Danny Ginsbourg
Danny Ginsbourg INN:DG

We read in our Parasha, (37:18-30), that, when Yosef’s brothers saw him approaching, ‘they conspired against him to kill him;..saying: ‘Look, that dreamer is coming..let us kill him, and throw him into one of the pits’; and we will say:’A wild beast devoured him’..Reuben heard, and he rescued him from their hand; he said:’We will not strike him mortally!’; And Reuben said to them:’Shed no blood! Throw him into this pit in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him.’- intending to rescue him from their hand, to return him to his father. And so it was..(but) Judah said to his brothers:’What gain will there be if we kill our brother, and cover his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites..His brothers agreed’, and they sold him to passing traders who ‘brought Yosef to Egypt; Reuben returned to the pits..and behold!- Yosef was not in the pit..; Returning to his brothers, he said:’The boy is gone! And I, where can I go?’.

Rashi comments:’To rescue him’: Ruach Hakodesh attests on Reuben, that he did not say so, only to save him, so that he would come and take him out of the well, saying: As I am the בכור: the first-born, the blame will only be cast on me. ‘And Reuben returned to the well’: he was not present when Yosef was sold..he was engaged in fasting for having disarrayed his father’s bed’.

Adds Rav David Pardo:’Reuben’s fear was that it would be said that he killed Yosef, because ‘he’-Reuben- ‘was the first-born’, and acted out if jealousy, that the status of first-born was taken from him, and given to Yosef, and this is the meaning of the comment of Rashi’.

The Torah, to totally disabuse us of this ‘natural’ reaction, attests that Reuben acted solely ‘to rescue Yosef, and to return him to his father’, to Yaakov

Our Sages give beautiful expression to the nobility of Reuben’s intention, saying (Brachot 7:):’Leah’- his mother- extolled:’ראה: See the difference between my son, and the son of my father-in-law: Esav! Even though he willingly sold his birthright to Yaakov’ he sought to kill him, over it; my son, Reuben, even though Yosef took his birthright from him, nevertheless, he was not jealous of him, as it is written:’And Reuben heard, and he rescued him from their hand’’.

Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv adds:’Reuben had reason to wish to settle accounts with Yosef: he, Reuben, had been the ‘king’ of the brothers, and was deposed, and the one who was destined to take his place, was Yosef.

‘When the brothers decided how to deal with Yosef, what would one in the position of Reuben do? He would naturally harbor resentment against Yosef, and even if he abstained, and took no part, in the sale, he would rightly be called a Tzadik.

‘And what did Reuben do? He acted ‘to rescue Yosef from the hand of his brothers’!

The Alshich Hakadosh brings a new insight into this affair, saying:’Whilst to the rest of the brothers, Yosef’s dreams were like thorns in their eyes, to Reuben they were like sweet honey- because, by dreaming that ‘eleven stars would bow down to him’, Yosef included Reuben as equal with his other brothers; Reuben rejoiced in his heart, upon hearing this, that he had not lost his place as a result of disarraying his father’s bed.

‘To address this, the Torah immediately attests that he acted to save Yosef, not because of this ‘glad tiding’, but SOLELY ‘to return Yosef to his father’: to spare his father the sorrow of being separated from his beloved Yosef’.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, however, derives a seemingly apposite lesson from this very same situation, not by way of disagreement, but by way of mussar.

He brings a saying of our Sages, which mirrors that which the Alshich Hakadosh advanced:’And Reuben heard and he rescued him from their hand’: Where was Reuben? Say the Sages: Said Reuben: he, Yosef, counts me amongst his brothers, as it says:’And eleven stars bow down to me’, and I shall not save him?!’.

Expounds the Rav: ‘And Reuben HEARD’, he paid heed, for whilst the judgement that the brothers pronounced on Yosef, was just, even in Reuben’s eyes, nevertheless, when he thought further into the matter, he concluded that, because of הכרת הטוב: the debt of gratitude, that he owed Yosef, he needed to do whatever he could, to save him from the decree.

‘Yet, when we contemplate why Reuben owed a debt of gratitude to Yosef, we need to ask: For what?

‘After all, what did Yosef do for Reuben? He only dreamt a dream, the main message of which was for his own benefit, and only ‘in passing’, tangentially, did it bring good tidings about Reuben.

‘Yet, teach our Sages, that this was sufficient, for Reuben to owe a debt of gratitude to Yosef, even though Yosef did not expend any energy in it, the fact that Reuben did ‘benefit’ from it, created a debt of gratitude’!

A parting thought from Rav Zalman Sorozkin: How strange: the ‘wicked’ Esav, postpones his revenge against Yaakov, whilst his father is still living, to spare him anguish from the fate which Esav intends to place on Yaakov; yet, the righteous brothers of Yosef, the paragons of a people called ‘the compassionate sons of the compassionate’, seemingly take no account of the anguish their actions against Yosef, will cause their father! אתמהה: how confusing!

‘But, when a decree has been decreed from Above, that Yosef- and Yaakov and all his nation- are to go down to Egypt, all wisdom and all normal considerations, even compassion, are as nought, against the Divine Wisdom!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.

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