Home December 2011 Post-Gilad Shalit Chanukah Thoughts

Post-Gilad Shalit Chanukah Thoughts

Pharaoh experienced his famous dreams during a certain undefined two-year period.  Commentators explain that this time period refers to the time that spanned from the date of Yosef’s interpretation of the dreams of the chief cup-bearer and the chief baker who had been imprisoned with Yosef.
He had to spend an additional two years in prison, because twice he urged the chief cup-bearer to “remember” him to Pharaoh after he made his favorable interpretation.  Still, the punishment of Yosef seems to be somewhat at odds with the accepted principle in Judaism that one may not rely on miracles.  One must have complete faith in God while, at the same time, continue to exhaust all appropriate self-help measures.  Some commentators explain that there was, in fact, nothing inherently wrong with Yosef asking the cup-bearer for help.  Yosef, however, because of his righteousness, was judged by a far higher standard, and his actions were examined with strict scrutiny.  As the Sages say, “God is scrupulous with the righteous even to a single hair,” demanding virtual perfection from the virtuous.  Although seeking help from the cup-bearer would be otherwise acceptable behavior, it was unacceptable in the case of a tzaddik like Yosef.  Somewhat analogous to this would be the very severe punishment imposed upon Moshe for striking – rather than speaking – to the rock.
Nevertheless, the problem with this type of response is that it seems to view self-help and individual initiative as allowances to human weakness rather than as requirements.  Rebbeynu Bachya, for example, explains that Yosef did not simply ask the cup-bearer for assistance but, instead, placed his trust in him.  The Chazon Ish explains that Yosef may well have been required to make efforts to obtain his release since the requirement to trust in God does not absolve us from pursuing natural means instead of only relying on miracles.  Simultaneously, however, one must be aware of clutching wildly at any straw and foolishly enlisting unreliable allies.  Yosef should have realized from the behavior of the cup-bearer that the latter was the kind of person who would forget his benefactor when the wheels of fortune turned.  Yosef’s failure to recognize this was indicative of a desperation unworthy of Yosef and suggested a lapse in the trust in God.  It is also brought down that Yosef was punished even though we are told that God often sends us salvation by natural means through human being(s), explaining that we may trust in man but only in someone who has earned that trust.  Yosef was punished, because he placed his trust in an evil person.

From the Torah to Your Table
The Rambam holds that pidyon shevuyim (the duty to ransom captives) supersedes the duty of charity to the poor.  The Gemara further maintains that funds set aside for charitable purposes or for the construction of a synagogue may be used to ransom captives.  Discuss the mitzvah at your Shabbos table.

A Final Thought on Pidyon Shevuyim
“A person who delays the fulfillment of this duty and causes undue prolongation of his fellow Jew’s imprisonment is regarded as if he has spilled his blood.”
(Yad 8:12)

December 2011
Kislev-Tevet 5772
Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Friday, December 2
Light candles at 4:25 p.m.

Saturday, December 3
Torah Portion: Vayetze
(Genesis 28:10-32:3)

Friday, December 9
Light candles at 4:25 p.m.

Saturday, December 10
Torah Portion: Vayishlah
(Genesis 32:4-36:43)

Friday, December 16
Light candles at 4:27 p.m.

Saturday, December 17
Torah Portion: Vayeshev
(Genesis 37:1-40:23)

Friday, December 23
Light candles at 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, December 24
Torah Portion: Miketz
(Genesis 41:1-44:17)

Friday, December 30
Light candles at 4:34 p.m.

Saturday, December 31
Torah Portion: Vayigash
(Genesis 44:18-47:27)

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