Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Parshas Vayechi 5779

Why Wasn't Joseph in Goshen?

The Torah writes (Genesis 48:1):
Some time afterward, Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
HaEmek Davar writes:
I have heard from Rabbi Sh’muel of blessed memory that the reason that Joseph did not frequently visit his father was that he was afraid that Yaakov would ask him how he had come to be in Egypt in the first place, in which case he would have had to tell him that his brothers had sold him, etc., as a result of which his father would have cursed the brothers. This in turn would have spelled the destruction of the civilized world, seeing that when he had cursed Rachel quite unintentionally, Rachel died prematurely as a result, although the teraphim of Lavan had never even been found. We cannot even imagine what the result of Yaakov cursing ten of his twelve sons would have meant.
However later on, when he blesses Shimon and Levi, it implies that he knew. Some answer that Yosef thought that his father would curse them, but he would never do it once he found out about it via ruach hakodesh.

Ephraim before Menashe

The Torah writes (Genesis 48:17):
When Joseph saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he thought it wrong; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s.
However, we find even earlier that the order was switched (see Genesis 48:5):
Now, your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, shall be mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine no less than Reuben and Simeon.
Shadal (ibid) writes:
He put Ephraim before Menashe for in his mind [he knew] that Ephraim was greater than Menashe
(see also HaEmek Davar here who explains that Yosef didn't grasp the switch initially, and only realized it during the placing of the hands)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Parshas Mikeitz 5779

Why Didn't Joseph Eat with His Brothers?

The Torah writes (Genesis 43:32):
They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; for the Egyptians could not dine with the Hebrews, since that would be abhorrent to the Egyptians.
There are two things happening here:
  1. Joseph not sitting with the brothers while eating.
  2. The brothers not eating together the Egyptians.
Bechor Shor answers #1:
Because of his greatness for it is not right to eat at the king's table unless you are a great person ... but they were seated close to him
HaEmek Davar explains similarly why regular people don't eat with the king:
... He should be demeaned in their eyes, or they should not be able to pass a knife to him and fight with him; but he did sit the brothers with the Egyptians because they were abhorrent...
 There are also multiple answers for #2 which answers #1 as well. Rashi (ibid) writes:
it is a hateful thing to the Egyptians to eat together with the Hebrews. Onkelos states a reason for this.
Onkelos explains:
They served to him by himself, and to them by themselves, and to the Egyptians eating with them by themselves because Egyptians cannot eat bread with Hebrews for the domesticated animals that the Egyptians worship, the Hebrews eat

The Torah writes similarly later on (Exodus 8:22)
But Moses replied, “It would not be right to do this, for what we sacrifice to the LORD our God is untouchable to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice that which is untouchable to the Egyptians before their very eyes, will they not stone us!
Rashi explains there:
The act of sacrifice which we practise is a hateful thing to the Egyptians seing that we sacrifice their god

However, Radak explains differently:
Egyptians did not eat sheep or goats, and the only reason they raised these animals was for their wool and their milk.
Chizkuni explains:
Egyptians detested eating at the same table as aliens, as they felt that they were a superior race and everyone else was way inferior.
Rashbam explains in a similar fashion:
The Egyptians’ attitude to people whose vocation was to tend flocks was one of utter disdain, as we know from 46,34. They had contempt for sheep and goats, hence their contempt transferred itself to the people raising such animals. This attitude to sheep and goats is mirrored when Moses asks Pharaoh how he could expect the Israelites to slaughter such animals while in Egypt without running the risk of the local populace stoning them to death for doing this. (Exodus 8,22) Stoning someone to express one’s disgust with his conduct is nothing new; we encounter it in Samuel II 16,5-6 when Shimi ben Geyrah, not only cursed (king) David publicly, but also threw stones at him.
Shadal explains this was because the Egyptians had their own religious customs for eating like the Greeks, and their religion wouldn't allow them to sit with people from other religions

Shape of the Menorah

Interesting article from addressing the discrepancy between the shape of the Menorah as described by the Rambam and archeological evidence