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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.



Monday,  23 Kislev 5775 – December 15, 2014             

              Yesterday, we noted the question surrounding Reuven’s astonishing proposal which he made in an attempt to persuade Yaakov to permit Binyamin to travel to Egypt with his brothers.  Yaakov feared that Binyamin might be killed during the journey just as Yosef was apparently killed during travel, and Reuven tried to change his father’s mind by offering, “You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him to you” (42:38).  Yaakov, of course, rejects this idea, but the question arises as to how Reuven could have even considered such a suggestion.  Was he really prepared to sacrifice his two sons, and did he really think that Yaakov would have accepted this offer of killing his two grandchildren if Binyamin did not return from Egypt safely?


            Rav Moshe Sternbuch addresses this question in his Ta’am Va-da’at, where he cites the creative interpretation offered by the Chatam Sofer to Reuven’s proposal.  The Chatam Sofer cites the Gemara’s comment in Masekhet Bava Batra (118) that when the Torah speaks of Yehoshua and Kalev as the only two among the ten spies who “lived” (Bamidbar 14:38), it means that only they inherited a portion of Eretz Yisrael.  Apparently, forfeiting one’s share in the Land of Israel can be described as “death,” and thus Reuven may have referred to the double portion in the land which was owed to him as the firstborn.  He offered to Yaakov that he would forfeit his birthright if he failed to bring Binyamin home safely, and this relinquishing of his double portion is described as the “death” of his two sons.  (We should note, however, that the verse in Sefer Divrei Ha-yamim I (5:1) states explicitly that Reuven lost his birthright when he committed his sin with Bilha, and thus he had already been denied his double portion before this exchange with Yaakov.)


            Rav Sternbuch himself suggests a different explanation.  If Binyamin would not return safely, then Yaakov would have lost the two sons of his beloved wife, Rachel.  Reuven was thus telling Yaakov that he would approach the situation as though it were his own two sons who would be lost.  He was not offering to kill his two sons; rather, he told Yaakov that he would perceive Yosef and Binyamin as his own two sons, and their loss as the loss of his two sons.  According to this interpretation, Reuven here committed himself to rectifying the mistake he made at the time of mekhirat Yosef, when he made an attempt to rescue Yosef, but, as it turned out, he did not go far enough.  Reuven now declared his intent to view Yaakov’s beloved son as his own, and to do all it takes to protect him and bring him safely home.


Rav David Silverberg       



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