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ויהי כדברה אל יוסף יום יום

And so it was – just as she coaxed Yosef day after day. (39:10)

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 67:6) teaches: “The descendants of Rachel Imeinu, in the following two instances, their tests which they endured and their greatness with which they were consequently rewarded were equivalent.” Yosef was coaxed, day after day, to sin. Mordechai (of the tribe of Binyamin) refused to bow down to Haman, day after day. “Their greatness with which they were rewarded, Pharaoh removed his signet ring and appointed Yosef as viceroy. The Persian king removed his signet ring and gave it to Mordechai, granting him a position of unparalleled importance and power.” We wonder why Chazal consider Yosef and…

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ויכר יהודה ויאמר צדקה ממני

Yehudah recognized and said, “She is right; it is from me.” (38:26)

Chazal (Sotah 10b) teach, “As soon as Yehudah confessed and said Tzadkah mimeni, “She is right; it is from me,” a Bas Kol, Heavenly voice, issued forth and declared, “You saved Tamar and her two sons from the fire. By your life, I swear that I will save three of your descendants in your merit. Who are these? They are Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah.” Yehudah’s name is eternalized because he withstood and triumphed over the challenge to his integrity. Targum Yonasan (commentary to Devarim 49:8) says that, due to Yehudah’s confession concerning his involvement with Tamar, Klal Yisrael are called…

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ותאמר הכר נא למי החתמת והפתילים והמטה האלה

And she said, “Recognize, if you please, whose are this signet, this wrap, and this staff.” (38:25)

Rashi explains that, in this context, the word na (ha’ker na, “recognize, if you please”) expresses nothing but request. Tamar replied, “Please recognize your Creator and do not destroy three souls (Tamar and her unborn twins). According to Rashi, when Tamar said, “If you please,” it was simply a plea for mercy, it was an appeal to Yehudah’s sense of yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven.” Horav Shlomo Wolbe, zl, derives a powerful insight from Rashi. We are accustomed to thinking that the manner and approach for one to develop a profound recognition and perspective of Hashem is through the study…

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וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביו

Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojourning. (37:1)

The commentators have written prolifically about this pasuk. Rashi writes concerning the juxtaposition of the beginning of this parshah upon the closing of the previous parshah, which details the tribal leaders of Eisav’s family. In one of his expositions, Rashi explains Yaakov’s settling, comparing it to a flax merchant whose camels laden with flax entered a town, filled to the brim with their loads of flax. The blacksmith whose shop was along the flax merchant’s route wondered where all this flax could be stored. A clever fellow who overheard the blacksmith piped up and said, “One spark from your bellows,…

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ותסר בגדי אלמנותה מעליה... ותשב בפתח עינים

So, she removed her widow’s garb from upon her… and she sat at a crossroads. (38:14)

The term pesach einayim literally translated, means “at an entrance of eyes.” Here, it is interpreted as parashas derachim, crossroads, because it is point where a traveler must open his eyes and decide which road he will take. The parashas derachim is called pesach einayim, because one cannot continue on the road unless his eyes are open, so that he can determine the best road to take. Horav Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, zl (Kerem HaTorah) relates that years earlier (he published his sefer in 1914), in such Jewish bastions of Torah and avodah, one road existed (which was used by the…

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ויקרע יעקב שמלתיו... ויתאבל על בנו ימים רבים

Then Yaakov rent his garments… he mourned for his son many days. (37:34)

Rashi explains the term yamim rabim, many days: twenty-two years, which lasted from Yosef’s sudden departure until Yaakov Avinu went down to Egypt. This specific time was by design (as is everything) to coincide with the twenty-two years that Yaakov Avinu did not fulfill the mitzvah of Kibbud av v’eim, honoring his father and mother. Yaakov Avinu experienced twenty-two years of agony and mourning over the painful loss of a son, as middah k’neged middah, measure for measure, for his lack of fulfilling the mitzvah to honor his parents. At first glance, Yaakov’s departure from home by his mother’s instruction…

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וישמע ראובן ויצלהו מידם

Reuven heard and he rescued him from their hand. (37:21)

Reuven suggested the brothers throw Yosef into a pit, rather than personally execute corporeal punishment against him. [The Shevatim, tribes/brothers, convened a bais din, judicial court, to determine if Yosef was, in fact, guilty of rendering false testimony against them, or a rodef, pursuer, who wanted to do them harm. In any event, they did not make their decision lightly.] It is difficult to understand how Reuven’s suggestion that the brothers instead fling Yosef into a pit swarming with dangerous creatures was an act of saving Yosef. Was he not selecting one form of death over another? The Ohr HaChaim…

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וילכו אחיו לרעות את צאן אביהם בשכם... ויאמר ישראל אל יוסף... לכה ואשלחך אליהם... ויבא שכמה

Now, his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem… and Yisrael said to Yosef… “Come, I will send you to them,” and he arrived in Shechem. (37:12,13,14)

Despite the brothers negative association with Shechem, a region where they had killed the male inhabitants of an entire city, they put their trust in Hashem, who caused the pagan residents of the area to fear them. Perhaps they remonstrated to themselves that their actions were not a disgrace. They acted in a manner which they felt was appropriate. Rashi notes that Shechem was a makom muchan l’puraniyos, a place prepared for adversity: there, the tribes acted sinfully; there, the people of Shechem violated Dinah; there, the malchus Bais David, kingdom of David Hamelech, was divided. Rashi’s order of events…

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והנה אנחנו מאלמים אלמים בתוך השדה והנה קמה אלמתי וגם נצבה

Behold! We were binding sheaves in the middle of the field, when, behold! My sheaf arose and remained standing. (37:7)

The Torah’s narrative teaches us how Hashem’s ways (of dealing with the world and with us) must be accepted with love. A superficial, cursory perusal of the stories in the Torah will not do anyone justice; the reader is left clueless, and the profundity of the narrative remains concealed and ambiguous. The Midrash and Zohar, the Talmud and its many commentators, offer us powerful insights into the behind the scenes workings of the narrative, their hidden meaning, and the message for the reader. Concerning Yosef HaTzaddik, Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 84:10) teach, Kamah alumasi; my sheaf stood up – “My alumah,…

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ויהי בעת ההיא וירד יהודה מאת אחיו

It was at that time that Yehudah went down from his brothers. (38:1)

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah 85:1) make a fascinating observation, one over which we, as Jews living b’ikvessa d’Moshicha, during the epoch of Moshiach, should carefully ruminate again and again. The Torah relates that Yehudah went down from his brothers and turned away toward an Adulmite man whose name was Chirah – a seemingly benign statement. Chazal explain that Hashem was quite “occupied” during this seemingly innocuous period. The Midrash opens with a pasuk from Yirmiyahu (29:11) which implies (as per Chazal’s interpretation) that Hashem knows what is going on in everyone’s mind. He knows that while others are each individually engaged…

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