The Goat Atones For Yosef's Sale – But Why Now?
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Yissocher Frand's Weekly Portion Torah Tapes: Tape #764, Loaig Le'rosh –
Respecting the Dead. Good Shabbos!
On the eighth day of the consecration of the Miskhan, following the 7 day
period of inauguration, the Jewish people were told to bring a number of
sacrifices. Included among them was a goat for a sin offering. The Toras
Kohanim suggests that this was an atonement for the sin of selling Yosef. To
cover up the crime of selling their sibling into slavery, Yosef's brothers
slaughtered a goat and dipped Yosef's coat into the blood of the goat to
make it look like Yosef was killed by a wild animal.
The Oznaim L'Torah from Rav Zalman Sorotzkin asks an obvious question: Why
is this symbolism appropriate now at the dedication of the Mishkan? Maybe it
would have been appropriate when they left Egypt to have the Paschal
Offering be a goat rather than a lamb. After all, they wound up in Egypt
because of the sale of Yosef. Now that they were leaving, it would be an
appropriate time to lay the matter of their guilt permanently to rest and
bring an atonement offering. This was not done at that time. Rather, the
symbolic recollection of that earlier event only occurs now, many months
later, when the Mishkan is being dedicated. Why?
The Oznaim L'Torah gives a very logical answer. The underlying cause of the
sin of Yosef's sale was unfounded hatred (sinas Chinam). Part of the
function of the Mishkan was to act as a unifying force within the Jewish
people. That is why emphasis is placed on the fact that it was "in the midst
of the camp." The Mishkan was the focal institution of the nation,
geographically as well as spiritually. It served to unify Klal Yisrael.
This year, unfortunately, because of our sins we all spent Pessach
separately. But G-d willing, the Temple will speedily be rebuilt and we will
all spend Pessach together in Jerusalem -- unified as a single and cohesive
nation. The Oznaim L'Torah quotes the pasuk from Parsahs Terumah "The middle
bar inside the beams shall extend from end to end (min hakatzeh el
hakatzeh)" [Shmos 26:28] This phrase is symbolic of the ability to unify
diverse components of the people -- from the far left to the far right --
who can all come together and rally around a single national focus of
attention, i.e. -- the Mishkan.
Now, at the dedication of the Mishkan, whose purpose in part was to unify
the people, was indeed the appropriate venue to achieve atonement once and
for all for that unseemly incident in the nation's history which typified
disunity within the family -- the sale of their own brother into slavery.
Know the Past, Present, and Future, Before Pronouncing "Tameh"
This week's parsha contains the first occurrence of the laws related to
identifying Kosher animals, fish, and fowl in the Torah. The pasuk says:
"But this is what you shall not eat from among those that bring up their cud
or that have split hooves: the camel (gamal), for it brings up its cud but
its hoof is not split (parsah einenu mafris) – it is impure to you; and the
hyrax (shafan), for it brings up its cud but its hoof is not split (parsah
lo yafris)– it is impure to you; and the hare (arneves), for it brings up
its cud, but its hoof is not split (parsah lo hifrisa) – it is impure to
you." [Vayikra 11:4-6].
There is a striking inconsistency here. With the camel, the verb used to
discuss the fact that the hoof is not split is conjugated in the present
tense: "Parsah einenu MAFRIS" [the hoof IS NOT split]. Yet with the shafan,
the verb is in the present "Parsah lo YAFRIS" [the hoof WILL NOT BE split].
Finally, with the arneves, the verb used is in the past tense: "Parsah lo
HIFRISA" [the hoof WAS NOT split].
This is glaring. The terms should all be present, all future, or all past
tense. There has to be a message here in the fact that the Torah uses a
different form of the verb for each of these three animals.
I saw a beautiful homiletic thought on this matter. When someone is about to
pronounce "Tameh" [Impure] on a species or on any entity, one needs to be
aware of its past, its present, and its future. Unless one is aware of the
situation in the past, present, and future, one does not know the whole
story and should not be so quick to pronounce the words "Tameh hu" [this one
One of the teachers at Bais Yaakov told my wife the following story: There
was a couple who went through the Holocaust. Before the Holocaust, they were
fully observant of Torah and Mitzvos. After the Holocaust, unfortunately,
the husband lost faith and said "That's it! I've had it with G-d!" The
husband gave up everything in terms of religious practice and belief.
His wife did not have that reaction. She begged her husband -- "At least go
to shul." The husband refused. This went on for a while. Finally the wife
said to the husband, "Listen, do me a favor. Every morning you go out and
buy a newspaper and you read it from cover to cover. Humor me, when you pick
up the paper at the newsstand, rather than coming home to read it, go to
shul and read the paper in shul -- just to make me happy!"
The husband wanted to please his wife. He spent the time reading the
newspaper anyway, so he agreed to her proposal. He would go to shul every
morning, sit in the back row and read the paper. This went on for years.
Now ask yourselves: If you saw a fellow come into the back row of your shul
every morning, not put on Tallis or Tefillin, not take a Siddur off the
shelf, but simply make himself comfortable and read the newspaper for 45
minutes, what would your reaction be?
Most likely our reaction would be very negative. "If you want to read the
newspaper, go home and read the newspaper! How dare you be so disrespectful
of this holy synagogue?" To their credit the people in this particular shul
did not say anything critical to this individual. They did not chastise him.
They began to schmooze with him, they invited him to join them for a l'chaim
after davening when someone had a Yahrtzeit, they invited him to join them
in social gatherings. To make a long story short, this Holocaust survivor
went from reading the newspaper in the back row of the shul every day to
davening in shul three times a day! Eventually, he even became president of
What does that tell us? Our inclination would have been to immediately
pronounce "Tameh who lachem" -- this species is definitely not a kosher
animal! But we did not know the fellow's past. We were not clear about his
present situation, and we certainly could not have guessed what his future
turned out to be. This is what the Torah is teaching. In order to proclaim
"This one is Tameh" we must know that the hoof was not split in the past,
the hoof is not currently split, and the hoof will never be split in the
future. Short of that do not be so quick to say "Tameh hu lachem."
Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter 1 Mishna 4
Yosi Ben Yoezer Says: A person should cling to Talmidei Chachomim, he should
make his house open to them, and he should drink with thirst the words they
Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt"l, notes the teaching of Chazal (coincidentally in
the Toras Kohanim on Parshas Shmini) that a person should not say "I do not
eat pig because I hate the taste of pork. Rather, he should say I would love
to eat pig, but I must abstain because this is what Hashem commanded me to
do in his Torah". Indeed, many Baalei Teshuvah say that the hardest thing
for them to give up by adopting a religious life style was to not be able to
eat shellfish any longer. "It was delicious", they say. That is the proper
attitude to have: I wish I could have that forbidden delicacy, but by decree
of the Torah I can't so I won't.
Rav Yaakov said that this attitude is appropriate when it comes to certain
forbidden delicacies, but is should not apply to Torah learning. One should
never say "I really wish I did not need to learn Torah. It is boring, it is
this it is that, but I have no choice -- G-d tells me to learn Torah, so
learn Torah I must. Heaven forbid one should have that attitude. As Yossi
ben Yoezer says, one must drink the words of the Sages with thirst.
Part of the mitzvah of learning Torah is learning because we enjoy it. This
is why the blessing before learning Torah has the unique language (ha'arev
nah...) "Make pleasant in our mouths the words of your Torah..." There is no
other bracha like that. We do not say ha'arev nah regarding matzah, we do
not say ha'arev nah regarding Tefillin. Only when it comes to learning Torah
do we beseech G-d that he make the words of Torah sweet in our mouths. This
is because the mitzvah of learning Torah is to enjoy learning Torah.
Rav Weinberg, zt"l used to say that Torah is compared to water. One drinks
coffee for the charge one gets from it, one drinks soda because it is sweet.
One drinks water only because one is thirsty. That is why Torah is compared
to water. We should have a thirst for it, like we have a thirst for water.
When one is not thirsty he does not drink water, when he is thirsty there is
nothing better than a cold glass of water. A person has to find his niche in
Torah so that when he learns it, he does so to quench a great thirst and to
receive the great enjoyment akin to what one feels when he quenches his
thirst with that nice tall cold glass of H2O. That is how a person should
approach Torah learning.
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher
Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah Portion. The
halachic topics covered for the current week's portion in this series are:
Tape # 005 - Medicines Containing Chometz
Tape # 050 - The Tuna Fish Controversy
Tape # 093 - Melacha Before Havdalah
Tape # 141 - Using a Mikveh for Non-Orthodox Conversions
Tape # 188 - Netilas Yadayim for Bread and Fruit
Tape # 234 – Netilas Yadayim at Breakfast: Is One "Washed Up" for the Day?
Tape # 278 - Netilas Yadayim and Chatzizah
Tape # 324 - Sefiras Ha'omer
Tape # 368 - Don't Drink and Daven
Tape # 412 - Minhagim of the Days of Sefira
Tape # 456 - Gelatin: Is It Kosher?
Tape # 500 - Is Turkey Kosher?
Tape # 544 - Bedikas Chametz
Tape # 588 – The Aveil and the Haircut
Tape # 632 – Baal Teshaktzu – Abstaining From Unpleasant Behaviour
Tape # 676 - Buffalo, Giraffe, and other Exotic Animals -- Are they Kosher?
Tape # 720 – A Guf Naki for Davening
Tape # 764 – Loaig Le'rosh – Respecting the Dead
Tape # 808 – New York City – Don't Drink the Water?
Tape # 852 – Four Questions You Probably Never Asked
Tape # 896 – Women & Havdalah – Second Thoughts
Tape # 941 – Mayim Acharonim: Is It Necessary?
Tape # 983 – Pesach – Thoughts on the Hagaddah – Vol. II
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the
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