Yosef the kesones pasim, Rashi comments that he gave each of the Shevatim something as well, but Yosef got an extra two-sela'im's worth, some extra material around his wrists. Even though it wasn't much of a difference, it caused kinoh. Yaakov may have reasoned that it was a small discrepancy that the other brothers wouldn't care about, and that Yosef is an orphan, so he should be treated better according to halacha. But with all this, the brothers could not cope with this favoritism.
However, was itYosef's fault that Yaakov showed him favoritism? Kinoh and sinah have no logical explanation. Human nature is what it is! In the end of the davening in the Nusach Sefard, it says, 'Shelo Sa'aleh Kinos Odom Alay Velo Kinosi Al Acherim.' What does Sa'aleh, come upon me, mean? The pshat is Ayin Hora. We are davening that we shouldn't have Ayin Hora upon us, and we should not put it upon others. Another pshat can be that the word Sa'aleh is another way of saying Hisorer. Kinoh starts when it's misorer. After that, it becomes a part of you and cannot be detected. We ask Hashem to not even let it come upon us, since once it comes, it becomes an infestation. This is mechiras Yosef and why the Shevatim were responsible. Notwithstanding all the Lesheim Shomoyim, deep down, there was jealousy.
There is a medrash that the brothers said, 'Let's go and kill him and shorten birkas hamozon.' What is the connection between the two? Half the bentching is thanking Hashem. The other half talks about the fact that we have no Beis Hamikdosh. They believed that by killing Yosef, they would be uprooting the sinoh in Klal Yisroel. From here we learn that when one is trying to uproot sinas chinom, make sure you are not the cause of it…
Heshem Helps The Nirdof
There is a very famous vort. The posuk says, 'Elokim Yevakesh Es Nirdof'. According to pshat, it means that Hashem searches out to help the Nirdof. Every person may think he is the Nirdof, but Hashem knows who the true Nirdof is. The hidden, subconscious kinoh of the brothers caused the brothers to think that Yosef was a rodef instead of a nirdof!
This shows that the mechira had an element of sinas chinam.
The Ramban says a different mahalach. He explains that the brothers thought that selling Yosef was not such a serious sin; rather, the real issue was their achzorius. Even when Yosef begged them to have mercy, they ignored him. Why didn't the Torah mention that Yosef begged his brothers for his life? The Torah could not bear to write it because it was so terrible—even worse than the mechira itself!
A Jew Is A Rachmon
A Jew is a rachmon. Without rachmonus he can't be Jewish; it's a halacha! Rachmonus is embedded in a Jew's DNA. What does it mean to be a Jew, what differentiates us from the rest of the world? We are Cheilek Eloka Mema'al along with rachamim. This trait is a key component of our becoming Hashem's nation. The Gemara explains the posuk, 'Ketapu'ach Be'atzei Haya'ar Kein Dodi Bein Habonim': Like the leaf grows before the fruit on an apple tree, so too Klal Yisroel said Na'aseh before Nishma. However, the apple is referring to Hashem in the posuk. The answer is, yes, the posuk is referring to Hashem, but we are His children, and apples don't fall far from the tree, thanks to rachmonus. This is what it means to go in His ways. This is a sign that we are AmchoYisroel. It is all about rachmonus. It's interesting that when Yosef ends the charade and reveals his identity, the brothers try to awaken the rachamim of Yosef. From the posuk it seems that as soon as Yosef saw the Shevatim, he got angry and wanted to teach them a lesson. Chazal teach us that he recognised the Shevatim and immediately had rachmonus on; he just made it appear as if he was angry. The Ba'al Haturim says that Gavriel came and forced Yosef to act like this in order to allow the brothers an opportunity to rectify their achzarius with rachmonus on a brother, Binyamin, and on Yaakov.
The Middah of Achzarius In The Sale
The punishment for mechiras Yosef went to ten tzaddikim, the Asoroh Harugei Malchus. However, why was all the achazarius that accompanied their deaths necessary? For twenty-two years, the Shevatim tortured Yosef and their father. This is middoh keneged middoh. This pain also went into the cheshbon of the tikkun. One could also say that there was chillul Hashem involved of a brother being sold by his brothers, which required extra atonement of yissurim. Alternatively, perhaps the mechira was not the main issue, rather the achzarius. Being an achzor is the worst thing, and the pain is excruciating and requires yissurim.
I want to illustrate the rachmonus of a yid. I heard from my father the following story: My father once went to a hospital with my grandfather, Rav Shmuel Dovid Walkin, to visit a choleh. The person was more or less healthy enough to leave the hospital. They spoke together, and in the middle of their conversation, my father left for a few minutes to put a quarter in the parking meter. By the time my father came back, he saw Rav Shmuel Dovid crying outside the room. My father wondered what had happened to the friend in the last few minutes. Rav Shmuel Dovid Answered, 'It's not about that man; while I was waiting for you, they brought in a man who was in a critical state and I could not bear to see it.' As they left, they passed the intensive care unit. My father looked in and saw a man with long hair and tattoos all over. My father asked, 'You're crying about him?!' For the rest of the day, my grandfather was in a state because his son reacted in such away…
I always wondered if others also take this view. I found a R' Yerucham in Parashas Mekeitz on the topic of why Yosef is helping Egypt. It goes through the inyan of tselem Elokim and what it means to have rachmonus on others. He wrote there that the Sabba MiKelm said that when he saw the goyim spending their time going to church, his heart went out to them. They have no life. He wrote that when he saw a goy being mechalel Shabbos, his heart went out to him, since what kind of life is a life without Shabbos. They had mercy on a goy! A yid is a rachmon. The word rachmonus defines what the response of a yid should be.
Rav Sitruk, the Chief Rabbi of France, told my in-laws the following story. The Archbishop in France was a Jew. His mother was Jewish, and during the war, he was taken in by a non-Jewish family. He then became a Christian minister and continued on to be the Archbishop of France. When the Archbishop's life was coming to an end, Rav Sitruk asked Chachom Ovadya if he should say viduy with him. ChachomOvadya said yes, at least Shema Yisroel. Unfortunately, however hard he tried; he could not manage to say even Shema Yisroel with him. When Chachom Ovadya asked what had happened, he told him that he was not successful. When Chachom Ovadya heard this, he started crying and said, 'Rachmonus on him on what awaits this person in the next world!' A yid has rachmonus. Kiruv rechokim happens when someone has rachmonus on people who are lost.
There is a story about the Sdeh Chemed. He attributed his gadlus in the Torah to a specific incident: He was the Rosh Kollel, and many people in the town did not want the kollel there. There was one man who came up with a scheme that he would offer the Jewish woman who cleaned the kollel a house, money, and health insurance if she made up a libel about the Sdeh Chemed. The woman, being a simple woman, did it, causing a tremendous chillul Hashem. The Sdeh Chemed just continued learning. The man who promised her money lost his money, and the woman, in her dire state, had no choice but to go and ask the Sdeh Chemed to take her back and forgive her, and she offered to explain to everyone in town that the story was made up. The SdehChemed said yes, you can have your job back, on the condition that you don't talk about the story at all anymore, even to explain the truth. At that moment, the gates of Heaven opened up to him and many Torah ideas came to him. People say he got the hatzlacho because of his effort to preventa chillul Hashem by rehashing the story. I believe that it was because he had rachmonus. The rachmonos is the DNA of what a Jew is all about.
Homon tells Mordechai, 'Ben'fol Oyvecho Al Tismach.' Why? Hashem is the one that makes salvation. But also, because a Jew has mercy!
Often, people beg us for help, and we ignore them. We see signs on the wall asking for us to daven and just walk away. There are so many times in a newspaper that people are calling out to us, but do we pay attention?
I will end with this story. The Gerrer Rosh Yeshiva was R' Chanoch. He would travel all over the world collecting money. The day before Yom Kippur, he was at my Zeide's house. That Yom Kippur my Zeide cried more than normal. When asked about it, he said, 'When R' Chanoch was about to leave, he told me in the taxi, "I am not feeling so well; please daven for me." When a Jew asks, we should try to help, try to respond. Therefore, I davened in such a way.'