Yosef’s Lesson and Jewish Name Significance
1) Who Was Yosef Telling On?
Yosef brought bad reports to his father about his brothers. Ramban starts off by quoting Rashi who says that any bad Yosef would see in his brothers, the Bnei Leah, he would report to his father. He would not report anything about his other four brothers from Bilhaah and Zilpah. Ramban doesn’t like this p’shat because he says: If Yosef was only reporting the negative about the Bnei Leah, which Rashi says that he was reporting they were calling the other brothers “bnei hashefachos” why didn’t those four shevatim (Dan, Naftoli, Gad and Asher) defend Yosef and protect him?
You might say they were outnumbered, the Ramban says: No, if you do the math, so you have twelve shevatim, out of the Bnei Leah, Reuven wasn’t involved because he tried to save Yosef. You thus have Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulen, five brothers, who were Bnie Leah, being told on by Yosef. All the other brothers, Reuven, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, and obviously Yosef and Binyamin were not trying to sell Yosef, so why didn’t they stand up and protect him? Thus, Ramban brings down from the Midrash that, obviously, the p’shat is that Yosef was snitching and telling Yaakov negative things about all the brothers.
The Dreams Against All
The Re’em, Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi (1455 – 1525), was Chief Rabbi in Turkey and is always a great place to look for pshat in Rashi. He says that it might be true that Yosef wasn’t telling over anything negative to his father about the Bnei Hashefachos directly, however, in his dream Yosef told over that they all bowed to him. There were eleven stars that bowed to him, and so, the brothers didn’t like that. “Hameloch timloch aleinu, im mashol timshol banu” (Bereishis 37:8).
About All Them
There are other mefarshim that say that Rashi holds that one complaint Bnei Leah had was about them being snitched on for calling the others Bnei HeSefachos, but Yosef also told over that all the brothers were chashudin on ever min hachai, and they are looking at bnos ha’aretz and mezalzilim bnei hashefachos.
The Shelah has a p’shat which is interesting. He says that those three things, obviously, how do we say this about the Shivtei Kah that they were doing such bad aveiros? He explains that ever min hachai means that when you pull off a limb from something that should be there. Yosef was the ever min hachai. They were pulling off Yosef and trying to exclude him from being part of the twelve shevatim. Giloy arayos means that he accused them of being unfaithful to Knesses Yisrael. Mezalailim bnei hashefachos is just a bigger picture of them looking down on others and all the division between them. Yosef was complaining that his brothers were destroying the nation.
2) Yosef’s Job To Yaakov
Yosef was a “ben zekunim” (Bereishis 37:3), the son of his old age. Ramban says that of course back then there was a minhag of zekeinim that they would take one of their sons and designate him to be his person that would take care of him. He would hold you and make sure that you would stay on your feet, and Yaakov picked Yosef to have that job, that he saw that it would be fit for Yosef to have that job. And, yet the brothers were jealous. They didn’t like that.
3) Hashem’s Decree is Truth
Yosef went on his father’s command to go find his brothers, and he bumped into a man (Bereishis 37:15). Yosef was lost, and the man redirected him: I saw your brothers in Dosan; go there. Ramban, in one of his most famous lines, states that the posukim are very lengthy to tell us all the stories that even though Yosef was warned by this man who him: Your brothers are not happy with you. Maybe it’s not a good idea to go approach them, but, nevertheless, Yosef had his calculation that: My father told me to go, and so I’m going to go try to approach my brothers. “Lihodieinu ode ki hagezeira emes v’hachritzus sheker.” That which Hashem decrees is the ultimate truth, and will always happen. “V’hachritzus”, and any attempt to try to get away from what Hashem’s decree is “sheker”, it will never happen.
These are such powerful words in life where we try to go against the gezeira, and we try to outsmart Hashem. And, we sometimes think: Well, what if? Or, maybe. We start bargaining in our mind that maybe we had a different way. Maybe we had something else happen, but, ultimately, anyone that tries to underdo Hashem’s will is one that ultimately brings it out. But, the more we recognize this.
Your Current Situation
You could learn so much by studying Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar HaBitachon who talks all about this. Any situation that we’re in in life is a gezeira emes. Yeah, it’s true that part of the gezeira that Hashem gives is that we need to do our hishtadlus to try to fix situations that are negative. Fix situations that are paining us or other people, but whatever situation that we’re in right now, that’s the gezeira, and that’s emes. And, the “charitzus”, anything that we think should change it, could change it is “sheker”. It’s simply not true. Only the Rebono Shel Olam decides when something is fit to change and when something will change.
Ramban shows that Yosef could not be dissuaded because Hashem had a plan and the plan was that this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to show up here and your brothers are going to sell you down into slavery and we’re going down to Egypt and nobody’s going to fight that. “Anus al pi hadibur,” like we say in the haggaddah. Hashem forced them, and they didn’t have a choice but to comply with His Decree.
The Rebonno Shel Olam bops us on the head many times in life, and says: This is the situation that you’re going to be in, now let’s deal with it the best way that we can because the Rebonno Shel Olam only knows what is best for us. Chovos HaLevavos states such powerful words at the end of Sha’ar HaBitachon that the real boteiach baHashem says: I never woke up one day to a situation that wasn’t exactly what I knew Hashem wanted for me, and, therefore, I didn’t want anything else.
Now, this doesn’t mean that he didn’t have feelings and pain and that he didn’t have a chiyuv of hishtadlus to try to make his situation better. If he was unemployed he would look for a job. If someone was trying to hurt him, he would protect himself. If something was going wrong, he would try to correct it with his hishtadlus – that’s part of the chiyuv. But, nevertheless, the recognition and understanding that the Rebono Shel Olam knows and sees the exact intrecate details of whatever is going on in my life, that’s the most important yesod of “hafezeira emes v’hachritzus sheker.” What powerful words of the Ramban.
4) The Naming of Yehuda’s children
Yehuda has his sons Eir and Onan (Bereishis 38:3), and what’s interesting is that Ramban says Yehuda called his son Eir from the expression: Ora es gevurasicha, awaken your strength. His wife named the second one Onan, and the pasuk doesn’t tell us why. Why doesn’t it explain why she named him or what she had in mind.
Ramban says that because she had trouble in her labor and many women will call their children by the name that signifies their trouble in labor, therefore, Onan means lashon of affliction. Ramban brings down also, just like we have Yaivetz, when he was born his mother called him Yaivetz because “ki yaladiti b’atzeiv” he was born with a sad demeanor.
Rav Yaakov Emden and His Name
The famous Yaavetz, Rav Yaakov Emden (1697 – 1776) who was the son of the Chacham Tzvi, was a very, very prolific and fascinating man. In his introduction to Shaylas Yaavetz, he says that his father taught him how to learn and he named it Yaavetz because it has his name, Yud-Alef-Beis-Tzadi, Yaakov Emden ben Tzvi. His father, the Chacham Tzvi (Rav Tzvi Ashkenazi, 1656 – 1718) was called Chacham Tzvi because his name was Tzvi ben Yaakov (Tzadi-Beis-Yud). When Yaakov was a young boy he asked his father if he would also have an acronym and his father said that when he gets older and writes seforim he would be called Yaavetz.
Yaavetz writes a very fascinating thing. My mother was suffering from depression when I was born, and he writes that I had a very, very difficult upbringing, and that I feel that I have applied that pasuk, “ki yaladiti b’atzeiv” that a lot of my life has had that.
It’s just a fascinating comment that he writes in his introduction to Shaylos Yaavetz. We’ve mentioned here many times that our own emotional things that we go through have an impact on ourselves, and people around us. This word of Onan that the mother named because of the trouble that she went through in the labor is actually a very, very significant name that gets us thinking about being careful about what we imbue in our children and recognizing how our children pick up our emotional things as well. In the positive and the negative. Some food for thought.
Eir was Named for Future
Ramban brings down Bereishis Rabbah that “Eir” is “shehu eir min haolam.” He sinned (with Tamar), and he was removed from the world. His name was based on the future. Ramban says whenever a child is named, he is given a certain tendency
Shelah’s Naming by his Mother
There’s an interesting comment brought down in a number of mefarshim (Bereishis 38:5). Ramban actually doesn’t agree with it, but it’s just an interesting comment that I want to point out. It says, “Vatikra es shemo Sheilah.” She named the baby Sheilah, and then “v’hayah b’kiziv bliditah oso”, Yehuda was in Kiziv, when the baby was born. Radak (quoted by Ramban here) brings down that says that the father used to name the first child, the bechor, and the mother used to name the second child. That’s why it says in the pasuk here, “Vayikra es shmo”. He called the baby the first name, Eir. Then the second time it says, “Vatikreh”, she named the baby Onan. The third time it says, “Vatikra”, she named the baby as well, so the pasuk has to explain that normally Yehuda should have named the third child, however, Yehuda was away when the baby was born, therefore she got to name the baby.
However, the Ramban says, “V’ein bazeh ta’am o’ reiach”,and this is not the correct p’shat, and I’m not quite sure exactly why the Ramban doesn’t like it because it’s a fascinating p’shat, and the Tur al peirush haTOrah also brings down. The Tur liked to defend the Ramban and explain the Ramban as well, but he brings it down. There certainly is some source for this or at least switching off in naming or, perhaps, sometimes people think that the mother should name the first child because she put in a lot effort to bring the child into the world, of course, and to be makir tov for that, and, of course, everyone should always talk to their Rav and talk to each other and make sure that everyone is comfortable with the situation.
5) Yibum before Matan Torah
Ramban (Bereishis 38:8) explains that this aspect of Yibum was going on when Yehuda married Tamar, who was actually his daughter-in-law because he explains that since before Matan Torah it was perfectly allowed, but more-so, they knew a lot of the Torah because they learned it. The chachamim hakadmonim knew before the Torah that there was great toeles, a great benefit in doing Yibum, and, therefore, they wanted to make sure to do Yibum as well, and before Matan Torah Yibum could be performed not just by a brother, but by anyone.
6) The Names Peretz and Zarach
Peretz and Zarech, the two sons of Yehudah who came from Tamar are in our parsha (Bereishis 38:28) Peretz who was the great-great-great grandfather of Dovid, where the meluchah comes from, Yehuda’s the melech, but, specifically, the line comes from Peretz, and it’s brought down that a melech is “poreitz la’asos geder”, and here it’s the levanah, the moon is “nifretzes l’itim” sometimes the moon is hit, sometimes the moon is waxing and waning, but eventually it will shine. Zarach is named ‘shining’ because of the chamah, the sun, which is zorachas, and so we see again that, just like the gemara in Rosh Hashana says that when they were mekadeish the levanah they would say: David melech Yisrael chai v’kayam. There’s a specific lesson of humility that connects the moon to the Davidic dynasty of humility and connection to Hashem, but there’s also a hint to the sun which shows that the two will be equal eventually.
Chazal say that the moon was diminished during maasei Bereishis because “Ein shtei melachim mishtamshim bekeser echad.” That’s nowadays, the moon was be mismaeit itself, but it’s a pegam because it’s trying to reflect Hashem, just like our neshamos try to reflect Hashem, and there’s a pegam in Olam Hazeh that we can’t fully reflect, just like the Ramchal explains in Derech Hashem, so too, we try to be that moon that reflects Hashem as much as possible. “B’chol dirachecha daeihu.” In everything that we do we try to connect in Hashem.
7) Yosef’s Interpretation of Dreams
Yosef was in jail in the end of the parsha, and he speaks to the butler and the baker and he tells the baker that I’m sorry to tell you, you’re going to die (Bereishis 40:7). Why does the pasuk tell us this? Because Yosef was a tremendous talmid chacham and he was fully reliant on Hashem, and he knew that, he understood how to read dreams and he knew that Torah, and, therefore, he relied on his Torah and he relied on telling him that because had the baker survived, he was a powerful person in Pharaoh’s court, and this was a big trial, and had the baker survived, there’s no doubt that he would have killed Yosef and had him executed.
The fact that Yosef told the butler that he would survive, that didn’t have so much meaning, but the fact that he told the baker that he was going to be executed that showed a big risk on Yosef’s part, but Yosef was not afraid to take that risk because he understood that this is Torah and this is the chochamah, and if we understand the Torah and we understand the chochmah, then we’re allowed to share it with others.