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21 Issue #15

Parashas Vayyigash

Sudden and Dramatic Jewish Unity

Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann

(YUHSB 92, RIETS 01)

Director, Beth Din of America
In 1944, Rabbi Yissochor Shlomo Teichtel ztl, an
eminent Hungarian talmid chakham, completed work on his seifer,
Eim Habanim Semeichah. The work is an impressive compendium of
sources and reflections about the importance of taking proactive
steps to bring about kibbutz galiyos (the ingathering of the exiles)
and the Messianic redemption. Written, as it was, in the midst of
the upheaval of the Holocaust, the seifer is a remarkable example of
Torah-based hope and optimism in the face of unimaginable
One of the primary themes Rabbi Teichtel develops in his
seifer is achdus. He cites numerous sources indicating that in the
course of its march towards redemption the Jewish people will
come together in unity and mutual respect. Like all his predictions
about the end of days, Rabbi Teichtel keeps it real: the impending
unity of the Jewish people is not just a theoretical proposition, but
a reality on the verge of unfolding in the aftermath of the
cataclysmic events that European Jews were then witnessing.
But how is it possible to imagine such a sudden and
dramatic reversal of the current situation? Like now, Jews were far
from united in pre-war Europe, and that reality presented a
formidable obstacle to Rabbi Teichtels optimistic prediction of
imminent redemption.
To meet this challenge, Rabbi Teichtel first responds by
citing the mishnah in Avos (4:3): veal tehi maflig lekhol davar, which
he interprets as meaning that anything can happen at any time. But
then he argues that Jewish unity is particularly likely to sprout
because it represents a sort of regression to the mean. Maharal, in
his work Netzach Yisroel, writes that certain conditions reflect the
natural order of things. Deviations from nature are short lived,
since things have a tendency to revert to their usual course. Rabbi
Teichtel is convinced that Jewish unity is natural, and that the
splintering that we know all too well is a temporary deviation.
How does he know this? Because of a passuk in this weeks parshah.;
in summarizing the count of people who accompanied Yaakov
down to Mitzrayim, the passuk says, kol hannefesh habbaah leYaakov
Mitzraymah kol nefesh shishim vasheish. all the nefesh that came with
Yaakov to Mitzrayim all the nefesh, sixty-six.(Genesis 46:26)
The medrash (Yayikra Rabbah 4:6) notes that in contrast to the
description of the members of Eisavs family (Bereishis 36:6), the
passuk here uses the singular nefesh (soul) rather than the plural

9 Teves 5777

nefashos (souls). For the Jewish people exclusively, the natural

order is that we are like one person.
We should internalize this message and be mindful of the
importance of Jewish unity in our interactions with other Jews. In
return, may we merit a sudden and dramatic unification of Kelal
Yisrael speedily in our days.

Chut Hameshulash: Volume II

Yair Caplan (17)

(Through the Makor Chaim Exchange Program, MTA students were exposed to a
fascinating seifer on the parasha, titled Chut Hameshulash Bashearim. This work is
a Polish pilpul seifer on Chumash, written by three generations of Rabbinic figures from
Gogw, Rabbi Asher Halevi Lemel, his son Rabbi Yechiel-Michel Halevi Lemel, and
grandson Rabbi Moshe Halevi Lemel. This devar Torah is a paraphrased English
synopsis of the Shaar Hakatan, Rabbi Moshe Halevis piece from Chut Hameshulash
on parashas Vayyigash)

The gemara in Bava Basra daf 123 records an interesting

back and forth regarding our parashah. Abba Chalafta asks R
Chanina Bar Abba, [Genesis 46:27] says there were seventy souls
who went down with Yaakov to Mitzrayim, but when one counts
the names, one finds only sixty-nine! R Chanina responds that the
passuk (46:15) says vees Dinah bito, using the superfluous es to
indicate that a twin was born with Dinah, and this twin was number
seventy. Abba Chalafta retorts that it also says the word es by
Binyamin, which would also suggest he was born with a twin, and
the total should be seventy-one. Since this is not the correct
number it must be that the answer of es Dinah, is invalid. Finally,
R Chanina responds I had a pearl in my hands, and you tried to
take it from me? Rather, the seventieth is Yocheved, daughter of
Levi, who was born as Yaakovs family entered Egypt.
There are two glaring problems with this gemara.
Number one: Why did R Chanina give the answer of es Dinah if
it would be so easily refuted? He surely knew the fact that the passuk
added es by Binyamin as well! Number two: Why did R Chanina
say that Abba Chalafta wanted to take his pearl? He didnt merely
want to, he succeeded in doing so!
As per the classical Polish approach, the Shaar Asher
turns his attention to a different issue, which, when resolved, will
help us understand our two original questions. He is bothered by
the passuk from the beginning of parashas Shemos (1:5), where the
Torah repeats that Yaakovs progeny was seventy souls, this time

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adding VeYosef haya bemitzrayim, and Yosef was in Egypt. Why is

this last fact relevant? Rashis approach (based on Sifrei Haazinu,
which maintains that this passuk is teaching that Yosef remained
righteous in the spiritual abyss of Egypt) is difficult, because it
doesnt explain why this line is necessary in context. So R Asher
Halevi takes an alternative approach, which will eventually help
answer questions from our discussion.
The gemara in Taanis 11a states that it is prohibited to
have relations during a famine, and brings proof from the fact that
Yosef followed this law by having Ephraim and Menashe beterem
tavo haraav, before the famine began. Tosafos on the daf is baffled:
How then could Levi have fathered Yocheved just before leaving
for Egypt, during a famine? The Reeim answers that Levi was an
exception to the rule, as he had only fathered boys, but no girls,
and thus had not fulfilled the obligation of pirya verivya, according
to Beis Hillel, whom the halachah follows. The Beis Yosef asks on
the Reeim the obvious question what about Yosef? He shouldnt
have been prohibited from having children either, because he too
only had sons!
The Shaar Asher answers based on the yesod that even in
the mitzvos that Benei Noach are required to follow, they arent
required to fulfill all of the details of said mitzvos; rather, they must
simply satisfy the general principle of their given commandments
(just as the medrash in Bereishis Rabbah states that Lemechs two
wives both fulfilled pirya verivya, even though one gave birth to no
girls). Furthermore, the Ramban maintains that the Avos kept the
entire Torah (with a few notable exceptions), yet he qualifies this
by positing that they only acted as Bnei Yisrael, while inside Eretz
Yisrael. Yet when they were stationed in the diaspora, they acted
as Bnei Noach. Thus the Reeim is defended from the Beis Yosef:
Levi was in Eretz Yisrael, and therefore acted like a Jew, complying
with all of the details of the mitzvos, and thus he had yet to fulfill
pirya verivya when he only had two boys (i.e. he lacked the detail
of following the pesak halachah of Beis Hillel). Conversely, Yosef
was living in Egypt, outside of Eretz Yisrael, so he acted like a Ben
Noach, fulfilling the general obligation of pirya verivya with his two
boys, losing his exemption from the ban on relations during a
This explains why the passuk in Shemos adds the seemingly
superfluous Yosef was in Egypt, because the beginning of the
passuk is telling us here that Yaakov had seventy family members at
the time, inevitably including Yocheved. This raises the question
of Tosafos, How could Levi have fathered her? prompting our
answer that Levi was an exception, and assuring us, in defense of
the Reeim, that Yosef was not an exception, considering that he
was in Mitzrayim, acting like a Ben Noach (in accordance with the
Rambans qualification), already yotzei in his general pirya verivya.
Before getting back to our original two problems, R
Asher Halevi adds a third: Why is Abba Chalaftas refutation (from
es Binyamin) valid? Why cant R Chanina simply answer that
Binyamins twin married one of the shevatim (just as R Yehuda
suggests for all of the tribes twins)? This would explain why

Vol. 21 Issue #15

Binyamins twin wasnt counted, as Bereishis 46:26 states that the

count of seventy excluded the wives of the shevatim; and now the
mysterious seventieth soul could be
Dinahs twin, who must not have
married a sheivet, and thus would
have been counted! (This would
also explain why the word es is
used only by these two twins: the
rest of the twins born with
shevatim, as Rashi suggests, died
before the trip to Egypt, while
only two twins, the ones alluded
to with the word es, survived!)
The answer to this third
problem is simple: If we assume
like the Ramban from before, that
the Avos kept the Torah, it is
impossible to suggest that shevatim
married their sisters.
And now, equipped with
these notions, we can answer our
first two questions. The back and
forth of the gemara can be read as
follows: After Abba Chalafta
posed the seventy vs. sixty-nine
discrepency, R Chanina was bothered by Tosafos question on
Taanis 11a, and didnt feel that the Ramban was correct in
defending the Reeim, and thus the problem remained surrounding
how Levi could have possibly had Yocheved at such a time (as he
didnt keep the Torah like a Yisrael, and therefore hed already
fulfilled the general pirya verivya with two boys). R Chanina
therefore answered with es Dinah, the alternative to the faulty
Yocheved response. And when Abba Chalafta tried to take away
his pearl of an answer by retorting with es Binyamin, this only
revealed that Abba Chalafta held in accordance with the
Rambans yesod, (as we established in the above paragraph: the
refutation of es Binyamin only stands if the Rambans view is
followed). Thus, R Chanina replied (not to have his pearl
successfully taken away), with yet another pearl, the answer of
Yocheved, now valid because Abba Chalafta himself implicitly
insisted (in the previous refutation) on maintaining the view of the
Ramban, allowing the problems with Yocheveds birth to drift
away (as Levi was acting like a Yisrael, and indeed was exempted
from the ban on relations because he had not fulfilled the details of
the mitzvah)! In other words, R Chanina was answering in the
form of a mimah nafshach, loosely translated as either way. If we
choose to dismiss the Ramban, then Yocheved cannot be the
answer, but Dinahs twin surely can be the solution. On the flip
side, if we decide to adopt the Rambans position, then Dinahs
twin is indeed refuted as a possible answer, while Yocheved is
again a perfect candidate for a pearly resolution.