Sunday, December 31, 2017

Parshas Vayechi 5778

How Could Yakov Give Shechem to Yosef?

The Torah writes (Genesis 48:22):
And now, I assign to you one portion more than to your brothers, which I wrested from the Amorites with my sword and bow.”
The division of the Land did not happen until the time of Yehoshua, about 14 years after they entered the Land. Thus, how could Yakov give away any part of the Land to Yosef prior to the division - was there a legal mechanism as to how Yakov came to posses Schechem?

1. As per Rashi here, this doesn't refer to the city of Shechem but rather the fact that the double inheritance that Reuven was supposed to get, instead went to Yosef. Thus, Yosef received two portions in the Land but they were given out by Yehoshua later on, and Yakov simply transferred one of the portions to him.

2. As per Rashi, Yakov and his children conquered Schechem by force.

3. As mentioned earlier, Yakov bought the field in front of the city of Shechem and that field is what he transferred to Yosef to be used for his burial in the future. The city itself wasn't transferred.

4. As per midrashim, Shechem gave the city to Dinah as part of her marriage contract when he married her. After he was killed along with the rest of the city, Dinah's daughter from Schechem inherited the city. She was Asnath who later became the wife of Yosef, and her two children who were Ephraim and Menashem inherited Shechem.

What Did Reuven Do?

The Torah writes (Genesis 49:4):
Unstable as water, you shall excel no longer; For when you mounted your father’s bed, You brought disgrace—my couch he mounted!

1. As per Talmud (Shabbos 55), this refers to the incident between Reuven and Bilhah earlier on. The Talmud cites multiple opinions as to the exact nature of the incident and what exactly was the sin of Reuven.

2. Other commentators explains that this refers to the story of the Dudaim which ended with Leah and Rachel trading.

3. Some Midrashim cite this as a reference to the switch between Leah and Rachel when Yakov married them originally, which caused Reuven to be born, although it is unclear why this is counted against Reuven since he wasn't born yet.

Where was Yosef buried?

The Torah writes (Genesis 50:26):
Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

1.  According to some Midrashim his coffin was placed in the Nile, until Moshe got it out before the Jews left Egypt.

2. Some opinions say he was buried on a river bank but in a place that was secret.

3. According to the Talmud (Sotah 11a), he was buried in the royal burial chambers of the Egyptian kings (pyramids?).

Monday, December 18, 2017

Parshas Mikeitz 5778

Did Benjamin Know about the Sale of His Brother Joseph?
It is unclear how much he actually knew. Midrash Tehilim earlier indicates that Benjamin knew that his brother was alive when Jacob was mourning for him, but doesn't explain whether he knew that he was sold. Sefer HaYashar in this week's Parsha explains that when Joseph saw Benjamin in Egypt and made a banquet with the brothers, it was during the banquet that he revealed himself and warned Benjamin about the upcoming plan to hide a silver goblet in his bags. However, Joseph doesn't tell him how he ended up in Egypt. Tzror haMor writes that after revealing himself to Benjamin, Joseph made up a story about how he was attacked by an animal, and eventually kidnapped and sold into slavery by some passing traders. However, other midrashim later on (Midrash Rabbah, Tanchuma, Aggadas Bereishis) write that when Benjamin's bags were searched and the goblet found, he rebuked the brothers using the example of Joseph's sale, thus indicating that he knew what happened.

Did Jacob know about the sale of Joseph?
It is also unclear how much he knew. Many learn that he never found out about the sale of Joseph, but there are some that learn that Joseph did tell him shortly before his death. Sefer Shemiras haLoshon writes that Jacob found out via divine inspiration and wasn't told by anyone. In any case, Rashi in Parshas Vayechi indicates that he did know because the blessings to Shimon and Levi, and the blessings to Joseph are interpreted in a way that directly relates to the sale of Joseph.
Additional interesting points:
- The Chasam Sofer learns that someone else should hold the candle during Bedikas Chametz because Menashe had a servant hold the candle while he searched the brothers' bags because it was Sabbath
- One of the reasons why it was easy for the Hashmonaim to become kings after their victory was because during the Second Temple era, the position of the High Priest was partly political since the empires that ruled Israel at that time treated the High Priest as a representative of the Jewish People (as seen from the story of Alexander the Great and Shimon haTzadik)