Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Mikeitz

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

The Torah recites in Bereishis 42:1 that Ya'acov saw that despite the famine in Cana'an that there was food in Egypt. So Ya'acov tells the brothers to go to get food and they went. Rashi notes on 42:3 that the brothers had previously been called the sons of Ya'acov or of Israel, but in this pasuk they are called the brothers of Yosef. Rashi explains that the brothers now felt bad about the situation with Yosef and decided that if they found him as a slave in Egypt, they would spend whatever sums of money were necessary to buy him out of slavery.

R' Frand then quoted a sefer called Tiv HaTorah by R' Gamliel Rabinovich where the following question was asked - at this point the brothers are about to go through terribly agonizing experiences, isn't it ironic that since they have now begun to do teshuvah - why should they now have to go through all the emotional stress? R' Rabinovich then quoted a Sfas Emes about how Yosef had the test of the wife of Potiphar and Yosef ws able to withstand it and as a result he was called Yosef HaTzaddik. What happens immediately after this event? Yosef gets thrown into jail. Is this the reward for his actions? The Sfas Emes explains that if a person does an act of righteousness and shows that he wants to do teshuva, then Hashem will help him acheive teshuva gemura - and through the next event he will emerge with full teshuva. Yosef needed to do teshuva for telling lashon harah about the brothers. Once he stood up to the test of Potiphar's wife, then Hashem knew that he was ready for teshuva gemura and could withstand the prison from which he would emerge with full teshuva.

R' Rabinovich relates that the same concept applies to the brothers of Yosef. Once they had accepted on themselves to do teshuva, they were ready to go through the events which would cause them to become fully forgiven.

R' Frand said that sometimes we see people decide that they want to do teshuva and begin to take steps to keep the mitzvos such as closing their businesses on shabbos and keeping the laws as required. At this point they may encounter new problems in business or family life. (R' Frand related that this happens frequently enough that it is not a coincidence). These problems which occur (much like the events which happened to Yosef and the brothers after each chose to begin the path of teshuva) are Hashem's way of speeding up the process so that we can emerge on the other end with teshuva gemura.

In Bereishis chapter 41, Pharaoh has his dreams and Yosef is called out of prison and he comes to Pharaoh and interprets the dreams, explaining that there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. True to form there are seven years of plenty and then the seven years of famine begin (Bereishis 41:53-54). R' Yitzchak Ya'acov Reiness (the Lita Rav) asked - when the seven good years came, the Torah does not say "as Yosef predicted." However, when the bad years began the Torah recites at 41:54 that they came as Yosef predicted. Why does the Torah only remind us that Yosef had correctly predicted the lean years?

R' Mordechai Kaminetzky tells a story about Albert Einstein which explains the phenomenon. When Einstein explained the theory of relativity to the French, he quipped that if the theory bears out, the French will say that I am a citizen of the world, while the Germans will say that I am a citizen of Germany. However, if the theory fails, the French will say that I am a German and the Germans will say that I am a Jew. This is indicative that people may say positive things when events go well, but they know how to lay the blame when things go badly.

R' Frand closed with a story he heard from R' Abish Brodt about a reception in honor of R' Wein in Detroit which included many important people including the Editor of the Detroit Free Press. The Editor had a history of being very pro-Israel and he asked for (and received) an opportunity to address the gathering.

The Editor told the following story - when his mother came to this country from Ireland in the 1920s, she took a job as a housekeeper for a Jewish family who happened to live next door to a shul. She knew that the family was going out of town and would not be returning until December 23rd. She was concerned that getting back this late, they would not be able to get a "proper tree." She felt bad for them as they had always taken such care of her, so she went out and bought a tree and trimmed it with green and red lights and tinsel and put it in the front of the house.

The family came home and saw the tree and had two possible ways of dealing with the situation. Either they could demand that the tree be removed immediately, or they could deal with it much more sensitively. The head of the family chose the second approach - telling the woman that her act had been an incredibly thoughtful one which should be rewarded. He told her that he was going to give her a bigger bonus because of her actions and gave her a $50 bill (quite sizable for the 1920's). He then told her that unfortunately, there is no tree in our religion and that they could not keep it in their home, but still her act had been very thoughtful and they were touched.

The Editor related that his mother always spoke warmly about the Jews and the Tree and how respectfully they had treated her. He felt that this had influenced his view of Jews and continued to have an impact so many years later.

If we continually strive to make a kiddush Hashem (sanctify Hashem's name through our actions) then people can look positively on our actions and not only mention us when things go wrong.

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