This D’var Torah should be a Zechus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister, Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, my uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael, especially those suffering from COVID-19 and the Meiron tragedy.
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken by terrorists (Hashem Yikom Damam), COVID-19, and the Meiron tragedy.
-It should also be a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
לע”נ שמואל מנחם בן אריה לייב
לע”נ לאה בת אברהם
לע”נ יהודה חסדא יקיר בן הרב שלמה
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Parsha Paradise/פרשה פרדס – Vayeishev: What Was/Wasn’t in the Pit? ????
When describing the pit which Yosef was thrown into, the Torah elaborates: “V’HaBor Reik Ein Bo Mayim”-“And the pit was empty; there was no water in it” [Bereishis 37:24].
The famous question is why the Torah saw value in emphasizing that the pit had no water if it already told us that the pit was empty. Chazal famously suggest that, indeed, the pit was really only empty from water, but maybe had other contents. If so, what was in the pit? How would you know that? And why would the Torah describe the pit as empty? What really was and wasn’t in the pit?
Al Pi P’shat, it could be suggested that the pit was undoubtedly empty of all contents as the Chumash states. Why then would the Torah emphasize the lack of water?
Several M’forshim point out that the Torah singled out water to communicate that Yosef’s brothers purposely avoided throwing him into a pit of water so that they wouldn’t drown him, killing him directly with their hands (See Rashbam, Chizkuni, Bechor Shor, Radak, and Netziv among others).
Additionally, a contemporary commentary, Chibah Yiseirah, suggests that the the lack of water is emphasized because the brothers intended for Yosef to die by thirst.
(The weakness of this P’shat is that although it explains the emphasis on water, it doesn’t fully explain why the Torah referred to the pit as “empty.”)
However, there is a famous Drash cited by Rashi, with several accompanying Remazim in support to suggest that indeed, the pit was only empty of water, but contained something else; Nechashim V’Akravim, snakes and scorpions [Shabbos 22A] (though we will see that some appear to take this explanation as an alternative Pashut P’shat).
According to this read, the specification that there was no water was really just modifying the earlier statement that the pit was empty; it was empty in so far as it had no water.
The question is how anyone could presume that there were snakes and scorpions in there? And if they were there, why would the Torah describe the pit as empty?
Sifsei Chachamim suggests that while the main airspace of the pit was empty, snakes and scorpions emerged from the cracks and crevices. Da’as Zikeinim suggests that where there is an arid waterless pit, there is naturally bound to be a presence of such cold-blooded creatures to inhabit that empty space.
Thus, in support of this alternative read, the Ba’al HaTurim points out that the word “Reik” (“empty”) appears only twice in Scripture, the other time in reference to the Torah which Moshe states is “not an empty matter,” alluding to the fact that neither was this pit truly empty.
And how could one know what inhabited the pit? Ba’al HaTurim bolsters the Midrashic read by citing an explicit verse in Devarim [8:14] which describes the desert as containing “serpent, fiery serpent [Seraph], and scorpion, and thirst—which there is no water.” The verse contains a similar double expression referencing a lack of water and a presence of the same aforementioned reptile and arachnid.
In addition to the above Remazin, I heard of one incredible Remez quoted B’Sheim the Vilna Ga’on (though I couldn’t locate any written source for it) that the pit’s contents are referenced in the next verse [Bereishis 37:25] where the Torah states that Yosef’s brothers sat down to eat bread; “Vayeishvu [וַיֵּֽשְׁבוּ֘] Le’echol Lechem.”
As the Remez goes, the first word can be read as a conjunction of the words “V’Yeish Bo”-“but there is in it,” modifying the pit just described. And what is in it? The Trop on these words is a “Zarka” [~], a squiggly line which resembles a snake. (If anyone finds a written source for this, please share! I saw a similar Remez in Rosh’s comments to this verse, though it was not precisely the same.)
And then of course, there is the final, deeper and mystical layer of Sod, wherein we find Rabbeinu Bachya and Zohar [3:279A] who explain that the lack of water is a reference to a lack of Torah which Chazal famously compare to water.
Zohar adds that the pit represents the fourth Galus (and the reference in Shemos/Hilchos Nezikin to a ox falling into pit represents Moshiach Ben Yosef’s fall during that Galus).
And in this final Galus, Zohar explains, there is a presence of Nechashim and Akravim, symbolic of the Rama’im or the cunning and deceptive people.
Zohar Chadash [Yisro 144] identifies these individuals as the Eirev Rav (Mixed Multitude) who deceitfully and maliciously try to lead the B’nei Yisrael astray. Apparently, Yosef’s pit was a dangerous place where he was at risk of losing everything. If not for the Torah inside him and the miracle Hashem performed for him while he was in the pit, Yosef could have never survived, neither physically nor spiritually.
We should all be Zocheh to not only physical protection, but to hokd strong to the Torah which will provide us spiritual protection from the inhabitants of a world empty of that “water,” and Hashem should rid the world of the venomous and deceptive Nechashim and Akravim forever with the coming of Moshiach Ben Dovid, Bimheirah BiYomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos/Chanukah!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg