Friday, December 16, 2011

Parshas Vayeshev: Yosef and Shechem


The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (37:14);
וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לֶךְ נָא רְאֵה אֶת שְׁלוֹם אַחֶיךָ וְאֶת שְׁלוֹם הַצֹּאן וַהֲשִׁבֵנִי דָּבָר וַיִּשְׁלָחֵהוּ מֵעֵמֶק חֶבְרוֹן וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה

“And he said to him, ‘Go please, see the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the sheep and come back and tell me.’ And he sent him from the valley of Chevron and he came to Shechem.”

Rashi explains;
(סוטה יא) מקום מוכן לפורעניות שם קלקלו השבטים שם ענו את דינה שם נחלקה מלכות בית דוד שנאמר (מ"א יב) וילך רחבעם שכמה

“Shechem is a place prepared for punishment. There the brothers sold Yosef, there Dinah was assaulted, there the kingdom of David Ha’Melech was split as the passuk says, ‘And Rechavam went to Shechem.’”

The passuk says in Vayechi (48:22);
וַאֲנִי נָתַתִּי לְךָ שְׁכֶם אַחַד עַל אַחֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר לָקַחְתִּי מִיַּד הָאֱמֹרִי בְּחַרְבִּי וּבְקַשְׁתִּי

“(Yaakov said to Yosef) and I have given you can extra portion more than your brothers which I took from the hand of the Emori with my sword and with my bow.”

Rashi explains;
שכם ממש היא תהיה לך חלק אחד יתירה על אחיך

“This refers to Shechem. This will be to you an extra portion more than your brothers.”

  • Why would Yosef have wanted Shechem specifically, which is a place prepared for punishment?

The passuk says in Vayetze (30:25);
וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה רָחֵל אֶת יוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל לָבָן שַׁלְּחֵנִי וְאֵלְכָה אֶל מְקוֹמִי וּלְאַרְצִי

“And it was when Rachel gave birth to Yosef and Yaakov said to Lavan, ’Send me and I will go to my place and to my land.”

Rashi explains;
משנולד שטנו של עשו שנא' (עובדיה א) והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש אש בלא להבה אינו שולט למרחוק משנולד יוסף בטח יעקב בהקב"ה ורצה לשוב


“Once the adversary of Esav was born (Yaakov decided to return) as the passuk says (that Yosef is Esav’s adversary), ‘And the House of Yaakov will be as fire and the House of Yosef will be as a flame and the House of Esav will be as straw.’ Fire without a flame does not spread far. (Yosef who is compared to the flame of Yaakov’s fire will enable the benei yisrael to overcome Esav.) Once Yosef was born Yaakov trusted Hashem and wanted to return.”

  • How does Yosef spread the flame of Yaakov to overcome Esav?

Rb Yitzchak Hutner z”l explains as follows;
There is a common denominator between all of the bad things that happened in Shechem;
-          Dinah was abducted by Shechem: Here there was a joining that was wrong; the benei yisrael should be separated from the umos ha’olam but Shechem wanted to marry Dinah.
-          The brothers selling Yosef: Here instead of the brothers being joined peacefully there was a split between them.
-          Splitting the malchus beis David: Here again instead of there being unity under a king from the House of David there was a split into two kingdoms.
In the first case, there was a joining where there should have been a division. In the second two cases there was a split where there should have been unity.

Yosef was tested in both the attribute of being split off where this is correct and also in the attribute of joining where this was the correct thing to do.
-          He withstood the temptation of eshes Potiphar to intermarry with and thereby join the umos ha’olam.
-          He withstood the temptation to use the malchus in Mitzraim against his brothers when they came into his power and
-          He did not bear a grudge against his brothers for selling him.
Yosef maintained his identity as one of the sons of Yaakov in Mitzraim, and he used his position as the king of Mitzraim to re-unify the benei yisrael.

Yaakov is the bechir ha’avos, he is the chosen of the avos and the foundation of the benei yisrael. However even after Yaakov reached this madregah it was still not certain that the benei yisrael could grow to be a nation. The kedushah of Yaakov cannot spread and the benei yisrael cannot grow if either;
a)      The benei yisrael would intermarry, because then their children would not be considered as the benei yisrael anymore
or
b)      If the benei yisrael were not able to join together and form a unified nation.

Yosef showed that he was able to both remain separate from the umos ha’olam and also that he was able to unify the benei yisrael even when the other brothers had tried to split him off from the family of Yaakov Avinu by selling him as a slave. Therefore the most appropriate place in Eretz Yisrael that Yosef should be given was Shechem because it was exactly in regard to the nisayon of Shechem echad – being one lot - that Yosef showed his greatness.

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