Some weeks I like to give a Dvar Torah which shows the thought process of the commentaries as they commented on the Chumash. I like to call these “How the Meforshim Work”. This is one of those weeks.
“וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה חָטְאוּ מַשְׁקֵה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם וְהָאֹפֶה לַאֲדֹנֵיהֶם לְמֶלֶךְ מִצְרָיִם” “It came about after these events that the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and the baker sinned against their master, against the king of Egypt.” (Bereishis 40:1)
Parshas Vayeishev tells the famous story of how Yosef was sold as a slave by his brothers and ended up in Egypt. After being falsely accused of a crime, he winds up in jail for a total of three years. After his first year in jail, he is joined by the chief steward and baker of King Paroh. Rashi explains on this pasuk that the reasons they were imprisoned were that the steward served a cup of wine to Paroh with a fly in it while the baker served him a loaf of bread full of rocks.
Interestingly, if you look in the very next pasuk, these two individuals are afforded a bit more respect than in the first one. “וַיִּקְצֹף פַּרְעֹה עַל שְׁנֵי סָרִיסָיו עַל שַׂר הַמַּשְׁקִים וְעַל שַׂר הָאוֹפִים” “And Paroh was angry at his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker.” (40:2) How come in this pasuk the baker and steward are called by their official titles while in pasuk 1 they are just known by their jobs? The explanation to this question shows us how much thought and logic really goes into a commentary’s explanation.
Rashi’s explanation on pasuk 1comes from a medrash in Bereishis Rabbah. That same medrash provides us with another possibility as to the sin of these two men which is that they approached Paroh about marrying his daughter, the princess. Why did Rashi pick his explanation over this one?
The Kli Yakar answers both our questions by examining the wording in pasuk 1. Pasuk 1 is the one which mentions that the steward and the baker sinned while not mentioning their titles, only their jobs. The sins which Rashi says happened-- that there was a fly in the wine and rocks in the bread-- are actions that would be considered bad if done to people of any station or prestige. Therefore, they have nothing to do with the fact that these two people were at the top of their professions and serving the king, just the fact that they were in these positions allowed this to happen. However, the only way they could have even had a possibility of marrying the princess was because of their high positions. However, as we mentioned, the pasuk which mentions they sinned does not include their titles, only their jobs! Says Rashi, it must be that their sins had no connection to their high positions and therefore it must be that they let a fly fall in the wine and rocks fall in the flour. This, says the Kli Yakar, is how Rashi knew to pick this explanation from the medrash and not the other.
It is very easy for us to read a commentary and assume any number of things; that they either made up their explanation, or we do not understand how the explanation makes sense, or we do not understand how commentaries can argue on each other. Reading Divrei Torah like this gives us a deeper understanding and insight into the words of Chazal and perhaps make it a little easier for us to understand and accept their words for what they are, Toras Emes.
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