25 Nov 2021 Vayeishev: Double Dipping
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeishev, the story of Yosef ha’Tzadik, the beloved son of Yaakov Avinu, begins in full force.
After fleeing from a wrathful brother who avowed to kill him (Bereishis 27), to a tumultuous twenty years at the home of his father-in-law Lavan (Ch.29-31), followed by the historic confrontation with Sar Shel Eisav and then Eisav himself (Ch.32-33), followed by the kidnapping and violation of his daughter Dina by Shechem (Ch.34), followed by the birth of Binyanim and the death of his beloved wife, Rachel (Ch.35), Yaakov Avinu settles back into the land of Canaan, where he longs for some peace and quiet (Rashi to 37:2). Alas, tranquility is not to be his as the trouble between Yosef and the brothers is sprung upon him.
As the beloved son, whom Father loved more than all the other brothers, Yosef receives a special tunic from Father (37:3). וַיִּרְא֣וּ אֶחָ֗יו כִּֽי־אֹת֞וֹ אָהַ֤ב אֲבִיהֶם֙ מִכׇּל־אֶחָ֔יו וַֽיִּשְׂנְא֖וּ אֹת֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יָכְל֖וּ דַּבְּר֥וֹ לְשָׁלֹֽם – When the brothers see that Father loves Yosef from all the brothers, their hatred towards Yosef begins, and they can no longer speak to him in peace (37:4).
After dreaming of kingship and rulership – narratives which Yosef shares with his brothers – the brothers have had enough of this beloved son and they plot to dispose of him… One day, as the brothers are pasturing the flocks of Yaakov, Yosef is sent to see how his brothers are faring. As they see him coming, they devise a plan. After stripping him of his special tunic, they throw him into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions, from which he is ultimately sold down to Egypt (Ch.39).
In regard to the tunic which they divest him of, the pasuk tells us: וַיִּקְחוּ, אֶת–כְּתֹנֶת יוֹסֵף; וַיִּשְׁחֲטוּ שְׂעִיר עִזִּים, וַיִּטְבְּלוּ אֶת–הַכֻּתֹּנֶת בַּדָּם, and they took Yosef’s tunic, and they slaughtered a goat, and they dipped the tunic into the blood (Bereishis 37:31).
R’ Shlomo Zalman Bregman shares a beautiful idea regarding the cloak that they dipped in blood. “The Ben Ish Chai (1835 – 1909) notes that there are two key mentions of ‘dipping’ in the Torah. The first one is in this pasuk, pertaining to the brothers of Yosef and the manner in which they dipped his tunic in blood. The second dipping is to be found in Parshas Bo, regarding the rituals and laws surrounding the Korban Pesach. There, the pasuk says: וּלְקַחְתֶּם אֲגֻדַּת אֵזוֹב, וּטְבַלְתֶּם בַּדָּם אֲשֶׁר–בַּסַּף, וְהִגַּעְתֶּם אֶל–הַמַּשְׁקוֹף וְאֶל–שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת, מִן–הַדָּם אֲשֶׁר בַּסָּף, ‘and you shall take a bundle of hyssop and dip it into the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel of the two doorposts with some of the blood that is in the basin’ (Shemos 12:22).
“Ben Ish Chai says that the practice to dip twice at the Pesach Seder – as referenced in the Mah Nishtanah, ‘On all other nights we do not dip even once, but on this night, two times’ – is to parallel these two dippings in the Torah.
“The obvious question is: yes, the dipping in regard to the Korban Pesach clearly has to do with the Exodus from Egypt. When Hashem saw (keviyachol) the blood of the Korban Pesach on the lintels and doorposts of the Israelite homes, he passed over these homes, and the inhabitants were spared death during the Plague of the Firstborn. Ultimately, it was this blood of the Korban Pesach that led to our Redemption from Egypt.
“But what does the Pesach Seder have to do with Yosef and the dipping of his tunic in the goat’s blood? Why is this dipping – from Parshas Vayeishev – referenced on leil ha’Seder?
“Ben Ish Chai explains as follows: The Jewish people ended up in galus Mitzrayim – referenced by the second dipping – because of the hatred and lashon harah that were part of the story of Yosef and his brothers – referenced by the first dipping. Hence, the events surrounding the tunic being dipped in blood actually served as the catalyst for Yosef being sent down to Egypt, and ultimately, the entire family of Yaakov as well.
“Therefore, if we sincerely mean what we say as we conclude the Seder, ‘l’shana ha’bah b’Yerushalayim’ – next year may we celebrate in a rebuilt and redeemed Jerusalem – then we must begin by addressing the events and behaviors that led to the first dipping” (Short and Sweet on the Parsha, Feldheim, p.91-92).
If hatred between brothers led to exile – both in our parsha on the familial level, and after the destruction of the Second Temple on the national level (Yoma 9b) – then it is only love between brothers that will reverse the process and lead to our redemption.
After the passing of HaRav Yaakov Edelstein zt’l (Rav of Ramat Ha’Sharon, Israel; brother of Ha’Gaon Ha’Rav Gershon Edelstein shlita) Avi Gruber, the mayor of Ramat HaSharon, reminisced painfully, “His door was always open, every day and every hour, with a good word and a smile. He never checked to see if there was a kippah on a person’s head. He only looked to the heart. You know, we are so used to conflicts between the religious and the nonreligious that we forget it’s possible to just respect everyone. Years ago I noticed that on Shabbat the city’s residents didn’t drive through the street where the Rav’s Shul was situated. Let me be clear: there is no penalty or enforcement against driving on Shabbat there, but people preferred to bypass it and not to enter the street of our Rav… In my opinion, that says a lot” (Reaching for Heaven, Artscroll, p.338).
“Once, someone went over to Rav Edelstein and said to him, ‘I want to be great in Torah just like you. What advice can you give me so that I may achieve this?’ Rav Edelstein answered, ‘To be great in Torah, first you have to love each and every single Jew’” (ibid, p.112).
As we learn the story of Yosef and his brothers, and their descent to Egypt, let us remember the double dippings. It was animosity and divide that led to the Egyptian exile, and that led to our current exile. When we can love each other, despite our differences, then the process will be reversed and redemption will arrive – may it be immediate and in our days.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,