Parshas Vayeishev

December 07, 2012
23 Kislev, 5773

Parshas Vayeishev
Candle-lighting Time: 4:17 PM

This week’s edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of Barbara Snyder and all her hard work organizing the Israel Art Show.


  • Art Show! Come support Israel and TJE this Wed-Sun at Buckingham Village across from Costco on Havanah.
  • Chanukah starts with the first candle this Saturday night.
  • Go to Israel! Men’s Mission April 21-29. Family Mission June 9-18

Food, Food, Food

by Rabbi Raphael Leban

A plate of sticky, jelly-filled donuts; tender, juicy roast beef with succulent gravy; fresh sliced peaches covered in cream and sugar. Now that I have your attention, I want to discuss an incredible incident from this week’s parsha.

In Parshas Vayeishev we read the narrative of the heinous sale of Joseph by his brothers. I will not attempt to explain the reasons why such holy people would do such a terrible thing, it is beyond the scope of this short vort. (Besides, there isn’t enough time between now and lunch.) However, what is even more incredible is that afterwards the Torah records that they sat down to eat!

Is our love of food really so fundamental to our national character? After throwing their brother in a pit, with his desperate cries for help still ringing in their ears, it’s time for supper? Even if we posit that they felt getting rid of Joseph was the right thing to do, should they be throwing a dinner party about it? And why does the Torah have to tell us that they ate? (Of course, that question we could answer—the Torah just wants to get our attention.)

Explains the Bnei Yissasschar, people are just not themselves when they’re hungry. They’re much more prone to anger. If you come home after a long day, you missed lunch and are late for dinner, it doesn’t take but a few words from your roommate/spouse/kids before you boil over and let him/her/them have it.

The brothers were worried that their decision to get rid of Joseph was based in anger. They therefore sat down promptly to eat and see if their anger dissipated along with their hunger. Perhaps it’s a lesson for us to make sure and grab a quick bite before we get home at the end of a long day. And perhaps that’s why we Jews are so consumed with food, it’s the secret to keeping our cool.

Age-Old Wisdom

by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

This parsha contains one of the most difficult to understand events in the lives of our Patriarchs, the clash between Yosef and his brothers. Yosef related to his father three specific sins that his siblings were transgressing and this led to an all-out battle between them. Yaakov seemed to side with Yosef and this alarmed the other brothers, since they felt that he was trying to deprive them of their share of building the future Jewish nation. Although we accept that Yosef acted with full awareness of the ramifications, could there not have been another approach to the situation?

Sforno comments that the Torah refers to Yosef as a young person, a naar. Is there some significance to this particular appellation? He suggests that due to Yosef’s young age he erred when he mentioned his brothers’ wrongdoings to his father. Even though Yosef was an extremely perceptive individual, he did not fully grasp the results of his accusations. As we know, when he became older, Yosef saved the entire Egyptian empire and the surrounding countries from starvation. Due to his expert interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, he was able to advise the Egyptians as to how to prepare for this eventual crisis. Nonetheless, at this point in his life he was still unable to evaluate the situation accurately and to avoid causing the eventual strife which led to his sale into slavery and his father’s years of grief and heartache. If he would have restrained himself and not made those comments to Yaakov, perhaps the entire episode of slavery would not have occurred, if one may entertain such a thought. The question is difficult to answer but this particular route to slavery in Egypt possibly could have been avoided.

The concept that we should defer to the judgment of elders before the reckless advice of youth is unto itself a valid approach to life. Too often we are led astray by the advice of younger consultants when we should have heeded the sage counsel of older, more experienced authorities. Especially in today’s society with the emphasis on maintaining a youthful approach to life, frequently the older generation is ignored or their comments are not taken with the appropriate measure of gravity.

A perfect illustration of this point is the famous story that we read in the Hagaddah every year. The great Sage Reb Elazar ben Azariah became the presiding leader of the Jewish nation at a very young age, seventeen years old, the same age that Yosef was when he derided his siblings for their shortcomings. There was a concern that the people would not respect Reb Elazar due to his young age and therefore his hair turned white in order that he should gain the respect of his generation upon his new appointment. Obviously, the people were not apt to honor him as their new leader and therefore miraculously, his hair turned white so that he would gain the respect of the generation.

We are on the eve of the Festival of Chanukah. We were outnumbered, outgunned and not trained as combatants. Yet, our small ragtag army defeated the most powerful military machine in the world at that time. Our commander in chief was not someone who had trained at West Point nor was he a former Navy Seal; he was an elderly Torah Sage that trusted that Hashem would help the Jewish nation defeat their evil adversary. And so it was that Torah and its purity won the day and defeated our nemesis, all due to the foresight and understanding of an elderly Torah Sage.

Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from

Dreams are very central to the Torah portion this week. To what extent should one’s actions be affected by dreams?  The Talmud in Sanhedrin (30a) states that one who dreams that his father left money somewhere, and that the money was sanctified as tithes, need not worry, and may use the money.  However, the Talmud in Nedarim (8b), says that one who dreamt that he was excommunicated must seek a court to release him from the ban. Rabbi Asher Weiss cites a number of resolutions to this conflict. The first (Tashbetz) maintains that dreams constitute a legal doubt. In the case of money, to extract money from the owner requires evidence and hence the son may keep the money. In the case of a prohibition, one must be stringent in a doubt and hence must seek a release.  Another possibility (Rabeinu Nissim) is that information in a dream may be discounted, but a ban of excommunication performed in a dream is not merely information but is indeed a form of (heavenly) excommunication and cannot be ignored  (Minchat Asher, Genesis Section 50:1,3).

Joke of the Week

Q: How many surgeons does it take to do a circumcision?

A: Four skin doctors.


The purpose of the Menorah in the Holy Temple was not to provide light for the people. It was a mitzvah, an opportunity to fulfill God’s command. If there wasn’t any oil, we would have been exempt from the mitzvah. Why was it necessary to miraculously supply us with a flask of oil in order to light the Menorah? God was showing us that since we were so anxious to perform His mitzvah, He would give us with the means to do so. It is a lesson for all generations. When we desire to do what God commands us to, He will orchestrate things so that we will be able to perform His mitzvos and serve Him.