סדר וישב

הבא נבא אני ואמך ואחיך להשתחות לך ארצה

Are we to come, I and your mother and your brothers, to bow low to you to the ground?

Genesis 37:10

Rashi explains:

He did not grasp that the reference was to Bilhah who had brought up Joseph as though she were his mother. But our Rabbis inferred from here that there is no dream without some misinformation, so that, in saying this to Joseph, Jacob tried to make his sons disregard the whole dream and not be jealous of Joseph, suggesting that, just as it was impossible that the dream concerning his mother would be fulfilled, so the rest of the dream would also not be fulfilled.

Many have asked why, in his first explanation, Rashi says that Jacob did not understand that the reference in the dream was to Bilhah. Was it not possible that Jacob, like the Rabbis, understood that the dream referred to Bilhah, but he just wanted to persuade his sons to dismiss the dream entirely while he himself believed that it might indeed come true?

Our master resolved the difficulty by explaining that the interpretation of the Rabbis that what Jacob told Joseph was merely intended to persuade the brothers to disregard the dream was based on the subsequent Scriptural passage (37:11) “ואביו שמר את הדבר” (but his father kept the matter in mind), which implies that Jacob did believe in the veracity of the dream.

However, one who examines the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 84) on which Rashi based his first explanation will see that the Midrash interprets the words “ואביו שמר את הדבר” to mean that Jacob was instructed by the Holy Spirit (רוח הקדש) to keep the matter in mind, informing him that the dream would indeed come to pass. In his commentary on the Midrash, the Maharaz writes that the Midrash inferred that Jacob was informed by the Holy Spirit that the dream would come to pass, because the Scripture wrote “שמר את הדבר” (the matter) instead of “שמר את החלום” (the dream). Jacob kept the matter in mind, because he was told that it would come to pass, not because he had,, himself believed the dream to be true. But in that case, it would have been unnecessary to say that Jacob rebuked Joseph only so that his other sons would disregard the dream, because Jacob himself disregarded the dream until he was informed afterwards by the Holy Spirit that the dream would indeed come to pass. It was only after the dream was confirmed by the Holy Spirit that it became necessary to interpret it in a way that upheld its veracity.

However, those Rabbis that deduced from this dream that no dream is without some misinformation explained the words “ואביו שמר את הדבר” according to their plain meaning rather than as a reference to a communication from the Holy Spirit. For if we assume that Jacob received a communication from the Holy Spirit, then what he kept in mind was not just a dream, in which case “הדבר” cannot be understood to refer only to the dream itself. For if “הדבר” referred only to the dream, how could Jacob have kept the matter in mind unless he knew that every dream contains some misinformation? Jacob must therefore have known that all dreams have some incorrect statement, so that his rebuke of Joseph must have been motivated only by his desire to persuade his other sons to dismiss the dream. (שביבי אש)

וימצאהו איש והנה תעה בשדה וישאלהו האיש לאמר מה תבקש

A man came upon him wandering in the fields. The man asked him, “What are you looking for?”

Genesis 37:15

Rashi writes that the man was Gabriel, as it is written “והאיש גבריאל” (and the man Gabriel). See how the Siftei Hakhamim proved that the word “איש” (man) in this verse could not be understood in its usual meaning, and the Scripture must therefore have been referring to an angel.

But our master explains that the simple meaning of the verse implies that the word “איש” must refer to an angel, because Joseph was searching for his brothers, looking all over to find where they were tending sheep. It would therefore have been expected that Joseph would initiate contact with the man to ask him if he had seen Joseph’s brothers. So the Scripture ought to have written “וימצא יוסף איש וישאלהו על אחיו” (and Joseph found a man and asked him about his brothers). Instead, the Scripture writes that the man found Joseph, engaging Joseph in conversation, asking “מה תבקש?” (what are you seeking?). Only then did Joseph ask him where his brothers were tending sheep. The sequence of the conversation shows that the man was an angel who saw, but was not seen by, Joseph until he revealed himself by asking Joseph “what are you seeking?” (שביבי אש)

והבור רק אין בו מים

The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Genesis 37:24

The Ba’al ha-Turim comments that in the Masoretic tradition (מסורה) there are two instances in which “רק” (empty) is used in the Scripture: this verse and Deuteronomy 32:47 “כי לא דבר ריק הוא מכם” (for it is not an empty –trifling — thing for you).

Our master suggests that the connection between the two verses to which the Ba’al ha-Turim is referring is based on the explanation of the Sages (Jerusalem Talmud Pe’ah 1:1) on that verse: it is not an empty (trifling or random) thing for you, but (אם ריק הוא) if it is (or seems) empty or trifling, it is empty, then it is empty because of you (מכם) — because you have failed to grasp its significance. For the Eternal alone performs great wonders, which are beyond human comprehension, and often even the beneficiary of a miracle is unaware of the miracle performed in his behalf. because someone for whom a wonder is performed often fails to recognize that what has happened is a wonder (Nidah 31a). But it is incumbent on a person to one must believe that every step we take is supported by God, and that nothing is accomplished without Divine Providence. This is the meaning of the words “כי לא דבר ריק הוא”. And if, nevertheless, it seems empty to you, then it is only “מכם” (because of you) that it seems so, because you perceive nothing with your senses, but it is God’s hand that controls all. 

Now it was Reuben who suggested casting Joseph into the pit, intending to save him from his brothers and return him to his father, on the assumption that the pit was empty and that no harm or injury would befall Joseph there. But it was not so, there being cobras and vipers in the edges of the pit not seem by Reuben there were narrow holes and hidden lairs that were unseen by Reuben. But God saved Joseph from all the dangers, without these hidden miracles being known to the Brothers. This is Masoretic tradition cited by the Ba’al ha-Turim: For nothing is empty or trifling in the view of the Eternal. And even if something appears empty or trifling in your eyes and is unseen by human eyes, you should know that it was done by the hand of God. And the proof of this is that the pit into which Joseph was cast was empty, but empty only of water, but vipers and scorpions were in it. (שביבי אש)

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