The three Shauls
ובני שמעון ימואל וימין ואהד ויכין וצחר ושאול בן-הכנענית אלה משפחת שמעון
[These are] the children of Shimon: Yemuel, Yamin, Ohad, Yachin, Tzochar, and Shaul the son of the Canaanite. These are the families of Shimon
As Moshe began his mission to rescue the Jewish people from bondage and release the devastating ten plagues on Egypt, the Torah lists the descendants of the first three children of Yaakov. The purpose is to show us just exactly who Moshe and his brother were, and their prominent lineage. It starts with Yaakov’s firstborn Reuven, then Shimon, and ends with Levi, who formed Moshe’s tribe of Moshe. When listing the sons of Shimon, we are told that one of his sons was called “Shaul, the son of the Cananite”. Why is he referred to this way? Was his mother really a Canaanite?
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Impoverishment and blemishes
ויאמר יקוק אל-משה במדין שב מצרים כי-מתו כל-האנשים המבקשים את-נפשך
Hashem said to Moshe in Midian: “Return to Egypt, for those who seek your life have perished”
Moshe spent half of his life in Midian as a fugitive. He killed an Egyptian to save the life of a fellow Jew. He took refuge in Midian and raised a family. To his surprise, Hashem tasked him with the mission to release the Jewish people from slavery. As a form of reassurance, Hashem told him that those who sought his life have perished. Our Sages teach us that this can’t be understood literally, as we know that those who reported Moshe to the authorities were Dasan and Aviram. They were among those who were part of Korach’s rebellion in the wilderness. What does it mean that they died? Our Sages tell us that they became impoverished. As such, since they lost their prestige and influence, Moshe no longer needed to feel threatened by them.
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Bad intentions, Good results
ויאמר אלהם יוסף אל-תיראו כי התחת אלקים אני: ואתם חשבתם עלי רעה אלקים חשבה לטבה וגו’
Yosef said to [his brothers]: “Do not fear. Am I instead of G-d? You thought to do evil to me, but G-d considered it for the good…”
After Yaakov’s funeral, his sons were worried that Yosef bore a grudge against them for their selling him into slavery. They made up a whole story that Yaakov requested that Yosef forgive them. What was Yosef’s response? He reassured them. He asked rhetorically: “Am I instead of G-d?” He explained that although they had bad intentions by selling him, Hashem was behind the scenes. The whole sale was a way to get Yosef to Egypt, so that he could be promoted to viceroy. With his prestigious position, he was able to secure food for the Egyptian empire despite a devastating famine. This ended up being the salvation for Yaakov’s whole family. So, despite their intentions, it was for the best. What was Yosef stressing by saying that “am I instead of G-d”?
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ויגדו לו לאמר עוד יוסף חי וכי-הוא משל בכל-ארץ מצרים ויפג לבו כי לא-האמין להם: וידברו אליו את כל-דברי יוסף אשר דבר אלהם וגו’
[The brothers] said to [Yaakov]: “Yosef is still alive! He is the ruler over the entire land of Egypt!” [Yaakov] was skeptical, as he didn’t believe them. They told him everything Yosef had told them.
Yosef had been missing for twenty-two years. He was presumed dead, but it was never confirmed. His father Yaakov had given up on ever seeing him again. Now, Yosef had become the viceroy in Egypt. After revealing his identity to his estranged brothers, he arranged for them to bring their father Yaakov and their entire family to move to Egypt. When the brothers told Yaakov what had happened, and that Yosef was alive, he initially wouldn’t believe them. Why not?
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וידבר שר המשקים את-פרעה לאמר את-חטאי אני מזכיר היום
The Minister of the Cup Bearers said to Pharaoh, saying: “I bring up my sins today”
When Pharaoh had two troubling dreams, it distressed him greatly. He searched all over Egypt, but no one could satisfactorily interpret the dreams. The Minister of the Cup Bearers, commonly referred to as Pharaoh’s Butler, recalled that Yosef two years earlier had interpreted the former’s dreams. Yosef told the Butler while they were both in jail that the Butler would soon be freed. Yosef requested that the Butler upon his release tell Pharaoh of his innocence. Yosef was framed and didn’t deserve to be in jail. The Butler was indeed released, and failed to give Pharaoh Yosef’s message. Pharaoh’s predicament reminded the Butler of all of this, and he was forced to tell Pharaoh of Yosef’s abilities.
The Butler began by admitting to Pharaoh that this recommendation had negative connotations for himself. It recalled the fact that he was once in jail for sinning against the king. Nevertheless, due to Pharaoh’s need for his dream to be interpreted, the Butler was willing to take the personal hit. However, if we analyze what he says, we’ll be surprised. Instead of him saying that he has to bring up his sin to Pharaoh, he says sins. This means by mentioning Yosef, he was recalling multiple sins. What else did the Butler do wrong? Our Sages say he was referring to two additional sins: that he forgot of Yosef’s existence, and that he failed to keep his promise to him. If so, why would the Butler feel the need to mention this to Pharaoh? What does Pharaoh care about the Butler’s wrongdoing to Yosef?
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