Buckle down for yet another riveting chapter in this tale of twelve brothers (and one sister) wherein we cover the final confrontation, charges of homosexuality, the reunion, an incestuous relationship and much more; it’s givaldig, it’s great, it’s the toirah! Nu, let’s learn.
As we ended last week’s Parsha of Mikeitz, brother Shimon had been freed and now little brother Binyomin was being held as Yoisef’s slave. In case you oisvorfs forgot, here’s what happened. After bringing little Binyomin down as Yoisef had demanded, and after all the bothers had left mitzrayim with yet more food, Yoisef has his guard chase them down. They find Yoisef’s goblet neatly planted in Binyomin’s sack, avada a case of entrapment (a topic I mamish understand) and he’s escorted back to Mitzrayim. So ends the parsha but we’re left wondering what happened. Did the Sages think we wouldn’t come to shul the following shabbis if they gave us the ending right there? Why the toirah left us hanging is takeh a good kasha but let’s not blame the toirah or the RBSO; instead, we can blame the goyim (gentiles). Mistama you didn’t know that the Parsheyois were not arranged by the RBSO, not even by the 5Towns Vaad, rather a goy from England, Stephen Langton, who happenend to be the Archbishop of Canterbury arranged them in this order and the yiddin just went along. And for that reason only, we had to wait until Vayigash to end this saga of Yoisef and his brider (brothers). The tension has been building for a few weeks, it’s mamish palpable.
Sidebar: Though not directly parsha related, I thought I might infuse you with some useless but good information to know. Generally, a blank space in the Toirah scroll separates parsheyois from one another. The Chumish on the other hand, is divided into sections – parsheyois,if you will.
Anyway…here we are – it’s Parshas Vayigash. Binyomin is still being held, the brothers are afraid to go home and tell Yankiff yet another story and Yihedah guaranteed his safe return, what to do? Oy meine tyerer talmidim: this parsha is full of suspense, the buildup so intense and I mamish urge you to stop watching the schmutz on YouTube and the other channels you subscribe to and learn this parsha. The emess is it’s all over by the third aliya and even you, well- some of you- can hold out before you start talking to your chaver on your left or right, besides, it’s three or four aliyos too early for the kiddish club. This is toirah and nothing beats it.
Parshas Vayigash brings down the curtain on the most powerful drama in Breishis. Which of you oisvorfs doesn’t get the chills when you hear the baal korah (not to be confused with the baal keri) read those five chilling words?
אֲנִי יוֹסֵף הַעוֹד אָבִי חָי
In this, the third Parsha dedicated to the saga of Yoisef and His Brothers which began in Parshas Vayeshev when the brothers throw Yoisef into a pit and leave him to die, the drama heightens when Yihedah threatens Yoisef, accuses him of being a homosexual and quickly climaxes just after the first aliya with his startling revelation. As I mark my own bar mitzvah parsha some years back (would you believe decades), I readily admit that I look forward to this toirah reading each year. The denouement (avada a big word for a boy from Brooklyn) of Yoisef’s revelation to his brothers with the words Ani Yoisef is mamish the climactic moment of this saga, perhaps the entire Sefer B’reshis. But before we get there, let’s spend some time on the buildup, isn’t that typically more exciting?
In the very first possik of Vayigash Yihedah says to Yoisef ‘you are like Paroy,’ let’s learn the toirah.
|18. Then Judah approached him and said, “Please, my lord, let now your servant speak something into my lord’s ears, and let not your wrath be kindled against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh.||יח. וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי יְדַבֶּר נָא עַבְדְּךָ דָבָר בְּאָזְנֵי אֲדֹנִי וְאַל יִחַר אַפְּךָ בְּעַבְדֶּךָ כִּי כָמוֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹה:|
Commenting on these two words says the Breshit Rabba, Yihedah was telling Yoisef that he’s a homosexual! Did you just read that Yihedah accuses Yoisef of being a homosexual? In fact you did! Says the Breshit Rabba azoy: Yihedah says to Yoisef: “Just as Pharaoh is a homosexual, so too are you interested in young boys.” Yihedah is admonishing Yoisef and is wondering aloud why Yoisef was particularly interested in Binyamin. Great way to begin serious negotiations for the release of your youngest brother with the Viceroy of Egypt but who are we to argue with his ways; hey, he seemed to know just how to negotiate with Tamar. Rashi who avada also comments on these words brings down other thoughts but surprisingly does not quote this particular Medrish. It is difficult to know why Rashi left this one out, just as it’s typically more often difficult to know why Rashi puts something in. ok, veyter (lets’ move on).
Following Yihedah’s impassioned words, Yoisef is taken aback and after clearing the room states in dramatic form:
|3. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” but his brothers could not answer him because they were startled by his presence.||ג. וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו אֲנִי יוֹסֵף הַעוֹד אָבִי חָי וְלֹא יָכְלוּ אֶחָיו לַעֲנוֹת אֹתוֹ כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ מִפָּנָיו:|
|they were startled by his presence: Because of embarrassment. [||נבהלו מפניו: מפני הבושה:|
Rashi (shaded box above) quoting the Medrash suggests that they couldn’t answer him because they were embarrassed. You hear this Raboyseyee? After a 22 year cover up to their tata Yankiff (father) and after they just told a bold faced lie (telling Yoisef that he, their brother was eaten alive), they’re suddenly facing the brother they’d given up for dead who happens to be the second in command in all of Mitzrayim and they’re just embarrassed, how about afraid for their lives? Hello- does the word revenge mean anything to them?
Perhaps we can suggest that Yoisef is called ‘hatzadik’, not because he rebuffed repeated advances from Mrs. Potiphar, rather for his willingness to quickly reconcile and make nice to his brothers, ver veist. And before we go any further, let’s please just learn the next possik
|4. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me,” and they drew closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.||ד. וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו גְּשׁוּ נָא אֵלַי וַיִּגָּשׁוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי יוֹסֵף אֲחִיכֶם אֲשֶׁר מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי מִצְרָיְמָה:|
|Please come closer: He saw them drawing backwards. He said,“Now my brothers are embarrassed” (Tanchuma). He called them tenderly and pleadingly and showed them that he was circumcised.||גשו נא אלי: ראה אותם נסוגים לאחוריהם, אמר עכשיו אחי נכלמים, קרא להם בלשון רכה ותחנונים, והראה להם שהוא מהול:|
Hey,hey….did you just read what Rashi said in the box above? Let’s read it again. Upon hearing that the viceroy is none other than their own brother, they went into shock and withdrew causing Yoisef to say…..come closer and again exclaim I am your brother. But they still didn’t believe him, perhaps they didn’t want to. What did Yoisef do? To prove who he was, he pulled his pants down and showed them his royal junk. Did we just read that Yoisef pulled down his hoizen (pants) and showed them his bris mila? Avada we did. Says Rashi again quoting the Midrash Rabba, azoy:
As the brothers drew back (following his revelation), he called them tenderly and showed them his royal penis. Nu, that’s what I call a revelation! Can you just picture the scene? Twenty two years have gone by and the first thing Yoisef does, is not show off his palace, his harem, his riches or even his family; ober his penis he does show off. Go know…..efsher maybe this Mrs. Potiphar was onto something, ver veist.
Seemingly Yoisef wanted to show his brothers his humility, err, I mean that he was different than the Egyptians but we’re left conflicted with another Rashi in which he states that Yoisef had ordered every Egyptian to become circumcised and if that’s the case, how did flashing the royal junk prove his identity? Ver veist, maybe he was just getting ready to swear as to his identity and needed to hold onto an item of mitzvah. Zicher (surely) you remember the heylige toirah from Parshas Vayero that those swearing in pre-biblical days, needed to hold onto such an item.
Raboyseyee: I know you think that the heylige toirah is just about inyonim (topics) of a sexual nature and avada I don’t blame you. Ober (but), and as I say every week, we have to keep in mind that this was all part of the RBSO’s plan. It just so happens that at times the plan also involves such matters and they shouldn’t embarrass us. On the other hand, your minuvildike behavior in such matters, that should embarrass you. You are not the king, nor the viceroy and you should not be pulling your hoizen down anywhere but in your own house and even that should only be done in a tzinusdike fashion, not like you do when you’re on the road you disgusting chazerrim (swine).
A bit later in the Parsha Yoisef is reunited with his father Yankif who follows up on Yoisef’s instructions, packs up the entire family and is on his way to Goishen (in Mitzrayim). Here the heylige toirah stops to specifically delineate each member of the family that made up the seventy bodies that came along on the journey. Let’s see what the possik says.
|15. These are the sons of Leah, that she bore to Jacob in Padan Aram, and Dinah his daughter. All the souls of his sons and daughters were thirty three.||טו. אֵלֶּה בְּנֵי לֵאָה אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְיַעֲקֹב בְּפַדַּן אֲרָם וְאֵת דִּינָה בִתּוֹ כָּל נֶפֶשׁ בָּנָיו וּבְנוֹתָיו שְׁלֹשִׁים וְשָׁלֹשׁ:|
|These are the sons of Leah …and Dinah his daughter: The males are attributed to Leah and the females to Jacob, to teach you that if the woman emits seed first, she gives birth to a male, but if the male emits seed first, she (the woman) gives birth to a female.||אלה בני לאה. ואת דינה בתו: הזכרים תלה בלאה והנקבות תלה ביעקב, ללמדך אשה מזרעת תחלה יולדת זכר, איש מזריע תחלה יולדת נקבה:|
Rashi quoting the heylige gemmorah (Niddah 31a) interrupts this most amazing family reunion, one not seen again until the Hatfields and the McCoys to give us a shtikel lesson in sexual reproduction. Says Rashi: these are the children of Leah and in referring to Dina (remember her), this is the child of Yankif. Why the difference? Says Rashi azoy: if a woman emits seed first (in plain English: if she orgasms first), she produces males but if the husband (or other) emits his seed first (like most of you chazerrim), then a girl is produced. Seemingly Yankiff had epes excellent control over his seedlings, hence he had 12 boys and but one girl. The emes is that this Rashi is repeated later on in sefer Vayikra but I know that you couldn’t wait to hear portions of the parsha containing any nuggets that you would absorb and never forget, you are mamish chazerrim. Ok- veyter in the parsha…it gets even better.
Oy vey…oy vey…I made a mistake. The next possik I quote actually appears in the toirah five pisukkim above, I apologize.
|10. And the sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, and Zohar, and Saul the son of the Canaanitess.||י. וּבְנֵי שִׁמְעוֹן יְמוּאֵל וְיָמִין וְאֹהַד וְיָכִין וְצֹחַר וְשָׁאוּל בֶּן הַכְּנַעֲנִית:|
|the son of the Canaanitess: The son of Dinah, who had been possessed by a Canaanite. When they killed Shechem, Dinah did not want to leave until Simeon swore to her that he would marry her –||בן הכנענית: בן דינה שנבעלה לכנעני, כשהרגו את שכם לא היתה דינה רוצה לצאת עד שנשבע לה שמעון שישאנה:|
In listing the children of Shimoin, the heylige toirah tells us that the last one mentioned is Shaul Ben Haknanis and who the hec is that? Not to worry, here comes Rashi with the answer.
Again quoting B’reishis Rabba who himself had one wild imagination, Rashi states that Shaul Ben Haknanis (not to be confused with the ten or so Bens on this toirah list) was the son of Dina! Dina had a son? Just last week, we learned that Dina had a daughter named Osnas who eventually married Yoisef, now she also has a son? Did Shechem rape her more than once? Efsher another time a year later, or did she have twins? Or, were they (Dina and Shechem) efsher maybe living together, maybe even happily. I’m mamish confused, you?
Moreover, the Medrish seems to say, no, more accurately, it does state that Dina refused to leave Shechem’s house. Even after brothers Shimon and Levi killed Shechem and all the males, she refused to leave….until……until Shimon said he would marry her! Brother married sister? What’s p’shat here? How are we to understand what happened here with this Dina? Ver veist but seemingly according to this medrish, Dina was worried that having shacked up with this Shechem character, that no other nice Jewish boy would marry her and she refused to leave his house. Why she wanted to stay with a dead husband, doss veis ich nisht (this I don’t know) but that’s what the medrish says. Nu- like a good neighbor (I mean brother) does, Shimoin married her and they too seemingly lived happily after. Wow! You can’t make this stuff up, at least I can’t but seemingly the medrish can. Want yet more?
Aspiring Talmiday chachomim that you are (not), you must be klerring (pondering) the following kasha (question): we recall from learning Parshas Noiach that even a Ben Noiach is not allowed to marry his maternal sister. How then could Shimoin marry his shvester (sister) Dina? Not to worry because the medrish has this covered as well with a gevaldige and most amazing scientific miracle, halt kupp (pay attention). The Targum Yoinason Ben Uziel, clearly a man centuries ahead of his time says azoy: he tells us that when Leah was pregnant with her 7th child she davened to the RBSO that it should be a girl. At the same time, Mama Ruchil was also (finally) pregnant. The RBSO avada loves it when women say tehilim and responded with mamish a ness (miracle) and caused the fetus in Leah to be switched with the fetus in Rochel. Holy shit!! Ruchil gave birth to Yoisef and Leah gave birth to Dina. Since Dina was conceived in Ruchil’s womb you can argue that her mother was really Ruchil. Consequently, she was muttar (permitted) to marry Shimon. You hear this -you oisvorf? And you thought that Shimoin was committing an aveyro? Chas v’ssholim- pu pu pu; don’t you know that Shimoin and his brothers were all holy? The medrash has his back!
And that Raboyseyee is why the toirah is the beste s’choira: the toirah is the best as is the RBSO. Centuries before anyone heard of in-vitro fertilization and before we heard terms which include parturition (a real word) and gestation, there was the midrash and they knew it all! They didn’t however know what came first, the chicken or the egg and this is still a shealo bazman hazeh (a question during our times).
Now you’ll have to admit that your Rebbe in yeshiva never taught you about Shimoin and Dina, just another reason to carefully and religiously read Toirah for Oisvorfs every week; by this time next year you will zicher have forgotten it and we’ll learn it one more time. Why? Because above all, you’re still an oisvorf. And now the coup de grace: listen to his amazing story at the end of the Parsha.
|22. Only the farmland of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they ate their allotment that Pharaoh had given them; therefore, they did not sell their farmland.||כב. רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים לֹא קָנָה כִּי חֹק לַכֹּהֲנִים מֵאֵת פַּרְעֹה וְאָכְלוּ אֶת חֻקָּם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָהֶם פַּרְעֹה עַל כֵּן לֹא מָכְרוּ אֶת אַדְמָתָם:|
|26. So Joseph made it a statute to this day concerning the farmland of Egypt for the one fifth. Only the farmland of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s.||כו. וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ יוֹסֵף לְחֹק עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַל אַדְמַת מִצְרַיִם לְפַרְעֹה לַחֹמֶשׁ רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים לְבַדָּם לֹא הָיְתָה לְפַרְעֹה:|
Zicher you’re wondering why I placed these two helyige pisukim right here without a proper introduction. Ober Raboyseyee have no fear, I will not let you down. Grada these two pisukim look innocuous, almost boring but nothing in the helyige toirah is boring. Now halt kup as I’m about to blow your mind with this amazing p’shat. Here’s what went down.
After Yankiff and his family arrived, the hunger intensified. The people were starving, only Yoisef had the keys to the food locker. They came for food, he charged them money. When the money ran out, he took their animals, stuffed and live. When that ran out, he traded food for land and soon Paroy owned all the land in Mitzrayim, Yoisef made him fabulously wealthy, a genius mamish. Now, let’s learn the pissukim above.
Yoisef did not make the koihanim sell their land- he let them have it and they also had food. Says the very creative targum Yoinison azoy. So severe was the hunger that Yoisef successfully traded land for food, except for land that belonged to the koihanim (in this case meaning ministers- cabinet members if you will) and the question is why. What special relationship did he have with them, why the pity? Says Targum Yoinison: way back in Parshas Vayayshev just after Mrs. Potiphar accused Yoisef of attempted rape, she didn’t just yell rape: she cracked open an egg, spilled the egg white only (seemingly she understood the importance of a protein diet) on the bed and told Mr. Potiphar that Yoisef had spilled his seed onto her bed. You hear this Raboyseyee: Can you imagine the lengths this scorned woman went to, it’s mamish shreklich and let this be a lesson to all of you: beware of pissing off the eishes chayil.
Anyway, imagine Potiphar’s reaction when he’s informed of Yoisef’s activities and sees what he believes is semen on the bed. Nu, as many a man would, he becomes enraged and wanted to have Yoisef killed. Can you imagine that, cholila (heaven forbid). No Yoisef- no parshas Miketz and Vayigash and that would throw off the entire equilibrium of the parshious.
Instead Potifar sought advice from the koihanim (ministers) who suggested that Potiphar check the evidence to see if it’s real. They told Potiphar to put a lit candle near the goo as an egg white seemingly reacts differently to heat than does sperm, who would have thunk? Is this not a tremendous chidush? Long before Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project, there was Potiphar and his ministers using DNA to exonerate Yoisef from banging Mrs. Potiphar. Seemingly the evidence did not stand up, if you know what I mean, and Potiphar realized that perhaps Yoisef was not guilty of the charges. His life was spared and instead he was thrown into a “special” camp where he spent time with other important alleged wrongdoers; the rest is history. And as to why an innocent man was thrown taken away for 12 years, nu … not the first or last time.
Years later as Yoisef is making all the Egyptians sell them their land and taxes them heavily, he remembers that the koihanim gave Potiphar sage advice and repays the favor. In fact Chazal on this parsha state that the lesson we must learn from this story is that we should never forget if someone does us a favor and reminds us to always remember and when an opportunity presents, to repay the favor. WOW!
In case you’re wondering who this Yoinisin ben Uzeil was….here’s some relevant information: Yoinisin Ben-Uziel was a talmid (disciple) of the famed Second Temple era Rabbi Hillel. Over the centuries in a tradition mistama (likely) developed by the Israeli tourist association, it has become a minhag (tradition) for those seeking their bashert (soul-mates) to go visit his grave in Amuka where one can daven and also be shaken down by the schnorrers that own that route. According to legend, if one davens at his kever, he/she would be married within the year. Of course one could avoid the entire trip and get married on their own. Ironically, the sage himself died at a young age – a bachelor, need I say more?
A gitten shabbis!