Tuesday, December 15, 2015

beis mishmarchem -- when one brother suffers, all suffer

Yosef imprisons his brothers, but then decides to let them go and only hold back Shimon on the condition that they return with Binyamin.  “Im keinim atem achichem echad yei’aser b’beis mishmarchem…”  (42:19)  Rashi (see Taz on this Rashi) already notes the difficulty with the phrase “beis mishmarchem.”  It wasn’t their prison – they were free to go!  Why does Yosef make it seem like the brothers themselves are still in jail?

The Pardes Yosef answers by quoting a vort from R’ Yitzchok of Vorke.  The gemara (Meg 28) writes that R’ Zeira said that he merited living a long life because (among other things) he never rejoiced in a friend’s downfall.  It seems a very strange thing to boast about.  Surely none of us would be happy to see a friend or colleague have trouble -- this doesn’t sound like a special midas chassidus that would warrant extra praise or extra reward.   What was so special about R’ Zeira’s behavior?
R’ Yitzchok of Vorke explained that we are translating the words wrong.  It goes without saying that R’ Zeira did not rejoice in his friends’ bad luck.  None of us would do that.  What made R’ Zeira special is that he never rejoiced – period – while a friend was in trouble.  His sense of empathy was so great that so long as a friend was in pain, he was in pain. 
Yosef may have held back only Shimon, but all the brothers felt as if they too still remained in prison so long as they were not together.

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