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Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Best Insurance

Towards the end of the 4th aliyah, Yosef, unrecognized by his brothers, recognizes them when they come to buy food. He accuses them of treachery and imprisons them for three days. In the 5th aliyah, Yosef demands that Binyamin be brought to Egypt and keeps Shimon as a hostage. The brothers relate their adventure to Yaakov who refuses to send Binyamin. The increasing famine forces Yaakov to concede to Yehuda's guarantee that Binyamin will be safe, and the brothers return to Egypt. However two of the twelve tribes gamble on 2 of the most precious things in order that they will bring back Binyamin alive and well to Yaakov. In Perek 42, Pasuk 37 Reuven says “You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him to you.” Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Zalaznik asks: Whatever possessed Reuven to put his sons’ lives on the line? How could he be so sure that he would not fail to return with Binyamin?

Also, in Perek 43, Pasuk 9, Yehuda says “I will guarantee him, you may demand him from my hand. If I do not bring him to you and present him to you, then I will have sinned against you for always,” Rashi explains that Yehuda was undertaking here to forfeit his share in the next world should he fail to bring back Binyamin. Why was this necessary? Surely Yaakov knew that Yehuda will try his best to bring back Binyamin safely, guarantee or not. So why do both Yehuda and Reuven forfeit such precious things to their father?

With the case of Reuven, the Gemara (Bava Kama 50a) tells the story of Nechunia Chofer Sichin, a righteous individual who was in the habit of excavating water holes for the public use. Once, his daughter fell into such a pit and Nechunia assured everyone that she would remain unscathed. How could he be so sure? The answer is that it would be inconceivable that the very thing that he provided for the public good should cause grief to him. The same is true with Reuven. He knew that the sons of one such as he, exerted himself in saving Yosef from certain death, could not possibly fall victim to a similar fate, therefore he made their lives dependent of his returning of Binyamin, for by doing so, he was ensuring G-D would grant him success.

In the case of Yehuda the Shem Meshumuel explains that if a person is working towards an important goal, he won’t quite give it his all, as he is liable to lose heart along the way, unless success is critical. In that case, however difficult it is to succeed, he will pursue it tenaciously andreach deep into himself to discover hidden strengths and talent that will carry him success. This is what Yehuda was doing by agreeing to forfeit his share in the next world; he was exposing himself to peril of the highest order. He also did this so Yaakov could be calmer, as he knew for certain that Yehuda will try his upmost to bring Binyamin back as he would extend himself to the very limits of his ability and beyond, to return Binyamin – even in situations that he might have otherwise deemed hopeless had not so much been at stake.

(Dvar torah brought from Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin)

Shabbat Shalom

By Alex Klinger 

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