Friday, December 14, 2012

RABBI M. KAHANE: Parashat Mikeitz - Joseph recognized his brothers

Joseph recognized by his brothers 

Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the river... (Genesis 41:1)

Pharaoh [the epitome of a non-Jewish leader] wanted to control the river himself and be a god. My father and teacher of blessed memory [Rabbi Meir Kahane's father, Rav Yechezkel Shraga Kahane ztz”l] explained this beautifully: in Joseph’s day, Pharaoh dreamed [literally “is dreaming”] that he was standing by [literally “on”] the river (Genesis 41:1). But when he related his dream to Joseph, he said, And behold I was standing on the bank of the river (ibid. v. 17). Why did he change the wording? Furthermore, how could Pharaoh know that Joseph’s interpretation was true? After all, he had rejected the interpretations of all his soothsayers: the Midrash explains the verse, and none could interpret [the dreams] for Pharaoh (ibid. v.8) to mean, They would interpret, but their voice did not enter Pharaoh’s ear [i.e. he did not accept what they said] (Genesis Rabbah 89:6). But if this were the case, then why would Pharaoh accept the interpretation of a slave – and a Hebrew slave at that!? By way of answer, my father quoted a Talmudic passage which deals with dreams: A person is only shown what his heart already imagines (Berakhot 55b). What could Pharaoh possibly imagine, what did he not already have?One thing only he lacked, one thing only he desired that was beyond his control – the River Nile, the god of Egypt. This is why he is dreaming in the present tense – eternally dreaming of being the god of Egypt, in control of the river, on the river – above the river. But he did not want to reveal this, so he told Joseph, I was standing on the bank of the river. But Joseph understood, and interpreted the dreams to mean that the day would yet come when the river would betray those who worshiped it, and would cause a famine. Only if Pharaoh would heed Joseph’s words would he be able to supply his people with bread, and thus become their god. This was certainly what Pharaoh wanted to hear, and this was the interpretation that he accepted.

[See on the other hand Joseph, as an allusion to the qualities of a Jewish leader:] Joseph was sold as a slave. They afflicted his leg with shackles, his soul came in irons (Psalms 105: 18); and now, Joseph was the ruler of the land (Genesis 42:6). – Genesis Rabbah 30:8. In other words: come and see the providence of the all-powerful G-d. Yesterday, Joseph was brought to Egypt as a slave, iron chains shackling his soul – who could have foreseen that overnight, G-d would overturn his world, and renew his life, and transform this slave into a ruler?! Every “soul” of Israel must learn from this that just as Joseph, whose soul came in irons, became the viceroy of Egypt – so too, will they ascend from Egypt as a great and powerful nation. A Jewish leader’s greatness lies in his being on the one hand strong and uncompromising, able to control his own nature and overcome all obstacles, and, as G-d said to Joshua four times, be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18); while on the other hand, being humble in his private life and personal relationships, because G-d will never infuse His spirit into a conceited and arrogant person. And this is how Chazal describe Joseph: Even though Joseph achieved royal dominion, he never became arrogant towards his brothers or his father’s house. Just as he was insignificant in their eyes at the beginning, when he was a slave in Egypt, so he remained insignificant in his own eyes after he became king (Exodus Rabbah 1:7). True, the Talmud says: Why did Joseph die before his brothers? – Because he acted condescendingly (Berakhot 55a, Sotah 13b). But this was only in one specific instance, when his brothers referred to Jacob ten times as your servant, our father, and he did not stop them; and, as Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer (39) says, his life was shortened by ten years for this reason. But apart from this, he always acted with humility. See how strict G-d is with the tzaddikim! In fact, the trait of humility was immensely strong in Joseph. In the words of the Ohr ha-Chayim: When [Joseph] was in Egypt, it would have been natural for him to change…in light of what they did to him – they sold him, and were cruel to him; how could he not have changed, however slightly, towards them all?… And yet, the Torah teaches that he remained equal to them. [Even more so:] “Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him”. According to the simple understanding, the commentators explain that the brothers did not recognize Joseph because at the time when they sold him, he was young and without a beard, and now he had a beard. On the other hand, Joseph recognized his brothers because at the time he was sold, they already had beards. Rashi digs deeper, explaining that the difference between the two sides was not merely recognition of external appearances. When Joseph encountered his brothers on the fateful day in Shechem, they did not “recognize” him; that is, they did not act brotherly towards him and sold him to the Ishmaelites. But when the brothers were at Joseph's mercy, he “recognized” them; he acted brotherly towards them and did not take revenge for all the pain that they caused him.

[From this, there is a link to redemption: at the very end of his life, Joseph's last words ever to his brothers were] “G-d is sure to visit you [pakod yifkod] (Midrash HaGadol, Bereshit 50:24) He informed them of two visits. The first [pakod] referred to the time of Moses, the second [yifkod] to that of the Messianic king. This also serves as a paradigm of the final redemption, since the complete redemption will parallel the Exodus from Egypt. The Midrash there links every name mentioned with the redemption, and concludes:Joseph [Yosef] is thus called because in the future, G-d will yosif (“continue”) to redeem Israel from the wicked kingdom, just as He redeemed them from Egypt, as it says, And it will be on that day, the Lord will yosif (“continue”) to show His hand, to acquire the remnant of His nation (Isaiah 11:11). Kol HaTor says [regarding the allusion to the “Mashiach ben Joseph” and the complete redemption] (Ch. 2, Part 1:39): “Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him” (Gen. 42:8): This is one of Joseph's attributes. Not just in his generation, but in every generation, Mashiach ben Joseph recognizes his brothers and they do not recognize him. It is an act of Satan which conceals Mashiach ben Joseph's attributes, such that the Jews unfortunately do not recognize his footsteps, and in fact scoff at them... If not for this, our troubles would already be over. If Israel “recognized Joseph”, Mashiach ben Joseph's footsteps comprising the ingathering of the exiles, etc., we would already be completely redeemed.” Even before we examine our sages' words regarding Mashiach ben Joseph, we already have in hand several basic principles from the holy lips of the Gra: 1.) There are two Messiahs, Mashiach ben Joseph and Meshiach ben David. The first is called “the Inaugural Messiah”. He is involved in the whole physical side of redemption, the actual return to Zion, and he fights G-d's wars. The second completes the spiritual redemption. 2.) These two Messiahs exist among us in every generation, and if Israel only understood what they must do to bring redemption “in haste”, it would come speedily via these two Messiahs. 3.) Mashiach ben Joseph not only goes unrecognized, but Israel ridicules those who herald the truth of redemption and are fit to be Mashiach ben Joseph. If Israel only recognized him and his era, he would immediately begin complete redemption “in haste.”

Rabbi Meir Kahane's son, Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY”D, refers to this in his commentary on Haggadat Pesach [The Haggadah of the Jewish Idea]: Who is Mashiach ben Joseph? In every generation, there is a “candidate for the post” of Mashiach ben Joseph, as well as one who could be Mashiach ben David. It is the actions of the generation, and the subsequent judgement of G-d, that determine whether or not they be revealed. In any event, he who bears the soul of Mashiach ben Joseph strives, in every generation, to bring the physical redemption nearer; but it is only in our era that the generation has merited to see its implementation [the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles]. The [above mentioned, see Kol haTor] refusal to recognize Mashiach ben Joseph is actually refusal to take measures involving faith and trust in G-d, without fear of the nations, as the most important part of the general return to G-d and His Torah. And since Mashiach ben Joseph is ready to come every single moment, as we said above, it follows that due to Israel's refusal to repent, the Mashiach becomes like a prisoner, so to speak. The impoverished [meaning, not Torah observant] regime, whose conception and birth occurred in the alien culture of the nations, and who denies the Torah of Moses, has refused to apply the authority and sovereignty of the people and G-d of Israel upon all parts of Eretz Israel for fear of the nations. This constitutes a Chilul Hashem. A rebellion against and degradation of the holiness of Eretz Israel, large parts of which have remained under the authority of the nations. A condition for complete redemption through Kiddush Hashem is control and sovereignty of the G-d and people of Israel. Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane ends his Haggadat Pessach commentary thus: We can but pray that all we have learnt about the Redemption will be actualized soon, swiftly and painlessly, that we may merit a hastened Redemption, that our merits may bring Mashiach ben David, who will complete the process of Redemption, Amen.

[A remark: The last shiur that Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D, held at the Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea before he was murdered by an Al Qaeda member in New York, dealt with Mashiach ben Joseph. More than 10 years later, when his son Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane and his wife Taliyah, HY”D, were murdered in a roadside ambush by Arab terrorists north of Jerusalem, besides their car were found bloodstained sheets with the last Parashat Hashavua commentary that Rav Binyamin had worked on: A commentary on Parashat Vayigash, focussed on Israel's refusal to recognize Mashiach ben Joseph and his willingness to endure this out of love for his people.]
Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from 'Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot' and 'The Jewish Idea' of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D and from 'The Writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane HY”D', commentary on Parashat Vayigash, and from his 'Haggadah of the Jewish Idea'.

Friday, December 7, 2012

RABBI M. KAHANE Parashat Vayeshev - Forgetting vs. Remembering

A Yemeni Jew
When a Jew is away from Israel, he must constantly acknowledge that he is a stranger in a foreign land, living among a foreign nation, like one who is with a woman whom he does not know. As Solomon expressed it: And why should you stray, my son, with an alien woman, and hug the bosom of a foreign woman (Proverbs 5:20). [...] Human nature is to forget suffering after some time has passed and one finds refuge and starts to live in peace; then the nekhar (“unknown”) and the nokhri (“foreigner, stranger”) become nikkar (“recognized”) and mukkar (“known”), and the alien land becomes homeland. And indeed, this happened even to Joseph himself:

Joseph thought: When I was in my father’s house…my brothers envied me; now that I am here [in Egypt], I thank You that I live in wealth. G-d said to him: It is so good for you here that you are rebelling. By your life! I will incite the bears against you (Genesis Rabbah 87:4). The Tanhuma says something similar: When Joseph saw himself such [so great, in Potiphar’s service], he began to eat and drink, he curled his hair, and said: Blessed be the Omnipresent Who has caused me to forget my father’s house. G-d said to him: Your father is mourning for you in sackcloth and ashes, and you eat and drink and curl your hair?! For this, your mistress [Potiphar’s wife] will seduce you and cause you grief(Tanhuma, Vayeshev 8).

This teaches that it is not enough for the tzaddik to recognize G-d’s kindness; he must also understand that the purpose of His kindness is solely in order to help him to fulfil his obligation and his destiny. Joseph was indeed obligated to thank G-d for having been saved, and for having found a good life – but he should not have celebrated and rejoiced as long as his father was mourning and suffering. We further see that even though his personal situation in Israel with his family was far worse than his current situation in exile, this feeling was considered a sin, for a Jew is forbidden to forget his true home – and far more so, is forbidden to erase the memory of his true home. And Joseph was punished for this twice over: the first time, when he was thrown into prison; and the second time, when he forgot all [the Torah knowledge] that he had learned, as the Midrash says:

And Jacob arrived unblemished (Genesis 33:18) – Rabbi Yohanan said: unblemished in his learning. But Joseph had forgotten, as he said, G-d has caused me to forget my hardship; and subsequently it is said, The toiling spirit toils for itself (Proverbs 16:26) [in the verse which speaks of toiling in the Torah].

While he was in prison, Joseph failed in his trust in G-d when he asked the chief steward to save him. As our sages said (Shemot Rabbah 7:1),

“Joseph really only deserved ten years in prison...yet because he asked the chief steward, 'Remember that I was with you...Say something about me to Pharaoh' (Gen. 40:14), two years were added.”

A Jew who seeks help from a non-Jew out of despair and fear, lest G-d not help him, commits a grave sin. Had Joseph approached the steward with a demand because the steward owed him a favor , that would not have been considered a sin. Yet by petitioning him with a request, indicating that we need a favor from a non-Jew, he profaned G-d's name, showing that he did not trust in G-d but only in flesh and blood. From here we derive a major principle regarding aid from a non-Jew: If the non-Jew gives it as part of mutual aid, or payment for what he owes the Jew, that is allowed. If, however, we approach a non-Jew or a country with a request, like a pauper standing at the door, there is no more severe Chilul HaShem and lack of trust in G-d than this. It is an unatonable sin for a Jew to despair. It constitutes national denial of G-d for Israel to turn to human strength, to non-Jewish allies, and to lean on them while scorning G-d's ability to help.

On the national level, this means : [...] whoever relies on the non-Jew and his aid, and fears that without such aid the Jews and their land will be unable to survive, has been caught by lack of complete trust in G-d, bordering on denial of His existence. The individual Jew and the Jewish people as a whole will not be forgiven if they abandon their faith in G-d, the Supreme, Omnipotent King Who rules over the world and over the nations. He alone is our salvation. Even totally righteous, G-d fearing people fall prey to the terrible sin of lack of trust in G-d. As our sages said (Sotah 48b), “What is meant by 'Who has despised [baz] the day of small things?'(Zechariah 4:10)? What causes the future heavenly reward of the righteous to be squandered [yitbazbez]? Their smallness in not believing in G-d.” Had our sages not said this, we would not dare to put this thought to words.

Yet our sages established a great and frightening principle: that it is possible to be a righteous person, i.e. one who observes Torah and mitzvot, who keeps all of Torah ritual, and still be small of faith.It is appropriate to cry over this, for the signs of this terrible sin can be seen openly in this orphan generation.King David said, “He will bless them that fear the L-rd, both children and adults [lit., 'great and small']” (Ps. 115:14). This hints that some among the G-d fearing have little fear of G-d and little faith. King Solomon warned against the terrible sin of fearing mortal man when he said, “The fear of man brings a snare; but whoever puts his trust in the L-rd shall be set up on high. Many seek the ruler's favor, but a man's judgment comes from the L-rd” (Prov. 29:25-26).

This week's Parasha ends accordingly with “Yet the [non-Jewish] chief steward [whom Joseph had asked to remember him] did not remember Joseph, but he forgot him.”(Gen. 40:32)

Interestingly, at the beginning of the redemption from Egypt G-d told Moses to address the Jewish people with a reference to remembrance (although a different word for remembering is used):

“I have assuredly remembered you - pakod pakad’ti:” G-d commanded Moses to use specifically these words because the elders had a tradition that the redeemer would use these words when he would come, and they would thereby know that this was no false messiah: He [G-d] said to him [Moses]: They have a tradition from Joseph that I will redeem them with this word , pakod (“remember”). Go, address them with this sign. (Exodus Rabbah 3:18.)

This also applies to the future redemption of Israel:

Pakod pakad’ti: I have remembered you, and not forgotten you. I have remembered My promise and not forgotten it; I have not redeemed you until now – not because I have forgotten, but because the appointed time has not yet come, the number of years needed to redeem you has not yet passed.

These excerpts were gleaned from Rabbi Meir Kahane's Peirush HaMaccabee – Shemot – Chapter 2 and 3 and from The Jewish Idea, Chapter 'Faith and Trust'.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

RABBI M. KAHANE: Parashat Vayishlach: Fearing no one but G-d

“As a muddied fountain and a polluted spring, so is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” (Prov. 25:26) [...] G-d said to Jacob, “Esau was walking on his way, and you sent him a message, saying, “Your servant Jacob says...” (Excerpt from Bereshit Rabbah 75,2)

G-d had promised Jacob that He would be with him, and had Jacob believed this and not feared Esau, Esau would have gone on his way. Through his fear, Jacob brought Esau upon himself by sending him messengers and by his servile use of, “Your servant Jacob.” Tanchuma Yashan (Vayishlach,4) teaches, “Jacob sent [vayishlach] his brother Esau” (Gen. 32:4): G-d lamented: “Alas [Vai!] Jacob was sending messengers to Esau!” Likewise, regarding the verse, “So shall you say to my Lord Esau” (32:5), our sages comment (Bereshit Rabbah 75:11), “G-d said to him, 'You degraded yourself and called Esau 'my lord' eight times. I swear that I shall make eight of his offspring precede yours as kings.”
To understand the pitfall of lack of bitachon (trust in G-d), we must ponder the following verse: “He selected a 'mincha' for his brother Esau from what he had with him... These he gave to his servants... He said to his servants, “When my brother Esau encounters you, he will ask, 'To whom do you belong?'... You must reply, 'It belongs to your servant Jacob. It is a 'mincha' to my master Esau'”...Jacob said to himself, “I will win him over with the 'mincha' that is being sent ahead”... He sent the mincha ahead. (Gen. 32:4,17-19,21-22)A 'mincha' is a gift or present, but it is also the name of an offering or prayer. The offering whose specific name is mincha is brought from plants, either wheat or barley, andis called mincha because it is brought not only as a gift or present but also out of self-sacrifice and trust in G-d.
Our sages said (Menachot 104b): Why in the case of the mincha does it say "nefesh", (soul)? [“If an individual [nefesh] presents a meal-offering to the L-rd” (Lev. 2:1)], whereas regarding the olah, or burnt-offering, it says, “When one person [adam] brings an offering to the L-rd” (Lev. 1:2).] G-d said, “Who normally brings the mincha? The poor man. I shall treat him as having sacrificed his life before Me.” A poor man is unable to bring an animal, and even the flour he brings for his meal-offering involves self-sacrifice for him. Surely this is the true purpose of the korban, or sacrifice – that one sacrifice oneself and thereby bring oneself closer to G-d. The poor man, although even the meal-offering is as hard for him as sacrificing his life, still brings it, trusting in G-d to worry for him about his livelihood. This offering is called 'mincha', from the word "nach", “passed away”, as if the poor man bringing the mincha has died. For that same reason, the prayer preceding evening is called mincha.[...] It is called this because when the sun is already turning westward to rest [lanuach], to set, this is the time of mincha and of trusting in G-d. The light is dimming, darkness is approaching, and a person trusts that after the darkness of night, the sun will rise again and there will be light. The time for mincha is when sunset and darkness are approaching. This is why it is called mincha. Every mincha is tied to trust in G-d, and to poverty and humility before the One Who is Master of all. G-d will bring light and day once again. He will bring a livelihood to the poor man who brought Him his fine flour. He will save Israel from all its mighty enemies ...
[...] Jacob took the mincha, our gift to G-d, representing man's lowliness before his Maker, and his faith and trust in Him, and he transferred these sentiments to Esau. This reflected great lack of bitachon (trust in G-d), as in Rashbam's explanation of why Jacob was smitten in hist struggle with the angelic prince of Esau (on Gen. 39:29): Jacob was smitten and ended up with a limp, because G-d made a promise to him while he was fleeing. Just so, all who refuse to take G-d's path, or who take an opposing path, are punished.
In Rav Kahane's “Peirush HaMaccabee” we find: There were two people to whom G-d made promises but were afraid…: One was the choicest of the Patriarchs – this is Jacob, as it says, For Hashem chose Jacob to Himself (Psalms 135:4) [i.e. this verse testifies that Jacob was the chosen of the three Fathers]. And G-d said to him, And behold I am with you (Genesis 28:15) – and yet, eventually he was afraid, as it says, And Jacob was greatly afraid (ibid. 32:7). And the other was the choicest of the prophets – this is Moses, as it says, He said He would destroy them [the Israelites], had Moses, His chosen one, not stood in the breach before Him (Psalms 106:23). And G-d said to him, Because I will be with you – and yet, eventually he was afraid [of Og, king of Bashan], as it says, And Hashem said to Moses: Do not be afraid of him (Numbers 21:34); and one would only admonish “do not be afraid” to one who is afraid. – (Genesis Rabbah 76:1). This commandment, do not be afraid, is a difficult one to obey, and a major commandment. But the person whom G-d has sent on His mission must stand firm in his trust in Him. And if he has committed sins, he must understand that even though sins can indeed annul G-d’s promises, this will not happen as long as he is fulfilling a defined mission, according to G-d’s specific decree. [...] There is a moral here. Jacob feared Esau only because he was concerned that his own sins might have caused G-d to annul His promise to him: All these years, [Esau] was dwelling in the Land of Israel – meaning that he is coming against me with the power of having settled the Land of Israel… and meaning that he is coming against me with the power of having honored his father and mother (Genesis Rabbah 76:2). Nevertheless, he was wrong to be afraid, and was punished for having feared Esau. G-d had, after all, given him an explicit command – which entailed precisely the attributes of faith and trust in G-d – to return to the Land of Israel; and He surely would not have commanded him to endanger himself by returning to Israel had his sins been liable to annul the promise. To the contrary: this command was designed to test his trust in G-d against Esau – but he was afraid, and was therefore punished.
Faith and trust in G-d are no small matter. The Jewish People must prove their trust in G-d by difficult, frightening, and sometimes ostensibly dangerous acts, acts that demand of Israel courage, acts which by their very nature show disdain for the non-Jew, anger him and threaten to bring a confrontation between him and Israel, and all must be performed with complete faith and trust that if Israel do what is decreed upon them, then G-d, too, will fulfill what he promised His treasured nation.
Precisely this proves one's true faith and trust, for it is impossible that one who fears mortal man really believes in G-d. Real trust in G-d requires the Jew both to trust in Him and cast off all fear of mortal man and reliance on human aid. [...] Whoever accepts this principle of bitachon (trust in G-d) unreservedly, truly believes that G-d is the One Supreme Power, G-d of heaven and earth. Whoever hesitates, whoever fears the non-Jew, shows that he questions G-d's ability to help His people. It is doubtful, whether he completely believes in G-d as an Omnipotent Supreme Power.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from "The Jewish Idea" and "Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot" of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY"D