Parshas Vayeishev: Yosef and the Partial

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rav-shmuel-brazil-1By Rav Shmuel Brazil

In the sefer Bnei Yissachar he writes that the gematria of Yosef 156 is equal to melech yavan 156 and Antiyochus 156 who was the Greek emperor during the time of the Chashmonaim and the Chanukah miracle. Let us take a few moments to explain the possible connection between the two.

Rav Yisrael Salantar ztl said that a yesod in avodas Hashem is “mir daf ton nisht aufton” – we must do not necessarily accomplish. We live in a society that values accomplishments not effort. If you don’t come with the finished product you are worthless regardless of the sincere effort that was invested in the endeavor. C.o.d. which is the roshei taivos of cash on delivery is the fundamental constitution of our culture. Half baked jobs even if done with the greatest intent are deemed failures. However, Torah teaches us Lo alecha hamelacha ligmor [Avos 2,16] that it is not upon you to finish.

A lagre segment of today’s human depressions, emanate from our feelings of shortcoming and inadequacy by not arriving at our destination with our endeavors. The Kotzker Rebbi asked why when Hashem asked the middos of Emes and Shalom their opinion whether to create man or not to which they responded in the3 negative, Emes was thrown to the earth but not Shalom. The Kotzker answered that when you throw something from a high place as it hits the ground it shatters. A “brekele” – a partial emes is still called emes. A partial shalom is not shalom at all!!

Yosef symbolizes the merit of the struggle and the journey alone even though one did not arrive at the destination. They are also called emes. Here are just a few examples of this quality that Yosef placed in Klal Yisrael.

1] He was named Yosef which was a tefillah of Yosef lee ben achair that Hashem should add to me another son. Yosef at birth represented an incompletion.

2] The Panaiach Raza explains that Yosef originally was conceived in Leah and in middle of the pregnancy he was miraculously switched to Rachel’s womb. This attests to the fact that he didn’t finish as a fetus in the same way he started.

3] On the passuk ben zekunim the Baal Haturim writes that the five letters of this words are the acronym of the five sedarim of mishnayos. What happened to the sixth? It appears that even though he did not acquire that as of yet nevertheless he is still called a ben zekunim bar chakim as the Targum states.

4] His interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream that there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine was only partially fulfilled for after two years the famine ceased.

5] The mishkan was situated in Yosef’s portion of Eretz Yisral in Shiloh but only temporarily.

6] Moshiach ben Yosef will not bring the geulah but will only start the process and preparation for the redemption.

7] Even in the negative arena of avairos, we find that an incomplete avairah brought about by conquering one’s yetzer harah, is also reckoned as a success. Yosef according to one opinion entered the house of Potifar knowingly and with the intention to have relations with her. Nevertheless, he stopped himself abruptly before the act. The passuk says “Vatispesaihu bevigdo” which literally translates she grabbed him by his clothing. However, the word begged also means unfaithfulness. This interpretation of the words says that she inundated Yosef with feelings of guilt and shame in the hope of persuading him to go through as intended, claiming that since he already sinned with his thoughts and actions by coming to have relations, he is already labeled a bogaid an unfaithful servant of Hashem.. However, Yosef saw the picture of his father in front of his eyes and was able to suppress his passion and girded all his strength to out of the house.

For his father also proved this very point that even a small portion of kedusha also counts as something very significant. For when Yaakov fought with the angel of Esav, the Torah says that during the battle they stirred up dust that reached the kisay hakavod. Just battling alone with the angel of Esav is sufficient to contact the kisay hakavod. Here too the victory over the enemy was not complete since Yaakov was injured in his thigh. Nevertheless, he was called Yisrael and the angel admitted to him his right to receive the berachos of Yitzchak. Yes, even a portion of success in considered success. Yosef learned from his father that stopping in the middle of an inappropriate passion is also greatness.

My close yedid Rav Dovid Sitnick brought to my attention that the passuk that is said at the end of Shemoneh Esrai for the name Yosef is [Tehillim 135] Hashem yigmor baadi…. that Hashem will accomplish for me!!

The incompletion of Yaakov’s victory over the malach emerged in the Galus of Yavon as Chazal say. It was there that the injury of the kaf thigh turned into the miracle of the pach flask of shemen which is the reverse order of the letters. The Greeks believed in the final product and not how one got there. The Greeks decreed kisvoo al keren hashor sheain lchem chailek beelokai Yisrael – write on the horn of the ox that you do not have a portion in the G-d of Israel. Our Chazal say that the horn of the ox is Yosef who is compared to an ox [Devarim 33,17] Yosef placed in Klal Yisrael the gene power to do as much one can do even if he does not accomplish and arrive at the final product and still not fall into sadness. Rather, one must recognize that it is Hashem who is the One who finishes for Man. This concept went against the grain of Greek culture and they decreed to write off this spiritual inheritance that we received from the Ox Yosef and write in its place that G-d does not accept a chailek a portion of service to him. Hashem only accepts final, whole and finished products.

With the above explanation we can understand one of the answers to the Bais Yosef’s famous Chanukah question that if they had enough oil to last one day why do we celebrate this yom tov eight days and not seven? One of the famous answers is that they divided the oil into eight parts so it would at least burn somewhat every night. The miracle happened that each night it burned the full time. However on this answer the mefarshim are quick to ask how could they initially divide the oil in portions and hence only fulfill a partial mitzvah? According to our explanation we might be able to answer that the victory of Torah over secularism resides in this distinction between them. That Torah embraces a full endeavor to accomplish a mitzvah even though it results with a partial for it is still esteemed by Hashem. This is reinforced by the halacha in lighting the menorah that kavsah ain zakook lah that if the light of the menorah goes out before the length of the designated burning time it is not necessary to relight it. Well why not? The sefer Eretz Tzvi explains this is to demonstrate that if one puts his efforts and heart into fulfilling a mitzvah even if he does not reach the complete fulfillment, he should not be saddened or throw in the towel. Hashem is the One who takes the mitzvah which you initiated and brings it to the end as the passuk says Lakail gomair alai [Tehillim 57,3].

Gut Shabbos. A freilichen and lichtegin Chanukah.

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