Let’s begin by wishing a very happy shabbis Chanukah to all oisvorf readers and chasidim. May the Chanukah lights brightly illuminate your homes and lives. This past week, as Chanukah was approaching, Yiddin all over the world were getting ready to celebrate and recall the great miracle that took place in the Beis Hamikdash (139 BCE). Business owners, and specifically those with non-Jewish arbeyter (employees), were busy hosting office ‘holiday parties’, if you chap, for the staff. Others were guests at such parties. Is this kosher? And it so happened that when the Oisvorfer went to place an order for the annual ‘office party’, he was told that it was impossible to arrange delivery at the requested time. Why? Because other restaurant customers, all shoimer Toirah and a few mitzvois, were also having their annual parties; everyone wanted delivery at the same time. These parties were going on all week, including on Chanukah mamish, and will mistama continue until their real holiday is marked. And so it was that in the days leading up to Chanukah and on Chanukah itself, Yiddin in a sign of achdus (togetherness) were sitting with goyim eating glatt-kosher food including Chinese of course, at their respective annual Christmas…err we meant Holiday parties. Nice! And in the kiddish Hashem department, at a party the Oisviorfer himself was hosting and attending, one of the guests excused himself to chap Mincha with a minyan in-mittin-derinin mamish (in the middle) of the secret Santa festivities and nearly missed out on getting his Christmas present, a broch mamish (nearly a catastrophe). On the other hand, earlier today, the Oisvorfer received a What’sApp message from one of his tyere (great) kinderlach asking if we could, in lieu of regular Chanukah presents, have a secret Santa instead. Oy vey! Nu, azoy-geyt-iz (that’s how the world goes); it’s yom tov for the goyim and we Yiddin must avada show our appreciation for the arbeyter. Seemingly when it comes to sholom bayis and that would include the office bayis, once a year, Yiddin and goyim get together to break a little kosher bread; is that so giferlich? Ver veyst? One thing is zicher: on the scale of avayrois committed during the year, this one doesn’t rank very high. Veyter.
Just last week we were bashing Reuvain, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah and even took a dig at Dina; we noted that each of them behaved less than admirably at times. A few medroshim blamed Dina for going out about town where Shechem laid his eyes and eventually himself, forcibly on her. Ober with Chanukah upon us, let’s avada recall that according to the heylige Gemora and several medroshim, it was a woman (maybe more than one) going out, that helped bring about the neys (miracle of Chanukah). And who was this person and why isn’t her name as popular as are Rochel, Leah, Soro, Rivka and others? Ver veyst but the story of Yehudis (Judith), whether wholly or a shtikel emes or even mamish apocryphal, is zicher worthy of a few paragraphs; lommer lernin.
Said Rebbe Yehoshua Ben Levi in the heylige Gemora (Shabbis 23a) azoy: “Women are obligated in the lighting of Chanukah candles, since they were also involved in the miracle.” This obligation on women to light the menorah overrides the general rule that women are normally exempt from a mitzvas-asei she-ha-zeman grama, (a time-bound positive commandment.) Ober the heylige Gemora left us guessing: which women were involved and what exactly did they or didn’t they do?
Not to worry, here comes Rashi to further illuminate with yet another sexually charged myseh. Says Rashi (Shabbis 23a) azoy: The Yivonim (Greeks) had decreed that all engaged Jewish maidens (virgins) were to have sexual relations with a Greek officer before their marriage. Rashi says what? Shreklich (shocking) as this sounds, seemingly, in order to break and destroy the sanctity of the Jewish home, the Syrian-Greek kings appointed officers in the towns of Israel to break in, if you chap – rape mamish- the Jewish girls. It was forbidden mamish for any girl to get married without first visiting, if you chap, the presiding officer. This decree was in effect for three years and eight months. Why historians refer to the period of the Greek Empire as the Enlightenment, ver veyst?
Ober raboyseyee, one Jewish girl concocted a plan to put an end to this illegal breaking and entering scheme. Who is this mystery woman? Rashi doesn’t quite tell us. Ober Toisfis (Shabbis 10a) does: The woman who did the miracle was the daughter of Yoichanan. She brought cheese to the enemy general and cut off his head, causing the enemy to flee. Is that the whole story?
Said Rabbi Nissim of Gerona azoy: the Greeks decreed that when a Jewish woman got married, but before she could have intimate relations with her husband, she was forced to have relations with the local governor of her town. He further mentions that the miracle of Chanukah was only achieved as a result of the actions of one woman: the daughter of Matisyahu Koihen Godol. Seemingly, Matisyahu’s daughter was engaged, and on her wedding day she tore her gown and said to all the men, “How dare you make my sisters suffer…stand up for Klal Yisrael and fight the Greeks!” All the men listened and went to war.
Ober says the medrish (Chemdas Yomim) azoy: Yehudis, daughter of the Koihen Godol (High Priest) got engaged, mazel tov. Tired of seeing all the Jewish brides being violated in advance of their own weddings, she developed and implemented a plan which went like this: The Syrian king, Eliporni (Holofernes in Greek), heard that a number of his officials had been killed. In response, he gathered his army, marched upon Yirsuholayim and surrounded the city. There he and his army lay in siege. The alarmingly beautiful Yehudis recognized the gravity of the situation. The people would soon die of starvation and thirst if nothing was done. She volunteered to visit with the king and rescue the city. She prepared a large bag of salty cheeses and other foods. She left the city, announced herself to the Syrian guards, showed them the contents of the bag, and explained who she was. They took her to the king.
Overtaken with her beauty, and thinking with his little head, if you chap, King Holofernes greeted her with joy, and made a lavish feast in her honor. The king, hopeful of a happy ending, ate the cheese, drank some wine, as is the custom – wine and cheese seemingly always go together- and shoin. The king asked all his officers to clear the room; he and Yehudis sat alone together, eating. After being plied with enough wine, the bad king fell into a deep sleep. And very much like the noble and brave Yael, in the days of the Prophetess D’vorah (Deborah), Yehudis did not quaver, she did not fear. She did as she knew must be done to save her people. She drew the king’s sword, and cut off his head, the big one. She placed Holofernes’ (king no longer) head into her bag and left. She brought the head of the dead king to the leader of the army of the Yiddin, who hung it on the wall of the city, where it would be visible to the Greeks. When morning came, the Greeks arose, and gazed with bewilderment on the head of their king. Panic-stricken, they broke ranks and fled.
After many Jewish girls had been violated and broken, the bizarre Greek decree was finally lifted and the Yiddishe mydlich were of course relieved. In honor of the women, who like Yehudis, gave much towards the miracle of Chanukah, a minor holiday was declared especially for them. They are to do no work for the first half hour that the Chanukah lights burn and that’s taka how it was in the Oisvorfer’s house growing up. Some women are more makpid (stricter) and don’t do any work, ever! Many people, in remembrance of the miracle at the hand of Yehudis, eat cheese or dairy products, to remember the noble deed of Yehudis.
Ober what has all this to do with Dina and her going out? And now in Oisvorfer fashion, we will tie it all together. Nu, efsher you’re klerring azoy: if great women like Matisyahu’s daughter and Yehudis played such prominent roles in the miracle of Chanukah, why don’t women share the same status as men when lighting Chanukah candles? Men are obligated to light, but women are encouraged by our rabbis to fulfill their obligation through their husbands and fathers.
Ober said the Chasam Soifer azoy: the reason women don’t have the obligation to light goes back to the days of the heylige Gemora when Chanukah candles were lit outside the homes (as most Israelis do even today). It was regarded as improper and immodest for women to light candles outside in the dark streets. Shoin, because this was the case, only the men would light. In other words: women going out and/or valgering on the streets was always -maybe going back to the days of Dina- frowned upon. Even in our times when we light mostly indoors and when women do go out, it’s the men that have the primary obligation to light the menorah. But not to worry. Women are still regarded as the major force in the miracle of Chanukah. If it weren’t for Yehudis’s bravery and Matisyahu’s daughter’s courage, the miracles of Chanukah might not have happened. Gishmak!
Shoin, let’s learn some parsha. The Yaakov Oveenu mishpocho is in distress. Reuvain was still smarting over the Bilha incident; Yoisef was nearly killed but instead was sold into slavery where Mrs. Potiphar laid eyes on him, and then accused him of rape; Dina, now with a baby in tow, according to one medrish we will further explore later, was thrown out of the house; and Yaakov was inconsolable over the thought that he had lost his favorite son Yoisef. Yehudah was down on his luck though he did find some momentary solace and enjoyed a temporary rise, if you chap, with the Tamar encounter. That was all last week.
Ober what a difference a week makes. This week, ober 12 years later, Yehudah is back in a leadership position. He’s fully in charge of the brothers proving once again that people destined for greatness and people with talent to lead, can and usually bounce back. We really should spend some time looking into his meteoric rise ober, zicher you would rather hear more about Yoisef, our hero, a person we refer to as Yoisef Hatzadik. We concluded last week with this thought. If the RBSO selected the brothers for greatness and fame and it’s their names (males only) that adorn the koihen’s breastplate, mistama they had other good character traits. And even if they didn’t, the RBSO selected them anyway; you were not!
This week Yoisef will appear before the king who will ask that he attempt to properly interpret the king’s dreams. Avada we all recall that the king was gantz tzifriddin (quite satisfied) with his interpretations and immediately thereafter appointed Yoisef as viceroy of Egypt. Moreover, Paroy also arranged a shidduch and had Yoisef marry Osnas, the daughter of Potifera. Not too shabby for a young man accused of sexual molestation – read: rape in Potiphar’s own house. Let’s learn the text:
And Paroy named Yoisef Zaphenas Pa’neach, and he gave him Osnas the daughter of Potifera, the governor of On, for a wife, and Yoisef went forth over the land of Egypt. מה. וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה שֵׁם יוֹסֵף צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ וַיִּתֶּן לוֹ אֶת אָסְנַת בַּת פּוֹטִי פֶרַע כֹּהֵן אֹן לְאִשָּׁה וַיֵּצֵא יוֹסֵף עַל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:
Zaphenath-Pa’neach: He who explains hidden things, and Pa’neach has no parallel in Scripture. — [from Targum Onkelos] צפנת פענח: מפרש הצפונות, ואין לפענח דמיון במקרא:
Poti-phera: He is Potiphar, but he was called Poti-phera because he became emasculated since he desired Yoisef for homosexual relations. פוטי פרע: הוא פוטיפר, ונקרא פוטיפרע על שנסתרס מאליו, לפי שלקח את יוסף למשכב זכר:
And Yoisef married who? Let’s read that possik one more time, with Rashi who avada seems to have chapped what went down here. In plain English: Paroy proclaimed Yoisef a genius, appointed him Viceroy of Mitzrayim and arranged for Yoisef to marry Osnas, the daughter of Potifera. Osnas? How did she get back into the picture here? Last we heard about her, she was born out of wedlock from the union of Dina and Shechem. Is this the same Osnas or was there another, this one an Egyptian that was the daughter Potifera? Nu lommer geyn a bissel tiefer (let’s dig deeper).
Zicher many of you oisvorfs recall that just last week (12 years ago) it was Potiphar who had Yoisef locked up for allegedly making advances on Mrs. Potiphar. This week, Potiphar is Yoisef’s shver (father-in-law)?! Are we to believe that Mr. Potiphar wanted Yoisef, the same fellow who allegedly made the moves on his wife, for a son-in-law and that Yoisef wanted or at least agreed to have Mrs. Potiphar for a shvigger (mother-in-law)? What’s p’shat here, does this make sense? Is this another set-up for Yoisef?
Ober Raboyseyee, we need to understand and chap that the RBSO has a master plan and kimat (nearly) 100% of the time, we have no idea what that plan is. As has been suggested in the past, we are but bit players in the grand theater. And what sounds absolutely bizarre to us is just recorded as part of the regular illustrious history of the Yiddin. Soon however, it will all become clear and illuminated just as the Chanukah candles light up the house. How soon? None of your business; your job is but to have some emuna (belief) and a desire to learn some more; let’s go veyter.
So who were Potiphar and Mrs. Potiphar? Says Rashi (shaded box above) that Poti-phera named above as a person of interest, is in fact, Potiphar, Yoisef’s former master. Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 13b), that Potifera, whose daughter married Yoisef, is really Potiphar, the very same fellow from last week’s parsha. Well- blow me down. How did a he become a she and how is it that Potiphar became Potifera? Says Rashi that Potiphar, when he acquired Yoisef as a slave, had epes desires for him and wanted to blow him down, if you chap. In other words, Potiphar was but a chazir pervert, who wanted to have homosexual relations with Yoisef, loi olainu (say it’s not so). Of course, we are once again merely repeating verbatim what Rashi himself suggested. Was Potiphar a yeshiva Rebbe gone bad? Ver veyst? Rashi didn’t say that! Nu, what taka happened? Says the Gemora as quoted by Rashi above, that he lost his package: his junk was cut off. Shoin and ouch! He was emasculated, castrated and mistama also humiliated. Without manly equipment, he was then called Potifera and Yoisef Hatzadik was safe from such advances. Shoin, a Toirah model on how to deal with predators. Call Yanky Horowitz immediately! And who did the cutting? The RBSO, Mrs. Potifera, or efsher Shimoin and Levi with their bar mitzvah swords; ver veyst?
Avada not all are in agreement that Potifera in this week’s parsha is the same as Potiphar in last week’s parsha. And says the Rashbam azoy: this man, Potifera, must not be confused with Potifar, the man whom Yoisef had served until his wife falsely accused Yoisef of trying to abuse her. And taka why not? Ershtens, the two characters had different names, one being called “Potifar” and the other “Potifera” and also their job descriptions are different. Potifar is introduced as “sar ha-tabachim” (“chief butcher” or “chief executioner” – 37:36), whereas Potifera is described as “koihen On” – “the priest of On.” (Avada we have all heard of a priest with such desires). This would indeed suggest that we are dealing with two different individuals with similar names. Shoin, case closed? Not so fast!
Ober says the medrish and others that Potiphar was mamish a pervert and just as Mrs. Potiphar was attracted to Yoisef due to his exceptional physical appearance, Mr. Potiphar also epes liked his looks and made homosexual advances towards him. Both husband and wife wanted the same person, yikes. Says the heylige Gemora (Soita 13b and Bereishis Rabba 86), that it was because of these overtures, that through Divine Intervention, Potiphar became a “Saris” (impotent). Potiphar was so mortified over what he had attempted to do, that he renounced his former life, including his wife, and became a Priest (read: baal tshuva), enrolled in some yeshiva -maybe Shaim and Ever, ver veyst- and lived there happily ever after. In other words: new name, new person and giving credence to the heylige Gemora (Rosh Hashono) where we are taught that the baal tshuva (penitent) identifies himself going forward as “someone else”.
Ober shtlet zich di shaylo (the question arises) azoy: why would Yoisef consent to marry the daughter of the woman who had caused him such grief? After unsuccessfully trying to seduce him daily for an extended period of time, she then accused him of attempted rape, and thus had him imprisoned. Would Yoisef want to have this woman as his mother-in-law? Nu, were you to focus on the words instead of letting your imaginations run wild, you would notice that the heylige Toirah clearly writes, it was Paroy who arranged the marriage. Seemingly, es ken zeyn (could be) that Yoisef had no choice in the matter. Oyb azoy (if so), efsher we can ask why Paroy davka (specifically) selected Potiphar’s daughter for Yoisef, in light of Yoisef’s less than pleasant experience with her family.
Ober good news: Chizkuni has answers, several of them. Firstly, had Yoisef married and begotten children from another woman, Potiphar might claim the legal right to take the children as his slaves. Since Yoisef had been his slave, he would argue, Yoisef’s children naturally belong to him. Paroy, sly fox that he was, therefore had Yoisef marry Potiphar’s own daughter, as Potiphar would not likely take his own grandchildren as slaves. Gishmak!
Ober if they were indeed the same person, why would Paroy think that this shidduch of Yoisef and Osnas would help solidify Yoisef’s ruling position? Says the Chizkuni and Da’as Zekeinim MiBa’alei HaToisfis azoy: by marrying Potiphar’s daughter, Yoisef silenced a potential critic. In other words: it was pure blackmail. They needed a way to silence Potiphar about Yoisef’s past as a slave. Once his daughter married Yoisef he would have every incentive to keep quiet. Make sense to you? Great! Others argue that Potiphar’s silence was already assured once he lost his package; does one need more incentive to be quiet? Moreover, without his boys, if you chap, how loud could he yell anyway?
Some reject RambaN’s view that Potiphar became a baal tshuva and therefore would not ever speak loshoin horo again. Had Yoisef married someone else, either his first master or his master’s wife could have, at any time, brought up the earlier scandal and undercut Yoisef’s authority significantly. However, now that they had the welfare of their daughter to think about, they would be far more reticent about revisiting the past. Moreover, by marrying Osnas, Yoisef made a statement that he was innocent of the earlier charges leveled against him by Mrs. Potiphar, who would most certainly not have allowed him to marry her daughter had he actually tried to make advances towards the mother. Chap all that?
Ober says the medrish (Bereishs Rabba 85:2), cited by Rashi (39:1) azoy: Potiphar’s wife’s attempts to seduce Yosef were driven by more than physical attraction. She had a premonition that they were meant to be together. She saw through astrology that she would have a child through Yoisef, and sought to cohabit with him in order to fulfill this destiny. Shoin, all is forgiven; who can argue with a vision? In other words, she felt justified, even required to lure Yoisef to intimacy because the stars demanded that they beget children together. Don’t ever use this as an excuse at home, lest you find yourself seeing stars! She was seemingly unaware that her vision was not meant for her. It was her daughter’s (Osnas) marriage to Yoisef that she was seeing, and not her adulterous relationship with Yoisef. Nice try!
An interesting book titled Torah Therapy authored by Rabbi Reuven Bulka provides an interesting approach as to Yoisef’s willingness to marry Osnas. He notes the resemblance between Potiphar’s wife’s response to her vision, and Yoisef’s behavior following his dreams and visions many years earlier.
Yoisef had dreams of domination over his brothers, those way back when he was but 17 years of age. He of course shared his dreams with the holy brothers as if to suggest that they were destined to be true. He was efsher pushing destiny before its time. The rest is history.
Mrs. Potiphar too had a vision. The stars told her that she was destined to be related to Yoisef and she then took it upon herself to try to get Yoisef placed on herself, if your chap. In other words: she too was attempting to push destiny, to force the action. Seemingly both Yoisef and Mrs. Potiphar were not content to let destiny, based on their respective visions, take its natural course. Rabbi Bulka suggests that while in prison for 12 years, Yoisef efsher made this association between himself and Potiphar’s wife.
While languishing in prison following charges of attempted rape, Yoisef may have made the connection between his own behavior with his brothers and the behavior of Potiphar’s wife with him. Yoisef must have seen this as a lesson to him about the danger of taking destiny into one’s own hands and must have come to grips with the behavior of Potiphar’s wife and seen in it an important message for himself. Taking matters into his own hands and gripping maybe helped him get by, if you chap.
Shoin, with Yoisef chapping and realizing how his and her stories were connected, his marriage to Osnas may have become more logical in his mind. He forgave his future mother-in-law for her false accusations; he was at peace. And when Paroy arranged the shidduch, he was ready to accept Osnas as his bashert and Mrs. Potifera as his shvigger. Gishnak. And with Mrs. Pitfera’s vision now fulfilled, Yoisef could already see that his vision of his brothers one day bowing to him, would soon be fulfilled. Gishmnak mamish.
Who was Osnas? Shoin, we previously covered that topic as well as many others. Check them out here http://toirahruv.com/miketz-2011-shes-back/.
A gittin shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv