Category Archives: Parshat ויגש


Parshat ויגש – Bereishit 46:1 – Is There a Commandment to Honor Grandparents?

Bereishit 46:1 And Israel and all that was his set out and came to Beer Sheba, and he slaughtered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

Midrash Raba: It doesn’t say “to the God of his father Abraham”. Rabbi Yochanan said regarding this that a person is obligated to honor is father more than the obligation to honor his father’s father. The Rama states in his commentary on Yoreh Deah (Section 140) that we see from here that a person is obligated to honor his father’s father, but the obligation to honor is father is greater.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #1:

The above quote is the opinion of the Rama. The Mahari has the opposite opinion: a person is not obligated to honor his father’s father. Many later commentators wrestled with this question and brought proofs for each of the opinions. The Gra, in his commentary on Yoreh Deah writes a new idea on this topic. The Gra states that the grandson is certainly not obligated to honor his mother’s father. The Gra brings a proof from Midrash Bereshit Raba (Section 98) where it states explicitly that the sons of one’s daughters are not referred to as one’s children.

I have doubts, however, whether the Gemora itself agrees with the Midrash Raba on this question. Note that there are many places in the Gemora where it states explicitly that one’s daughters’ children are referred to as one’s children. For example, in the Gemora Yevamoth 66b the Gemora explains the verse in Deuteronomy 33:9 “Nor did he know his children” as referring to his daughter’s children.  Another example is in the Gemora Yevamoth 70a where it comments on the verse in Leviticus 22:13 “if the kohen’s daughter has no children…” and states that it is understood that the verse must include “children’s children”. There it is explicitly discussing a daughter’s children. Another example is in the Gemora Kedushin 68b where it discusses the verse in Deuteronomy 6:4 “if he will turn your son from following Me…” and concludes that this includes the children that your daughter may have even with a non-Jewish father. There are many other Gemoras that prove the same point. We additionally see the same with Lavan’s statement in Genesis 31:43 that “the sons are my sons” when speaking about his daughters’ children. Therefore, it seems probable to say that the Gemora disagrees with the Midrash Raba quoted above. The Gemora’s opinion is that the children of one’s daughters are referred to as one’s children. Thus, the view of the Gra would have to be investigated further in terms of its halachic ramifications.

Consequently, in general, it is logical to state that one is obligated to honor one’s father’s father. We see that the father’s father is [himself] obligated equally to the father. As it states in Gemora Kedushin 30a “how do we know that a grandfather is obligated to teach his grandchildren Torah? From the verse in Deuteronomy 4:9 “But beware and watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw, and lest these things depart from your heart, all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children”.

If so, the logical conclusion is that since the father’s father has the strictness of the obligation regarding educating his grandchildren, similarly the grandchildren have the strictness of the obligation regarding giving him honor.

There is, in actuality, nothing new in this conclusion. We find similar statements by the Rif and the Rosh and other halachic commentators in their comments on the Gemora Kedushin 44a regarding the obligation of a person to make a blessing if a miracle occurs for him. The commentators state that this obligation occurs not only if the miracle happens to the person himself, but also to his children and his children’s children. The reason for this derives from the Midrash Raba’s statement regarding the verse in Genesis 21:23 [And now, swear to me here by God, that you will not lie to me or to my son or to my grandson; according to the kindness that I have done with you, you shall do with me, and with the land wherein you have sojourned.”] The Midrash Raba comments there that father’s have mercy onto their children up to the 3rd generation of descendants. If so, then the reverse is also true that the son and the son of the son have mercy on their father and grandfather. Thus, since according the measure of feelings of the son of the son and the father of the father are the same and we obligate them equally to make a blessing with God’s explicit name, so to it is logical to obligate them to honor [the father’s father].

Editor’s Note: In this note, the Torah Temimah disagrees with the Gra (The Vilna Gaon) and states that it is an obligation to honor one’s father’s father. Additionally, the Torah Temimah digresses slightly to show that the Gemora and the Chumash consider one’s daughter’s children to also be included.


Parshat ויגש Genesis 45:26 – Caution to Liars

Genesis 45:26 – They said to him [Yaacov] saying  “Yosef is still alive”, and he is the ruler over all the land of Egypt; but he had a turn of heart, for he did not believe them.

Avot D’Rabbi Natan (Chapter 30) – Rabbi Shimon said “this is the punishment of liars that even when they say the truth they are not believed.” This is what we find by the sons of Yaacov as it says “He recognized the garment and said this is the cloak of my son”. That is why afterwards even though they finally told him the truth, he didn’t believe them as it says “he had a turn of heart, for he did not believe them.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #12:

Even though in the end the brothers were believed, it was because of the signs [from Yosef] that they showed him such as the wagons that Pharoah had sent. Also, as is mentioned in the Midrash that they showed him the sign that indicated what Yosef and Yaacov had been studying together when he was taken away.

DBS Note: I wonder if the Torah Temimah went out of his way to quote Avot D’Rabbi Natan because of the important ethical lesson here.

Parshat ויגש – Genesis 45:14 – How Many Necks Does Binyomin Have?

Genesis 45:14 – And he (Yosef) fell on the neck of Binyamin, his brother and wept; and Binyamin wept on his neck.

Gemora: Megilla 16b: How many necks did Binyamin have? Rabbi Elazar states, “He wept due to the two temples that would in the future be in the portion of Binyamin and would be destroyed.”

DBS Note: in the posuk itself, both times that the word “neck” is used, it is written in the plural

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation:
The Gemora comments as it does due to the fact that the Beit haMikdash is [often] referred to by the word “neck”. As we say on the posuk in Shir HaShirim “Your neck is like the Tower of David” where the word “neck” refers to the Beit haMikdash.

Rashi in commenting on our Gemora, states that the phrase “How many necks did Binyamin have?” must be removed. Rashi states that it is common in classical Hebrew to refer to “neck” in the plural even when it means singular.

If that is Rashi’s reason for suggesting a textual change in the Gemora, he could have left the original text as it was. Even though there certainly are examples where the word “neck” is used in the plural form to have a singular meaning, it is equally true that there are many places where the word “neck” is used in the singular form to mean singular.  That being the case, it would be the way of Chazal to explore and explain such a word when it is used in the plural form.

However, even if that is the case, it appears that Rashi’s comment is never-the-less valid and we should emendate the text of the Gemora. The very next comment is that Binyamin wept on Joseph’s neck due to the destruction of the Tabernacle at Shilo which was located in the territory of Yosef and would, in the future, be destroyed. If so, we see that in the same biblical sentence “necks” is used to refer to both plural and singular.

If that is the case, then why is there even a comment from the Gemora on this sentence? It is because the Gemora is commenting on the fact that immediately after Yosef says that he carries no ill will towards any of his brothers just as he carries no ill-will towards Binyamin [who was not involved in selling him into slavery], he immediately thereafter falls on Binyamin’s neck and cries. Why did he not fall on all his brother’s necks? The answer is that the reason for the crying is hinted at by the word “neck” which refer to the temple and the tabernacle.

DBS Note: I liked this note of the Torah Temimah because initially he critiques Rashi and then he ends up defending Rashi. The Torah Temimah sees his duty as explaining the text and the Gemora in the best way possible even if this may mean disagreeing with other preceding famous commentaries. As he lived from approx. 1860 – 1940, I find this attitude close to amazing; especially, as we shall see, the extent to which he takes this approach.