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(5746) Rashi (Gen 42:14): "Why do you appear satiated" - the reason that Jacob's claim "Why do you appear satiated?" (as if they are satiated)is specifically "before the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Esau"

The inner reason that Yisroel does not require the produce of Egypt  



1. On the verse (Gen 42:1):

“Jacob saw that there was grain being sold in Egypt; so Jacob said to his sons, "Why do you appear satiated?" וַיַּרְא יַעֲקֹב כִּי יֶשׁ שֶׁבֶר בְּמִצְרָיִם וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְבָנָיו לָמָּה תִּתְרָאוּ

Rashi states:

“Why do you appear (satiated)? (לָמָה תִּתְרָאוּ). Why do you show yourselves before the sons of Yishmael and the sons of Esau as if you are satiated? For at that time they still had grain”.

There is a well-known question:

Why does Rashi specify the “sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav” who did not live in the land of Canaan,

(As it states clearly in the verse that sons of Yishmael lived “from Chavilah to Shur, which borders on Egypt” and Esav and his sons lived in the land of Seir) –

and he did not say “Why do you appear” in front of their neighbors in the land of Canaan itself?

We find many answers in the commentators on this – yet all of them are seemingly forced answers.

For example:

1. Ramban, in his commentary answers:

“Perhaps the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav came from their dwelling places to Joseph to buy food and they came by way of the land of Canaan, thus passing by Yaakov. He thus said to his children that they should not show themselves before them as having plenty to eat, for they would suspect that Yaakov had food, whereupon they would come to eat bread with them in his house”.

However, the Ro”m (Rashi Eliyahu Mizrachi) had already questioned that the “land of Edom and the land of Egypt are both in the south of the land of Canaan . . and one who is coming from the land of Edom to the land of Egypt does not have to pass through the land of Canaan”.

Moreover, and primarily:

This explanation of Ramban just resolves why there is also a concern regarding the sons of Yishmael and the sons of Esav who are distant – however the main puzzlement still remains:

Why does Rashi specify “the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav“ (which in doing so negates the other nations) and he does not state in plain language and general “in front of the nations” (or like the wording of the Rashbam: “before people” – and include all of them, together?

2. The Ro”m answers that he did not specify the people of the land of Canaan because “ all the people of the land of Canaan had food like them” whereas the “sons of Esav and Yishmael who dwelled around the land of Canaan (who) did not have food like the people of the land of Canaan”.

However, even this is difficult (as the commentators question) from the plain wording of the aforementioned verse: “and there was famine in all the lands”. And also from what is stated after this, during the time of Yaakov’s sons travelling to Egypt “So (they) came . . among those who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan“. It therefore appears when Yaakov said “Why do you appear (satiated)?” the famine was (also) in the land of Canaan, and the people of Canaan came to Egypt to procure food.


It still is not resolved (as the Maharsha questions) – why Rashi specifies “the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav“ and not “Amon and Moab who also were the neighbors of the land of Canaan ”?

And the main question is (as aforementioned), why does Rashi need to delineate the names of the nations, in general, and he does not write plainly “in front of the nations”, and so forth?

3. The Gur Aryeh writes that “since Esav and Yishmael were brothers to you, you say ‘and your brother shall live with you’ and therefore they were afraid of Esav and Yishmael and not from the people of Canaan”.

However even this reason, requires examination according to the simple understanding of the verse,

(In addition to the difficulty in saying that the sons of Yishmael and the sons of Esav would come to claim food from Yaakov and his sons) –

for we see, in actuality, that a person is more concerned about his neighbors who are not his relatives, than his relatives that are in a different country.

4. The Kli Yakar explains that he specified the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav because: “both of them thought that:

                     Yitzchak stole the success of Yishmael, and that

                     Yaakov stole the success of Esav, through their efforts (השתדלות)” (for Yaakov took the blessings of Esav, with guile).

Therefore they were jealous of Yisroel more than all the other nations, and because of this, Yaakov specifically worried about the jealousy of the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav.

However even this is not understood:

Even if one were to say that sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav possessed an extra measure of jealousy than the other nations, nevertheless, it is simple, that even the people of Canaan were jealous of Yaakov and his sons - when they saw that they were satiated at the time that they were hungry

[Similar to what we find previously regarding Yitzchak, that when G-d blessed him and gave him success in the land of the Philistines, during a time of famine, in a manner that he owned “flocks of sheep . . and many slaves” that because of this: “the Philistines were jealous of him“.]

And since this is so, the main question remains is place:

Why does Rashi specify “the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav“. In other words, that the concern is just of these nations, and not from his neighbors in the land of Canaan?

2. This can be understood, by prefacing many precise aspects in the wording of Rashi:

1. Seemingly, Rashi contradicts himself. For in the beginning he writes “Why do you show yourselves before the sons of Yishmael and the sons of Esau as if you are satiated? “ which implies that, in truth, that they were not satiated and that they just acted as if they were satiated – and then he continues, “For at that time they still had grain“?

Which, according to this, one must say that the intent of Rashi with the words: “as if you are satiated“ is that the Bnei Yaakov displayed themselves to others as if they had an abundance of food, that would suffice to sustain them for an extended period of time. And truthfully, they did possess food, however it was just “at that time”,

[in other words, (they had food) just at that time itself, and as is understood from the flow of the Parsha that “when they finished eating the grain that they had brought from Egypt“ they needed to descend, another time, to Egypt in order to procure food] –

and on this Yaakov warned them “Why do you appear satiated?”

Yet it still requires examination why the sons of Yaakov would conduct themselves so. In other words, that they would act as if they were satiated more than the amount of food that they possessed. And even if there was some reason for this conduct- how does Rashi know this? We could have simply learned that Yaakov warned them “Why do you appear satiated?” regarding the produce that they possessed at that time.

2. The source of Rashi is in the Talmud tractate Ta’anit (10b) - and the wording there is:

“Do not show yourselves when you are fully sated either before Esau or before Yishmael that they should not envy you“.

One must understand the reason for the changes in the Rashi‘s wording:

  1. In the Talmud, it prefaces Esav to Yishmael yet Rashi reverses the order – “sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav”.
  2. Rashi omits the conclusion of the wording of the Sages “that they should not envy you“.

3. One could say that these questions can answer each other:

According to the Pshat, the concern of “Why do you appear satiated?” is not because of the aspect of jealousy. For since Yaakov and his sons did not possess much food, except just “at that time” (as aforementioned) therefore from the very onset, there is no place for envy from the nations.

(And this is not similar to the great success of Yitzchak in a manner of “The man prospered. He continued to prosper until he became very great. He owned . . and many slaves.“).

The concern of “Why do you appear satiated?” is (not on the essential success of the Bnei Yaakov, who had food in the time of famine, but) just that they showed themselves as if they were satiated, and this concern of “Why do you appear satiated?” was a special aspect that was related just to the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav (as will be explained).

And this is also the reason for the change, that in the Talmud it prefaces Esav to Yishmael and Rashi reverses the order:

According to what is explained in the Talmud, that the reason for the concern is “so that they not envy you“, it is understood that the main concern of Yaakov was because of the envy of the sons of Esav, his brother, from whom he took the blessings “with guile”. And this is explained in the verse, namely that “Esav hated Yaakov because of the blessing etc.” And it is simple to understand that the envy of the sons of Esav was greater than the envy of the sons of Yishmael, over Yitzchak’s stealing the success of Yishmael”.

Whereas according to Rashi, the concern of “Why do you appear satiated?” is not applicable to the aspect of envy (or revenge). Therefore he lists them according to the order of their birth (סדר הדורות) - sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav.

4. The reason for this aspect is:

We have already found in the verses before this that there was a condition of famine in the land of Canaan, both in the days of Avraham as well as in the days of Yitzchak. And both of them left their place of dwelling because of this. Avraham went to Egypt to dwell there and Yitzchak went to Avimelech the king of the Philistines in Gerar (and he intended to go down to Egypt as his father had gone down during the days of the famine, but G-d said to him, ‘Do not go down to Egypt’”).

And the reason that G-d caused, that they needed to displace themselves from their place, is not because they were not deserving, G-d forbid, that G-d would sustain them also in the days of famine. For the proof is, that when Yitzchak was in Gerar, although it “was a year of famine . . the earth was hard and the year was a hard one”, nevertheless G-d blessed him with miraculous success that “he reaped a hundred fold . . The man prospered . . until he became very great“. Therefore it must be that their travelling from their place was because of different reasons (סיבות צדדיות).

And as is explained regarding Avraham that this was “in order to test him whether he will question the words of G-d who had told him to go to the Land of Canaan and now is forcing him to leave it”. And similarly with Yitzchak, that the reason that G-d did not provide sustenance for him in his place (but rather he needed to go the Gerar) was due to a side reason (ענין צדדי). And perhaps the same was concerning Avraham. And one does not need to explain it – since it is self-understood.

And now one can understand the reason of the conduct of Bnei Yaakov, who displayed themselves as if they were satiated:

Bnei Yaakov were strong in their faith, that G-d would not desert Yaakov and his household in the days of the famine. And seeing that they had food at the time that all the people of the land of Canaan were hungry due to the lack of food, it was clear to them that they merited G-dly blessing (and success), which is above nature (and in a manner that G-d can sustain them in their place).

Therefore, even though in actuality, they had sufficient food, just for “that time” (and not an abundance of produce, as aforementioned) nevertheless, there was no doubt in their hearts that G-d would continue to provide for them, in a miraculous manner, even in the future (like G-d’s conduct with the Avot, in general). Therefore they showed themselves as if they were satiated (with an abundance of food) for this is what they felt, due to their strong faith in G-d, so much so that the abundance of food that they had not yet obtained, was considered in their eyes as if they already possessed it.

And on this conduct Yaakov claimed “Why do you appear satiated?” – “Why do you show yourselves before the sons of Yishmael and the sons of Esau as if you are satiated?”

This type of conduct, to show “show yourselves . . as if you are satiated”  (and that there is no need to go to Egypt to procure food), is able to arouse the accusation of the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav – the descendants of Avraham and Yitzchak. For how is it possible that Yaakov and his sons, sit comfortably in the land of Canaan in these years of famine? Are they ‘better’ than their grandfathers Avraham and Yitzchak, who had to leave land of Canaan in the days of famine? For the sons of Yishmael and sons of Esav did not know the true reason of the travelling of Avraham and Yitzchak from their place.

And a claim such as this, has the power to arouse accusation etc., so much so that they needed to be displaced from their places.

5. The explanation of this according to allusion (remez) is:

This thing, namely that, in essence, Yisroel, is not required to receive their produce from Egypt,

(Which is why Bnei Yaakov, were certain that there is no need to procure food from Egypt)

comes (as in all things) from the aspect as it is, in its root in spirituality.

The explanation is:

The reason that the land of Egypt was the source of the flow of produce and bread to all the lands is because this was the way it was in the spirituality of the matter, that it was the source of spiritual “produce”.

In other words:

The aspect of Spiritual “produce” is that it “Chochmah/Wisdom”. As we find that the Torah is called “bread/lechem” for:

“Just as physical bread nourishes the body when it is actually ingested within him and his intestines, and transformed there into blood and flesh of one’s own flesh, then will the body live and be sustained; similarly, through the knowledge and comprehension of Torah by the soul of a person who studies it well, with the concentration of his intellect, to the point where the Torah is grasped by his mind and is joined with him so that they become one, [the Torah thereby] becomes food for the soul”.

In other words, the intellect of Torah is called bread, for the makeup of the intellect is that the thought is united with the power of the intellect and becomes one. (שהמושכל מתאחד עם כח השכל ונעשים לאחדים).  Just like physical bread enters the body and becomes blood and flesh of one’s own flesh.

And from this it is understood that a glimmer of this is, to differentiate (l’havdil/ להבדיל), in each wisdom and intellect.

And this is the (inner) reason that, of all the lands, they came to procure food (“Chochmah”), specifically from the land of Egypt – for Egypt was the source of “Chochmah” as it states in Zohar, that “the wisdom of Egypt was greater than the whole world”.

However, this is only said with regard to the nations of the world. However Bnei Yisroel are not dependent on the wisdom of Egypt - for the study of wisdom. For even though there are many aspects of Torah that are connected with the wisdoms of the world. For example: The Mitzvah to calculate the cycle of the seasons and the constellations, in order to sanctify the month and intercalate the year, and other examples. Nevertheless, in normal years, the knowledge of these wisdoms come from the Torah itself.

(This is similar to the story of the Sages that R’ Dimi and R’ Yehoshua learned the gestation period of a snake from Scripture.)

And when, in certain times, a knowledge of these wisdoms is required – they are found, in their entirety, among the Jewish Sages and in their books. And there is no need to learn them from the sages of the nations. This is as Rambam writes regarding the calculation of the seasons and the constellations, that in the days of the prophets, the wise men of Yisroel wrote books from the knowledge of the Bnei Yissachar in these aspects, (yet they were not transmitted to us).

And this is the inner reason that, in essence, Bnei Yaakov were not required to procure food in Egypt.

6. According to this, even the inner reason for the claim of Yaakov “Why do you appear satiated?” is understood. For this thing, namely that Yisroel do not, at all, require the “wisdom of Egypt” could cause a claim from the nations, that even though the nations know that G-d chose us among all the nations, and gave us His Torah, and that there is a difference between Yisroel and the nations, nevertheless, regarding the knowledge in aspects of the world – they are, seemingly, similar to Bnei Yisroel, and they also possess these wisdoms.


It is possible that according to truth, this “wisdom” that the nations possess may be the same wisdom that Yisroel possesses, so much so that it is possible to rely on the conclusions of the sages of the nations, in actual practice.

As Rambam states (ibid. 17:24) regarding the wisdom of the seasons that:

“Since these concepts can be proven in an unshakable manner, leaving no room for question, the identity of the author, be he a prophet or a gentile, is of no concern”

And the same is regarding the Torah command: “and you shall heal”, that we rely on a renowned expert physician, even if he is not a Jew, with regard to the laws of Pikuach Nefesh, to defer the entire Torah, and other such examples.

Notwithstanding this, Bnei Yisroel are not dependent (in normal times) upon the sages of the nations but rather everything comes from the Torah itself (or at the minimum, from the Jewish Sages) for also in these wisdoms, there is a “distinction/Havdalah” between Yisroel and the nations. In other words: the difference between these wisdoms, the way they are in the Torah as opposed to the wisdoms as they are in the nations is not just in their source (whether their source is in the Torah, or from human intellect) but also that, in the essential attainment of the aspect of the wisdom and the knowledge and its purpose. And in the words of Sages: “(if someone claims that) there is wisdom among the nations, believe him . . if there is Torah among the nations – do not believe him”

The explanation is:

“Torah” is from the word “lesson/hora’ah”. In other words, the aspect of Torah is not just to explain the truth of each and every thing (the Torah of truth), but rather to bring out the conclusion and lesson, in practice. Namely, to show the person how to properly act. As the Sages say “Study is greater, for it leads to performance” (גדול תלמוד שמביא לידי מעשה). For the “greatness” of Torah study is that it leads to deed.

However, the aspect of (plain/theoretical) “wisdom”– which is found among the nations – is not to teach the person how to act etc., Rather it is just to clarify and explain the aspect for its own sake, and its aspect is not to categorize it in the scope of good or bad.

And for this reason, the description “bread” and food is fitting just with regard to the wisdom of Torah. For just as physical bread, when entering the intestines of a person and transformed there to blood and flesh of one’s own flesh, enlivens the body – so too is it with regard to wisdom, that the phrase “bread” refers just to the type of wisdom that is not bound just to the intellect of the person, but rather that its aspect is “to sustain” (להזין) the person. And this is the aspect of Torah, which is not just wisdom alone, but rather a lesson that influences and effects, in all the parts of the soul, that one’s conduct must be conducive to the dictates of the Torah.

And this is also with regard to the aspects of the different wisdoms that are necessary for the understanding of (certain aspects of) the Torah. For a Jewish person, the aspects of these wisdoms are in order to bring one to a practical lesson – to know how to sanctify the month and to intercalate the leap year, and so forth.

Therefore, in normal years, there is no need to receive these wisdoms from the sages of the nations – since in the essential scope of attaining these wisdoms, there is a division between Yisroel and the nations.

And it is just because of the darkness of Galut, that a condition has been created where there is a need to “procure food” from the sages of the nations.

However, in “that time”, when Moshiach Tzidkeinu comes, then all of these wisdoms will revert to the Jewish Sages (and they will not require the sages of the nations). And their knowledge of them will come from the Torah itself – for “Yisroel will be great Sages . . for the earth shall be full of knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea“.

Speedily and in our times, mamosh

Msichas Shabbat Parshat Miketz and Motzai zot Chanukah 5741

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