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Search Results: slander

  • Why Did The Brothers Hate Joseph?

    by Shmuel Katanov

    In the story of Joseph and the brothers, there's one incident that sticks out and makes this whole story look very puzzling. Let's delve into it and try to understand it.

    As you already know, there are was a tension between Joseph and older brothers, one against the many. Some commentators say it was jealousy, some say simply hatred, but let's look at it in more details.

    "And Joseph went after his brothers, and found them in Dotan" says in Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Vayeshev 13:6 (Gen. 37:17-18). Joseph was coming towards his brothers per his father's request. As he was approaching, the brothers saw him from afar and said to each other, here's the dreamer coming, and they started thinking up plans of how to get rid of him. Some suggested to kill him to solve this problem once and for all. The older brother Reuven suggested to throw him in the pit. He said why kill your own blood, your own brother, when we can accomplish the same by throwing him into the empty pit. In Masechet Shabbat 22A says: "Pit empty from water but full of snakes and scorpions". Everyone liked this idea, only Reuven thought to himself that he will come later to rescue him.

    When Joseph came close to his brothers, they pulled off his fancy coat - the one his father gave him, the extra one - Rashi (Parashat Bereshit 37:24), and threw him into the pit. As they sat down to eat, they saw a caravan passing by, so out came another brilliant idea to sell their small brother to Arab merchants, to be taken to a distant land (Bereshit 37:27). And so they did. As much as Joseph pleaded with them, they were determined on their plan and have not turned from their way, and slowly the caravan left from their eyesight.

    After when the brothers left the scene, Reuven came over to rescue Joseph, but to his astonishment, Joseph was gone. Reuven tore his clothing in grief, but it was too late - Joseph was nowhere to be found. Rashi (Bereshit Rabbah 84:19).

    Where was Reuven? Wasn't he the one who gave an idea to throw Joseph into the pit?! Why didn't he stay to make sure his suggestion was carried out? Why did he leave the scene? In Midrash Tanchuma, Vayeshev 13:9 (Gen. 37:22:) says: "If Reuven had known that the Holy One would write this verse about him (about his suggestion and his intention of coming back for Joseph later), he would have placed Joseph on his shoulders and brought him unto his father."

    One of the answers Rashi gives in (Bereshit Rabbah 84:19), he says that Reuven was doing a teshuvah, for the incident that took place after the death of Rachel. What he did was that he moved the Jacob's bed from one tent to another. But hold on a second, that incident happened 10 years ago. Why was he doing the teshuvah now after 10 years?

    When Rachel Imeynu died, Reuven thought to himself and said that the right place for the bed to be is in his mother's tent, Leah. Without consulting with his father whether he wants this to be done or not, he has moved the bed by himself. What he did was - he has challenged the authority of his father Jacob - by moving the bed and doing it out of his own thinking, calculations and conclusions. As a result, of this, the punishment which Reuven suffered was threefold -- he lost the birthright, the priesthood and the kingship.

    And now 10 years later Reuven looks at Joseph and his brothers, and asked himself – why are the brothers treat Joseph this way? Okay granted, he may have said lashon hora or slander, he may have behaved differently then you, but he is their small brother and may have been too young to make the right decisions, they should have given him the benefit of the doubt. And if Joseph is doing something wrong, let the brothers go and ask their father Jacob to get involved, so he can let the brothers know how they should behave in this situation. Maybe Jacob will admonish Joseph, or maybe he will let them know how to behave towards Joseph so this issue should not escalate into something out of proportions - as they say: "nip it at the bud" under their father's supervision. Which would make things correct and no one would of get hurt and no ill feelings would of been around.

    But something else was happening, the brothers were following in Reuven's footsteps, he is witnessing the consequences of his own action - he sees how his brothers treat Joseph, thinking they can get away with it, which is a direct result of his action. They are making the same mistake he did 10 years before. Reuven subconsciously has taught them to act out of their own conclusions without consulting with their father or some other authority.

    How about us?

    Do we jump to conclusions and act out on our fears and anxieties, without thinking of the consequences the other party may have? Do we feed someone non-kosher food and he ends up liking it, and maybe later gets a job in non-kosher place and marries a non Jew. Have we introduced someone to try something they should of not and they have liked it and their life is not the same anymore.Have we mistreated someone in a synagogue, at work or someone we may have known while wearing a kippah and looking very or somewhat religious, and that person left the religion with a bad feeling toward the religious people, what will happen to all the generations that will come from him after this?

    Think of your actions before you act, and most importantly think of the consequences of your actions.

    Every Yom Kippur when we finish the Shmoneh Esreh of Shacharit and before starting the chazarah, in Sefardi sidurim there's a song, which goes like this: "Hashem Shamati Shim'akha Yareti Hashem." 

    It finishes off the song with these lines: "Hashem, sifrey chaim umetim lefonecha niftachim..." -- translation: "Hashem the Book of Living and the Book of Dead are open before You?" (Habakkuk 3:2)

    I understand why Hashem would open the Book of Living, as it says in the in Masechet Rosh Hashanah 16b: "Rabbi Kruspedai said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Three books are opened on Rosh Hashanah before the Holy One, Blessed be He: One of wholly wicked people, and one of wholly righteous people, and one of middling people whose good and bad deeds are equally balanced. Wholly righteous people are immediately written and sealed for life; wholly wicked people are immediately written and sealed for death; and middling people are left with their judgment suspended from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, their fate remaining undecided. If they merit, through the good deeds and mitzvot that they perform during this period, they are written for life; if they do not so merit, they are written for death."

    Besides writing the new people in the Book of Dead, Hashem judges those people that already passed away long time ago... why? Aren't the dead are gone and everything is forgotten?

    No matter how many years passed from whatever incident you might of had, be it money, slander or something else. If the consequences of your actions, after many years still effect the people involved (see the Book of Chofetz Chaim - a story with a pillow), even generations later – you still get punished no matter where you are and what state you are in - dead or alive. It's just while you alive you still have an ability and a chance to repent and fix whatever the situation you have caused.

    Understanding the magnitude of the situation and the consequences it has caused, Reuven was doing teshuvah 10 years after the incident – feeling his direct involvement on the treatment of Joseph and on all that came out of it.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • The Baseless Hatred Mystery Revealed

    by Shmuel Katanov

     Our Chachamim z"l tell us that the First Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because of three sins: Avodah Zarah/Idolatry, Shefichat Damim/Murder, and Arayot/Adultery. The second Temple of only one sin - Sinat Chinam - Baseless Hatred.

    Each of the sins are bad in their own right, but it took three sins to bring down the First Temple and only one the Second. Why? Why only one, what is so destructive and bad about it?

    Let's dive into Sinat Chinam cause I believe the reasons for the destruction of the First Temple are pretty self explanatory.

    So what is Sinat Chinam? It is Baseless Hatred or simply Hate that is coming from a place of evil. It's a wish to see another's demise or failure and when you in that hating mode you observe and translate anything that person does to negative with no benefit of a doubt.

    When you hate you always pursue the harm of another. You speak of him in harmful way, you make up stories so you get more people on your side to believe the lies, so he can have enemies. You speak and spread lashon hara - an evil speech, because you want others to see him in a bad way. You may say things to his spouse, so the family will have no peace and eventually falls apart. You accuse him and his children, so it should effect their shidduchim/marriage prospects. You make sure his reputation is ruined in his community and places of business. You make sure your family and people around him show him a cold shoulder so he feels unwanted and unbelonged.

    All of this is done stealthily where few people involved in the community or many across many communities. In our times, all of the above can be accomplished with just few clicks of the computer or the phone.

    Because of this ugly behavior, of the few or the many, Hashem has destroyed the Second Temple. So if the Temple is destroyed and it may seem like nothing is at stake today, what do we have to lose this time around?

    Chachamim tell us, that when a new family is born, the chatan and kallah are on their way to build something enormously holy - their Own Bet Hamikdash, where each room of their house resembles the original Temple. The bedroom is like the Holy of Holies, the living room table is like a Mizbeach where we cater the guests and consume our earthly sacrifices. Kitchen is where it's all prepared to the strict laws of kashrut.

    Our houses and shules are small Batey haMikdashim. This is where Shechina rests, this is where the mitzvot are done and kedusha is kept.

    Hashem wants peace and unity between people in the community or between communities, where people help each other, happy for each other, where they see good in each other with no jealousy and hate towards each other. Where they want others to have better houses, cars, vacations, respect and accessories. This is what Hashem expects from his people.

    Second Temple was destroyed because of Hate, the most ugliest trait that consumes many communities and people no matter their religious backgrounds. The solution to it is Achavat Chinam - Baseless Love. Otherwise our small Batey haMikdashim are at stake.

    The Sages taught, "Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their times" (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1a).

    Our job is to change for the better, to do good to others, more of baseless love and no hate and animosity towards others - be it in their own community or outside of it, better ourselves in our servitude to Hashem and earn the merit to see Moshiach and the Third Beit Hamikdash rebuilt in our days. Amen.


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  • Why did Yaakov Avinu switched hands while blessing Joseph's sons?

    by Shmuel Katanov

    Every Friday night, we bless our children with the blessings of Menashe and Ephraim the sons of Joseph. We want our children to be, act and be blessed like those two boys. But while blessing, Yakov Avinu switched his hands and placed his right hand on the Ephraim – the second son, and the left hand on Menashe – the firstborn. The right way should be always right hand on the firstborn and left on the second son.

    It pained Joseph to see this. So Joseph pointed it out to Yakov Avinu saying that this is his oldest son pointing at Menashe. But Yakov Avinu said from him will come a great nation, but from the other a greater nation will come, but... there are was something that made Yakov Avinu to give importance to the second son. What was it?

    Let's look into this closely.

    When Yakov Avinu saw these two boys he was happy to see the achdut, friendship a brotherly love these two boys had even though they were raised amongst the gentiles, in Mitzraim - far from the influence of Jacob's household. He saw something that earlier generations lacked. Kain and Hevel had problems between themselves, where Kain ends up killing his brother. So with Yishmael and Yitzchak where Hashem intervenes and asks Avraham to listen to Sarah and he drives out Yishmael from his home. In case of Yakov and Eisav they had problems as well, Yakov had to run from home because he was afraid for his own life. Even amongst his own children there are was animosity towards Joseph. And now by placing his right hand on Ephraim - it is like ‘Déjà vu’ all over again. When Yakov gave a ketonet passim, a striped coat, to Joseph and singled him out from all his children, the end result was 22 years of separation with his son Joseph. And now by putting his right hand on Ephraim he is introducing exactly the same thing into the relationship of these two young boys.

    But Yakov Avinu saw it differently. The love that he saw they had towards each other was more then any others had before. And by placing his right hand on the second son, he knew that his oldest brother will not be jealous of his younger brother and only will be happy for him.

    But there are may be another reason.

    Gideon (see Judges) will come from the tribe of Menashe and Yehoshua bin Noun will come from tribe of Ephraim. Both are great men, but Yakov Avinu saw that the tests they will go through in life will be on different levels for each.

    The tests in life are the things that separate us all, and our reaction to them will determine whether we make the right choices or the wrong ones. While going through a test and under pressure we may hurt others and burn the bridges or build castles and discover powers within to overcome whatever thrown our way.

    When Moshe Rabeinu was approached by the tribes to send the spies to Eretz Yisrael, Yehoshua bin Noun was picked as one of the candidates to go and spy out the land. Knowing the intentions of the others Moshe Rabbeinu was afraid that this will influence Yehoshua bin Noun and he may take the wrong side and commit a gravely sin of slandering the land. So Moshe prayed for Yehoshua so he would not make that mistake and he even changed his name to increase the odds.

    When Yakov Avinu was giving the blessing to Joseph's sons, and seeing the consequences of that slander he felt that Yehoshua needs a blessing from his right hand, an extra push in the right direction, a zechut a merit from Yakov Avinu himself through Ephraim.

    The death of that whole generation, wars, pogroms and destruction of both Temples and all of the suffering that Am Yisrael has endured to date came because of that day, the slander, a false report that spies gave to the nation when they came back and nation’s reaction to it.

    Thus by blessing Ephraim with the right hand Yakov Avinu helped Yehoshua bin Noun to pass the test of the spies with flying colors. Yehoshua bin Noun came back, brought the right report, became the leader after passing of Moshe Rabeinu and took the Am Yisrael to the land of Israel.

    May the blessings of our fathers and our rabbis give us the right push in the right direction when the times come, so we all shall build and not destroy, make the right choices and pass our personal tests with flying colors. Amen.

    Shabbat Shalom!!

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