July 16, 2024
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Discerning the Voice of Hashem

Only Reuven heard the voice of Hashem! The brothers confer with each other and plan to murder their brother Yosef. The pasuk describing the plan concludes “and we shall see what happens with his dreams.” Rashi quoting Hazal explains that it is not the brothers who uttered this last point but rather it was the Ruah HaKodesh (spirit of Hashem) that made this proclamation. Hashem proclaimed that the brothers’ plan will not override His plans for Yosef and the family.

Returning to Reuven, the Torah states that Reuven heard and tried to save Yosef. Why does the Torah record that Reuven heard? The Torah records that the brothers conferred with each other—obviously Reuven heard his brothers’ murderous plan.

Answers the Sha’ashu’ei Ephraim (a wonderful collection of drashot [sermons] written by Rav Fishel Conterman who served as a rav in New Orleans from 1895-1955—I thank Torah Academy of Bergen County student Eli Schloss, the great-great-grandson of Rav Conterman, for providing me with this special work), that the pasuk is not describing Reuven hearing his brothers talking. Rather, explains Rav Conterman, the pasuk is describing that Reuven heard Hashem proclaiming “and we shall see what happens with his dreams.” Only Reuven heard this kol demamah dakah, the subtle voice of Hashem, and therefore he alone acted to save Yosef.

The Gemara (Ta’anit 21a) similarly describes that after Rabi Yohanan and Ilfa abandoned their Torah learning, only Rabi Yohanan heard the malachim (angels) proclaim that one of these rabbis is destined for Torah greatness. Rabi Yohanan subsequently returned to his Torah learning despite the enormous difficulty for him to do so.

Not only Reuven and Rabi Yohanan are able to hear the subtle voice of Hashem. It is well within the grasp of each of us to discern the voice of Hashem at critical moments in our lives. The challenge is simply making the effort to be alert and hear this voice. The Hasmoneans, led by Yehudah Maccabee, were also among the minority of Jews of their time who heard the voice of Hashem and realized that they must act, since Hashem will not permit the Greek plan—to extinguish Torah—to succeed.

Hanukah and Parshat Vayeshev serve as an excellent opportunity for us to remind ourselves to be alert to the subtle messages Hashem broadcasts to us. Just as a radio will play a station if the listener tunes it to the proper channel, we can tune in to the spiritual channel and, with the guidance of our spiritual mentors, act on the spiritual messages the Creator directs to us.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter is spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

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