Parashat Vayeshev

when everything goes wrong

After being falsely accused by Potifar’s wife, Yosef is thrown into jail. The posuk which details this event appears redundant for it says ויתנהו‭ ‬אל‭ ‬בית‭ ‬הסהר, and he was placed in prison, ויהי‭ ‬שם‭ ‬בבית‭ ‬הסהר, and he was there in prison. Rav Zilberstein asks if the posuk says that he was placed in prison then we know that he’s in prison. Why does it have to repeat again that he was in prison?

He answers that there are times when a person is put into a situation that’s similar to being put in jail. Everything goes wrong; the person is hit with one thing after another and there doesn’t seem to be any way out. The person doesn’t want to be there so he’ll try anything to get out, to run away from the problems. He may try to fix them, which, of course, is the best way initially to try to get out of a bad situation. However, if a person sees that no matter what he does it seems that Hashem wants him to remain in this situation, it is incumbent upon the person to trust in Hashem’s judgment and not to fight it, rather להיות‭ ‬שם, one has to be there. He needs to remain in the tough spot and know that this is Hashem’s will; this is what’s best for us however profound it may seem to the human mind.

We must also understand that the situation that Hashem puts us in is the only way that we can fulfill our role in life. This is what the Torah is telling us about Yosef. Instead of being depressed and bemoaning all the hardships that had befallen him: being taken away from his beloved father, being sold into slavery, and now being confined to prison, he was בבית‭ ‬הסהר, he was there living life as best he could in the situation he was in, without looking back.

We see a similar concept by Yaakov. Rashi brings the midrash that tells us that Yaakov just wanted to live in peace whereas Hashem said, “isn’t it enough for the tzadikim, all that they will get in the next world; they want peace in this world too?” Reb Chaim Shmulevitz asks what was wrong with Yaakov’s request? All he asked for was peace so that he could sit and learn and get closer to Hashem. Why was Yaakov faulted for that? Reb Chaim answers that the purpose of a person on this world is not to sit on easy street and then to serve Hashem. Rather, it’s to serve Hashem when it’s hard and tough. That’s when the real service is, as the תנא‭ ‬דבי‭ ‬אליהו says, “greater is one mitzvah done with pain than one hundred Mitzvot done without pain.”

The sefer שומר‭ ‬אמונים gives us a different perspective on how to look at hardship. He says there are three reasons why Hashem brings suffering on a person. First, is to cleanse him of his sins. The second is to give him added reward later, and third, to benefit the world, for when a tzadik gets suffering put on him, it saves the world from tragedies. If the tzadik accepts the suffering with love, then his reward is unimaginable.

There was a story at the time of the בעל‭ ‬שם‭ ‬טוב where he came to a town of a tzadik who had tremendous suffering. The people came to the בש״ט to ask him to pray that the man get better but he refused. When his students wouldn’t stop bothering him, he explained. Surrounding this town was a forest within which are hoodlums that want to come into the city on a rampage and kill and steal all that they can. However, the suffering of this one man is saving the city from the outlaws. We never know what our hardships are for and what they do on a global scene. We have to believe that whatever Hashem does is best and there is a master plan. All we have to do is follow Yosef’s lead and live the situation we’re in to the best of our ability, and with that we will merit the ultimate reward!

By: Yitzy Adlin

facts of life: take this serious
four words changed the course of history
And he asked Paraoh’s courtiers who were with him in the ward of his master’s house, saying, “Why do you appear downcast today?” (40:7)
The Maharal in Tiferet Yisroel writes that from this passuk we see very clearly that one’s facial expressions tell a tale. A sad or depressed look announces to the world that things are not going all that well. On the other hand, a simple smile gives off a completely different message. To quote the words of Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l, “A person’s face is a reshut harabim (public property)”.

There is yet another lesson to be learned from this passuk. Let us picture the scenario. A young Jewish boy is brought into the “white collar crime” prison. Clearly no one cares. But then, from his corner, he notices that someone looks sad. Unabashedly, he approaches and says four words . מַדּוּעַ‭ ‬פְּנֵיכֶם‭ ‬רָעִים‭ ‬הַיּֽוֹם: “Why are your faces sad today?”?” These four words change the course of history. As a result, the Butler, followed by the Baker, open up to him, relating their dreams. Fast forward and the Butler is recommending Yosef to Paraoh, and, as they say, “the rest is history”. So often we underestimate the power of a few nice words, but in truth, it is a power that each and every one of us has. On a similar note, we find that at the beginning of the parsha, everything was going downhill for Yosef, but finally at the end of the parsha and the start of the next one, Yosef’s situation changed. The difference? Earlier, Yosef walked around asking, “Who wants to hear about my dreams?” In the end, he was saying, “Tell me about your dreams.” When we show interest in other people, they pay attention to us, but when it is “all about me”, no one is interested! Yosef is called an ish matzliach(a successful man). The letter “mem” in front of a word changes a word into its causative form. For example, the word “or” means light, but “ma-or” means to give off light. Yosef is known as an ish matzliach, because his success affects other people. If it’s all about me, that cannot be called true hatzlacha. The word for a hand is כף– kaf. The word for a mouth is פה– peh. The Shlah Hakadosh points out that the word “kaf” is spelled with a closed letter chaf (kaf kefufah) and an open letter fei (fei peshuta). This alludes to a closed hand (kaf) and an open mouth (peh), which is obviously not a good thing. But what happens when the kaf is open and the peh is closed? The letters switch around to form a new word פך” -pach”. When we open our hands but close our mouths, we have the opportunity of tapping into the yom tov of Chanukah which is symbolized by the pach shemen. The Yom tov of Chanukah is an opportune time to reach out to others and help shine the Hashem’s light.

By  R’ Mordechai Appel
something to think about


Repeatedly, the commentaries tell us that Avraham excelled in chesed(kindess), Yitzchak embodied yirah(fear), and Yaakov Avinu a man of emet(truth). These three distinct Ethics as they correspond to each of the three avot is almost obvious. We somehow take it for granted that this is so, but nobody ever seems to address the source for this. But why should they? Avraham went out searching for guests a couple of days after his brit milah, and the Torah tells us in no uncertain terms that Yitzchak’s awe for Hashem was perfected to the point that he trembled in fear when he realized his son Esav was standing at the threshold of gehinom. Yet the Torah gives no explicit source for Yaakov’s adherence to the truth. In fact, anytime we find Yaakov having to deal with issues of truth, he bends it. Granted, he was so instructed by his mother to steal the berachot from Esav, and his encounter with Elifaz was certainly one of pikuach nefesh (The matter of life and death), but these are hardly the incidents that demonstrate Yaakov’s unwavering dedication to truth. So where then do we get this notion of ‘emet l’Yaakov’? HaRav Shimshon Pinkus notes that is one thing that we know about Yaakov – that his only desire was to sit and study Torah. Yet his attempt to do so was constantly disturbed. Elaborating on the opening posuk of our parsha, Rabbis express this by telling us that Yaakov desired to sit in peace, but achieving this was impossible because of the ordeals he encountered with Esav, Lavan and Yosef. If you think about it, this should have been enough to make Yaakov give up. Although Avraham and Yitzchak also had their shares of challenges, they eventually got to the point where they could be more or less settled and dedicate themselves to their own respective avodah’s, but Yaakov never got a break. Yet Yaakov remained firmly dedicate to what he believed in. This is emet. Although it’s usually translated as ‘true’, emet is really a commitment to do what is right. Consider the following: Reuvein is being chased and his pursuer (who will harm him) asks which way he went. Although the ’true’ answer may be in one direction, because this is accurate, the correct approach – the emet – is to direct him in the opposite direction and save Reuvein from harm. Yaakov was so committed to studying Torah, that despite the challenges, he didn’t waver from his commitment. He didn’t give up on trying to do what is right, and for this reason, he personified emet. Elsewhere, HaRav Pinkus explains that it was actually because Yaakov was so committed to Torah that he experienced these challenges.: Chesed, has a limit, and fear most certainly does. Yet the Torah is an infinite wisdom and the more one accomplishes in it, the more he finds the need to grow more in its study. Therefore, Torah study cannot be approached like any other avodah. While there is a sense of accomplishment, there can never be a feeling of achievement. Yaakov likely knew this was so, and despite the fact that he yearned for peace of mind so he could completely devote himself to Torah study, the difficulties and challenges only strengthened his commitment to the truth. Life is full of difficulties that often present challenges to our ideals and commitments. Often, we fall under pressure. This is human nature. However, as descendants of Yaakov Avinu, it behooves us to try to remain faithful to our ideals despite the challenges.

By : Yesodot M’ha Sedra

halachot of chanuka

The Proper Time to Light Chanukah Candles

One should preferably light Chanukah candles immediately when the stars appear in the sky, which is approximately fifteen minutes after sunset during this time of year. Some Ashkenazim, however, customarily light at sunset.

The Earliest Possible Time to Light Chanukah Candles

Chanukah candles should not be lit before this time (with the exclusion of Friday afternoon when the candles must be lit before sunset, as will be explained in one of the following Halachot). Even one who is busy and cannot light at the appropriate time may not light before this time, for many of the Rishonim are of the opinion that one does not fulfill one’s obligation before this time, even if one has no other alternative. However, if one is about to set out on a journey and is worried that he will lose out on the Mitzvah of lighting the candles entirely, one may, in fact, light before sunset beginning from the time of Pelag Ha’Mincha (which is one-and-a-quarter seasonal hours before nightfall). Nevertheless, one may not recite the blessings before lighting, as the rule is “when in doubt regarding the blessing, do not bless.” In any case, it is preferable to appoint a messenger to light on one’s behalf and one will thus fulfill his obligation of lighting Chanukah candles in this way.

The Latest Possible Time to Light Chanukah Candles

Preferably, one should not light later than the prescribed time; rather, one should light immediately upon the emergence of stars in the sky. If one did not light at this time, one may still light until the time when most passerby are no longer found in the street (which is about half an hour after the preferred lighting time). Even if one has not yet lit by this time, one may still light afterwards, even if the hour is late, until dawn. However, in such a situation where one arrives home late and finds the members of his household sleeping, it is preferable to awaken at least some of the family members so that they may be present at the time of the lighting in order to publicize the miracle. If one is unable to wake them up though, one may nevertheless light the candles and recite the blessings.

The Time “The Stars Emerge” (Halachic Nightfall)

According to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, the time in Jerusalem when stars appear in the sky is at approximately 4:52 PM.

Motza’ei Shabbat when Chanukah candles are lit later, only once Shabbat has concluded; some even wait for nightfall according to Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion when lighting on Motza’ei Shabbat as we shall.

Praying Arvit vs. Lighting Chanukah Candles

Our custom is to pray Arvit before lighting Chanukah candles in one’s home. If one arrives home and has not yet prayed Arvit, Maran zt”l has ruled that one should go and pray Arvit first and only then light Chanukah candles, for praying Arvit takes precedence based on the rule that “the more frequent of two Mitzvot is performed first”; thus, Arvit is certainly more frequent than the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles which is only performed eight nights of the entire year. If one knows that by going out to look for a Minyan to pray Arvit, one will miss the proper time to light Chanukah candles, one should pray Arvit alone (without a Minyan) calmly and then light the candles. Many people have asked what the source for this ruling is in the works of Maran zt”l and the answer is that this was a verbal ruling offered by Maran zt”l to those who posed this question during his classes and is not written in any of his works.

simcha corner

This guy went to a liquor store Friday afternoon on my bicycle, bought a bottle of Scotch and put it in the bicycle basket.

As he was about to leave, he thought to myself that if he fell of the bicycle, the bottle would break.

So he drank all the Scotch before he cycled home.

It turned out to be a very good decision, because he fell off, the bicycle seven times on the way home.

Chanuka-Light and Darkness

We are told that the main miracle of Chanuka was that even though the one vile of pure oil that they found was enough only for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days until they could produce new, pure oil for use in the Menora. The question is, why was a miracle necessary when the halacha permits using even contaminated oil for the sacred service when pure oil is not available?

Perhaps the answer lies in what took place when G-d first created light. On the very first day of Creation the Torah tells us, “G-d saw the light was good, and G-d separated between the light and the darkness” (Gen. 1:4). The Midrash explains that prior to that Divinely ordered separation, light and darkness jointly served the world. G-d’s separation of the two created day and night. Rashi explains (ibid.) that since “G-d saw that the light was good”, it was not proper for light to be mixed together with the darkness. he therefore assigned one of them to the day and one to the night. Thus, from the beginning of time, light cannot coexist with darkness.

 The hellenists, whose reign is compared by the Midrash to the primeval darkness mentioned in the account of Creation, attempted to blend light with darkness. They did not destroy the bait hamikdash as did the babylonians before them and the Romans after them; nor did they did perpetrate the genocide planned by haman. Their sole aim was, as we say in our “Al Hanisim” prayer, to “cause us to forget our Torah and abandon our fulfillment of G-d’s commands” in order to accept their pagan, hellenistic culture.

 To accomplish this goal they selectively prohibited those mitzvot that principally set the Jew apart from them – shabbat, circumcision and the Jewish calendar of months and holidays. They made breaches in the walls of the beit hamikdash and contaminated its contents. All this was done in order to have the darkness of their paganism function alongside the light of Judaism.

Once this darkness was removed with the triumph of the Jewish forces, it was understood that there was no room left for any darkness, even in the form of contaminated oil. it is for this reason that G-d performed the miracle for the pure oil to last until a new supply was available.

The message of this miracle was relevant not only in those days, but in our own times as well. We must be careful to prevent the forces of darkness that are so prevalent in the world – lack of belief in G-d, immorality and violence – from infringing upon the pure light of a Torah lifestyle. in our kindling of the Chanuka lamps and in our daily lives we must uphold the Divine command “let there be light”, and ensure that it remain unadulterated by darkness!

Parsha Summary 

1st Aliya: In the year 2216, Yaakov was settled in Canaan. Yosef was 17 years old and Yaakov presented him with the multi-colored coat. Yosef related his two dreams to his brothers.

2nd Aliya: The brothers conspired to kill Yosef, but Reuven intervened. He suggested throwing Yosef into a pit to buy time, during which he would have been able to save Yosef.

3rd Aliya: During Reuven’s absence, Yehuda suggested selling Yosef into slavery. The brothers presented Yaakov with contrived evidence of Yosef’s death, and he was inconsolable.

4th Aliya: The story of Yehuda and Tamar is related. In the end, their first son, Peretz, is the ancestor of Mashiach.

5th Aliya: Yosef had been purchased by Potiphar and was quickly recognized for his managerial skills and integrity. He was appointed to run Potiphar’s household.

6th Aliya: Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Yosef, but Yosef withstood temptation and fled his mistress’s presence. He was thrown into the royal prison and was soon chosen by the warden to run the prison.

7th Aliya: Due to his managerial position, Yosef came in contact with the former royal wine steward and baker. He successfully interpreted their dreams and the wine steward was re-appointed to his position. Yosef asked the wine steward to intervene on his behalf with Pharaoh. In the year 2227, Yosef is 28 years old.