Of great people…
Minhag avoisaynu b’yodaynu, if you chap, and we begin as we have in recent weeks with a shtikel overview of last week’s highlights. Last week, after a 20 year stint in Choron, during which he got married, four times, and had a bunch of kids, Yankif returned from the Holy Land and decided it’s time make peace with his older brother. On the way, he encountered an angel who fought with him then changed his name to Yisroel. He and Eisav met, kissed, hugged and reconciled; anticlimactic. Dina, Yankif’s only daughter, though some say that each brother was born with a twin sister, was abducted and raped by Shechem the chazir (swine), who also wanted to marry her. Shimon and Levi, remember this dynamic duo, fresh off their bar mitzvah celebrations, avenge Dina’s rape by the sword; they killed all the males in the city of Shechem; they also killed the perpetrator and his father for good measure. Yankif is not having an easy time raising his children, what else is new? The entire family seems epes a shtikel dysfunctional: Lovon fooled Yankif into marrying Lea instead of the girl he loved; Rochel fooled her father and lied about the idols she really stole from his house; Lovon switched Yankif’s wages ten times, Yankif fooled Eisav about his plans to join him in Seir and Yankif’s sons duped the citizens of Shechem into circumcision and then death- nice!!! Modern family?
Parshas Vayayshev contains subject matters and stories that boggle the mind: a litany of vices, outrageous and efsher evil behavior among the brothers, conspiracy to commit murder, Onanism (soon we’ll explain), familial jealousy, violence, treachery, lust, accidental sex and much more. Nu, is there any reason to buy a magazine in a brown paper bag? Avada nisht (certainly not)! This parsha has it all and then some. Feel free to cancel Showtime and other On Demand channels that allow you chazerim (pigs) to watch movies that will arouse you: totally not necessary and aroisgivorfine gelt (money down the drain). Learn Toirah instead, it’s the beste schoira!
Learn Parshas Vayayshev and any machloikes (argument) you’ve ever had with your brider and shvester will pale by comparison. Even the uncle that your father told you ripped him off will look like a tzadik mamish when compared to the less than admirable behavior on display this week by none other than the holy shvotim (the 12 tribes to be). Later on in the parsha we’ll talk sex ober noch nisht (not yet). We avada must cover the incredible incident of Yehuda and Tamar and then we must avada not make short shrift of the ganzte seduction and its fallout between eishes (Mrs) Potiphar and Yoisef (Joseph). Raboyseyee, please indulge me; the Oisvorfer has a lot to say on the events in this week’s parsha and I apologize in advance if we’ll be a shtikel mearach (go a bit longer); longer, if you chap, is good, no? Nu, are you excited and anxious to learn? Lommer unfangin (let’s start).
After escaping from Lovon’s house with his mishpocho, Yankif settles in Canaan (now Israel). Like most parents, Yankif has a favorite son, Yoisef who keeps his dad informed about the activities of his other siblings. Rashi tells us that he also liked to comb his hair and look in the mirror. Lommer nisht fargessin (let’s not forget) that according to at least one medrish, Yoisef was originally conceived as a girl and that the RBSO made a neys (miracle) occur and poof…just like that, he was a male. And according to this pshat, a few female tendencies were left over; seemingly gossiping about his siblings but one of them. In other words: he spoke some loshoin horo, who doesn’t? Es lust zich redden (stands to reason) that the brothers are not happy about being ratted out. What were they doing that was so terrible? Some say they were eating ever min hachai (from a live animal), others say that they were having sexual relations with the hot shiksas. I’m not kidding!! What to do? Shoin: they decide to kill Yoisef; no one likes a rat. Sounds reasonable to me, why not? You squeal on your brothers and they condemn you to death! Shoin, settled, death it shall be. Of course they had other reasons which included insane jealousy over some farkakta multicolored tunic that Yankif made only for Yoisef and over his (Yoisef’s) dreams that he repeated to the brothers. Personally I can’t find more compelling reasons to put a sibling to death, can you? According to Chazal, the plot began with Shimon and Levi, seemingly still in the killing mood, none however said: are you guys nuts? Interestingly enough, we are taught in Yeshiva and in numerous medroshim that the brothers are considered holy people, tzadikkim mamish. Every year this time, Rabbis iber di gantze velt (all over the world) will get up and with a straight face, tell us that these brothers were the holiest of people. Nu, if conspiracy to commit murder and an elaborate cover- up makes one holy, there must be thousands of such holy people rotting away nebech behind bars with life sentences. How can people that plot a murder which they hide from their father for over 20 years be called tzadikkim? Ver Veyst?
This episode of Yoisef and his brothers is taka very shver (difficult) to chap (comprehend). The Oisvorfer never chapped pshat here though he’s read myriad midroshim telling us that they were good guys; moreover they are referred to as Shivtay Ko (God’s tribes). Efsher this type of behavior is a pre-requisite? Efsher the fact that two of the brider (brothers) also wiped out the entire city of Shechem, helped build their credentials? Ver veyst. One medrish tells us that besides killing the goyim in Shechem, they also killed many hundreds and thousands more. Or efsher it was Yehuda’s behavior with Tamar later in the parsha that endeared him? Or was it Reuven’s behavior last week when he moved his mothers bed, which according to some, is interpreted as meaning that he slept with her, that endeared him? I’m mamish so confused. Why am I so worried on Yoim Kippur? My few hundred (daily) sins during the year seem pale when compared to conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and selling one’s brother into slavery. Moreover, I have yet to find one word in the gantze Toirah that tells us one redeeming attribute of these brothers. The closest I could find is where we learn that, in a subplot, Reuven concocted a plan to throw Yoisef into a pit full of snakes instead of outright murder; such a nice guy. Oh and let’s not forget that Yehuda had another brilliant idea: hey, let’s not kill him, let’s instead sell him into slavery and let’s not tell our father and let’s lie and let our father mourn forever. What’s pshat here? Anyone?
Says the Medirsh: Reuven’s hands were clean; he mamish intended to save Yoisef. Ober, Yehuda persuaded the brothers to take Yoisef out of the pit and sell him to a caravan of passing Yishmaelites. When Reuven returned to find the pit empty, he was astonished to discover that Yosef was gone. Some say he was so upset he did rend his own clothing (as they do in mourning). What happened? Why didn’t they listen to Reuven, their older brother? Where was he when the plot was being executed?
Says Rashi (37:29) quoting the medrish: Reuven left to occupy himself in davening and t’shuva (prayer and repentance) over the bed incident in last week’s parsha. Chaval (sadly) we didn’t have time to cover this topic but we did so back in 2010; go to the archives and check it out. B’kitzur (in short), Reuven moved his dad’s bed out of Bilha’s tent and into Leah’s tent. Some say (not me of course) that Reuven bedded his own mother, rachmiono liztlon (heaven forbid), a grave infringement on his father’s honor, you think?
Says the Yalkut Yehuda (Rav Yehuda Leib Ginsburg): Reuven’s bedroom transgression was indirectly responsible for the brothers’ sale of Yoisef, how so? Because Reuven was guilty of bed tampering, Yankif stripped him of the b’choira (birthright) and transferred it to Yoisef (Divrei Hayamim 5:1). In other words: the bed was stripped, so was he. And no big surprise the brider (brothers) became insanely jealous over this preferential treatment. This aroused insane jealousy, which of course resulted in the plot to murder and ultimate sale. First they stripped him of his shirt. Arousal can at times, lead to stripping and other trouble, if you chap. And he adds that Reuven’s sin had a general, adverse spiritual effect on the brothers, leading to a moral decline. This decline led to the next sin; the heinous crime known as mechiras Yoisef (the sale of Yoisef). The good news: Books, movies and Broadway shows were written and produced about this story and remain popular ad hayoim hazeh (until today). Stimulating the economy is also important: Business is business!
And since all the characters are referred to as holy people, it’s a shtikel challenging to figure out the good vs. the bad in the plot. Earlier in Breishis, we could easily separate Lovon from Yankif, Eisav, from Yankif, Yishmoel from Yitzchok, Hevel from Yankif and even Loit from his daughters; though in the later case, separation was at times difficult, if you chap, which seemingly they did. This week, both sides are referred to with reverence. The fact is that what transpired here is well beyond our comprehension, we have no grasp of these holy giants – not of their righteousness, nor of their sins. However, given that this chapter is included in our heylige Toirah, we are obligated to study and analyze it as best we can. Nu, as long as we realize that on this subject we’re all stam oisvorfs and that we can never fully comprehend or makes sense of this story, we’ll be ok. On the face of it, the very idea of trying to kill one’s own brother over such nonsense and then selling him into a life of slavery to a pack of spice dealers seems unconscionable and in gantzin mishiga (totally crazy). No kidding!
One rationale given by some is that that the holy brothers judged him as a “roidef”, a person who is perceived as dangerous and liable to kill another person. Says the Rambam (Hilchois Roitze-ach UShmiras HaNefesh 1:7) that halacho permits killing such a person. However it mandates that should there be an alternate way of being saved from the situation then it’s forbidden to kill the person. The “roidef” may only be killed when there is no other means of escape from him. It was for this reason that the holy brothers listened to Yehuda when he suggested to sell Yoisef into slavery as a means of ridding themselves of this danger. Of course this is also shver (makes little sense) since there was no halacho back then and who the hec appointed them judge and jury over their own brother? And the cover-up? Rationalization yields to sublimation, as the brothers bury the painful memory of their diabolical deed under successive layers of self-denial. The real answer is that we’ll never understand this part of our illustrious history no matter how many Rabbis make up their own versions of what they believe might have happened. Let’s move on.
And just like that we’re at Rive-ee, also a beautiful aliya. More great stuff ahead but first we interrupt the story of Yoisef with another subplot in the parsha; let’s talk about Yehuda and Tamar. Ober before we do, let’s lay the groundwork, seemingly that’s what Yehuda did, if you chap. Let’s see what the heylige Toirah tells us. First the pisukim with Rashi, then the summary:
|13. And it was told to Tamar, saying, “Behold, your father in law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”||יג. וַיֻּגַּד לְתָמָר לֵאמֹר הִנֵּה חָמִיךְ עֹלֶה תִמְנָתָה לָגֹז צֹאנוֹ:|
|14. So she took off her widow’s garb, covered [her head] with a veil and covered her face, and she sat down at the crossroads that were on the way to Timnah, for she saw that Shelah had grown up, but as for her she was not given to him for a wife.||יד. וַתָּסַר בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וַתְּכַס בַּצָּעִיף וַתִּתְעַלָּף וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּפֶתַח עֵינַיִם אֲשֶׁר עַל דֶּרֶךְ תִּמְנָתָה כִּי רָאֲתָה כִּי גָדַל שֵׁלָה וְהִוא לֹא נִתְּנָה לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה:|
|15. WhenJudah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she covered her face. (hooker mamish)||טו. וַיִּרְאֶהָ יְהוּדָה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לְזוֹנָה כִּי כִסְּתָה פָּנֶיהָ:|
|16. So he turned aside toward her to the road, and he said, “Get ready now, I will come to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter in law, and she said, “What will you give me that you should come to me?”||טז. וַיֵּט אֵלֶיהָ אֶל הַדֶּרֶךְ וַיֹּאמֶר הָבָה נָּא אָבוֹא אֵלַיִךְ כִּי לֹא יָדַע כִּי כַלָּתוֹ הִוא וַתֹּאמֶר מַה תִּתֶּן לִּי כִּי תָבוֹא אֵלָי:|
|17. And he said, “I will send a kid from the herd,” and she said, “[Only] if you give me a pledge until you send [it].”||יז. וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֲשַׁלַּח גְּדִי עִזִּים מִן הַצֹּאן וַתֹּאמֶר אִם תִּתֵּן עֵרָבוֹן עַד שָׁלְחֶךָ:|
|18. So he said, “What is the pledge that I should give you?” And she said, “Your signet, your cloak, and the staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her, and he came to her, and she conceived his likeness.||יח. וַיֹּאמֶר מָה הָעֵרָבוֹן אֲשֶׁר אֶתֶּן לָּךְ וַתֹּאמֶר חֹתָמְךָ וּפְתִילֶךָ וּמַטְּךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדֶךָ וַיִּתֶּן לָּהּ וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ וַתַּהַר לוֹ:|
|19. Then she arose and went away, and she took off her veil, and she donned her widow’s garb.||יט. וַתָּקָם וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתָּסַר צְעִיפָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וַתִּלְבַּשׁ בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ:|
And in plain English with some (off) color commentary. The story of Yoisef is interrupted by the episode of Yehudah and Tamar. Yehudah married the daughter of a local businessman and had three sons. His first son, Ayr (Er), married a woman named Tamar, but died soon thereafter; the RBSO didn’t like him and that’s all we’re told. Rashi, as only he can, will fill in the details. He had his second son, O’nun, marry Tamar and thus fulfil the mitzvah of Yibbum but he too died childless. Why? Nu I’m a shtikel embarrassed (not) to say but seemingly he chose to withdraw rather than to deposit, if you chap, and the RBSO found that repugnant. Says the Yalkut Mayam Loez: that instead of giving her his seed (sperm), he withdrew and spilled his seed onto the ground. Of course this may ring familiar to many of you and bring back givaldige memories ober in his case, the RBSO was not happy and killed him. Maybe he should have used a tissue? You hear this chevra?, Be forewarned? Nu, let’s look at the possik and Rashi (shaded box).
|7. Now Er,Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the eyes of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.||ז. וַיְהִי עֵר בְּכוֹר יְהוּדָה רַע בְּעֵינֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה וַיְמִתֵהוּ יְ־הֹוָ־ה:|
|was evil in the eyes of the Lord: [His evil was] like the evil of Onan, viz. that he wasted his semen, as it is written in connection with Onan: “and He put him to death also,” meaning that, as Er’s death, so was Onan’s death. Now, why should Er waste his semen? So that she (Tamar) would not become pregnant and her beauty be impaired. [Yevomois. 34b]||רע בעיני ה’: כרעתו של אונן משחית זרעו, שנאמר באונן (פסוק י) וימת גם אותו, כמיתתו של ער מיתתו של אונן, ולמה היה ער משחית זרעו, כדי שלא תתעבר ויכחיש יפיה:|
After losing two boys, Yehuda hesitated to give his third son to Tamar, who can blame him? Bereft and alone without a husband and kids, she returned to her father’s home. Next Yehuda’s eishes chayil Shua (her name) dies. Suddenly single and free, he’s off on a business trip. Tamar hears about his plans, dresses herself like a zoina (prostitute) and sits by the side of the road. Yehuda, seemingly lonely and in need of some companionship, didn’t recognize her, negotiates a givaldige (fantastic) cashless deal (baby goat), was intimate with her and she becomes trugidik (pregnant); he’s good. A few months later, when her pregnancy became evident, Yehuda ordered her executed for harlotry. You hear this? Is this the height of chutzpah or what? Clearly he propositioned her, paid her for services, got her pregnant and wants her dead? What did he expect for such a metziya (bargain)? Since when do we kill the zoinas? Where would the Chasiddim be without them? And who appointed him sheriff? Tamar, as we learn, was no idiot. She held on to a few of his personal possessions, also his staff, if you chap.
As she was being taken out to die, she produced some of Yehuda’s personal effects that he had left behind during the visit. Another lesson worth repeating: leaving the zoina is like leaving the plane- check for all personal belongings! Anyway, Tamar outs him as a client, Yehuda admits that he was the father-to-be of her packages and Tamar was spared. Twin sons, Zerach and Peretz are born and the rest of her lineage is great history. Believe it or not the Moshiach will come one day from this union: Wow!!
What is happening to Yankif’s family? Why are these kids always in trouble? And what can we learn from this episode? But the height of chutzpa is that after he becomes aware that Tamar is pregnant, but before he finds out that the hooker he banged was his daughter-in-law, he orders that she be burned at the stake. What? Was the sex so bad? I’ve heard of hookers being arrested and even spending the night in jail but the death penalty for sleeping with Yehuda? Why are these holy shvotim always so quick to condemn people to the death penalty? It’s mamish shreklich and alarming. What can we learn from this episode besides paying in cash and making sure that once you’re done with your staff, to take it home? Ver veyst! I have no idea. Ober as I’ve said many times in the past: the RBSO has a master plan. Our job is to believe and follow along.
Was it not possible for the RBSO to bring about the Moshiach through a more conventional relationship? Why would the RBSO choose this abnormal and illicit relationship as the heritage from which the savior of the Yiddin would eventually come to be? Why not a nice regular Yeshiva bochur with an excellent shidduch resume? Or even stam an oisvorf like many of you; was it mamish necessary for Yehuda, who thought Tamar (his former daughter in law) was a hooker, to bring Moshiach? Ver veyst!
Many false Moshiachs have already been born nebech from our own trying with roadside schoira (goods), loi olaunu. We must thank the RBSO for being in charge and so understanding; only He can work in such mysterious ways and still make everything work out in the end.
In other words: Tamar – with tremendous help from above – took advantage of a situation that she could never have planned: the death of Yehuda’s own wife and his travel plans coinciding with her being in the area. Disguising herself as a whore, she placed herself in Yehuda’s path and let hashgocho protis (divine providence) take care of the rest. Seemingly, the plan worked, with precision: The result was the conception and eventual birth of two sons, Zerach and Peretz, the latter becoming the next link in the chain of the Messianic dynasty. And, as if to prove just how this was all bashert (pre-destined), Yehuda never approached his daughter-in-law again, no second coming, if you chap.
Moreover, this oisergivaintliche mayseh (amazing story) took place just weeks after we recovered from the story of Moiav’s humble, or should we say, rather bizarre beginning. Moiav, the son of Loit himself and his eldest daughter, was conceived while Loit was shikker (intoxicated) with wine. The medrish tells us that Loit’s holy daughters acted in this strange way because, after witnessing the destruction of Sedoim, they came to believe that no other men were left to marry and from whom to have children. From Moiav came another righteous woman, Rus. Rus, a shiksa from birth, ended up converting and eventually married Boiaz, whose own wife had died just as Rus had returned with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Beis Lechem. And Boiaz himself lived only long enough to marry Rus and get her pregnant. A long night but short relationship! How is all this connected? The Zoihar will soon tell us that the creation of Moshiach, upon which so much rides, has been a very precarious development.
On the other hand, I have givaldige, no, absolutely givaldige news for you. Seems that all the minuvildige and chazerish (disgusting and more) acts you’ve been performing over the years may not be so giferlich after all. Perhaps in your travels you were chas v’sholom nichshoil (had a weak moment), perhaps you strayed and had an illicit relationship, maybe even a child you don’t know about, ver veist? So what’s the good news you ask? The good news is that we learn mamish a lesson from this week’s parsha that having an illicit relationship can produce a potential Moshiach. You hear this chevra? Moshiach is not coming out of a line of tzadikkim, that’s not the way the RBSO has it set up. You think that the gedoilim (leaders) who sit and learn and seemingly do nothing wrong have a shot at producing Moshiach? Ah nechtiger tug (not happening). He’s coming (eventually) only from where? From the house of Yehuda who has been selected to give birth to the Davidic monarchy. And what did he have to do, why was he so deserving of such an honor, perhaps the highest kibbud ever (bigger than psicha for Ni-e-la)? Not much. All he had to do, which the Toirah says he did quite well, was to sleep with his daughter in law, Tamar, gishmak! (very nice). It’s something you guys have done so many times, it’s a wonder Moshiach hasn’t come (though you have). And listen to this: The Zoihar points out that Moshiach is the product of a number of morally dubious unions: Yehuda and Tamar; Boiaz and Rus, and avada one of the most famous of all, David and Batsheva, a descendant mamish of Yehuda and Tamar. Is this gismake Toirah or what? You’ve got to love it!
Zugt di heylige Gemora in (Soitah 10b): Rebbe Shmuel ben Nachmani in the name of Reb Yoinoson said azoy (like this): Every daughter-in-law who is modest in her father-in-law’s house merits that kings and prophets should issue from her. From where do we know this? From Tamar. Prophets issued from her, as it is written: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amotz”; and kings issued from her through David [who is descendent from Peretz], di farshteist dus (you chap this)? At home she was modest and covered up but on the road, seemingly she was totally uncovered and her reward – none other than Dovid Hamelech who, as we will I’Y’H learn in the future, also carried the overactive sex gene.
The Gemora continues, (Nazir 23b), said Ulla: Both Tamar and Zimri (a character we’ll meet in sefer Bamidbar) committed harlotry, well blow me down. Tamar committed harlotry and gave birth to kings and prophets. Zimri committed harlotry and on his account many tens of thousands of Yiddin perished; nu, you’ve got to have mazel! Ulla didn’t say that last part, I did.
Said Rebbe Yoichanan (Midrash Rabbah): Yehuda wished to pass her by (Tamar), but the RBSO sent the malach (angel) who is in charge of lust to have his effect on him, saying to him: “Where are you going, Yehuda? Whence then are kings to arise, whence are redeemers to arise (whence you need to arise)?” Thereupon, “And he turned to her”-despite himself and against his wish. OMG! I head of blaming the devil for bad behavior but a malach of the RBSO? My point proven: we’re all pawns of the RBSO’s wishes, not our own fault.
Also, in this week’s parsha, Yoisef was confronted with a nisayon (test) from Potiphar’s eishes chayil who had eyes for him. Let’s set the stage: Yoisef rises to power in the house of his Egyptian master. His extreme beauty attracts the unwanted advances of his master’s wife. Enraged by his rejection, she accuses Yoisef of attempting to seduce her, and he is imprisoned. In prison, Yoisef successfully predicts the outcome of the dream of Pharaoh’s wine steward, who is reinstated, and the dream of Pharaoh’s baker, who is hanged. But chap nisht, that story unfolds way at the end of the Parsha.
The Toirah does tell us that he was very good looking. On a basic level, this was an incredible temptation for any person to withstand, could you – why am I even asking? The pasuk says: And it was on that day, that he entered the house to do his work (referring to Yoisef). Rashi quoting the heylige Gemora says azoy (like this): there are two opinions as to what the word ‘work’ refers to. Rav translates it literally, that he showed up for work like he did every day. Shmuel says no – it means that he had entered and conceded to have sex with her; say it’s not so. Rebbe Yochanan says ‘all the preliminary steps to the act of adultery had already been taken’. What those steps were, we are not told. And what happened? Says the heylige Gemora, that an image of his father appeared before him and he didn’t commit the act (Sota 36b). Zicher, you’re wondering how Yoisef could even contemplate such a heinous transgression. Answer: I don’t know, but when you work with a hot shiksa daily, epes the yetzer horah (evil inclination) can make his move; avada you can chap that and mistama did.
Rashi, I just love him, says that Mrs. Potiphar acted le’shaim shomayim (for the sake of Hashem). She saw through her astrological predictions that she would have descendants from Yoisef. What she seemingly misread and didn’t chap (know) was that it would be from her daughter Osnas and not her. Sounds good to me: grada (it so happens), I never tried that le’shaim shomayim line but I’m sold. Ober (however) if this is so, why didn’t Yoisef go ahead with the plan? Wasn’t he too thinking this was for the sake of the RBSO? What prevented him from doing so? Would an image of his dad prevent him from doing such a great givaldige mitzvah like banging his boss’s hot shiksa wife? Ver veyst. Seemingly Yoisef understood that a hot shiksa coming on to a young nice Jewish slave daily could only be the yetzer horah because the yetzer toiv only presents his case once and it’s up to you to do the right thing; otherwise we succumb, if you chap.
Nu, another parsha has come and gone, we’ve met a few more interesting characters and learned some more about our glorious past. Imperfection does not seem to bother the RBSO too much, especially in those he loves and selects for greatness and leadership positions. In fact, we might argue farkert; foibles and other mishigassin on display by many, led to great accomplishments and families. Seemingly, there’s hope for you, most anyway.
A gitten shabbis and a freylichen Chanukah.
The Oisvorfer Ruv