Parashath Wayijash 
Two Lessons About Lies and Marriage

"ויגדו לו לאמר עוד יוסף חי וכי הוא משל בכל ארץ מצרים ויפג לבו כי לא האמין להם"

And they told him, saying: "Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt."  And his (Jacob's) heart fainted, for he did not believe them. (Bereshith 45:26)

Telling Lies:

This week's wpe9.gif (923 bytes) portion focuses on the pitfalls of telling lies. The 45th chapter of Genesis describes Jacob's disbelief upon hearing that his son was still alive and doing well.

And they told him, saying: "Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt."  And his (Jacob's) heart fainted, for he did not believe them. (Bereshith 45:26)

Our Sages then explain why the sons of Jacob were not believed. On the words "for he did not believe them" - R Shimon said: "Such is the punishment of the liar: even when he tells the truth, he is not believed. For so we find with respect to Jacob's sons. It is written (37:33): 'And he recognized it and said: "It is the coat of my son." Therefore, in the end, even though they spoke the truth, he did not believe them, as it is written: 'And his heart fainted, for he did not believe them' " Avoth d'R Nathan. 1

As a result of their lie about Joseph's fate, the brothers were later punished through Jacob's disbelief when they were actually telling the truth about him.

Rabbi Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler relates the concept of avoiding lies with a successful marriage. Although he differentiates between a white lie and a outright lie, he shows how lying can destroy the trust in the best of relationships. He recommends a constant flow of communication between spouses in order to iron things out-- rather than covering it up with a lie. 2

"A person who invests his energy in concealing his wrongs and faults will ultimately be exposed. A man who is willing to confess his sins openly (when appropriate), on the other hand, shows his sincere contrition and will easily find forgiveness." (Malbim on Mishle, pp.283-4) 3

Divine Providence: Trust In Hashem

In relation to the concept of strengthening relationships, this week's portion shows also shows the relationship between Hashgacha (divine providence) and Marriage. Through the lesson of Eglah Arufah, Joseph tries to tell his father (through a sign) not to blame the brothers because Joseph's sale into slavery was orchestrated by Heaven as part of a larger divine plan.

Joseph said to them (the brothers), "If he (Jacob) will believe you, that is very well. But if not, you will say to him that at the time when I left him, I was studying with him the chapter of "Eglah Arufah" [the calf with the broken neck, which refers to the section in Devarim, 21:1-9, that details what to do when a murder victim is found on the road].

To summarize: the laws of Eglah Arufah state that the Sages need to perform the following  sacrificial procedure to clear themselves of potential guilt whenever someone is found killed --whose murderer is unknown. In such a case, the wpe9.gif (923 bytes) mandates that the elders of the city nearest the murder victim take a heifer to a valley that had never been tilled or sown and decapitate the heifer.  The rite concludes: "And all the elders of that city who are nearest to the corpses shall wash their hands over the heifer that was beheaded in the valley.  And they shall speak up and say, 'Our hands did not spill this blood...' "  The Rabbis ask, "Would you imagine that the elders of the tribunal are murderers?"  They reply that the announcement means, "We did not see him and send him off without obligatory food and escort" (Sotah 38b).  However, shouldn't Joseph have sent Heifers (as opposed to wagons) as a sign to Jacob that the brothers were blameless--instead of wagons.  Some say that heifers were drawing the wagons, and Jacob was impressed by the heifers which reminded him of his final moments with Joseph before  he disappeared. -{Tos. Hashalem]  When Jacob saw these heifers, he realized that it was a sign from Joseph that the brothers were innocent.

Rabbi Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler brings down many verses from our sages that demonstrate how a person suffers (only) as a result of the divine will. And so it is in marriage. Everything happens in our marriage for a divine reason. Know this. 5

1 HaRav Boruch Halevi Epstein,  The Essential Torah Temimah, p.178, Feldheim Publishers
2 Rabbi Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler, Beloved Companions, p.134
3 Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Gateway To Happiness, p.269
Judaica Press Books of the Bible, The Book of Genesis,  pp.573-574
5 Rabbi Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler, Beloved Companions, p.135