Friday, December 3, 2010

Why Yosef was taught the 70 languages

The gemara says in Sotah (36b):
א"ר חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן בשעה שאמר לו פרעה ליוסף (בראשית מא, מד) ובלעדיך לא ירים איש את ידו וגו' אמרו איצטגניני פרעה עבד שלקחו רבו בעשרים כסף תמשילהו עלינו אמר להן גנוני מלכות אני רואה בו אמרו לו א"כ יהא יודע בשבעים לשון בא גבריאל ולימדו שבעים לשון לא הוה קגמר הוסיף לו אות אחת משמו של הקב"ה ולמד שנאמר (תהלים פא, ו) עדות ביהוסף שמו בצאתו על ארץ מצרים (שפת לא ידעתי אשמע)

“Rebbi Chiyah bar Abba said in the name of Rebbi Yochanan, when Pharoh said to Yosef, ‘Without you no-one shall lift his hand..’, the astrologers of Pharoh said, ‘Are you going to appoint over us a slave whose master bought him for 20 silver coins?’ He said to them, ‘I see a royal visage in him.’ They said to him, ‘If so, he should know the 70 languages.’ Gavriel came and taught him 70 languages. Yosef could not learn them, so he added a letter from Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s Name to his name and he learnt, as the possuk says ‘עדות ביהוסף שמו בצאתו על ארץ מצרים’ – ‘Edus when he was made Yehosef (with an extra heh), when he went out over the land of Mitzraim.”

Why did Yosef merit to learn the 70 languages?

Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner z”l explains as follows:

The gemara says in Bava Metzia (44a):

נתן לו מעות ולא משך הימנו פירות יכול לחזור בו, אבל אמרו מי שפרע מאנשי דור המבול ומדור הפלגה הוא עתיד להפרע ממי שאינו עומד בדיבורו“

If he gave him money but had not moved the produce, he can cancel the sale, but they said, ‘He who exacted vengeance from the men of the generation of the mabul and from the dor haphlogoh, He will exact vengeance from one who does not keep his word.”

What is the connection between not keeping your word and the dor hamabul and the dor haphlogoh?

The possuk says in Bereishis (2:7):וַיְהִי הָאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה

“And Hashem created Adam from the dust of the earth and he breathed into his nostrils a living neshama and Adam became a living being.”

Unkelos transalates the passuk:
והות באדם לרוח ממללא“
And it became in Adam a speaking spirit.”

Speaking is the essence of a person and differentiates people from animals. If a person does not keep his word, this diminishes his stature as a person.

The gemara says in Sanhedrin (38b):
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב אדם הראשון מסוף העולם ועד סופו היה שנאמר (דברים ד, לב) למן היום אשר ברא אלהים אדם על הארץ ולמקצה השמים ועד קצה השמים כיון שסרח הניח הקדוש ברוך הוא ידו עליו ומיעטו שנאמר (תהלים קלט, ה) אחור וקדם צרתני ותשת עלי כפך

“Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, Adam haRishon reached from one end of the world till the other end of the world, as the possuk says ‘From the day that Hashem created Adam on the earth and from one end of the heavens to the other end of the heavens.’ After he sinned, Hakodosh Boruch Hu placed His palm on him and shrank him, as the possuk says ‘You created me from west to east and you placed your palm on me’.”

Because Adam did not keep his agreement with Hashem, his status as the bechir hayetzirah was diminished.

Before the mabul, people lived for much longer than after the mabul, and were capable of accomplishing much more. Because ‘mala’ah ha’aretz chamas mipneheim’ the people were conniving and dishonest, the continuation of the miut tzuras ha’adam that started with adam intensified with the mabul and people were now more limited in their capabilities and influence.

When the 70 leshonos were introduced with the dor haphlogoh mankind was split and was now even less capable of acting together and achieving a combined result.

This is why if someone does not keep their word beis din announce that they should be punished like the dor hamabul and the dor haphlogoh. This is an appropriate punishment for someone who continues in the same ways of untrustworthiness.

Yosef hatzaddik, who always kept his word, reversed the downfall of the dor haphlogoh and was therefore able to communicate with anyone. Gavriel taught him the 70 leshonos as a sign that he had reached back to the madregah that existed before the dor haphlogoh and that the reduced ability that the split of the 70 leshonos brought did not apply to him.

Yosef brought unity to all the nations through his trustworthiness and ensured their continued existence. Similarly he brought unity to klal yisroel by not bearing a grudge against his brothers for their selling him. Through this he completed the family unit that became klal yisroel.

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