Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Parshat Vayeitzei 5783
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha the birth of the Shevatim, the tribes of Israel. Rachel, after suffering for years as a barren woman, eventually has a child and calls him Yosef. When her child is born Rachel says (Chapter 30, Pasuk 23), אסף אלוקים את חרפתי; Gd has put aside my shame. In the very next pasuk we read that she calls him Yosef, יוסף ד' לי בן אחר. In calling him Yosef, Rachel also requests that Hashem grant her another child. Why the need for two separate reasons for the name?

The Torah pointedly states that Yaakov wanted to leave Lavan’s home precisely when Yosef was born. The pasuk states (Chapter 30, Pasuk 25), ויהי כאשר ילדה רחל את יוסף ויאמר יעקוב אל בלבן שלחני. When Rachel gave birth to Yosef, Yaakov said to Lavan let me go. Rashi explains that Yosef was the completion of Yaakov Avinu; he was the flame to his fire. And with this fire of their combined powers, they would be able to defeat Eisav and consume him like straw.

Seemingly, the two reasons given for the name of Yosef contradict each other. The first statement of אסף אלוקים את חרפתי is the ability to go back and remove and erase unpleasant experiences. The second statement, יוסף ד' לי בן אחר, is the ability to move forward and increase one’s influence. The Sfas Emes teaches that the two express differing capabilities that are both necessary and complement each other. In order to move forward, one must first deal with unpleasant experiences of his past. As Rachel says, it was very challenging being barren while the other women were having babies. And it was very painful when people were saying that she would end up with Eisav. Now she could forget those unpleasant experiences and move forward. Her first response was that Hashem had removed her shame, and her second response was that now she wanted to move forward; she requested more children.

Yosef himself had two sons who became tribes, Ephraim and Menashe. And these two sons each expressed one of these abilities. When Menashe was born, Yosef says (Chapter 41, Pasuk 51), כי נשני אלוקים את כל עמלי. Hashem has caused me to forget my difficult burden. And when Ephraim is born, we read in the next pasuk the reason for his name, כי הפרני אלוקים. Gd has allowed me to multiply and increase. The two traits both expressed in Yosef are now expressed individually in his two sons. Similarly, when Yosef was born, Yaakov was given the ability to defeat his brother Eisav by first forgetting his unpleasant experience with him and with Lavan, and by being able to move on and extend his own sphere of influence and confront Eisav.

The Sfas Emes teaches that we find the same dichotomy in Shabbos. The two mitzvos of Shabbos from the Torah are Shamor and Zachor. Shamor is the negative command of refraining from melacha on Shabbos. Zachor is the positive command of Shabbos; of making Kiddush and an overall appreciation of Shabbos and experiencing its holiness. Chazal darshen the words ששת ימים תעבוד ועשית כל מלאכתך, כשתבא שבת יהא בעיניך כאילו כל מלאכתך עשויה. When Shabbos comes in, you should consider it as if all your work is done. In other words, you must forget your work and your mundane world. In order to fulfill the remembering of Shabbos, you must first forget everything else. The two combine to create one entity of keeping Shabbos. Shamor V’Zachor B’Dibbur Echad.

Though Yosef had both abilities, of both forgetting and remembering, the main force of Yosef was זכרון. The commentators teach in parshat Tetzaveh that the אבני שהם on the חושן  represent Yosef. And the Torah in parshat Pekudei (Chapter 39, Pasuk 7) refers to them as אבני זכרון. Yosef also remembers who he is and where he comes from when confronted with the wife of Potiphar.

Eisav represents forgetting. He is compared to straw in the Rashi quoted above and will be consumed and forgotten. The mitzvah by Amalek is to erase their memory; they are meant to be forgotten. And Rivka tells Yaakov to go to Lavan until Eisav forgets. When he forgets, I will call for you to return. She says (Chapter 27, Pasuk 45), ושכח את אשר עשית לו ושלחתי ולקחתיך משם.

When Yosef is born, Yaakov fills with confidence from his new abilities. Yosef is memory, and as Rashi teaches on the words (Chapter 25, Pasuk 23), ולאום מלאום יאמץ, כשזה קם זה נופל. The strength of the memory of Yosef brings about the forgetting of Eisav. And Yaakov tells Lavan, שלחני; I’m ready to go home and face my brother Eisav.

Good Shabbos

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