This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeishev (5760)
This week's Torah Section relates the strange and tragic story of ten brothers, the righteous sons of our patriarch Yisroel, whose hatred was so intense that it drove them to attempt the cold-blooded murder of their own seventeen-year-old brother.
What could have been the motivation for such a heinous crime? What would drive ten intelligent, G-d fearing, Jewish men to want to slaughter their innocent younger brother? The Torah does not try to hide the bewildering and ugly truth: "Yosef spoke badly of his brothers to their father (and nevertheless), Yisroel (their father) loved Yosef more than his brothers…and he made him a beautiful coat. And when the brothers saw that his father loved him more, they hated him."
So they hated him for these three embarrassingly weak reasons: 1) He told his father bad things about them (which in this case happened to be a mitzvah!) 2) His father loved him more 3) His father gave him a nice coat!!
The first question we can ask is; why did Yisroel, his father, favor him when he knew it would cause him trouble?
[From this is even derived a law in the Talmud (Shabbos pg 10) (and a lesson in child psychology) that it is forbidden to favor one sibling over the other!]
Second; why didn't Yisroel try to stop the hatred? Why didn't he attempt to calm the storm? The Torah even tells us "His (Yosef's) brothers hated him, and his father just watched and waited"!
Third; can it be that all of the ten holy sons of Jacob lost control? That not even one would be a bit more calm and logical and try to assuage the hatred of the others?
(Although later on, Reuven did object to the death penalty but then it was too late)
But fourth and even more amazing is; why does the Torah tell us all this embarrassing information, and in such embarrassing detail?
Let us go straight to the answer, and then try to understand it:
The reason that Yosef's brothers hated him to the point of murder was…because he was DIFFERENT.
In Hebrew it's called Sinat Chinum, literally 'hatred with no reason at all'
In fact, this was to be the root for all the unwarranted hatred within the Jewish people that would later cause the destruction of our Holy Temple and plague the Jewish people until this very day.
Now this is really a very deep thing: How can there be hatred for 'no reason'? Doesn't everyone that hates someone else have some reason for doing so (unless, of course, he is completely insane)?. Perhaps it may be a wrong or a childish reason, but it is not 'no reason at all'? What does it mean 'no reason at all'? <p>
The answer is, that Sinat Chinum means that you hate the person because he is different from you; because you don't like the way that G-d made him. That's how it begins, with just a feeling of hatred even though the other fellow is no threat to you.
In other words, you have no real reason at all, you just hate him because he exists and he is not you, and afterwards you find a reason. (I even know of one Rabbi that preached hatred against a certain group of Chassidic Jews for over twenty years until he found what he thought to be a good reason!)
But how can this apply in our case? The brothers of Yosef were all 'Tzadikim' holy men?
Strangly enough that was exactly their problem. They couldn't understand that Yosef was even more G-dly than they themselves.
The word Tzadik means more than just a holy, spiritual man, it implies a G-dly man, a person who is connected to the Creator Himself, and who is concerned only with fulfilling the purpose of creation. Therefore the tzadik is called 'Yesod Olom' "The foundation of the world", because his work unifies and reveals G-d's purpose in His world. This was hinted at in the dream of Yosef when he saw the ten brothers gathering stalks of grain in the field into bundles and their bundles bowed down to his. The separate stalks represent the disorganization and meaningless confusion of this world, and the bundles the brothers made represent the unity and meaning brought into the world by the tzadikim.<p>
But Yosef was different and it angered his brothers. They knew that they were tzadikim and that the world depended on them. They reasoned that if Yosef is trying to make them bow and become negated to him, he must be a threat to the welfare of the world, and so they couldn't bear the sight of him.
What they didn't know was that Yosef was the first of a new level of Jew; Yosef was not just a Tzadik, he was a Rebbe, a King, and the forerunner to the Moshiach. He would be the first Jew to provide spiritually and physically for ALL the Jewish people (and for all the non-Jews of world as well) as he did later in Egypt.
His job was to unify all the work of all the tzadkim, and unify not just parts of creation -in the world- as they did, but the entire creation -the entire world. This is the meaning of the end of that same dream when all the ten bundles made by the brothers bowed down to Yosef's bundle.
This is also alluded to in the first meeting between Yosef and his brothers thirteen years later after he had been saved from death and prison, and was now a King in Egypt. The Torah relates, apparently superfluously, that: "Yosef recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him". <p>
It is no wonder that they didn't recognize him; he had become a King, and a full-bearded, middle-aged man. But the Torah is telling us here an additional thing; that they could not recognize or even relate to the spiritual level that he was on, they couldn't imagine that a person could be as devoted to G-d as Yosef obviously was, and still be so involved in the world as the ruler of Egypt had to be. The brothers as well as the forefathers in order to concentrate on serving The Creator and maintain their level of devotion, had to be shepherds, separated from the disturbances of the world. <p>
In fact not only Yosef , but almost all the prophets and leaders of the Jewish people after him suffered from the same problem; although they looked and acted more or less like every other holy person, but really they were something different altogether, and because they were different the people hated them. <p>
That was Korach's argument against Moshe "Everyone is holy, why do you act superior". So it was with Abshalom and Dovid's other enemies; they could not accept that Dovid was G-d's appointed. In fact Dovid even wrote a book dealing with the problem, the name of the book is "T'hillim" 'Psalms'. In other words King Dovid is telling us that there is no cure for 'Sinat Chinom' other than to pray to G-d for mercy and divine intervention, because such hatred lies at the essence of human nature.
This, then, is why Yaakov didn't try to dissuade his sons from their hatred; he knew that it couldn't help. In fact he himself did not fully understand the highness of Josef. <p>
But he did understand enough to give him the mantle of rulership, the aforementioned 'beautiful coat'.
This, then, is the reason that their hatred was sparked by Yosef's new coat; the coat accentuated his uniqueness and made him even more different than he already was.
A story, which I think illustrates this, is told about the successor of the Baal-Shem- Tov; the Magid (Rabbi Dov Ber) of Mezeritch:
When the Baal Shem departed this world his son took over the leadership of the Chassidim. After a year his father came to him in a dream and requested that he give the leadership to the Magid. But when the Magid himself heard of this he refused the position, saying that all the Chassidim of the Baal Shem were tzadikim and he was certainly no different. The Chassidim then produced the coat of the Baal Shem and told him to wear it. The story goes that the moment he put it on he became totally elevated and transformed into another person, something higher than a tzadik, he was now in the place of the Baal Shem Tov himself.
Just as Yosef was the first Jew to meet the problem of causeless hatred, the Moshiach will be the last and one of his most difficult tasks will be to eradicate it.
(That is one of the reasons that the books of Chassidus Chabad are called 'Torat Ha Moshiach', because they educate toward loving every Jew, the opposite of and the cure for Sinat Chinum)
In fact this problem is so severe that although religious Jews pray for the Moshiach scores of times every day nevertheless it will be nothing short of a miracle if they want him when he comes, because he will be too different. As the first Rebbe of Chabad, after being imprisoned and nearly executed for the same reasons as Yosef, said to one of his disappointed enemies (a very religious Jew, as were all his opposition) "The Moshiach that you want will never come, and the Moshiach that will come, you won't want."
Therefore, (get ready for this one), the Moshiach might have to actually come from the 'dead'! (Also see Rashi's commentary near the very end of the Book of Daniel 12: 12)
This weird idea is explained in one of the volumes of the encyclopedic work 'Sdai Chemed'. There the author, Rabbi Chiam Midini, explains the passage in the Gemora "Sanhedren" which discusses the apparently contradicting prophetic statements one stating that the Moshiach will come riding on a donkey (Zacharia ch. 9) and the other (Daniel ch.7) that he will be floating on the clouds. He explains something like this:<p>
If the generation is not meritorious then the Moshiach will come on a donkey i.e. from the living, ('donkey' -chamor- is the same word for 'physical') and people won't accept him because they won't recognize his true miraculous nature, therefore they are called 'not meritorious'. <p>
But if the generation is lucky, the Moshiach will come on 'clouds' i.e. he will come from the 'dead', and then everyone will have no choice but to follow him.
This also explains another wondrous thing about Yosef; he didn't do any miracles! You would think that as a Biblical character and a representative of G-d he should have thrown in a few miracles to impress his Egyptian captors, like showing the power of the L-rd and making the prison disappear or miraculously feeding the hungry masses in the years of famine. <p>
But no, he only explained dreams. First his own, then those of his fellow prisoners and finally those of Pharaoh. <p>
The reason for this is that miracles don't really cause people to change themselves; they still look at the world like human beings i.e. interested mainly in themselves. We see, for instance, that after Moshe did all the ten plagues and the miracles in the desert; the manna etc., the people didn't really change much, if at all. <p>
What Yosef, as the forerunner of Moshiach, wanted to do was something really different, to make people change themselves, to look at the world from the Creator's point of view.
The work of the Moshiach is to explain dreams. The entire period of 'exile' is like a dream; confused reality. In a dream one can be in two places, or two people, or alive and dead simultaneously. The Moshiach will come to wake everyone up to their true identities and their true abilities. He will teach ('force', if you will) mankind to look at themselves not from their own confused standpoint but from the viewpoint of their Creator, just as Yosef clarified the dreams of Pharaoh in order to utilize the potential in Egypt and save the entire world.
This is what the Zohar means when it says that the Moshiach will make the Tzadikim do 'Tshuva' (repent); namely that even the most righteous of Jews will realize that he has to completely change his consciousness and attitude in order to grasp what a Jew really is. That is why Yosef did not take revenge or even get angry with his brothers for acting naturally; he realized that his was the beginning of the work of Moshiach, to broaden and renew the entire consciousness of the Jewish people, and through them that of all mankind, in order to make the entire world into heaven on earth with the arrival of....
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