Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Ask Questions First, Give P'shat After

This morning I was thinking about one of my favorite topics: how b'chira chafshis (free will) works with hashgacha pratis (divine providence).  An event in this week's parsha (vayeishev) is at the core of many of the discussions.  The B'nei Yisrael decide that Yosef is chayiv misa but don't want to have his blood on their hands, so they throw Yosef into a pit that is "reik; ein bo mayim" (b'reishis 37:24).  Rashi is m'dayek and explains: water there wasn't, snakes and scorpions there were.  That begs the question: What did they accomplish?  Throwing someone into a pit with venomous snakes and scorpions isn't much different than restraining them to pour poison down their throat, after all.

So I "just happened" to ride up alongside my mobile chavrusa, Baruch Weinberg.  I had just learned the mishna in avos with my son that exhorts judges not to lead the witnesses, so I decided instead of telling him my p'shat, I'd first ask Baruch his ideas on the topic.  Baruch says, "They didn't know there were snakes and scorpions in the pit and letting someone starve is not the same level as outright murder."  "But Rashi says there were snakes and scorpions in there!", I say.  "Right, but it was deeper that 20 amos and the gemara in shabbos puts that together with the halacha that you are not allowed to be chanuka lights higher than 20 amos because people won't see them."  That's the problem/great thing about arguing with Baruch, he has actual facts to back up his opinions.

We then got separated by traffic and so I had to work out the rest by myself.  What do we do about Rashi's (actually, Chazal's) diyuk that the pit had no water but did have snakes and scorpions?  We have to read that pasuk as "They threw him into a bit that had no water (they could check that by throwing a rock down first); they did not know, however, that there were snakes and scorpions."  A narrator's comment in the middle of a story with no indication of change of voice; and a hint, no less?  Actually, the Torah does that all the time.  The previous pasuk , for example, tells us Reuvein's intention in suggesting the pit, and in last week's parsha we find that Rivka's p'tira is revealed by a hint.

Then I arrived at work.  Whew!  Another short ride; where does the time go?


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…