Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
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Perspective Please, People


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Kislev 10 5781
As we have said so many times before, the (Hebrew) name of something - a person, an object, a concept - conveys its essence. The Hebrew word "Shem," or name - is found in the center of "Neshama," the soul, indicating that the "soul" of everything is embodied in Its name. Our Sedra is chock-full of names, as all the children of Yakov are given their names. But most fascinating of all is the name "Yosef."

"Yosef" actually has two meanings and, strangely enough, they have opposite connotations! Rachel names him "Yosef" and says "Hashem will end my disgrace - asaf Elokim et cherpati"). Here, "Yosef" connects to "asaf," to end, as in the word "sof." But then, Rachel calls him "Yosef," with the wish that G-d will continue to bless her by adding another child to her family ("Yosef Hashem li ben acher"). Here, Yosef's name is connected to "hosafa," an addition. So the name embodies both ending, and continuing!

On the first definition of Yosef, Rashi quotes a very strange Midrash concerning Rachel's statement that "this name will end my disgrace." Says Rashi. "As long as a woman has no child, she has no one else to blame for her faults. But when she has a child, she indeed has someone to blame. 'Who broke this vase? Your son! Who ate those figs that you like? Your daughter!"

Wow! That seems like quite a condemnation of women, making them appear to be so shallow and timid that they have to blame others for the mistakes they make - and their own child, yet!

But Rav Lau explained what's going on here. When a husband comes home and sees something amiss - a broken vase, or his favorite food eaten, and he starts to get angry and shout, the wise wife holds up her child and says, "Get a grip on yourself; wake up and smell the makeup! I gave you a son, and you're stressing out over an old vase?! I gave you a daughter, and you're complaining about a cookie?! Seriously?!"

We are showered by Hashem with so much good, with so many blessings in this world - even in the age of Corona. So put in all in perspective, people, and don't sweat the small stuff.
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