Tuesday, December 15, 2020

worse than a snake pit

Reuvain came up with the idea of throwing Yosef into a pit instead of killing him.  Chazal are medayek from the Torah's description of that pit, "mayim ain bo," there was no water in it, but was something else -- snakes and scorpions.  Nonetheless, the Torah writes about Reuvain that "va'yatzileihu mi'yadam," he saved Yosef from his brothers.  

The Torah never says the same about Yehudah, who was the one who pulled Yosef out of that pit.  The Torah never says about Yehudah "va'yatzileihu" despite the fact that the sale of Yosef into slavery would be the start of the whole chain of events that would lead to Yosef becoming the viceroy of Egypt.  Instead, as we've discussed the past few days, Chazal are critical of Yehudah and condemn anyone who praises him.

Why the difference?

R' Amiel writes in Derashos El Ami that Chazal are teaching us that it is better to be in a pit of snakes and scorpions in Eretz Yisrael than to be the viceroy of a mighty empire in chutz la'aretz.  

Reuvain gets credit because on his watch Yosef remained in Eretz Yisrael; Yehudah is condemned because he caused Yosef to be brought to chu"l.


  1. I am reminded of R Elchanan Wasserman zt"l veHy"d's advice that it was better to face the physical risks of Nazi Europe than the spiritual risks of a Torah-and yeshiva in America. (We don't know if the sho'el had an invitation from YU or Torah vaDaas.)

  2. better to starve in a local snake pit, than feed the whole world from far-- a Note from the Underground of insularity at its worst...

  3. "The Torah never says the same about Yehudah"

    and yet, said "about" Yehudah but not* Reuvain: >v'atah<, in 45:8. why does the Torah start that verse with this additional, seemingly superfluous word?

    between pesukim 45:7 and :8, Yosef recited >birkat hagomel<, more grateful than ever for release from the dangerous, imprisoning pit [his dumbstruck siblings struggled mightily to respond to the blessing in a timely manner; b'diavad their tuneless mumblings sufficed]. 'v'atah' marked the resumption of Yosef's verbal panorama...

    *if one should opine, 'Yosef saying gomel for miraculous protection in the pit [a toladah of the 4 avos gomel], is attributable to Reuvain', not so: Reuvain rescued Yosef from his brothers' hands, while it was Hashem who saved him from a fanged multitude and a stinging swarm