Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vayigash - Couple of notes

1) In 45:6, Yosef says that there have already been 2 years of famine, and will still be 5 more years of no plowing or harvesting. Why is plowing significant? Granted, there will be no harvest during the famine, and therefore no reason to plow, but why is this a significant enough point to mention explicitly? The passuk reminds me of Shmos 34:21, which singles out plowing and harvesting as being two melachos of Shabbos (Rashi there quotes Rosh Hashanah 9a which expounds the passuk to teach either the prohibitions of plowing on erev Shmittah for the Shmittah year or harvesting in Motzaei Shmittah from Shmittah or the heter of harvesting for a mitzvah (i.e., the omer) during Shmittah), but I'm not sure how one would use this. Alternatively, perhaps Yosef is telling them that not only do they not have any profit to be obtained from staying in Israel (i.e., harvesting), they also do not have the excuse of non-profitable precursors (i.e., plowing) to cause them to stay in Canaan, and thus should stay in Egypt with him.

1a) Did Yaakov and his sons engage in agriculture, that would make the desistance from agriculture significant? We are only told that they were sheep-breeders - unless everyone back then also engaged in subsistence farming?

2) According to Rashi on 45:23, which says that the "good of Egypt" that Yosef sent his father was either aged wine or grisin shel pol (pounded beans), what is their value? Nachalas David (cited in Sifsei Chachamim) notes (based on Nedarim 66a) that aged wine is good for the intestines, and thus would be of interest to the elderly who are in poor health. Divrei David (ibid.) similarly notes that the Yerushalmi in Yoma states that they would not allow the kohen gadol to eat grisin shel pol on erev yom kippur because of their soporific effect (which creates a concern of seminal emission). Hence, grisin shel pol would be of interest to the elderly, who have difficulty falling asleep.



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