Reproof and Rebuke

Parshat Miketz

Pharaoh summons Yosef from the dungeon and tells him, ‘I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it. I have heard say of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it’. Yosef answers, ‘Not from me (biladai). G-d will answer Pharaoh’ (Genesis 41; 15-16). With Yosef’s first word to Pharaoh, biladai, he states his credo. Whatever happens, good or bad, it is G-d who is running the show. Therefore if G-d gave Pharaoh a glimpse of the future through a dream, He will also provide an interpreter to explain it. If Yosef has been divinely chosen to fulfil that task then he will be given the insight to do so, if not someone else will be found who will interpret it.


The Talmud states (Shabbat 23a), “Rav Kahana said Rav Natan bar Minyuma expounded in the name of Rav Tanchum; What does the verse mean ‘The pit was empty, there was no water in it’? If the pit was empty, isn’t it obvious that it doesn’t have water? Rather, the verse teaches us that the pit contained no water, but had snakes and scorpions instead.”1 Yosef’s brothers didn’t want to kill him directly. They had judged him deserving of death for his rebellion against the kingship of Yehuda, yet they were unable to actually shed the blood of their baby brother. Therefore,they threw him into a pit full of venomous snakes and scorpions in order to kill him. Yet miraculously Yosef escaped unharmed; G-d prevented the reptiles from biting him. Why is this miracle not mentioned explicitly in the Torah? Surely something as extraordinary, and important for the future, as an escape from death by the father of two tribes should be stated openly, rather than just alluded to.


This week’s Torah portion contains within it the story of the rape of Ya’akov’s daughter Dina, and the revenge of her brothers on the perpetrators of that deed. “Leah’s daughter Dina, whom she had borne to Ya’akov, went out to visit some of the local girls. She was seen by Shechem, son of the chief of the region, Chamor the Hivite. He seduced her, raped her, and afflicted her. He became attached to Dina, and fell in love with her...” (Bereishis 34; 1-3). Though his crime was unspeakably horrendous, it does not seem from the text that Shechem was a sociopath, or serial rapist. Were that the case he would not have come to Dina’s father to ask for her hand in marriage, and certainly would not have agreed to circumcision, which was the demand made of him and his village by Shimon and Levi, Dina’s brothers. Through a closer examination of this incident we can gain an insight into Shechem and behaviour (though it is without justification).

27th Cheshvan - Rabbeinu Yonah

Today (27th Cheshvan) is the Yarzheit of my favourite Rishon (at the moment), Rabbeinu Yonah. His words are all classics of Jewish thought, and his commentary on Pirkei Avos is essential reading for every Jew (according to R' Wolbe in Alei Shur).

As you know, I have just translated this commentary into English, and you can get a copy either by e-mailing me, or from Amazon, or from the publisher - (If you order it from me I'll even sign it for you if you want).

Also from torahlab you can see a couple of pages from the book as a sample. This is Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary on one Mishna

Here is a biography of Rabbienu Yonah written by Rabbi Yaacov Haber, taken from the book.


Rabbi Yaacov Haber


“G-d formed from the earth every beast of the field and every bird of the sky and brought them to Adam to see what he would call each one; and whatever Adam called each living creature, that remained its name” (Genesis 2: 19). We see from here the importance of names. A person’s Hebrew name is not mere coincidence, but is has an influence over their character traits, and shows us the potential within that person. The Hebrew word for “name” is Shem, which is related to the word Sham meaning “there”. How much more important to understanding the character of a person is a name given in the Torah, where every word has many layers of hidden meaning.

9th Cheshvan - R' Shimon Shkop

Known to all as simply R' Shimon, R' Shimon Shkop is one of the 'Roshei Yeshiva' who has become part of the staple diet of all yeshiva students. His chidushim in Shaarei Yosher with new and unique ways of looking at talmudic topics, revolutionised Torah study, and created a new foundation on which later novellae were built.

Today, 9th Cheshvan is the Yarzheit of this genius who refused to stay in America and returned to Europe before WWII at the request of the Chofetz Chaim and R' Chaim Ozer. He died during the war (though not in the holocaust).

Here is his biography from wikipedia

Rabbi Shimon Shkop (1860-1940) was a rosh yeshiva ("dean") in the Telshe yeshiva and a renowned Talmudic sholar. He was born in Tortz in 1860. At the age of twelve he went to study in the Mir yeshiva, and at fifteen he went to Volozhin yeshiva where he studied six years. His teachers were the Netziv and Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, with whom he was very close.


9th Cheshvan - The Rosh

The Rosh is one of the most crucial Rishonim on the Talmud. He is printed in the back of almost every Talmud, and is useful both as a halachacist, and also as one of the last tosafists he often clarifies and explains their position.

He is the bridge between Talmudic commentary and Halachic works. His son, the Tur (Yaakov ben Asher) is the author of the Arba Turim, which is the predecessor of the Shulchan Aruch. The Tur also wrote 'piskei harosh' which is a summary of the halacha derived from the Rosh's Talmudic commentary and is also printed in the back of most editions of the Talmud.

The Rosh was also the bridge between the Ashkenazi and Sefardi worlds, forced as he was to resettle and move from Northern Europe to Spain. His commentary is therefore an interesting commentary on the different customs of East and West at the time. R' Yosef Karo uses him as the 'Ashkenazi' amonst his three main sources (the other two being the Rif and Rambam).

This is from the OU:

Tzimtzum, Existence and Machlokes

I just gave this shiur which I think is essential listening.

We begin with the argument between Rambam and the Kalam in Moreh Nevuchim, then move on to a basic description of the AriZal's concept of tzimtzum which explains how G-d created the world, and allows for the interaction of the infinite with the finite. Finally we look at the two main interpretations of tzimtzum - the Vilna Gaon and the Baal HaTanya. They argue about whether tzimtzum is meant literally, or metaphorically. In other words, does the world really exist, or is it an illusion? is science real and of value, or illusory and heresy? do we have free choice, or is that only an illusion?

You can download the shiur here:

and these are the sources that go with the shiur:
Existence pdf

Download, listen, enjoy and please share your thoughts with me.

4th Av - Rama m'Pano

Today is the yarzheit of R' Menachem Azariah me-Pano (the Rema me-Pano) who was a great 16th century kabbalist and halachicist (or in other words, a Rabbi who knew all areas of Torah).

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