Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"And he offered sacrifices unto the G-d of his father Isaac" [46:1]

This verse contains a secret, which the Rabbis revealed to us there in Bereshith Rabbah: When Jacob was about to go down to Egypt he saw that the exile was beginning for him and his children, and he feared it, and so he offered many sacrifices to the Fear of his father Isaac in order that Divine judgment should not be aimed against him. This he did in Beer Sheva which was a place of prayer for his father, and from there he had taken permission when he went to Haran.

Now Scripture uses the word zvachim (a term connoting peace-offerings), to inform us that they were not burnt-offerings. On account of his fear of the Eternal, Jacob offered specifically peace-offerings (and not burnt-offerings as did Noah) in order to bring all Divine attributes into accord towards him, even as the Rabbis have expounded: "They are called sh'lamim (peace-offerings) because they bring shalom (peace) into the world." Now his original intent was directed at the Divine attribute of power, this being nearest to Isaac. This is the explanation of that which the Rabbis mentioned in Bereshith Rabbah, i.e., that the duty of honoring one's father is more imperative than that of honoring one's grandfather. This explanation applies to that which the Rabbis have said there in yet another form: "First you greet the pupil and afterward you greet the Rabbi."

It does not say here, "and he offered sacrifices to the Eternal," (but instead it says, "to the G-d of his father Isaac), " to show that now in Beer Sheva Jacob had already become privileged to possess his own portion (and needed only to bring all Divine attributes into accord towards him but was no longer dependent on his father's merit), as it is said, Thou wilt give truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.


Rabbeinu Bachya

"'It's too much!' said Yisrael…." [45:28]

As long as his prophetic spirit had not been restored to him, the Torah referred to him only as Yaakov. Now that he had regained this additional spiritual dimension he is once more referred to as Yisrael. We have 18 instances from here until the end of the Book of Genesis where Yaakov is referred to as Yisrael, such as 46:1; 46:5; 46:8; 46:29; to name but a few. The reason that G-d called him "Yaakov" in 46:2 whereas the Torah (G-d Himself) had referred to him as Yisrael in the same verse was because the journey to Egypt was a voluntary exile on the part of Yaakov and it was not appropriate that the name Yisrael which denotes authority, victory, etc., should be applied to someone who exiles himself and subordinates himself to a human ruler. Once G-d had called him by the name Yaakov, it is not surprising to see that the Torah reverts to use of the name (compare 46:5, 46:6, 46:8, 46:19, 46:26; 46:27, etc.).

When the Torah (46:5) nonetheless speaks of "the sons of Israel carried their father Yaakov, etc.," the message of the Torah is that Yaakov's descent to Egypt involved both his names, i.e. although at this stage he had become an exile, ultimately, --through the exile experience in Egypt-- he (his people) would be redeemed there and would emerge as more deserving of the name Bnei Yisrael than before. This is the reason that in the verse mentioned the sons of Yaakov are referred to as Bnei Yisrael rather than as the Bnei Yaakov. The Torah could have simple written "Yaakov's sons carried him, etc." We have this concept repeated at the beginning of the Book of Exodus where the Torah speaks of: "these are the children of Israel who came down to Egypt." The same verse goes on naming them as "Yaakov and his sons." These are the very ones who in the future would be called "the children of Israel."



"I am Yosef! Is my father still alive? ....I am Joseph your brother. You sold me into Egypt...." [45:3-4]

Why does Joseph immediately ask 'is my father still alive'?
Why did Joseph have to repeat "I am Joseph your brother!?"

Joseph, who had reached a stage when he could no longer suppress his tears, because his pity had been stirred up, called out 'I am Joseph'. In order that his brothers should not think that what was uppermost in his mind was the abuse he had suffered from his brothers, he immediately asked about his father. He did not want his brothers to think that his tears were for himself, but to know that they were for the anguish his father had suffered. In the event the reader would think that the brothers' inability to respond was due to their not believing Joseph, the Torah explained that they felt too ashamed to make a reply.

Alternately, Joseph expressed amazement that G-d had not made him privy to the fact that his father was still alive although the holy spirit had departed from him until he received the news that Joseph was alive (45:27) and, "the spirit of their father revived."

Once the brothers that Joseph had not changed his name, that he referred to himself as Joseph, they approached him to examine his features and to confirm that the tzelem elokim, the image of G-d, was still visible on his face. When the brothers saw that his face shone, reflected spiritual purity, they were overcome.



Regarding the rulership of Joseph, its only purpose was to enable the Jewish people to be forged into a single nation, and the kingdom of Judah [from David] to be established. The brothers did not understand this. They believed that Joseph wanted royalty for its own sake, for both himself and his descendants. This is why they went to Dotan to devise legal schemes, to judge him according to Torah law. They all came to the conclusion that he was guilty of death. Even the sons of Zilpah and Bilhah, who were Joseph's closest friends, agreed that from the point of view of justice, Joseph was guilty.

He had disputed the authority of the kingdom of David. Anyone doing so is guilty of death. Insubordination against the kingdom of David is equated with insubordination against the Shechina itself.

This is why his brothers wanted to kill Joseph when he revealed himself and they saw that he had become king. The fact that he had realized [what they believed to have been] his ambition made him only more guilty in their eyes.

Ohr HaChayim

"Do not be afraid…for I will make you into a great nation there." (46:3)

In order to understand the whole concept of exile, I must preface by quoting a tradition we have in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his colleagues (recorded in Likutey Torah, Miketz).

The purpose of the various exiles is to isolate segments of sanctity which are scattered within various branches of the klipah, the "peel" surrounding the kernel which is all sanctity. Inasmuch as Egypt was full of abominations [manifestations of such klipah] and impurity had its "headquarters" in that country, it was no more than natural that many such segments of sanctity were scattered throughout that country. In fact the amounts of such scattered segments of sanctity are usually proportionate to the amount of impurity and defilement that abound in a certain area or environment.

This phenomenon originated as soon as Adam sinned. It has been Israel's task to "rescue" all those splinters of sanctity and to make them part of a whole. Our sages (quoted in Likutey Torah on Parshat Vayeshev) have said that the nation that left Egypt and experienced the revelation at Mount Sinai was previously captive within this klipah called Egypt. It is to such a nation that Moses said in Deut. 4:8: "who is a great nation possessing such righteous statutes, etc."

G-d told Jacob that the purpose of Israel spending time in exile in Egypt was to enable it to develop into this great nation. "The great nation" [all the fragments of sanctity] at that time was "lost" amongst all the Egyptians and it had to be isolated and then led out from there. Unless Jacob descended to Egypt at this time, there would be no hope of accomplishing this. It was because Jacob represented sanctity in a powerful and concentrated form that he could become the "magnet" which would attract the various scattered segments of sanctity that still abounded in Egypt in an ineffectual form.

This is the meaning of the statement in Bereshit Rabbah 79,1 that Jacob did not depart from this world until he had seen 600,000 descendants. These 600,000 were the ones who endured persecution there and were ultimately refined in what our sages are fond of calling the "iron crucible," which welded the Jewish people into a nation and enabled them to leave Egypt after having been refined.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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