Questions and Suggested Answers

Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz

Question 1

“... because we saw his anguish, yet paid no heed as he pleaded with us....” (42 - 21)

What difficulty did Ramban find in this text and what are the three approaches that he offers in his commentary to resolve the difficulty?



The difficulty is why didn’t the Torah describe Yosef’s cries for mercy and help as part of the narrative in Parashat Vayeshev when the event actually occurred? Ramban offers the following answers:

1. It is obvious and natural that Yosef plead for mercy when he was thrown into the pit and therefore the Torah didn’t have to mention it explicitly at that juncture.

2. The Torah deleted mention of Yosef’s cries in deference to the brothers’ honor i.e. not to have them humiliated even more so in the reader’s eyes.

3. It is biblical style to be sparing of words in one place and to be more expansive in referring to the same event in a subsequent chapter.


Question 2

“... Therefore also, behold his blood is required.” (42 - 22) ...His blood and also the blood of his father. Rashi

Know and understand, if one kills another person or causes harm to a person, punishment is meted out not only on behalf of the actual victim but also on account for all who end up suffering because of the crime, as it states (Bereshit 42 -22) “...therefore also, behold his blood is required” to include his blood and the blood of his old father, and all others who are affected by the crime. Sefer Hasidim 131

What difficulty in the text confronted Rashi and how can it be resolved by utilizing the pshat approach?

The Humash text is quoting Reuven’s statement about the sale of Yosef. The brothers at worst sold him; they didn’t kill him! Why does Reuven speak about a reckoning for his “blood”? In addition, Yaakov, who dispatched the brothers to Egypt was obviously alive! Why is there a reckoning for “his blood” mentioned in the Midrash and quoted by Rashi?

Where else in Humash Bereshit does Rashi deal with this concept?



The reference to blood refers to the anguish one feels in a life-threatening situation. “Blood” implies being in danger of losing one’s blood, i.e. dying. See commentary of Radak and Metzudot David on Samuel I (26 - 20).

Thus Reuven was referring to the anguish of Yosef and the immediate subsequent anguish of Yaakov that now have to be redressed.

Rashi deals with this concept in commenting on the murder of Hevel (Bereshit 4 -10) on the words of God to Cain “...the voice of your brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground.” Rashi quotes the midrash: “his blood and the blood of his descendants.” In Reuven’s remarks, the Midrash speaks only of Yosef’s father because it’s possible that he is still alive and has descendants. In the case of Hevel, descendants are definitely cut off.


Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem




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11 Nov 2014 / 18 Heshvan 5775 0