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‫בס"ד‬

‫פרשת וישב תשע"א‬ ‫שיחות רב עוזר‬


Insights into Torah and Halacha from Rav Ozer Glickman ‫שליט"א‬
‫ר"ם בישיבת רבנו יצחק אלחנן‬
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Taking the A Train


ְ ִ ‫ֶת־יוֹסף ַויּ‬
‫שׁכּ ֵָחֽהוּ׃‬ ֵ֖ ‫ֽא־ז ַָכ֧ר ַשֽׂר־ ַה ַמּשׁ ִ ְ֛קים א‬H‫ְו‬
My attitudes about the New York City Subway are conditioned by the years I
spent avoiding it at all costs. Although Mayor Guiliani successfully tackled what were
euphemistically called Manhattan's "quality of life issues," I still view traversing the city
on the subway with a jaundiced eye. Like Paul Kersey, I am always surveying the rest
of the car, no matter how at ease I appear.
As the economy has deteriorated, I haven't noticed any pickup in muggers on the
A train but the number of panhandlers has certainly increased of late. The line between
aggressive solicitation and intimidation can be very blurry, though, and I feel less safe
than in the past.
When a panhandler gets aggressive, or a gang of young men are boisterous, I no-
tice how most riders try to look away and avoid eye contact. When there is a threat
from an aggressor, human beings naturally want to escape notice.
The Jewish people and the State of Israel are riding the global A train. The world
is obsessed with the Jews. Almost every edition of the New York Times has an Israel or
Jewish themed article on its front page. There are upwards of half a billion results in a
Google search of various forms of the word Jew or Jewish, and the news wire that
shoots across the bottom of Fox News has an Israel or a Jewish themed headline seem-
ingly every 7 seconds. All this for a people no where even near 1% of the world
population.
As a man of a certain age, this fascination unto obsession fills me with dread. I
think this is because I am more attuned to vulnerability than I have been in the past.
One factor is certainly that my contemporaries are at the age when they are losing their
parents and find themselves for the first time on the front lines of human fraility. Our
intimations of mortality may contribute to a sense of the inevitability of tragedy. That
cannot be the only factor, though. I had never been a fearful or pessimistic person but
the events of September 2001 and the carnage in Madrid, London, and Mumbai have
certainly made me less hopeful than before.
Such feelings are at odds with my Torah soul.
As Pharoah's sommelier leaves prison to be restored to his former position in the
palace, the young Hebrew confined with him and who forecast his liberation impor-
tunes him:
‫ֵאתנִי מִן־הַבַּ ֥ י ִת ַה ֶזּ ֽה׃‬
֖ ַ ‫ ְוע ִָשֽׂיתָ ־נָּ ֥א ִעמּ ִ ָ֖די ָ ֑חסֶד ְו ִהזְכּ ְַרתַּ֨ נִ ֙י אֶל־פּ ְַר ֔ע ֹה ְוהֽוֹצ‬X‫שׁ ֙ר ִי֣יטַב ָ֔ל‬
ֶ ‫ִכּ֧י אִם־זְכ ְַר ַ ֣תּנִי אִתְּ ֗\ כַּ ֽ ֲא‬
If you will but keep me in mind when it goes well with you and do this kindness for me, and mention me
to Pharoah, he will bring me out of this place.
In ‫'חז"ל‬s reading, this verse implies a spiritual failure on ‫'יוסף‬s part. If the ‫שר המקשים‬
would only remember ‫ יוסף‬and mention him to Pharoah, ‫ יוסף‬has a hope of release from
imprisonment.
The ‫מדרש תנחומא‬:
‫ והוא‬.‫ והיא אומרת לו אני מעורת עיניך‬.‫ובכל יום ויום הולכת אצלו ואומרת לו התרצה לי והוא אומר כבר נשבעתי‬
‫ והוא אומר‬.‫ אני מוכרת אותך בארץ רחוקה‬.‫ והוא אומר ה' מתיר אסורים‬.‫ כאן תהא מיתתך בכבלים‬.‫אומר ה' פוקח ערים‬
‫ ולמה נתוספו לו שם שתי שנים? אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא‬.‫ ולא היה צריך לעשות שם אלא עשר שנים‬.‫ה' שמר את גרים‬
‫ תשתכח שתי שנים בבית‬,‫ כי אם זכרתני והזכרתני‬,‫אתה השלכת בטחוני ובטחת בשר המשקים ואמרת לו שתי זכירות‬
.‫הסהר‬
Every day [Potiphar's wife] would go to him and ask, Please change your mind. He would answer:
I have already taken an oath. She would say, I will blind you; [Yosef] would answer: God opens the eyes
of the blind. [She would say,] You will die there in chains; he would say: God frees the bonds of the impris-
oned. [She would say,] I will sell you to someone in a foreign land; he would answer, God watches over the
sojourners. Hence he really only need to do ten years of time. Why were two more years added? The Holy
One Blessed be He said, You have cast off faith in Me and trusted in the sommelier, as you spoke of two acts
of memory... [In return] you will be forgotten in confinement for two years.
The ‫ דרשן‬as ever is a precise reader of the text. What the narrative does not tell us is as
important as the words on the page. It was the ‫ שר המשקים‬who forgot ‫יוסף‬. Others did
not. Certainly ‫ יעקב אבינו‬held his memory close. His brother ‫יהודה‬, as we will later learn,
harbored feelings of guilt and remorse. But one memory of ‫ יוסף‬was most important:
that of ‫הקדוש ברוך הוא‬.
The drama of ‫'יוסף‬s life and the eventual descent and enslavement of ‫ עם ישראל‬in
Egypt are preconditions for two seminal events in sacred history: the appearance of
‫ הקב"ה‬to ‫ משה רבנו‬at the ‫ סנה‬and ‫ מתן תורה‬at ‫הר סיני‬. In the former, we learn of the essential
character of God and human history. He is time transcendent, the unifying principle
across eons of human existence tying the past, the present, and the future together. This
is above the reach of humanity, of course. Each of us spends only a limited period of
time with a cohort of contemporaries. It is only through historical memory that we are
linked to the past and only through prayer and aspiration that we are linked to the
future.
The latter event provides the blueprint for realizing those linkages. Through the
study of Torah and the performance of ‫ מצוות‬we ourselves transcend time, actuating our
relationships with ‫ אברהם אבינו‬and his children until our day. ‫'הקב"ה‬s message to ‫משה רבנו‬
provides the preamble; the Torah embodies the constitution that governs that
relationship.
It is a fundamental axiom of the Torah that we will not be discarded in the dust-
bin of history. Our eternity as a people may defy the cold logic of modern history with
its ever-changing paradigms and focal points: city-states, ethnic groups, civilizations...
We are none of these and all of these. It takes not a paradigm seeking doctrinaire like
Toynbee but a sensitive reader of humankind like Tolstoy to understand:
"The Jew - is the symbol of eternity. ... He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic
message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is
eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”
Torah is not to be read as a confirmation of preexisting judgments on political,
cultural, and sociological developments, as some would do, but as a challenge to the
impulses that contemporary life awaken in us. I strive not to be a pessimist, an optimist,
a liberal, a conservative, a feminist, or any other contemporary political tendency when
I sit down alone with my ‫ ספרים‬and my Jewish soul. I yearn for the text to speak through
me, not me through the text.
I also avoid the NYC Subway late at night and never stand near the tracks as the
train approaches. This, too, is a Torah requirement.
COME HEAR RAV GLICKMAN ON THE ROAD:
December 10-11 ‫פרשת ויגש‬
London (Finchley), England
details to follow

December 17-18 ‫פרשת ויחי‬


Boca Raton, Florida

February 11-12 ‫פרשת תצוה‬


Linden, New Jersey

March 4-5 ‫פרשת פקודי‬


Los Angeles, California

TO BRING RAV GLICKMAN TO YOUR COMMUNITY, KINDLY CONTACT:


Ms. Nehama S. Cohen
Speakers Bureau
YU Center for the Jewish Future
nscohen@yu.edu
212-960-5400 ext.6350

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