שביבי אש
לסדר מקץ

ויהי מקץ שנתים ימים

And it came to pass after two full years (Genesis 41:1)

These two years were counted from the day that the chief butler left prison, which was Pharaoh's birthday. From that moment, two additional years were added to Joseph's captivity, because he placed his trust in the chief butler, believing that the butler would make favorable mention of him to the king. The birthday of Pharaoh was a day designated for him to recognize his servants either for pardon or punishment, as he did with the chief butler and the chief baker. Joseph therefore said to the butler "but remember me" (כי אם זכרתני) "and make mention of me to Pharaoh" (והזכרתני אל פרעה), by which he meant that if the chief butler would remember him until the next year, the butler would then be able to make favorable mention of him to Pharaoh. But "the chief butler did not remeber Joseph," (ולא זכר שר המשקים את יוסף). Why? Because "he forgot him" (וישכחהו) within the year that passed. Joseph hoped fervently that, at the next birthday of Pharaoh, the chief butler would speak well of him to the king. But because Joseph placed his trust in a mortal, he was forgotten like a dead person by the chief butler who made no mention of him. Joseph therefore stayed an extra year in jail and only after his hopes that the chief butler would help were completely disappointed, did Ha-Sheim Yitbarakh arrange for him to be mentioned the following year (i.e, after two full years) on the birthday of Pharaoh. But the chief butler mentioned Joseph not for Joseph's sake, but for the king's whose spirit was troubled by his dream. The extension of his captivity was, therefore, meant to teach Joseph to place his trust only in G-d, and not to seek elsewhere for deliverance, which is why it says "two years of days" (שנתיים ימים).

But it is astonishing that G-d would consider it a sin for Joseph to try to free himself from captivity. Is that not called wisdom and does G-d not promise "and I will bless you in all that you shall do" (וברכך ה' אלוקיך בכל אשר תעשה)? And if, nevertheless, salvation belongs to G-d, we human beings are required to do what we can. However, Joseph the righteous was different, because he was schooled in miracles and was entirely under Divine Providence beyond the bounds of nature, as was the case when he was thrown into the pit, and when he was in the house of his Egyptian master and G-d was with him in all that he did. And while Joseph was imprisoned, whichever way he turned, G-d made him successful. One such as this should have cast his burden only to G-d. For Joseph to have relied on human agency was, therefore, a sin only for him.

This is also the meaning of the Midrash on the verse "And it came to pass after two full years" which states that the verse (Psalms 40:5): "Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust who does not turn to the proud to those who go astray after false G-ds" ( אשרי הגבר אשר שם ה' מבטחו ולא פנה אל רהבים) (Psalms 40:5) refers to Joseph. But because he did turn to the proud when he said "remember me" (ki im z'khartani) and "make mention of me" (v'hizkartani) two years were added to his captivity. This is astonishing. But the Midrash meant to say that every person must trust in G-d, but may also seek aid wherever it may be found, provided that he attributes the aid to Divine Providence. But blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust without any intermediary. Joseph was one like this, and therefore should not have turned for aid to the proud.

וטבוח טבח והכן

And slaughter an animal and make ready (Genesis 47:16)

Rashi comments:this is the same as "and to slaughter and to prepare" (וטבוח טבח והכן). The word "וטבוח" is not an imperative, for the imperative would be "וטבח".

See the Tosafot (חולין דף צא ע"א ד"ה כמאן דאמר כיד הנשה) and the Maharshah who say that while "וטבוח" is not an imperative, "והכן" is an imperative. And it appears to our master that since the brothers fulfilled the commandment of shehitah, they would not eat meat slaughtered by a Noahide, because an animal slaughtered by a gentile is considered to be neveilah. Joseph therefore did not say to his gentile servant "slaughter" (וטבח), he said to him "וטבוח" i.e., to prepare the animal's throat for one of the brothers to perform the shehitah himself. But Joseph did command the servant to prepare animal to be eaten after shehitah, using the imperative form "והכן" which meant that the servant himself should remove the sciatic nerve (גיד הנשה).

This is an appropriate place to mention that our master was astounded by how the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah (Hulin 7:6; 100b) explains the reply of the Sages to R. Judah that the law of the sciatic nerve was ordained on Mount Sinai, but was written in its proper place (i.e., in the narrative concerning Jacob (Genesis 32:33)

The Rambam explains that the Sages meant that we fulfill this commandment only because we were commanded to do so at Sinai, not because of any previous commandment. But if this is what the Sages meant, then even the Sages who dispute the opinion of R. Judah (i.e., that the prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve applies to all animals) agree that the children of Jacob were prohibited to eat the sciatic nerve. This is problematic, because the Gemara (Hulin 91a) cites the opinion that when Joseph said "and prepare" (v'hakhein) it means that he ordered the servant to remove the sciatic nerve in the sight of Joseph's brothers. The Gemara states that this interpretation of the verse accords with the opinion that the prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve applied to the children of Jacob when they were just Noahides (i.e., the opinion of R. Judah). But, according to the Rambam's interpretation of the opinion of the Sages who argue with R. Judah, there is no dispute that children of Jacob did not eat the sciatic nerve. So why did the Gemara say that the interpretation of the verse accords with the opinion that the brothers did not eat the sciatic nerve, which suggests that there is a contrary opinion?