Tuesday, December 20, 2022

haste makes waste, Reuvain's response to the mob, and the idea behind the minhag of Chanukah gelt

 וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיַּצִּלֵ֖הוּ מִיָּדָ֑ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לֹ֥א נַכֶּ֖נּוּ נָֽפֶשׁ׃

 וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֣ם ׀ רְאוּבֵן֮ אַל־תִּשְׁפְּכוּ־דָם֒ הַשְׁלִ֣יכוּ אֹת֗וֹ אֶל־הַבּ֤וֹר הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְיָ֖ד אַל־תִּשְׁלְחוּ־ב֑וֹ לְמַ֗עַן הַצִּ֤יל אֹתוֹ֙ מִיָּדָ֔ם לַהֲשִׁיב֖וֹ אֶל־אָבִֽיו׃

Why do we need the words וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֣ם ׀ רְאוּבֵן֮  in the second pasuk when the first pasuk already introduced Reuvain as the speaker, וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע רְאוּבֵ֔ן...  וַיֹּ֕אמֶר opening the quotaton marks, if you will, before the words  לֹ֥א נַכֶּ֖נּוּ נָֽפֶשׁ?  

Netziv explains that the first pasuk was an exclamation, a shout meant to cause everyone to stop and pay attention. Only once the momentum was slowed could the conversation and deliberation which started with the second pasuk, take place.

Seforno adds: ויצלהו מידם – במניעת הפועל הפתאומי המוליד ״מעות לא יוכל לתקן״ (קהלת א׳:ט״ו), שיפול בכמוהו גם הצדיק לפעמים, כענין ראובן עם בלהה, כאמרו ״פחז כמים״ (בראשית מ״ט:ד׳)  Reuvain was the one who spoke out in this way because it was Reuvain himself who knew more than anyone the danger of acting precipitously!  Yaakov blamed Reuvain's sin in moving his bed on ״פחז כמים, Reuvain's haste to take action.

When Reuvain later returns to the pit to pull Yosef out and sees that Yosef is gone, he says in anguish  הַיֶּ֣לֶד אֵינֶ֔נּוּ וַאֲנִ֖י אָ֥נָה אֲנִי־בָֽא׃.  (See Friday's post for one interpretation of these words.)  Abarbanel writes that Reuvain could not have been protesting against the sale of Yosef here.  Rashi earlier interprets the words לְמַ֗עַן הַצִּ֤יל אֹתוֹ֙ מִיָּדָ֔ם לַהֲשִׁיב֖וֹ אֶל־אָבִֽיו׃ above not as Reuvain's words, but as ruach hakodesh testifying as to Reuvain's intentions.  Sifsei Chachamim explains that Rashi must be correct: דקשה לרש״י היאך יתכן לומר שראובן עצמו אמר שישליכו אותו לבור כדי שהוא ישיב אותו אל אביו דאם היו יודעין לא היו מניחין את ראובן  The brothers would surely have rejected any suggestion to simply bring Yosef home and leave him alone, so Reuvain would dare not have voiced his plan aloud.  Therefore, he is not the speaker.  So too in our pasuk, according to Abarbanel, had Reuvain  been protesting what had happened to Yosef, it would give away the game and reveal that everything he had said earlier was merely a ruse, so this cannot be what he meant. 

What then was Reuvain's intent?

Abarbanel explains that Reuvain was saying to his brothers that if they can act so cruelly and plot to destroy Yosef, whom he calls here a יֶּ֣לֶד, just a child, someone immature, someone not fully aware of his actions and words, then what hope is there for Reuvain himself, the eldest?  How can he live among them knowing that if they can turn against innocent Yosef, they can just as easily if not more easily come to turn on him as well?

Oh what a lesson for modern times when various "woke" rabble rousers one day are the leaders of the pack driving the mob against some innocent victim only to find themselves a day later pursued and harasses by the very same mob.  Only a fool tries to stay one step ahead of the hungry alligator that eventually will consume everyone, but we live in a generation of fools.

Lastly a note on Chanukah: What is this minhag of Chanukah gelt all about?  My wife suggested as follows: the Rambam explains that the holiday of Chanukah is about the restoration of Jewish sovreignty.   וגברו בני חשמונאי הכהנים הגדולים והרגום והושיעו ישראל מידם והעמידו מלך מן הכהנים וחזרה מלכות לישראל יתר על מאתים שנים עד החורבן השני:  One of the rights of a king, of a government, is to coin money.  The gemara (Meg 14) writes that Avigail told David that he has no right to judge someone as a moreid b'malchus yet because  אמרה לו עדיין שאול קיים ולא יצא טבעך בעולם .  We once heard from R' Yosef Carmel, Rosh Kollel of Eretz Chemdah Institute, that לא יצא טבעך  means that David's coins were not yet in circulation -- only a true king can mint and circulate his own coins.  There are coins that come from the time of the Bar Kochba rebellion because one of the ways that Bar Kochba showed that Israel was no longer subject to Roman authority was by minting his own money.  Perhaps the Chashmonaim did the same when they won their independence from the Greeks, and Chanukah gelt, chocolate coins and the like, are a zeicher to this statement of independence.

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