- Parshat Vayeshev
The people are thirsty for unity now
Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald
The Parasha in our everyday life- Vayeshev - Chanukah - 5781
In our Parasha we read about one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the Jewish people that occurred during the process of its formation.
During four Psukim, the Torah describes the hatred between the brothers as a process that intensified:
וַיִּרְא֣וּ אֶחָ֗יו כִּֽי־אֹת֞וֹ אָהַ֤ב אֲבִיהֶם֙ מִכָּל־אֶחָ֔יו וַֽיִּשְׂנְא֖וּ אֹת֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יָכְל֖וּ דַּבְּר֥וֹ לְשָׁלֹֽם׃ וַיַּחֲלֹ֤ם יוֹסֵף֙ חֲל֔וֹם וַיַּגֵּ֖ד לְאֶחָ֑יו וַיּוֹסִ֥פוּ ע֖וֹד שְׂנֹ֥א אֹתֽוֹ...
וַיֹּ֤אמְרוּ לוֹ֙ אֶחָ֔יו הֲמָלֹ֤ךְ תִּמְלֹךְ֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ אִם־מָשׁ֥וֹל תִּמְשֹׁ֖ל בָּ֑נוּ וַיּוֹסִ֤פוּ עוֹד֙ שְׂנֹ֣א אֹת֔וֹ עַל־חֲלֹמֹתָ֖יו וְעַל־דְּבָרָֽיו. וַיַּחֲלֹ֥ם עוֹד֙ חֲל֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וַיְסַפֵּ֥ר אֹת֖וֹ לְאֶחָ֑יו ... וַיְקַנְאוּ־ב֖וֹ אֶחָ֑יו ...
"And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him. Once Yosef had a dream which he told to his brothers; and they hated him even more…
His brothers answered, “Do you mean to reign over us? Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams.
He dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers… So, his brothers were wrought up at him…" (Bereshit 37: 4-11).
The hatred intensified and reached a willingness to kill their brother, beloved of their father:
וַיִּרְא֥וּ אֹת֖וֹ מֵרָחֹ֑ק וּבְטֶ֙רֶם֙ יִקְרַ֣ב אֲלֵיהֶ֔ם וַיִּֽתְנַכְּל֥וּ אֹת֖וֹ לַהֲמִיתֽוֹ׃
"They saw him from afar, and before he came close to them, they conspired to kill him". (ibid. 18). At the end, they settled on his sale. This is how, Yosef ended up in Egypt, and began the move which finally brought the whole family and the people of Israel into exile in Egypt.
The stories of the Patriarchs are meant to teach us about the essential elements in them, which is an omen for the children, and affect future generations:
אומר לך כלל תבין אותו בכל הפרשיות הבאות בענין אברהם יצחק ויעקב, והוא ענין גדול , הזכירוהו רבותינו בדרך קצרה, ואמרו [תנחומא לך לך ט] כל מה שאירע לאבות סימן לבנים. ולכן יאריכו הכתובים בספור המסעות וחפירת הבארות ושאר המקרים, ויחשוב החושב בהם כאילו הם דברים מיותרים אין בהם תועלת. וכולם באים ללמד על העתיד, כי כאשר יבוא המקרה לנביא משלשת האבות, יתבונן ממנו הדבר הנגזר לבא לזרעו".
"I will tell you a general principle - understand it in all of the coming sections about Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov, and it is a great matter. Our Rabbis mentioned it in a brief way, and said (Midrash Tanchuma 9), "Everything that occurred to our forefathers is a sign for the children." And therefore, the verses will write at length in recounting the journeys and the digging of the wells and the other events. And one who thinks about them can think as if they were superfluous things with no purpose. But all of the events come to teach about the future, for when an event occurs to a prophet, [meaning] of the three forefathers, he will contemplate from it the matter that is decreed to come to his seed". (Ramban Bereshit 12:6)
The story about Yosef's sale taught us about the great danger inherent in the tendency to divide. It can degenerate into free hatred and even civil war. It weakens the people of Israel and exhausts their powers, which are directed to emptiness - to fight inwardly between brothers instead of concentrating all forces against the enemies. The enemies of our people and our haters in all generations knew how to recognize the symptoms and use them, as a weak point. They knew how to get into the seam between the camps with the "Divide and Rule" method. And knew how to stand aside and look with pleasure how the camps exhaust each other and do the work for them.
In the exile of Persia, Haman the Agagite recognized this:
...יֶשְׁנ֣וֹ עַם־אֶחָ֗ד מְפֻזָּ֤ר וּמְפֹרָד֙ בֵּ֣ין הָֽעַמִּ֔ים...
“There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm…" Megilat Esther 3:8) and therefore:
וְלַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֵין־שֹׁוֶ֖ה לְהַנִּיחָֽם׃
"and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them".
Esther, recognizing the weakening points and being asked to break the decree, called for unity:
לֵךְ֩ כְּנ֨וֹס אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֜ים...
“Go, assemble all the Jews" (4:16).
On Chanukah we celebrate the great miracle, and the wonder of the victory of the Hasmoneans we merit
וחזרה מלכות לישראל יתר על מאתיים שנה
"the returned Kingdom to Israel over two hundred years" (Rambam Chanukah 3a). But at the same time, we must also remember how the Hasmoneans' achievements dissolved at the end of that period, due to a civil war between the various factions, and the destruction of the Temple because of 'baseless hatred':
מקדש שני שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם
"However, considering that the people during the Second Temple period were engaged in Torah study, observance of mitzvot, and acts of kindness, and that they did not perform the sinful acts that were performed in the First Temple, why was the Second Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there was wanton hatred during that period." (Yoma 9b:8).
Yosef ben Matityahu described how the Romans watched the Jews from the side: "And all the ministers of the Roman armies rejoiced over the quarrels of the brethren among their haters and wanted to hurry and ascend the city, exhorting Titus Flavius Vespasianus, thinking that he would succeed. "Now G-d is fighting for them, in quarreling with their enemies, each with his brother, etc. And to these things answered Titus Flavius Vespasianus... If you hurry to get on the city immediately, you will establish a peace treaty between our enemies, and with the power on their hands, they will attack us. And if you give them an extension, then the number of our enemies will diminish, for the fire of quarrel will devour them. For G-d is better at war than me (Titus), and he will give away the Jews into the hands of the Romans graciously and give victory to our armies without toil and danger. And while the enemies go hand in hand with each other, a terrible curse on them, a civil war, it is better for us to look at them from a distance and sit at rest, than to interfere in a quarrel with people who are going to die, fighting among themselves in a spirit of madness" (Flavius Josephus's Books of the History of the Jewish War against the Romans, IV).
We have done it to ourselves, in 'baseless hatred', what no enemy has been able to do to us.
The poem "Eleh Ezkerah" recited on Yom Kippur, about the *Ten Martyrs (עשרת הרוגי מלכות)*, seeks to link ideologically and multi-generationally between the destruction of the Second Temple and the failure of the revolt, and the 'baseless hatred' and the 'sale of Yosef'.
The lack of unity does not only harm the social and national framework of the people of Israel, but it also harms its destiny as one who represents Divine unity (S. Haredim 70:7).
Sometimes, in different and painful chapters in our history, our greatest haters reminded us that we are one people, and did not make a distinction between the sectors:
הֲל֨וֹא אָ֤ב אֶחָד֙ לְכֻלָּ֔נוּ הֲל֛וֹא אֵ֥ל אֶֽחָ֖ד בְּרָאָ֑נוּ
"Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us?" (Malachi 2:10).
We remind ourselves of this in times of emergency. Anyone who looks around, will find that in the Israeli society, despite the diversity, the scope of charities and mutual aid in relation to the size of the population are among the largest in the world, as well as the willingness to donate kidneys from an altruistic motive. Although the media and politics try to paint the gaps and differences as unbridgeable, in our everyday life, in good neighboring, in the workplace and especially in the IDF, the picture is completely the opposite.
In recent generations, too, we have suffered from divisions and hatred that undermine national consensus, weakening the potential power of national security and our deterrent power.
And especially in periods of elections, in recent years, in which parties and individuals have been engaged in differentiation between man and his brother and in hatred. To garner some votes, they are willing to untie the knots and seams between sectors, laboriously sewn over the years.
If we correctly identify the moods of the last period, it seems that the people are tired of it and thirsty for unity! Now! Here in Israel and among all the Jews of the world.
*Ten Rabbis living during the era of the Mishnah who were martyred by the Roman Empire in the period after the destruction of the Second Temple.