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Parshas Vayeishev 5774
Candle Lighting Time: 4:17 pm
December 6, 2014
Volume 10 Issue 8
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Dvar Torah



By Rabbi Shmuel  Sussman


  The Torah, in this week's parsha, tells us the story of Yosef revealing his identity to his brothers. Yosef tells them "I am Yosef, is my father still alive?" The verse tells us that the brothers couldn't answer him. Rashi explains that they couldn't answer because of embarrassment.  In the next verse, the Torah relates that Yosef tells his brothers once again that he is Yosef. This whole dialogue seems very puzzling. First, why is Yosef asking if his father is alive? Yehudah had just told him that if they were to come back without Binyomin, it would have very detrimental effects on their father. Yosef obviously knew that Yaakov was alive. Second, why were they embarrassed that they couldn't answer Yosef's question? Third, why does Yosef tell them a second time who he was?


In addition, there is a very perplexing Midrash on the verse "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive." The Midrash states "Woe is to us from the day of judgment, woe is to us from the day of rebuke. If the brothers couldn't answer Yosef, certainly when Hashem rebukes us, we will have nothing to answer." What rebuke of Yosef is the Midrash referring to?


The Beis Halevi (Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik) answers all of these questions by explaining what Yosef really meant. Yehuda had been telling Yosef that if Binyomin doesn't come back to Yaakov, it would affect their father terribly. Yosef responded "I am Yosef," Who you took away from our father. You didn't seem too concerned then. "Is my father still alive?" The same way he survived after you sold me, he will survive if Binyomin stays here.

With this understanding, we can answer all of our previous questions. The first question was, why is Yosef asking if his father was alive. It wasn't Yosef's intent to find out his father's state of health. Rather his intent was to point out a flaw in Yehuda's claim. This is why the brothers were embarrassed. They realized that Yosef was correct, that their behavior was inconsistent. After Yosef rebuked his brothers, he switched  gears and told them that he was their brother and he would take care of them throughout the years of hunger. So when Yosef repeats that he is their brother, it's not a repetition at all. It's a whole different idea. Finally, the Midrash is understandable as well.  This is the rebuke the Midrash is referring to. The Midrash is telling us that if the brothers were so embarrassed in front of Yosef, how much more so will we be embarrassed in front of Hashem.


How often are we inconsistent in our lives? One common example is that we don't have time for Torah study, yet we have time to indulge in the pleasures of this world. Shlomo Hamelech writes in Koheles (Chapter 9 Verse 8), "Your clothing should be white at all times." Rashi explains that a person must be ready to face Hashem at all times, for one never knows when his time will come. We must take the message of Yosef, and always make sure that we are not self-contradictory. 



Dvar Halacha

 Halachos of V'Sein Tal U'Matar


By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi


 We began reciting the phrase v'sain tal u'matar liv'racha by Maariv on December 4th.  The Tur [OC 117] writes that the main request of this brachah is that we are asking Hashem that He prepare our parnassah (livelihood) with ease and in a permissible way.  In this brachah we praise Hashem the Life giver who controls the elements and provides wind and moisture as needed in the seasons when they generally occur.  We are asking Hashem for rain and therefore it is recited only when rain is actually needed in the agricultural cycle [which is in the winter months] (see Artscroll Siddur).


In this brachah, there are 2 possible texts that one says: either V'Sain Brachah (give a blessing) or V'Sain Tal U'mahtar L'vrachah (give us dew and rain as a blessing).  Depending on whether it is the time of the year that we need the rain will determine which phrase we ask for.  During the yemos hagishamim (winter months), we recite the words asking for the rain.


Since we only ask for rain when it is needed, there is a difference in halachah as to when to start asking for rain in Eretz Yisroel and in Chutz L'aretz.  The Gemara [Kiddushin 69a] says that Eretz Yisroel is gohveh mekol ha'aratzos (higher than all the other lands) (this means either physically [Ma'arumei Sadeh] or spiritually [Marharsha & Maharam]).  The Poskim explain that since Eretz Yisroel is higher it needs rain earlier (Mishneh Berurah 117:5).  In Eretz Yisroel they begin saying V'Sain Tal at Maariv of 7 Cheshvon.  In Chutz L'aretz, we start saying it at Maariv 60 days after the tekufas tishrei (autumn equinox), which comes out to either December 4 or 5  (Shulchan Aruch 117:1).


The Aruch Hashulchan [117:2] explains that really in Eretz Yisroel they should have started saying V'Sain Tal etc. immediately after Sukkos, however, since there were people travelling home after being oleh regel, they waited some time (see Mishnah Taanis 10a).  Once it was enacted this way, even nowadays that there [unfortunately] is no longer aliyah l'regel, the halachos of when to start remain the same.  Furthermore, Aruch Hashulchan [117:3 & 4] explains from numerous Rishonim that even though 60 days after the equinox was specifically when Baval (Babylon) needed rain, it was enacted that all of Chutz L'aretz starts asking then even though different countries need rain at different times.  We continue to recite V'sain Tal thru Mincha on Erev Pesach (Shulchan Aruch 117:1).


If during the winter months one forgot, depending where in Shemoneh Esrei he or she is will determine the halachah.  If one is still davening the brachah of birchas hashanim [and did not say SheimHashem at the end of the brachah], should go back to where he was supposed to say V'Sain Tal etc. and continue normally. (Mishneh Berurah 117:16).  If he has already finished the brachah of Birchas Hashanim [i.e. he has already said the Sheim Hashem], one should say V'sain Tal during birchas Shema Koleinu as a bakashah (request for rain) (Sefer Ishei Yisroel 23:44 & ftnt. 175 quoting Harav Chaim Kaneivsky shlit"a).  If one has finished saying the brachah of Shema Koleinu but did not start saying birchas Retzei, he should say V'sain Tal before reciting Retzei (Shulchan Aruch 117:5).  If one already started saying Retzei, but did not finish Shemoneh Esrei [i.e. he has said Yehei L'ratzon after Elokei Netztor, should go back to the beginning of the brachah of Birchas Hashanim and continue straight (Sefer Ishei Yisroel 23:43).  If one already finished Shemoneh Esrei, he would be required to repeatShemoneh Esrei entirely (Shulchan Aruch 117:4-5).




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