As we know, Yaakov and his family’s descent to Mitzraim is the beginning of a long and difficult time for Klal Yisroel. This galus was initiated by the selling of Yosef. Rav Pinkus points out that this divide between Jews and their brother sowed the seeds for future galus, and ultimately caused the destruction fo the 1st Bais HaMikdash and Galus Bavel (the 2 different kingdoms, Yehuda and Yisrael not getting along), and the 2nd Bais HaMikdash was blatantly destroyed by Sinas Chinum.

Learning again this week’s parsha, I had a startling revelation. The Midrash, qupted by Rashi, points out that of the 11 brothers of Yosef, the the Bnei Bilha and Zilpah did not want to sell Yosef as they got along with him, Binyamin obviously was not on board, and Yissachar and Zevulun would certainly not instigate anything before their older brothers. Reuvein himself attempted to save Yosef, and Yehuda in his own way tried tone down what they were doing, suggesting to sell Yosef rather than kill him, and perhaps leave yosefs judgement in the hands of Hashem. It stands then that the ones who instigated Yosefs almost killing and eventual sale, leading to all the suffering of galus, was Shimon and Levi. We could perhaps narrow it even more, as Levi being younger probably was only following Shimon, as we see Yosef chose to jail Shimon and not Levi. Similarly, we find by Shechem that Shimon took a leading role in securing Dinah. Just as Shimon and Levi caused all this galus and wandering, so too they we decreed to wander (Shevet Shimons land was a sub section of Yehuda and they often had to go collecting door to door, Levi likewise was denied land and relies on terumah and maser). Whats frightening is that out of all the brothers, it would seem 2, possibly 1 had the idea of hurting Yosef which caused untold suffering for generations, all the other brothers did not support this plan! Rashi even says that Yehuda lost his status in the eyes of the brothers for a time afterward, because had he told them not to do it they would have stopped it. Everyone was waiting for someone to stand up and put a stop to this, and yet no one had the courage! Perhaps even Yaakov hints at this when he gave out Brochos before his death, mentioning in the future Shevet Shimon will have Zimri and Shevet Levi will have Korach, both instigators of mobs who the masses were afraid to stand up too!

I believe the lesson here is twofold:

  1. We need to foster the type of environments in schools, shul and most importantly the home, where everyone is accepted and respected. There can be no fear of rejection (though there should be clear expectations, responsibilities and repercussions because of our belief in that child’s capabilities, a fact which needs to be made clear). Kids need to grow up comfortable to voice their thoughts, concerns, disagreements, otherwise they can chas v’shalom be trained in silence, which leads to tragedy. Speaking out requires courage and so needs to be fostered and trained, even modelled. Yosef lost 20 years, Yaakov suffered, all of galus mitzraim and future galuses, all because no one would speak up to Shimon. Working sidewise instead of confronting him head on (like Yehuda and Reuvein tried) did not succeed nor exempt them.
  2. People crave leadership. We need to train our children to be leaders, or at the very least train them how to choose the right person to lead them. We ourselves, as their current leaders and role models, need to model for them good leadership, if not to duplicate themselves then at least when they go out into the world looking for someone to lead them they will have a good dugma of what to look for.

Have a great Shabbos,

Ari Deutscher MSW