Halacha for Friday 10 Tevet 5781 December 25 2020

Parashat Vayigash - Simcha shel Mitzva

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

In the weekly Parasha we witness the meeting between Yaakov and Yoseph. His son born to him in old age, whom he loved more than his brothers, after twenty-two years, during which he thought that “My Yoseph has been torn to pieces” (Bereishit 37:33, whilst refusing to be consoled, and when he was informed that Yoseph was alive he immediately hurried to descend to Egypt to meet his beloved son Yoseph.

It is stated in the Parasha: “Yoseph [personally] harnessed his chariot, and went to greet his father Yisrael in Goshen. He presented himself to [his farther], and threw himself on his shoulders, weeping on his shoulders for a long time” (Bereishit 46:29).

Rashi HaKadosh quotes in his commentary the Midrash: “But Yaakov did not fall on Yoseph’s neck, and our teachers say because he was reciting the Shema”.

In the work Birchat Peretz, he brings the questions that if at the time of the meeting with Yoseph it was time to recite the Shema, then why didn’t Yoseph read the Shema? And if we are to say that the time for reciting the Shema hadn’t arrived, then what caused Yaakov his father to recite the Shema precisely at this time?

He answers that in fact at that moment that he met Yoseph, the time to recite the Shema hadn’t arrived, but Yaakov decided to recite the Shema precisely then “for it is the way of the righteous, at a time that they have a great salvation and great simcha that they immediately channel this to their love of Hashem Yitbarach, who was gracious to them giving them this kindness”. Therefore, at this great time of a father’s joy meeting his beloved son, after twenty-two years, Yaakov pauses for a moment, reads the Shema and designates his joy to accepting the yoke of Heaven.

It is known that such practice is totally contrary to the way of the world. For as a rule, a person who is engaged in his personal joy, feels too preoccupied, to the extent that our Chachamim exempted him from the Shema. As we learnt in Talmud Berachot [16a] “a groom is exempt from Shema”, since he is preoccupied with his simcha. But these completely righteous people [are exceptional], on the contrary, as soon as they are at the pinnacle of their simcha, they stand still and recite the Shema and channel their personal joy to their love of Hashem Yitbarach.

[In the same vein], the following story is related about the Gaon the author of the work Chatam Sofer [Rabbi Moshe Schreiber z”l 1762-1839], who lived in Pressburg. There was a very wealthy merchant, who commensurate with his great wealth was his great miserliness. To receive from him even a small amount of tzedakah was harder than the splitting of the Reed Sea!

One day, his luck turned for the worse, and the wealthy man’s finances deteriorated until he became destitute. Not a single person from the city was prepared to assist him, for they all remembered his miserliness from his wealthy days.

In his distress, he turned to the Gaon the Chatam Sofer and sought his help, to receive a loan, until he will be able to repay the rav.

The rav listened his request and said, indeed I wish to assist, however, at this moment I do not have even a single coin, however I am prepared to give you the silver candle sticks in my home. Go and sell them! Take the money in lieu of a loan until you turn a profit!

The merchant rejoiced, he sold the rav’s silverware and with the money he received he engaged in commerce until his was successful in business and gradually regained his original wealth.

The merchant came to the rav’s house, who at that time was studying with his pupils. The wealthy man turned to the rav, and thanked him for his assistance and returned the loan to him. But he immediately added that since the rav had helped him and saved him and his family from the pangs of hunger “I have brought the rav a gift, a precious box and in it a gold ring set with a precious stone”.

The rav took the ring set with the precious stone and examined it against the natural light by the window and said: “What a wonderful stone! Clearly the work of a true artisan! Certainly of great value!” And he continued to utter words of admiration in front of the merchant and his pupils.

The rav’s pupils saw his admiration for the golden ring and the stone set therein and his great joy at receiving the valuable gift. They began whispering to one another “But [surely] this is [considered within the prohibition of] interest!” How could the rav allow himself to accept something that is [within the prohibition of] of interest as prescribed by the Torah! (Since the rav had given the merchant a loan, it is forbidden to receive in return of the loan any additional money.)

In the meantime, the rav continued to admire, and the more he admired the more the student whispered amongst themselves.

Suddenly the rav turned his attention to his pupils and said: “Hashem gave me the precious stone; indeed it is beautiful, and its value extremely great, but this is interest, which is forbidden by the Torah, I will fulfil the mitzva and return it, and should I not rejoice in that”.

The rav explained, when there is an opportunity to fulfil the mitzva of [not taking] interest, if I would immediately not take the gift, how would I be expressing the fulfilment of this mitzva. But when I admired it a lot and there was a great joy in receiving the gift, but that joy was channelled not to accept the gift, then through that I will [truly] fulfil the mitzva that it is forbidden to accept interest!

Shabbat Shalom!

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Megillah Reading- Coronavirus

Every member of the Jewish nation is obligated to read the Megillah on the day of Purim. One must read it during the night and once again the next day, as the verse states, “My G-d, I call out to you during the day and you do not answer; during the night I have no rest.” This verse is wr......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Hearing Parashat Zachor- Coronavirus

“Remember What Amalek Has Done to You” On the Shabbat preceding Purim, which is this coming Shabbat, after the opening of the Ark immediately following Shacharit prayers, two Sifrei Torah are removed; in the first one, we read the weekly Parasha (which is Parashat Vayikra this year, 577......

Read Halacha

Caution Regarding Chametz Issues

Our Sages (Tosefta Pesachim, Chapter 3) taught: “We inquire about and expound the laws of Pesach from thirty days before Pesach.” Based on this, great rabbis throughout the generations have taken the opportunity to teach the laws of Pesach to the public between Purim and Pesach since eve......

Read Halacha

Silver Vessels

Question: May one continue to use silver vessels or utensils, such as a Kiddush goblet, on Pesach after they have been used throughout the rest of the year? Answer: All vessels used all year round with cold foods or beverages may be used on Pesach after having been thoroughly washed beforehand, f......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Koshering Vessels for Pesach

One may not use Chametz vessels on Pesach since vessels which have been used to cook in or have had hot Chametz placed in them have Chametz flavor absorbed in them. Thus, just as we separate between meat and dairy utensils all year long, we must likewise separate between the utensils we use all year......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Blessing of the Trees

The Proper Time for the Blessing of the Trees Our Sages, who have established the Blessing of the Tress, write that the proper time for this blessing is during the month of Nissan, for it is then that trees begin to blossom and buds come forth. It would seem from the words of our Sages though that ......

Read Halacha

Matanot La’Evyonim- Coronavirus

In the previous Halacha we briefly discussed the Mitzvah of “Matanot La’Evyonim” on Purim day which is the distribution of two monetary gifts, one to each pauper. What Must One Give? In order to fulfill this Mitzvah, one need not give actual gifts; rather, it is permissible to ......

Read Halacha

The Blessing of the Trees

One who goes out during the month of Nissan and sees trees starting to blossom recites the blessing: “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Shelo Chiser Be’Olamo Kelum U’Vara Vo Beriyot Tovot Ve’Ilanot Tovot Le’hanot Bahem Beneh Adam”. This year (5781......

Read Halacha