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Sichot Mussar: Vayigash: Rebuke

The 3rd of Tevet is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Chaim Leib Shmulevitz, rosh yeshivas Mir (1902-1979), born in Stutchin, Poland, where his father, Rav Alter Raphael, was Rosh Yeshiva. His mother, Ettel, was the daughter of Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, the Alter of Novardok.

In 1920, both of his parents suddenly died, and Reb Chaim was left to care for his younger brother and two younger sisters. When Rav Chaim was 22, Rav Shimon Shkop, Rosh Yeshiva in Grodno invited him to join his yeshiva. Within three years, Chaim was appointed to a lecturing post in the yeshiva.

Reb Chaim continued his studies in Mir where the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, chose him as a suitable match for his daughter. With the outbreak of World War II, he remained with the Mirrer Yeshiva in its exile in Shanghai for five years. After the war, he lived for a short while in America.

With the establishment of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, he immigrated to Eretz Yisrael and served as its Rosh Yeshiva. Rav Chaim authored Sichos Mussar.

“And Joseph told his brothers, ‘I am Joseph!’ And his brothers could not answer him for they were overwhelmed by him. (Genesis 45:3)

Rabbi Shimon son of Elazar said, “Woe to use on the Day of Judgment, woe to us on the day of rebuke – for Yosef, though he was the youngest of the brothers, overwhelmed them,  and they could not answer him. Certainly this will be the case on the day that the Holy One, Blessed is He, will rebuke each person in accordance with his deeds. (Yalkut Shimoni)

The reference in the Midrash to Joseph’s rebuke is puzzling. While the verse describes the brothers’ shock at Joseph’s revelation, it doesn’t mention any rebuke.

This implies that rebuke does not have to be in the form of verbal castigation. It can be to make a person aware of the fact that he has erred. When a person realizes that he has lived his life with a totally mistaken perspective, then the rebuke has served its purpose.

Thus, no greater rebuke than Joseph’s simple revelation can be imagined. The very act of selling Joseph into slavery became the stepping stone to his ascension to royalty. The very actions perpetrated in order to prevent the fulfillment of his dreams became the means for their realization.

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