Vayechi 5784


Donations, lifespans, and mummies[1]

ויצו יוסף את-עבדיו את-הרפאים לחנט את-אביו ויחנטו הראפים את-ישראל
Yosef commanded his servants, the doctors, to mummify his father. The doctors mummified Israel[2]

The Torah tells us something, which to our 21st century eyes is quite surprising. Yosef commanded the Egyptians[3] to mummify his father, Yaakov. We view mummification as an ancient tribal ritual of the Egyptians; not something that Judaism usually promotes. In fact, our Sages[4] say that Yosef was punished for mummifying his father. Even though he was one of the youngest in his family[5], he died before all of them. This seems like a rather harsh punishment. Why was this considered to be such a terrible crime, worthy of premature death[6]?

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Vayigash 5784


Parental priority punishment[1]

וישלח את-אחיו וילכו ויאמר אלהם אל-תרגזו בדרך
[Yosef] sent off his brothers and they went. He said to them: “Don’t quarrel on the road”[2]

After finally revealing himself to his brothers, the long-thought dead or enslaved Yosef had reunited with his family. Yosef told them to return to Canaan to bring their father to Egypt, where there was salvation from the global famine. Before they left, Yosef cautioned them not to quarrel on the road. The simple explanation is[3] that he was telling them not to argue about whose fault it was that Yosef was sold as a slave in the first place, as Hashem had engineered everything to bring Yosef to political power.

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Mikeitz 5784


Clever collateral incarceration[1]

‏…ויקח מאתם את-שמעון ויאסר אתו לעיניהם
…[Yosef] took Shimon from them and imprisoned him in front of their eyes[2]

Yosef, disguised as the viceroy of Egypt, demanded from his brothers that they bring their remaining brother Binyamin to Egypt. Yosef wanted to see if they would abandon Binyamin just as they abandoned him[3]. The brothers, knowing their father Yaakov would never let Binyamin out of his sight, pleaded with the viceroy to spare their brother. As collateral to ensure their compliance, Yosef imprisoned Shimon, and set the others free to fetch Binyamin.

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Vayeishev 5784


The wealth of a good name[1]

‏…ויבא הביתה לעשות מלאכתו ואין איש מאנשי הבית שם בבית
[Yosef] went to the house to “do his work”, and there was no one else in the house[2]

While Yosef was a slave in Egypt, his master Potiphar’s wife was relentless. She wouldn’t give up on trying to seduce the attractive teenager. Day in and day out she would try different tactics to gain his attention. Yosef wouldn’t budge, as he knew that adultery was a terrible crime. One day, the Torah says that Yosef went to his house to “do his work”. Some say[3] that this is literal, and he was going to work on some bookkeeping for his master. Others say[4] that this is a euphemism for him finally caving into Potiphar’s wife’s seduction. However, even according to that opinion, Yosef took hold of himself and abstained.

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Chanukah 5784


Publicizing the victory[1]

ואחר-כן באו בניך לדביר ביתך ופנו את-היכלך וטהרו את-מקדשך והדליקו נרות בחצרות קדשך וקבעו שמונת ימי חנוכה אלו להודות ולהלל לשמך הגדול
Afterwards Your children went to your Holy abode, cleaned out Your Heichal, purified Your Sanctuary, and lit candles in Your Holy courtyard. They established these eight days of Chanukah for praising and thanking Your great Name[2]

Seemingly the first day of Chanukah is no different than the other days of Chanukah. However, the Pri Chadash notes[3] that in the original Chanukah story, the first day seemingly didn’t contain any miracle. They found a jug of oil which was enough to last one day. The fact that it lit for one day isn’t a miracle. He concludes then that the reason why we celebrate eight days and not seven is that the first day commemorates the miraculous victory of the tiny Jewish forces against the vast Greek Empire. The Jews reclaimed the Temple and were able rebuild the destroyed Menorah and light it.

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