Friday, December 14, 2007

Guest Posting by Ronnie Samet - Special Insights into Yosef, the Brothers & Binyomin

A reader, Ronnie Samet, has sent in a very special chidush that his father, Dr. Michael Samet, shlit"a, was mechadeish in the parshios that we find ourselves in right now, Vayeshev, Mikeitz, and Vayigash. He has shared these insights with many people through the years, but B"H, I think that this is the first time that these words will be published publicly. I hope that the learning of these thoughts will be a zechus for Ronnie and his father, she'tihiyu bri'im u'krovim LaShem. I think that you will find them extremely interesting. Thank you again, Ronnie for sharing this!

-Dixie Yid

In Parshas Vayeshev, the Pasuk tells us that as Yoseif approaches the
brothers in Dosan, the brothers conspire to kill Yoseif and Reuven
objects and suggests to throw him in the pit. Before Yoseif comes
within earshot, the conversation between the brothers cease, and
Yoseif is stripped of his coat and thrown into a pit that is empty,
"with no water in it."

What truly is the significance that there was no water in the pit?
While Rashi states according to the medrash that there was no water,
but there were snakes and scorpions; the question remains why didn't
the torah just say that they threw him in a pit with snakes and scorpions.
There must be inherent value in the words, "with no water in it."

My father explains, What is the difference between a pit with water
and one without. A pit with water - a well, in essence, has water
which absorbs sounds waves and makes it impossible for someone inside
the well to hear above the ground conversations. Whereas a pit
without water - is a pit - a "valley" in which sound waves echo off
the walls and ground and magnify the sounds said above ground.

Assuming these conditions of nature - the Torah is thus stating that
Yoseif was in a pit without water which means he was able to hear
conversations that occurred above ground. There was only one statement
that was said above ground when Yoseif is in the pit. "And Yehudah
says, What benefit is it if we kill our brother and cover his blood,
let us sell him..." If, according to our new understanding, we
believe that Yoseif must have heard this statement since - he was in a
pit without water - allowing the sounds to echo, Yoseif immediately
can deduce two bits of information.
One - Someone put a motion on the table to kill him. Two - it is not
Yehuda as Yehuda is the one rejecting the idea.

Clearly Yoseif is wondering who was it that wanted to kill him. Well,
who has the greatest motive to kill him?
Likely - the one with greatest motive is Reuven. The other Bechor.
While Shimon and Levi are considered "aggressive," they don't
necessarily carry the weight in true motive as Reuven does.
Furthermore, when Yoseif is taken out of the pit and sold, who is not
there - Reuven!!

Lets turn to Parshas Miketz, when the brothers come down to Mitzrayim.
Interestingly, Yoseif recognizes them and talks to them harshly. He
accuses them of being spies. As Rashi points out, there are many
personal questions exchanged about a missing brother, etc. Yoseif,
however, maintains his demeanor througout -- until after they have
been in jail for three days and the brothers finally say to each
other, "the difficulties come to us on account of our neglect in
listening to Yoseif's cries." Even at this point, Yoseif maintains
his poker face - but then Reuven says to the brothers, "I told you not
to touch the kid (Yoseif) and you didn't listen to me." The Torah
then states, "and they didn't realize that Yoseif was listening b/c
the interpreter was between them, and Yoseif turns away and cries."
So why does Yoseif cry??
Because for 22 years he has been thinking, it was Reuven who wanted to
kill him, and now he hears in his own language, that Reuven actually
wanted to save him!! He falsely suspected him - so he turns away and
cries. When he comes back - he now has to turn his attention to the
perpetrator. Its not Yehudah. Its not Reuven. It is unlikely to be
any of the Shefachos' children - it must be Shimon and/or Levi. Rashi
points out that it was Shimon who threw him in the pit and actually
made the motion to kill him - so Yoseif figured out the mystery.

Now the question is where did Reuven really go after they threw Yoseif
into the pit?
Did Yoseif make any arguments at that time? What does the story of
Yehudah and Tamar really add? Why did Yoseif change his mind - first
he said one guy would go back to get Binyamin, then he sent them all
except for one. Why the change in plans? Also, why does he return
the money in their bags the first time down?
All these questions are tied in to one theme and it all leads up to
this Parsha of Vayigash Yehuda...

So where did Reuven actually go when he left the brothers after they
threw Yoseif in the pit? My father, shlita, a realist, believes that
Yoseif did not descend into the pit without a verbal fight. The
brothers claimed he was a dangerous verbal slanderer, always on his
own volition spying on them and reporting back to Yaakov. Well, this
one time, the Torah goes out of its way to say that Yaakov actually
sent him to check on his brothers. This one time, he was merely
following his father's orders. In fact, if he was spying, as he
usually did, would he have left a trail? - when he asks a stranger as
to where his brothers went. So - likely Yoseif argued that while it
is true - at times he spies and reports lashon hara back to Yaakov,
this time - it is not the case. To prove it, let someone verify the
information with Yaakov.

So Reuven went back to Yaakov to verify the information, to see if
Yoseif was telling the truth. But the brothers don't wait for him.
And instead of one person (Reuven) verifying the information, all the
brothers except for one (Reuven), decide to sell Yoseif - and "in
theory," subject him to a fate of eternal slavery.

Realize that Yehuda was at the head of the sale, and given his stature
could have prevented the sale as Rashi points out. We will talk about
this later.

Let's fast forward for a minute to Parshas Vayigash - As the Rambam
states, complete Teshuva occurs when one is in the same situation and
does not perform the same mistake.

Yoseif's goal is to create a near identical situation to his sale. So
he too accuses the brothers of being spies. They disagree. He says,
OK - lets send one person back to verify the information (that there
is a younger brother) - just as they sent Reuven back to verify
Yoseif's story. But just as they changed their plan and all of them
except for one (Reuven) decided the fate of Yoseif, he too changed the
plan and all of them except for one (Shimon) will now decide the fate
of Shimon. You should see the parallel. But the brothers fail again
- let me explain.

It must be clear that Yehuda could have prevented the entire sale of
Yoseif had he waited for the evidence from Reuven. Furthermore, he
felt comfortable selling Yoseif into eternal slavery and likely could
have prevented it had he stood up and intervened before they actually
sold Yoseif.

Well - Hashem gives him a second chance. With Tamar - there too, all
he had to do was verify the information regarding who impregnated Tamar. But
he doesn't. He fails again. Without asking questions and waiting for
evidence - he says, "Burn her at the stake." Interestingly, this
time, he HIMSELF is the evidence and only admits that he is wrong when
the evidence is staring him in the face.

Now Yoseif, after he hears it is not Reuven who wanted to kill him -
his focus is on Yehuda - as it was only Yehuda who could have
prevented the sale of his brother into eternal slavery. So in fact
Yoseif gives Yehuda another chance to do Teshuva.

The Torah is quite clear that Yoseif threw Shimon into jail in front
of their eyes. This was done with the focus on Yehuda. Again,
another brother was slated for eternal slavery (if not worse), but
here too Yehuda fails to stand up and intervene.

Yoseif thus sets up the final event with Binyamin. But indeed he
needs a perfect setup. So he starts by planting the money the
brothers brought down the first time back into their bags. Why did he
do this? To be a nice guy. No - it is a setup.

When the brothers come down a second time - immediately they disclose
the fact that they found the money back in their bags and they are
voluntary returning it. Once again, they plead innocence and they are
honest people.

During their second visit (with Binyamin now), Yoseif eats with all
the brothers and then sends them back on their way with his goblet in
Binyamin's bag.

He chases after them and they find the goblet in Binyamin's bag.

When they return - he accuses them of stealing. They argue that they
would never steal - in fact the first time when money was planted back
in our bags, we brought it back - We are innnocent and honest people!
You have no evidence against us.

The response - Yes you have proved your innonence - all except one.
You see, Binyamin was not here the first time - and so he has no
presumed innocence.

So Binyamin is guilty - all the evidence proves it. And he too will
now be a slave forever.

VaYigash Yehuda - now Yehuda - who has failed multiple times with
regard to evidence - finally in his moment of Teshuva - says I don't
care what the evidence shows - even if it clear that he is guilty, I
will not stand idle as my brother is sold into slavery. I will do
whatever I can to prevent it - you will not take Binyamim.

At that point, the "game" is over. The goal has been reached!!

Ani Yosef, HaOd Avinu Chai.

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