Skip to content


TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayeshev

Parshat Vayeshev

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Vayeshev
21st of Kislev, 5778 | December 9, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
The Most Important Words

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:18) tells us, “He [Rabbi Akiva] used to say: Beloved is man who was created in the image of G-d. It is an even greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in the image of G-d.” What does this mean?

Imagine a poor man who has a bank account with just a few dollars deposited. He has not looked if he has made any money in thirty years. One day, a friend of his secretly goes to his bank and deposits one million dollars into his account. The poor man, however, has no idea that his friend just made him a millionaire. He still roams the streets and wears dirty clothing. He never considers checking his account because he never dreams that someone would ever give him so much money.

Now comes the question. Is this man a millionaire? He has no idea he has the money, he is living like a beggar and he will continue to live like a beggar for the rest of his life. The answer is that he may be worth a million dollars, but he is mentally a poor man.

The Mishnah teaches that Hashem not only showed us His love because He created us in His image, but he displayed extra love by telling us that He did so. If G-d would have created us with the potential of reaching such lofty spiritual levels, but never informed us of such potential, we would never live up to that greatness.

The same is true, continues the Mishnah, about the Jewish people at large. “The Jewish nation is beloved by G-d for they are called His children. It is an even greater love that it was made known to them that they are His children.” It makes the greatest difference when we are not only loved, but are told that we are loved.

A number of years ago, a very affluent, elderly gentleman approached me after I had spoken in Florida. I took one look at him and noticed that his eyes were full of tears. “Rabbi Wallerstein,” he said, “let me tell you something. My mother had eight children before the Holocaust. But then, so abruptly, she lost them all along with her husband. Her entire family was gone. She was devastated.

“Following the war, she came to America and married my father and had me. I was raised as a single child, but that only went so far. Never in my entire life did I ever hear my mother tell me, ‘I love you.’ I always wished to hear those loving words escape from her mouth, but they never did.

“Three days before she passed away, I sat with her in the hospital. Unexpectedly, she turned to me and said, ‘Hershel, there is something I never told you.’ As she said those words, I leaned over in my seat, waiting so eagerly to hear what she had to say. ‘Hershel, I am so proud of you.’

“Rabbi Wallerstein,” the man continued, “there was one day in my life where I made close to one hundred million dollars on a deal. I thought it was the most important day of my life. But in fact, it was nothing compared to the day my mother told me, ‘I am so proud of you.’ Those few words which my mother uttered to me before she passed away were more valuable than anything else I’ve ever had in my life. That was my biggest and best day of my life.

“Whenever you get up to speak,” this man said to me, “tell mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers to tell their children and grandchildren that they are proud of them and they love them. When children know that, then no matter what happens in a child’s life, those feelings will warm their heart and carry them through.”

R’ Akiva, the author of this Mishnah, lived a very difficult life and experienced an even more painful death at the hands of the Romans. Yet he is the one who tells us about love. “You want to know what love is?” says R’ Akiva. “Love is when you tell somebody how you feel about them.”

The most important words which can be said to a spouse, a child or a grandchild are “I love you” and “I’m proud of you.” Especially in a marriage, even if your spouse knows that you love them, it makes all the difference when you express it to them. When a wife tells her husband, “I am so proud of you. You work so hard for our family and we all so greatly appreciate it,” he skips into his car and heads off to work elated and energized. And when a husband tells his wife, “Thank you for everything you do for our family; I love you,” she feels happy, cared for, valued and beloved.

The same is with our children. When a parent’s love and belief in their child is felt so deeply, the child is capable of weathering any challenge which comes his or her way. Just consider the life of Yosef HaTzaddik.

Nobody in the entire Torah had a better reason to give up on life than Yosef. First, his brothers tried to kill him. Then they sold him into slavery into the lowliest land of Egypt and into the most decadent home of Potiphar and his wife, who libeled him. Yosef is all by himself without any care or support and nobody knows where he is.

Yet, despite all odds stacked against him, he didn’t give way to the pressures and advances of Potiphar’s wife. “Va’y’maein Yosef,” “But Yosef adamantly refused…” He emphatically rejected anything and everything Potiphar’s wife did to try to seduce him. But how did he do it? How was he able to so firmly repulse her with unwavering resolve when nothing was going for him?

In Parshas Vayeshev, there is one other instance where the word Va’y’maein is used. “Va’y’maein l’hisnachem,” “And Yaakov refused to be comforted…” Yaakov Avinu refused to believe his sons when they returned with a jacket full of blood and reported that Yosef had been attacked by an animal and torn to pieces. “I invested so much into Yosef, and now you are telling me he is dead! I won’t believe it until you show me his dead body!” Yaakov would not give in to believing that Yosef was dead.

And there was Yosef, hundreds of miles away, alone, lonely, and facing threats from the wife of Potiphar. But, he did have one thing. He had the knowledge that his father believed in him and loved him. “I know that my father, Yaakov, will never give up on me! I don’t know what my brothers are telling him, but I do know that until I am dead and he sees my body, he will refuse to be comforted!”

The Va’y’maein expressed by Yaakov was echoed by Yosef because Yosef knew that if his father refused to be comforted, he could refuse to give way to any pressures and challenges he faced in life.

Parent and grandparents must never underestimate how important it is for a child to hear the words, “I love you.” Let your children know, “No matter how far away you are and how deep you are in your darkest corner and darkest moment, you have a mother and father who will never, ever give up on you.” When a child hears those words, you can rest assured that the child will make it. They will come out from underneath against all odds and weather through the toughest and roughest of life’s challenges. And it is all because their parents love them, believe in them, and refuse to give up on them no matter what ever happens.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Moments of Opportunity

While Moshe was a poor man, he immensely loved one holiday: Sukkos. For six months in advance, he would set aside a large sum of money and anticipate the day when he would be able to buy a beautiful esrog. But one year, matters didn’t work out quite as expected.

It had been a cold winter and most, if not all, of the esrogim trees had withered away due to frost, causing the budding esrogim to shrivel. The one esrog which was made available to the city came from a man who was selling it for five-thousand rubles. But Moshe was far from being able to afford it. With no other resort, Moshe came to terms with the unfortunate fact that this would be his first Sukkos without a beautiful esrog.

It was the morning before the first night of Sukkos. As Moshe removed his tallis and unwrapped his tefillin, he began thinking to himself, “How can I go through a Sukkos without an esrog? It can’t be! But where will I find five-thousand rubles?” Moshe was at a lost with what to do. But, shortly thereafter, he came up with the following idea.

“When will I next need my tefillin? In a week from now. Let me therefore sell my tefillin now and then purchase a beautiful esrog with the money!” Sold by the idea, Moshe immediately set out to buy a beautiful esrog from the neighboring town, after which he happily returned home.

As we walked through the front door of his house, he ran into the kitchen to meet his wife and relay the wonderful news. But, she was nowhere to be found at the moment. Figuring that she must be out of the house and would soon be returning, Moshe placed the esrog on the counter for his wife to see immediately upon entering the kitchen. And with that, Moshe headed outside to finish constructing his sukkah.

Some time later, after Moshe’s wife returned home, Moshe finished working on the sukkah and reentered the house. And there, in the kitchen, he met his wife. “Hinda!” Moshe yelled. “You won’t believe it, I bought an esrog!” Hinda was quite surprised. “Where did you ever find the money to do so?” “Well,” Moshe exclaimed, “I sold my tefillin and went to the neighboring town and purchased the most exquisite esrog I could find!” Hinda was now even more surprised. “You sold your tefillin? Why did you do that? Your tefillin you will need for the rest of your life; you only need an esrog for seven days! What are you going to do about your tefillin in a week’s time?”

“Hinda,” began Moshe, “I’ll tell you the truth. After I finished putting my tefillin on today, I said to myself, ‘For the next week, I don’t wear tefillin. The mitzvah of the day is instead that of the esrog. I want to perform the mitzvah of the day.’ I therefore sold my tefillin and bought the esrog. After Sukkos, I will worry about tefillin.’

At this point, Hinda was somewhat placated. “Okay,” she said, “let me see this beautiful esrog.” “I left it on the counter,” Moshe replied. “Where?” Hinda said. “Right here,” Moshe reiterated, “on the kitchen counter. Didn’t you see an esrog here?” Hinda gasped.

“I don’t know how to say this,” she said, “but I was just making a salad and needed lemon. I turned around and saw a nice big lemon resting on the counter. I took it and squeezed it into the salad bowl, but not enough juice was oozing out. I therefore decided to cut it into pieces and squeeze it out as much as I could. The remaining pieces went into the garbage. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know it was your esrog. I didn’t think we could afford one, and I was almost certain it was a lemon.”

Moshe grew quiet, as tears streamed down his wife’s eyes in regret. Slowly, he gathered himself together and gained his composure and approached Hinda. “Please look at me,” he gently said. “I appreciate you and I Iove you.” Hinda was confused. “You’re not angry at me?” “My dear Hinda,” said Moshe, “yesterday, the mitzvah of the day was putting on tefillin. Today, the mitzvah was buying an esrog. And now, the mitzvah of the moment is to be here for you, my wife, and to be kind to you.”

From moment to moment in life, we are given new opportunities. At one point, the mitzvah is to pray, at another moment it is to help a fellow Jew, and at a third moment it is to be there for our spouse and be understanding and supportive. But what all these moments have in common is that they are all ways of serving Hashem. No less dear in the eyes of Hashem is accepting a spouse’s honest mistake of turning an esrog into lemon in a salad and remaining calm than is holding a beautiful precious esrog for its proper mitzvah. Both are ways of serving our Creator.

All we must ask ourselves, “What is my opportunity right now?” Sometimes, it is to go to great lengths to purchase a stunning esrog and other times, it is to be there for our wife or our husband or our friend. If we live our lives with this constant attitude, every moment we have is no less than a moment of beautiful service of Hashem.

Rabbi Mordechai Becher
Bound Together

Our Sages teach, “All of the Jewish people are responsible (areivim) for one another” (Shavuos 39a). As it pertains to mitzvah performance and all other aspects of life, the Jewish nation is inextricably bound to each other and responsible for each other’s welfare. Allow me to share with you one example of what it means to be an areiv, guarantor, in the very literal sense for someone else you never met and will never meet again.

Shortly after I had gotten married, my wife and I managed to find an apartment in Kiryat Moshe, Israel, for $200 a month. After a little back and forth, the government was willing to give it to us for even cheaper, $180, as both of us were new immigrants. The only caveat was that we needed four guarantors to sign us off. While it was a slight hassle, we managed to pull it off and track down four individuals who were kind enough to be our guarantors.

As my wife and I arrived at the bank, we were called over by one of the tellers. After briefly looking through our paperwork, she looked up at us and said, “Where is the fifth guarantor?” I looked back at her with a confused stare. “Fifth guarantor? I was told by the agent in Australia that we only needed four, which was difficult enough to get.” “Well,” the teller said, “you are now here in Israel and I need to stamp the paper to approve it. You need five guarantors, though.”

As I began to see that I was not going to get by with anything less, I panicked. “We need to have this paperwork finalized and signed by this afternoon!” I exclaimed. “Otherwise we will lose the apartment.” But all my pleading fell on deaf ears. We needed five guarantors, and she was not going to budge from that number.

I quickly started looking around the bank in a semi-frantic daze, until my eye caught sight of a gentlemen walking nearby. He approached me and politely asked, “Is everything alright? Is there a problem?” “Well,” I said, “there is a slight problem. I need a fifth guarantor to sign this paperwork or else I will lose the opportunity to purchase the apartment my wife and I are trying to move into!”

“I will sign,” the man said. I was baffled to hear such words from a complete stranger. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I will be your guarantor. Doesn’t it say ‘Kol yisrael areivem zeh ba’zeh’? ‘All of the Jewish people are responsible for one another. What difference does it make if it is in writing? So let it be!”

Right then and there, this man, who I had never met and have never met since, signed his name. And he did it all because of one reason. All of the Jewish people are bound together and care for one another. When one Jew is in need, all Jews are in need and are ready to help. There is nothing more comforting and reassuring than that.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Eytan Feiner

As we are all familiar, we place our mezuzos in each doorpost in our home at a slant. Yet why is that so? Why do we not place it upright? In truth, it is a matter of dispute between Rashi and the Rabbeinu Tam (Menachos 33a) as to whether the mezuzah should be positioned horizontally or vertically. In deference to both opinions, we compromise and place the mezuzah on a slant. The significance of this is its symbolism for shalom bayis (marital harmony). Within the home, it is imperative that compromises be made. The Maharal writes that the bond of marriage is not mistakenly referred to as kerisus bris, literally meaning cutting away and separation. Marriage focuses on this very point. Each spouse who enters into the marriage must realize that it entails negating oneself to the other and being willing to bend and make compromises.

Picture of newsletter
100% free

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Timely Torah insights, stories, and anecdotes from your favorite TorahAnytime speakers, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Your email is safe with us. We don't spam.