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Parshas Vayeshev 5771

Rabbi Siegel

Parshat Vayeshev

Nov 28, 2010

The parsha begins with the words, “Vayeshev Yaakov b’eretz migurei aviv b’Eretz Canaan.” 1 Rashi explains, the word vayeshev conveys Yaakov Avenu’s wish to dwell in tranquility, in the Land of Israel, where his forefathers lived.

 Hakodesh Baruch Hu seemingly rebukes Yaakov Avenu, saying, “Is it not sufficient the reward that awaits tzadikim in the World to Come, that they seek to live in tranquility in this world, Olam HaZeh?” 2

 As a result, the pain of Yosef pounced upon Yaakov Avenu.

 Yaakov Avenu’s life was filled with trials and tribulations. He endured conflict even in the “comfort” of his mother’s womb. Eisav, constantly sought to bring his life to a violent end. Escaping Eisav, he entered a new stage of his life, working under slave-like conditions for his uncle, Lavan. He was tricked on the very day of his wedding, his bride substituted for another. Upon his departure, he was chased by Lavan and his armed men. He faced Eisav, yet again, expecting to battle for his life, and he emerged victorious from an encounter with an angel.

 Yaakov Avenu passed every test he was faced with. He surfaced from his twenty-year exile with his performance of the 613 commandments intact. 3


 What lay behind Yaakov Avenu’s wish to dwell in tranquility?  Can it possibly be attributed to laziness or a lack of motivation for leading a productive life?

 He sought to return to the embrace of his father, and to the Holy land of Israel. His wish was to be able to serve his Creator in tranquility, not just to waste away his days in a meaningless form of retirement.

 Why was he punished for this?

 Why did the punishment manifest itself in the sale of Yosef?

 Why did Yosef deserve to suffer due to the type of life that Yaakov sought?

 Background/Deeper Understanding

 From the time that Adam HaRishon sinned, the task placed upon our forefathers, the Avos, was two-fold. First, they were to perfect themselves. In addition, they must replace Adam HaRishon by creating a nation of tzaddikim. Each member of this nation would possess a different facet of Adam’s soul. In this collective fashion, Adam would return to this world. Avrohom Avenu was unable to do this, and so was Yitzchov Avenu. Yaakov Avenu built upon their successes and gave birth to twelve tzaddikim. Each and every one excelled in his own unique way. When all worked together in perfect harmony, they comprised the perfect man. 4

 Yaakov Avenu’s personal avoda (life’s challenge) was in the area of Torah. He was a yoshev ohalim, one who dwelled in the tents of Shem and Ever. Prior to arriving in Aram Naharayim, he spent an additional fourteen years totally removed from the world of Olam HaZeh. 5 Thus, he attained the trait called temimus – blemish free perfection.

 Embarking on his journey, he came to Mount Moriah. For the first time in fourteen years he slept, and he dreamt. He dreamt of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven. Angels were rising and descending. The angels saw the face of Yaakov Avenu at the foot of the ladder. They rose up to the Throne of Glory and saw the exact same countenance engraved on the throne. 6 This was evidence that he had attained perfection. His face of this world matched perfectly with the “face” of his soul.

 The next challenge facing Yaakov was to pass on this temimus to his righteous multi-faceted offspring.

 He merged spiritually unscathed from twenty years of Lavan’s trickery. He survived his encounter with Eisav. Finally as he entered Eretz Yisroel, his twelfth child was born. He surmounted all the obstacles. His task was complete. 

 The gemora gives us a glimpse into what awaits the tzadikim.

 In Olam Habah, the tzadikim “sit”. They wear crowns upon their heads and bask in the luminescence of the Shechinah. 7

 What does it mean to “sit” in Gan Eden? The World to Come is an existence totally devoid of physicality.

 The Maharal explains that the word “yoshvim” denotes being in a state of rest after the completion of one’s task. When one is standing, he is in an ever-ready state to accomplish. One who is sitting is dormant. If he wants to accomplish, he must first stand up to do so. Those who successfully arrived in Olam Haba are described as sitting. They have arrived at the Great Shabbos. The root of the word Shabbos is also derived from the word yoshev. 8

 This is what is meant that Yaakov Avenu sought to dwell in tranquility. He sought an Olam Haba type of existence in this world.


 There was an integral flaw that escaped the notice of Yaakov Avenu. Indeed his children were tzadikim, but only in their own right. They lacked the perfect cohesiveness to work together and complement one another. Specifically, the brothers did not recognize the special role that Yosef HaTzadik occupied among them. He was uniquely equipped to be the vanguard of their unity in the impurity of Mitzrayim. Yosef contributed an inner majesty to Klal Yisroel. His sanctity imbued the nation with the ability to live amongst impurity and still retain the image of G-d that we were created in. His brothers viewed him as a threat instead of a salvation. Due to their lack of comprehension, every privilege or honor bestowed upon him by their father Yaakov, provoked jealousy, instead of understanding. Yosef, himself, is faulted by our sages for contributing to the spirit of animosity. 9

 Yaakov’s wish, although admirable, is premature. As long as a human being walks this earth, his task is unfinished. Had Yaakov seen the flaw in the foundation of Klal Yisroel, he would have corrected it. The sale of Yosef would have been avoided. There is a direct connection between seeking to dwell in tranquility and mechiras Yosef. The events that subsequently unfolded were not meant as a punishment. They were an unavoidable reality.

 Rav Mordechai Gifter, the Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe, z”l, solved a mystery by way of this concept.

 Following the sale of Yosef, the posuk states, “Vayered Yehuda me’es echav” – Yehuda was demoted from his position amongst the brothers. Upon witnessing the anguish that gripped their father, they regretted their act. They blamed Yehuda. “You told us to sell him. Had you instructed us to return him, we would have listened.” 10

 Tamar, the widow of two of Yehuda’s children awaits her expected marriage to Shelah, Yehuda’s only remaining son. Yehuda withholds Shelah from her. She travels to the Cave of the Patriarchs and pours out her heart to Hashem. 11 Her fervent wish is to be granted the merit of being the mother of the kings and redeemers who would emerge from Yehuda. Hashem hearkens to her prayers and sends an angel to bring about the union between them. <12 The payment agreed upon is a goat. She requests his cloak, signet ring, and staff as a security for the payment.

 And then she disappears. Yehuda cannot retrieve his belongings. He says, “I fooled my father by dipping Yosef’s coat into the blood of a goat, so too, I was fooled by a woman who wished for a goat.” 13

 Yehuda saw the significance of this totally unrelated incident. It is somehow connected to the sale of Yosef and to the pain that he caused his father.

 In what manner is it connected?

 Yehuda is the king amongst the brothers. The Rambam states, “What is a king? The heart of the king is the heart of all of the congregation of Israel.”  A king must have room in his heart for each and every one of his subjects. He must constantly fear becoming haughty. He must guard his heart. 14

 All the brothers were part of mechiras Yosef. Yehuda was to blame. He is their king. If he could be a part of causing such grief, he is no longer fit to be king. He must forfeit his position amongst the brothers until he reclaims his heart.

 Yehuda is told that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, is with child. He pronounces the death penalty upon her for her infidelity. As she is taken out to be burned, she produces his cloak, signet ring, and staff. She cries out, “The owner of these articles is the one responsible for my pregnancy.”

 For Yehuda to publicly admit his role in the affair is the epitome of embarrassment. If he remains silent, his secret will go to the grave. His heart doesn’t allow him to even consider this path. For his heart is the heart of a king. His own considerations do not govern his actions. He is totally filled with compassion for the young lives about to be snuffed out.

 He regained his right to occupy the seat of monarchy. The heart of Klal Yisroel has been restored. The stage is now set for the brothers to descend to Mitzrayim and be reunited with their brother, Yosef haTzadik.

1 Perek 37, posuk 1

2 Perek 37, posuk 2

3 Rashi, perek 32, posuk 4

4 Rashi, perek 47, posuk 31

5 Meseches Megillah 17a

6 Meseches Chullin 91b

7 Meseches Brachos 17a

8 Derech Chaim, perek 3, mishna 16

9 Rashi, perek 37, posuk 2

10 Rashi, perek 38, posuk 1

11 Meseches Sotah 10

12 Rabeinu Asher, Breishis perek 38, posuk 16

13 Rashi, perek 38, posuk 23

14 Mishna Torah, Hilchos Melachim, perek 3, halacha 6

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