THE MOON THE STARS AND YOSEF'S APPEASEMENTS | PARSHAS SHMOS
Sefer Bereishis ends with the placing of Yosef in a coffin. Sefer Shmos commences with the counting of the Shevatim and how they relate to the stars. Rashi on the first passuk brings the Chazal that even though Hashem already counted Yisrael in Parshas Vayigash when they were alive, He counted them again when they were dead. The reason is because He loves Yisrael like stars, which He also counts all the time. I can understand why Hashem loves Bnei Yisrael but I find it difficult to understand why He has a special love for stars more than any other creation.
Rashi brings in the first passuk of Chumash, the Chazal that the Torah really should have started with the first mitzvah which is Kiddush Hachodesh the sanctification of the moon which is found in Parshas Bo. If I had to choose a mitzvah with which to start the Torah I probably would not have chosen the sanctification of the Moon. Why would that have priority over other mitzvos?
Let us bring two Halachos from the Rambam.
רמב"ם ה' מגילה פרק ב (יז) מוטב לאדם להרבות במתנות אביונים מלהרבות בסעודתו ובשלוח מנות לרעיו שאין שם שמחה גדולה ומפוארה אלא לשמח לב עניים ויתומים ואלמנות וגרים שהמשמח לב האמללים האלו דומה לשכינה שנאמר (ישעיהו נ"ז) להחיות רוח שפלים ולהחיות לב נדכאים.
רמב"ם מתנת עניים י ה שאל העני ממך ואין בידך כלום ליתן לו פייסהו בדברים ואסור לגעור בעני או להגביה קולו עליו בצעקה מפני שלבו נשבר ונדכא והרי הוא אומר לב נשבר ונדכה אלהים לא תבזה ואומר להחיות רוח שפלים ולהחיות לב נדכאים ואוי למי שהכלים את העני אוי לו אלא יהיה לו כאב בין ברחמים בין בדברים שנאמר אב אנכי לאביונים ע"כ.
It is better to celebrate the Purim day with Matanos Le'evyonim rather than to spend the time eating and drinking the Seudas Purim with your friends and preparing and sending Mishloach Manos. The greatest simcha is to gladden the hearts of the poor, orphans, widows, and geirim. For one who makes happy the unfortunate, is likened to the Shechinah who also demonstrates concern for such people who are downtrodden and oppressed by infusing life and simcha into them.
If a poor person asks you for help and you are not capable to do so at that time, one must appease him. Hashem places a special focus on them and their compromised situation. Be a father to them with mercy and appeasement as the passuk says that Hashem is a father to the poor.
Man is expected to emulate Hashem by resuscitating, להחיות, emotionally and physically, the hearts and spirits of those unfortunate individuals that he encounters. We can learn from the stars that this is Hashem's conduct. On the fourth day of creation Hashem created the two large luminaries, the sun and the moon, the sun being the larger of the two. Chazal relate that the moon complained to Hashem that both being initially created equally it therefore did not make sense to have duplication. Rather the moon should be the one king amongst the two by making it even bigger. The moon's quest for enlargement did not find favor in Hashem's eyes and he ordered the moon to be diminished. No longer did the moon radiate its own light as before. Now it would only reflect light which it receives from the sun. In order to appease the moon and ease the pain of being compromised and stripped from its former self, Hashem created the trillions of stars in the myriads of galaxies to light up the heavens together with it at nighttime (Bereishis 1,16 Rashi).
We can now glean a greater understanding why Hashem has a special liking to the stars in particular. They are constantly infusing the moon with encouragement, comfort and appeasement over its great loss. The stars by doing so create a special affinity and closeness to Hashem who also shows concern and involvement for the welfare of those whose hearts and spirits are broken.
Now we can understand why the mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh should have been the first mitzvah. This alone that it became a mitzvah was part of the comfort given to the moon. The specialty about the moon being a mitzvah is that it is the only mitzvah that the object of the mitzvah cannot be taken away from us. Our enemies can take away the sacred objects of tefillin, succah, lulav, Beis Hamikdash etc. However, they can never destroy or remove the object of the moon from us and we will forever have the mitzvah of Kiddush Levanah. Is there a greater comfort for the moon than this? Even if the moon was never diminished it would not have become the object of a mitzvah with which one could fulfill. Only in its compromised state, an object of creation was instituted as a mitzvah for Am Yisrael that can never be removed from us. It signifies the eternality of the Torah and its mitzvos.
This brings us to the connection between the death of Yosef and the stars. Yosef was an outstanding individual who excelled in his ability of appeasement and להחיות לב נדכאים ורוח שפלים. Yosef was born to Rachel who was childless for so many years and in her own words considered dead (Bereishis 30,1 Rashi). By giving birth to Yosef, he brought to his mother להחיות לב ורוח הנדכה והשפלה. He was called the name of יוסף which contains the same letters of פיוס – appeasement This gematriah means that his name sake and essence is the middah of appeasement. Before he even was able to use his bechirah, he already, by the mere fact of being born, אסף את חרפתי he comforted his mother and brought relief to her sorrow and embarrassment.
A second example of such a high caliber of his essential middah is that without knowing the impact of his words, he relieved Reuven from mistakenly believing that he was rejected from possessing the status of a Shevet. This wrong interpretation was due to the fact that after Rachel died he changed Yaakov's bed from Bilha's tent to his mother Leah. Reuven realized his mistake when Yosef told his dreams to his brothers and Yosef mentioned that eleven stars bowed down to him which included obviously Reuven. From this indirect comforting information, Reuven was so much indebted to Yosef that he specifically risked his life to go against the decision of his brothers to kill Yosef and instead suggested to throw him into a pit in order to save him at a later time. Here too, we find Yosef giving chiyus and renewed life to Reuven unintentionally without bechirah to do so.
A third example of this nature of Yosef is found by Kerias Yam Suf. As Yisrael stood by Yam Suf and the Egyptians could be seen quickly approaching with their choice army from their backs, they were in a state of panic where to go. Chazal tell us that when the Sea saw the aron of Yosef it split its waters. Here too, we see the koach of Yosef even without his bechirah and when he was dead. He was able to achieve a transformation of an entire nation's lives and spirits from hysteria to joy and salvation.
There is yet a fourth instance where this characteristic of Yosef's פיוס is manifested in the same fashion. When the Yom Tov of Pesach arrived and the mitzvah was to bring a Korban Pesach, a few individuals who were carrying the coffin of Yosef were tamei and could not bring a korban. They complained to Moshe Rabbeinu how distraught they were because of this. When Moshe Rabbeinu consulted with Hashem, He said we will make a new mitzvah named Pesach Shein, a make up, for those who were unable to fulfill the mitzvah on its designated calendar date. The depth that lies in this episode is that there was no way that Yosef alive or dead could cause such a compromise in Torah observance and not supply an appeasement and comfort to the ones in pain because of him. The letters of his name state פיוס.
Yosef being placed in an aron at the end of Sefer Bereishis and the connection to the stars at the beginning of Sefer Shmos is so remarkable. Yosef even in his aron was able to achieve the giving of comfort and relief to those who were in pain and distraught. Whether it was to split the waters at Yam Suf or to add a mitzvah of Pesach Sheini, Yosef manifested his tremendous middah of פיוס , of כוכבים.
Above we brought four examples where his middah of פיוס was activated and employed even when it was unintended and in death. How much more so when he was alive and had intention to do so. The passuk says that Yosef was a shepherd with the children of Bilhah and Zilpah, the maidservants of Yaakov. Rashi explains for the other brothers degraded and mocked them and therefore Yosef was mekaraiv them - להחיות.
Yosef not only fulfilled להחיות לב ורוח שפלים with his brethren, but even with goyim he acted with the same trait. The passuk says (Bereishis 40,6) He came to the butler and baker, two of Pharaoh's top ministers and saw that they were depressed. So he asked these officers of Pharaoh who were with him in custody "Why do your faces look so down today?" Yosef pleaded with them to "please" relate their dreams to him so they can be interpreted. These two corrupt officials were part of the corrupt regime of Pharaoh that wrongly imprisoned him. Normally he should have hated them as well and have had zero interest in them. But Yosef whose name is פיוס took an active interest in their welfare even noticing that one day both criminals were depressed and he went out of his way to give them chiyus emulating the middah of Hashem.
Of course in the role of Egyptian viceroy when all of its inhabitants experienced a famine, Yosef was there as the משביר , the coordinator and manager to sustain the entire country. In their crisis everyone was a שפל ונדכה and Yosef relieved them of their plight. However, the ultimate appeasement manifested by Yosef, was at the time he revealed himself to his brothers. Let us not forget the history. They first attempted to murder him, they mocked him, they threw him into a pit to die, and then sold him as a slave to Mitzrayim, they separated him from his father, he sat 12 years in a dungeon. This separation from his family lasted over two decades without any contact or interest on their part to be concerned in his were about, his health, safety, or even if he is alive.
Yet Chazal write that Yosef after he revealed to them his true identity, succeeded in appeasing them. He kept repeating to them words of chizuk and freeing them from any guilt. "Now don't be depressed over your actions. It was Hashem who sent me in order to support my family when they descend to Mitzrayim. אני יוסף אחיכם אשר מכרתם אותי מצרימה Even as you sold me to Egypt I never lost my love and brotherhood to you. From the beginning of my sale and up until now I bear no grudge. והנה עיניכם רואות ועיני (Bereishis 45,12 Rashi) the Chazal (Megillah 16b) say that Yosef said just like I have not an iota of negative feelings towards Binyamin for he was not involved in my sale altogether, so too I have not an iota of hatred or feelings of revenge towards you as well. כי פי המדבר עליכם the words I speak are exactly the way I feel."
Chazal say on the passuk (Shir Hashirim 8,1 Rashi) מי יתנך כאח לי this is what AmYisrael is asking from Hashem.
שתבוא לנחמני כדרך שעשה יוסף לאחיו שגמלהו רעה ונאמר בו (בראשית נ') וינחם אותם
You Hashem should come to comfort me in the same manner that Yosef comforted his brothers even though they acted with evil towards him. The Pesikta (81,1) writes Yisrael said to Hashem come and see Yosef that even after all the evil that the brothers did to him he stands and comforts them and speaks to their hearts. Likewise, even though we know that we destroyed Your House by our aveiros, we transgressed the mitzvos in the Torah, and we killed our prophets, nevertheless מי יתנך כאח לי. Hashem responded You want me to be like Yosef? Then like Yosef I will be to you. In the same way that Yosef comforted his brothers for their treacherous actions against him, so too I say to you נחמו נחמו עמי יאמר אלקיכם.
Yosef spent 12 years in the dungeon which the Torah calls בית הסהר . The word סהר is mentioned eight times out of the first nine pessukim in this episode. That means we must take note with scrutiny. The word סהר also means moon. The Torah is obviously alluding to us that Yosef is somehow connected to the moon. The moon was diminished from its former stature and compromised. So too, Yosef was hijacked from his father a constant spring of ohr, ruchniyus, Torah, avodah, and exiled by his brothers to a desert of immorality and avodah zarah. Yet Yosef had two sons who became two Shevatim. So too, Yosef consists of two parts, the moon and the stars. As hurt and injured as one can be, Yosef nevertheless with superhuman power forgives and comforts his brothers for their terrible deeds towards him. In the same way Hashem will comfort us in the final geulah.
The מרכבה, the vessel, that Yosef made of himself for Hashem was the moon and its stars together. There are three names for the moon, ירח לבנה סהר and together with כוכבים we have the gematriah of מרכבתו as the passuk says (Bereishis 46,29) ויאסר יוסף את מרכבתו. Yosef inherited to Klal Yisrael his power of פיוס.
Everything today works with apps. I think everyone should install the new Appease app that can be applied in many everyday situations on both the giving and receiving ends, giving life to those who are compromised and forgiving those who compromised you. After all the word appease is composed of two words app ease. It is the app to ease the heartbreak, pain and anguish of losses, guilt, and compromises which one experiences. If we can courageously apply it, then we will become closer to Hashem for this is His Middah and with it He will bring the geulah. Next time one feels down take a walk at night to a clear opening with a clear sky and look at the moon and its surrounding stars. It's one unit together of pain and suffering surrounded by comforting lights. Hashem is waiting for that day to be able to proclaim נחמו נחמו עמי and relieve Yisrael from all personal and national tzaros.
- Rabbi Shmuel Brazil