Vayeshev 5777

Rabbi Yechiel Rozen

וישב יעקב…(בראשית לז:א)

And Yaakov settled… (Bereishis 37:1)

The Midrash Rabbah on this Pasuk says:

אמר ר’ אחא בשעה שהצדיקים יושבים שלוה ומבקשים לישב בשלוה בעולם הזה השטן בא ומקטרג. אמר “לא דיין שהוא מתוקן להם לעולם הבא אלא שהם מבקשים לישב בשלוה בעולם הזה.” תדע לך שהוא כן, יעקב אבינו על ידי שביקש לישב בשלוה בעולם הזה נזדוג לו שטנו של יוסף, וישב יעקב…בא עלי רגזו של יוסף

Tzadikim that are living peacefully and are seeking to live peacefully arouse the Satan and he says, “Is it not enough that Olam Habah is prepared for them, they want Olam HaZeh as well?” We see this in regard to Yaakov, who wanted to sit in peace, and immediately the turmoil of Yosef was thrown upon him.

Rashi quotes an abbreviated version of this Midrash.
The language of the Midrash is difficult to understand. If the Tzadikim are already at peace, what more are they seeking? One way to interpret the Midrash is: when Tzadikim have achieved perfection and are prepared for Olam Habah, and they seek to live in Olam HaZeh as if it were Olam Habah, the Satan protests (see Sfas Emes and Shem MeShmuel here).
After emerging unscathed from the clutches of Lavan and Eisav and then suffering from the recent ordeal with Dina, Yaakov Avinu sought peace and tranquility. Certainly his desire was solely to serve Hashem and fill his days in the tent of Torah, unhindered. Yet apparently, there was something else that needed to be accomplished. It was not time to sit in Olam HaZeh as if it were Olam Habah.
What work still lay before him? Furthermore, what correlation is there between Yaakov seeking שלוה and רגזו של יוסף, the ensuing travail with Yosef?
The Ohr Gedalyahu (Parshas Toldos) explains that the Pasuk הקול קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו indicates that Yaakov and Eisav were really two parts of a whole. Yaakov was completely good, and he was supposed to spend his life completely engaged in Torah. He was to live as if he were in Olam Habah. Eisav was a mix of good and bad. He was a warrior by nature, and his job was to rectify the bad. He was supposed to vanquish the Nations, making them subservient to Hashem.
Therefore, Yitzchak Avinu intended to bestow Eisav with the Brachos which were requisite to his work in Olam HaZeh. Eisav, however, reneged, and Yaakov now had the double task of his and Eisav’s work.
We could say that these two jobs were divided by the Shevatim. The Midrash (וישב פד:ה) notes that until Yosef was born, the Shevatim could not go down to Mitzrayim. Now that he was born, they could enter Galus Mitzrayim and emerge whole. Yosef was the one person whose children were born in Galus and still rose to become Shevatim. It was he who supported the Bnei Yisrael in Mitzrayim.
Yosef had the job of Eisav, of spreading Kedusha in Olam HaZeh, among all the nations of the world. This is the meaning of Chazal’s statement (quoted in Rashi Bereishis 30:25) that Yosef was שטנו של עשו, the antithesis of Eisav. Yosef, who took over Eisav’s task, had the same ability to conquer Olam HaZeh. He was the one who could oppose and defeat Eisav. He could thrive within Galus and he was the king of the Bnei Yisrael in Galus, as depicted in his prophetic dreams.
And so it will be Moshiach ben Yosef who fights the final war in Galus.
Yehuda, on the other hand, represented the trait of Yaakov. He was the king of Bnei Yisrael when we were not in Galus. When our existence in this world was like that of Olam Habah, under the open Hashgacha of Hashem, Yehuda and his progeny, Malchus Beis Dovid, was our king. After we emerge from Galus, Moshiach ben Dovid will lead us.
The Shem MiShmuel writes that this is the task Yaakov Avinu still needed to accomplish. He began the work of building a Klal Yisrael, of establishing the שבטי קה in Eretz Yisrael, their destiny. Now he had to bring them into Galus and establish them there as well. He was not yet ready for Olam Habah. And so it was that the רוגזו של יוסף, the turmoil of Yosef, came upon him.


RABBI YITZCHAK ZEV JACOBS

והבור רק אין בו מים, “מים אין בו אבל נחשים ועקרבים יש בו” (רשי בראשית לז:כד)

And the pit was empty, there was no water in it…”water was not inside,
but snakes and scorpions were” (Rashi on Bereishis 37:24)

This well-known Rashi creates a formidable problem, attributed most famously to the Zohar (185b, cf. Or HaChaim ad loc. whose answer is also based on this Zohar). Reuven was credited with trying to save Yosef, as the Torah says ויצלהו מידם (בראשית לז:כא), “And he saved him from their hands” (Bereishis 37:21). Nevertheless, in the very next Pasuk, it was Reuven himself who identified the particular pit as the one to throw Yosef into: השליכו אותו אל הבור הזה, “Throw him into this pit” (Bereishis 37:22).
How could Reuven be considered as having attempted to rescue Yosef if he himself suggested hurling him into a venomous deathtrap?! This problem is further strengthened by the Gemara (Yevamos 121a) which states that if witnesses observed a man being thrown into a pit full of snakes and scorpions, their testimony would allow his wife to remarry because he is assumed dead. Obviously, this is a strong assumption if it can free an Agunah, yet Reuven seemingly ignored the mortal hazard involved!
Many Meforshim address this issue but two possible approaches will be discussed here. The Chizkuni and Tosefos al HaTorah both posit that there were actually two pits. Reuven pointed to the hole without snakes and scorpions, hence הבור הזה, but the brothers decided on the one with the snakes and scorpions,וישליכו אותו הבורה והבור רק (בראשית לז:כד) . This explanation is also found in many other sources, including the Chasam Sofer and the Maharsha (Chagiga 3a) among others.
Interestingly, it is recorded in several sources that Reuven ben Yaakov himself appeared to those who provided interpretations exonerating him fromמעשה בלהה, rearranging the beds in his father’s home, and מכירת יוסף, the sale of Yosef, to thank them. His most recent sighting occurred just over 100 years ago with the Puppa Dayan in Yerushalayim, R’ Moshe Yosef Hoffman, on the day he presented the above explanation (see מי באר מים חיים, p. 352). In this way, Reuven seems to acutely embody the Middah of Hakaras Hatov, as the Midrash Rabbah (84:14) explains: Reuven’s appreciation for Yosef was the driving force behind saving him from harm. Reuven felt vindicated by Yosef’s dream, in which he envisioned Reuven as being on an equal footing with the other Shevatim, one of the other eleven stars. The dream proved that Reuven had succeeded in his Teshuva for מעשה בלהה and that he was forgiven. This is the source of Reuven’s motivation for challenging his brothers and advocating for Yosef. This understanding was the impetus behind his thanks.
The Torah Temimah answers this question differently. He comments on the juxtaposition of two statements by the same Amora in the discussion of Chanukah (Shabbos 22a). The first says that a Menorah lit above 20 Amos is Pasul, just like a Sukkah whose Schach is placed above that height and a מבוי, alleyway, whose correcting Tzuras HaPesach is placed higher than 20 Amos. The underlying reason in all three of these cases is that objects more than 20 Amos high are not naturally included in one’s line of vision. Therefore, on Chanukah, where the main objective of lighting the Menorah is Parsumei Nisa, publicizing the miracle, if the eyes are not caught by it, one has not fulfilled the Mitzvah.
The Amora’s second statement notes that the pit into which Yosef was thrown contained poisonous creatures instead of water. What relevance does the first have to the next? The Torah Temimah quotes the Meforesh (Tamid 28b) who says that the word השלכה always implies throwing something more than 20 Amos. The Pasuk says, וישליכו אותו הבורה, “And they threw him into the pit” (Bereishis 37:24). He infers from here that this throw must have been twenty Amos long. If so, it follows that the Shevatim could not see to the bottom of the pit and its living contents, so they cannot be held accountable for throwing Yosef into such a hazardous place.