Parsha Encounters



Parshas Vayigash:

First Impressions

Rabbi Shmuel Shapiro

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

Parshas Vayigash contains the climax of the saga of Yosef and the Shvatim.  By examining this finale, perhaps we can gain insight into the entire parsha.  The pasuk states: "And Yosef said to his brothers, "I am Yosef, is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him because they were ashamed before him."  Chazal add, "woe to us from the day of judgement, woe to us from the day of rebuke."

HaGaon Rav Avrohom Pam, zt"l, asks the following.  Yosef revealed himself because of his great compassion for his brothers and spoke appeasing words to assuage his brothers' shame.  How can we possibly interpret his words to include even a hint of rebuke?  Rav Pam answers as follows.  The realization that the viceroy of Egypt was Yosef was the greatest reproof in and of itself.  The brother that they had denigrated and accused of sinister intentions had been shown the grace of Hashem and uplifted to royalty.  And they, the Shvatim were indeed fulfilling his prophetic dreams and prostrating themselves before him.  This was the ultimate reproof.

What caused them to make such an error in judgement?  Throughout the parshiyos we see a clear difference between the way Reuven and his brothers understood Yosef.  Chazal explain that Reuven saw the positive side in Yosef's dreams.  Yosef dreamed of eleven shvatim bowing down to him. Reuven, still repenting from the "Ma'aseh Bilha," felt encouraged.  "He counts me in among the tribes and I should not save him!?"  The brothers however, retained their first impression of Yosef.  To them he appeared to be manipulating himself into the position of sole continuant of Klal Yisroel, so they judged him to be a rodeif.  Not seeing anything positive in Yosef's intentions, they retained their first impressions and did not perceive the positive within him.  Whenever his actions had two possible interpretations, the brothers judged them to be sinister.  Finally, in our parsha, the Shvatim come to realize the truth.

HaRav Pam quotes a gemara that continues this theme.  Rav Yosef the son of R'Yehoshua had a glimpse of the World to Come and was asked what he had seen. "I saw an upside down world," he replied. "Those that were uplifted in this world were lower in status and those that appeared lowly down here have a greater status in the World of Truth."  In this external world, people who appear great inside are overlooked.  This was the cause of their error in our parsha.  The Shvatim based their decision on their impressions.  Had they had a deeper understanding of Yosef's essence they would have perceived his righteousness.

We are always making evaluations of the people we encounter and often we retain our first unfavorable impressions which can lead us to misjudge them, as we have seen.  If we delve a little deeper and strive to be aware of each person's inner greatness, inner struggles and inner dreams, we can avoid these pitfalls and thus increase our Ahavas Yisroel.

Rabbi Shapiro is a full-time member of the Kollel.  

Halacha Encounters


"Women and Lechem Mishanah at the Shabbos Meals"

Rabbi Yisroel Langer


The Gemorah (Brachos 39b/Shabbos 117b) derives the source of the requirement of lechem mishnah from the verse, "It happened on the sixth day that they gathered a double portion of food." (Shemos 16:22)  The verse tells us that the Jews received a double portion of the manna on Friday.  To commemorate this miracle, we make a hamotzi over two loaves of bread. The Taz (Orach Chaim 678) holds that the obligation is d'orysa (a Torah commandment).  The majority opinion, including that of Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer Hayoshor ) quoted in Responsa Maharam M'Rutenberg (Volume 3, Responsa 473) and the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 254:23) is that it is only d'rabonin (a Rabbinic commandment).

Who is Obligated?

The general rule is that women are exempt from time-bound mitzvos.  Therefore, perhaps one can say that women should be exempt from the obligation of lechem mishnah.  However, Rabbeinu Tam (ibid.) says that women are obligated and gives two reasons.  Firstly, women are obligated to hear the Megilah reading on Purim, drink four cups of wine on Pesach and light the menorah on Chanukah since they participated in the miracle.  Therefore, since they also participated in the miracle of manna, they should be required to commemorate it with lechem mishnah.  A second reason is because women's exemption from time-bound mitzvos only applies to mitzvos from the Torah, not to mitzvos d'rabonin such as lechem mishnahh. (According to this second reason, why does the Gemorah by Chanukah and Purim say "they also participated in the miracle," if these mitzvos are only d'rabonin?  See the Chida in Machzik Bracha 291:8 and his discussion and resolution of this question.)

The Maharam M'Rutenberg argues with both of these points.  Regarding Rabbeinu Tam's second reason that women are not exempt from mitzvos d'rabonin, he disagrees, citing Kriyas Shema as an example of a mitzvah that some opinions hold is d'rabonin, and yet women are exempt (for more, see Gemorah Brachos 20b, Rashi and Tosafos).  Regarding the first reason that women also participated in the miracle, the Maharam says that this is only true by a miracle that was performed to save Klal Yisrael from a mortal danger as was the case with the Exodus from Egypt and Purim where the women must also perform the mitzvah of giving thanks to Hashem.  But this isn't the case with the manna.

What is the Halacha?

Rav Shlomo Kluger (Ha'eleph Lecha Shlomo 114) writes about a prevailing custom in his day where the head of the household makes hamotzi over lechem mishnah and the women make their own hamotzi over one loaf of bread.  He condones this custom by agreeing with the opinion of the Maharam that women aren't obligated in lechem mishnah.  However, the Avudraham and the Beis Yoseph (Orech Chaim 291) cite the opinion of the Mordechai and the Ran who hold like Rabbeinu Tam (The Ran gives an additional reason that by Shabbos, men and women have the same laws).  Virtually all poskim follow this view, including the Mishnahh Brurah. (Orech Chaim 274:1 and Beur Halacha 291)

There are other ways to explain the custom that prevailed in the days of Rav Kluger.  The Eshel Avraham (Orech Chaim 274) explains that even if one made his own hamotzi at the table, he can fulfill his obligation of lechem mishnah with the hamotzi of the head of the household.  This is true even if he heard hamotzi before he even washed his hands.

The Sefer V'yan Yoseph (Volume 1, Responsa 114) explains further that the idea of lechem mishnah is to have double bread at the start of the meal, which is when the head of the household makes the hamotzi.

The Mishnah Brura (274:4:2) and Aruch Hashulchan (274:4) rules that the best way to conduct oneself is for the head of the household to wait for everyone to finish washing and be seated at the table.  And then the head of the household should make the hamotzi on lechem mishnah for everybody.

Rabbi Langer learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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