Torah Teaser – Parshat Vayeishev Questions & Answers – December 23 2116-5777

Why Did Yehuda Keep Tamar Hanging on a String? After the tragic death of Yehuda’s first two sons that were married to Tamar, Yehuda told Tamar (Vayeishev 38:11) “Shvi Almana Bais Avich Ad Ki Yigdal Sheila; Return to your father’s house until Sheila gets older.” Rashi explains that Yehuda had no intention of letting Sheila marry Tamar, since as the pasuk says he was scared that any husband of Tamar was doomed. If so why did he keep her waiting for Sheila? Even if he had a good reason, wasn’t he lying? The Maskil L’Dovid answers that Yehuda was the first one to keep the Mitzva of Yibum, as his son Onan married Tamar after Er’s death. After Onan’s death Yehuda didn’t want Sheila to do Yibum because he was scared, but he did want him to do Chalitza. Since he was still a Katan, he couldn’t perform Chalitza so he wanted Tamar to wait. However, Yehuda was afraid that if he asked Tamar to remain unmarried until Sheila is old enough for Chalitza, she would not listen. Therefore, he led her to believe she would marry Sheila eventually. The Maskil L’Dovid says that Yehuda did not lie to her, but he chose his words very carefully. He told her to return to her father until Sheila got older. She understood this meant that he will marry her when he becomes of age, but he in fact meant old enough to do Chalitza.
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Yehuda Promises Tamar Goats When Yehuda met the unidentified Tamar, he promised to send her G’di Izim or goats. Rav Yehonoson Eibshitz says that these goats held deep meaning to the outcome of this whole event. “The entire episode of Yehuda and Tamar was not befitting a man of Yehuda’s stature,” says Chazal. It only came about through the hand of Hashem, as this was the earliest beginning of Malchus Bais Dovid which was destined to descend from Tamar. “The goats,” say Rav Yehonoson, “symbolized that the great leaders of Klal Yisrael were all shepherds by profession, such as Dovid HaMelech.” “Furthermore the, leadership of Klal Yisrael,” says Chazal, “is given to a person with tarnished origins.” This happened with Yehuda and Tamar, again with with Boaz and Rus, and then again with Dovid and Basheva. Rav Yehonoson explains that the Satan does not pursue people with severe imperfections. Rather he goes after the cream trying to drag them down. Without the Satan’s interference a person can rise to great heights of Avodas Hashem. The reason why Yaakov needed to take the Brachos in an underhanded way was to trick the Satan into thinking that they hold little value, because they were acquired through deception. “The Gdi Izim,” says Rav Yehonoson, “was a remez to Yaakov’s taking the Brachos with the assistance of the Gdi Izim that made him feel hairy like EIsav, and to draw a parallel and learn the lesson of this debacle.”
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Proving The Shvatim Had Nothing Against Yosef Personally All the Meforshim write that the Shvatim had absolutely no jealously or hatred towards Yosef personally. Rather it was purely a pursuit of justice. “Yet,” says Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky (Emes L’Yaakov) “many people believe these Peirushim are just a coverup, to spare the Shvatim a bad name.” Rav Yaakov says that if one looks carefully at the psukim it is obvious that this is so. At first the Torah tells us that they decided to kill him. If this was about revenge, why as soon as Reuven said that they should not kill him but rather throw him into the pit, did they unanimously agree? “The truth is,” says Rav Yaakov, “that personal feelings not withstanding, they paskened that Yosef was Chayav Misa and were obliged to carry out the verdict. However, when Reuven said that throwing him in the Bor without killing him is sufficient in place of death, they were all very happy not to have to kill him.” Similarly, when Yehuda found an angle to carry out the verdict by taking him out of the pit, where he would eventually die, and instead sell him, again there was no hesitation and they all agreed. Furthermore, after seeing Yaakov’s pain, they even blamed Yehuda because had he found a psak that would allow them to spare Yosef altogether, they would have surely listened. “All this,” says Rav Yaakov, “is a proof of the Shvatim acting purely L’Shem Shamayim without any personal feelings of hatred mixed in.”
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Why Was Yosef Always Busy Combing His Hair? “V’Hu Naar,” (Vayeishev 37:2) Rashi says that this means Yosef was acting like a Naar always fixing his hair to look nice. Rav Shimon Schwab asks, “How could this be? Yosef was a tzaddik and the prized child of his Holy father, Yaakov. How could he have a weakness for something so trivial like playing with his hair?”
Rashi again says the same thing later on when Yosef was promoted in Potifar’s house; he again starts to play with his hair and forgets that his father is suffering because of his unexplained disappearance. Is this the “Nazir Echav” that the Torah talks about? Rav Schwab answers that we find the Torah also calls Shchem ben Chamor a “Naar”. Yet we know Shchem was the oldest and most important person in the kingdom after his father. There Rav Schwab therefore concludes, that “Naar” does not mean young, but rather impatient like young people. It means acting on impulse without thoroughly thinking things through. This is what Shchem was guilty of. Yosef had two dreams that told him he would be King. The Halacha is that a King must be freshly groomed every day as the pasuk says (Yeshaya 33:17), “Melech B’Yafyo Techezena Einecha; A King should be seen in his glory.” Yosef acted impatiently and on impulse when at the young age of seventeen he already behaved as if his dreams of Kingdom materialized. Similarly, in Potifar’s house, as soon as he was promoted and sensed an ascent to leadership, he once again jumped too fast and began to take an interest in his regal appearance. For this the Torah calls him a “Naar” as he should have waited for the right time and not jumped at the first sniff of power.

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