More Discussions for this daf
1. Shimshon 2. The Cup in the Hand of Par'oh

marvin sigler asks:

Sar Hamashkim said in his dream "va'etain es hakos "al kaf Paroah", yet Yosef responds vinasata kos paroah "biyado", and when it came to pass on the third day, and Sar Hamashkim was indeed restored to his old position, it is written vayitain hakos "al yad paroah". so we see three different lishonos: "al kaf Paroah", "Biyado" and "al yad Paroah". What is the meaning of the three different lishonos?

marvin sigler, toronto, Canada

The Kollel replies:

I should point out that on the third ocassion it does not say "Al Yad Par'oh" but rather "Al Kaf Par'oh."

1. I saw in the Sefer "Chochmas ha'Torah" by Rav Shlomo Kluger zt'l an explanation for the difference between, on one hand, what he dreamt and,what actually happened in the end (namely "Al Kaf Par'oh"), and what Yosef interpreted. We note that Yosef's interpretation was not entirely accurate, since he said it would be "b'Yado" while in reality it was "Al Kaf Par'oh."

2. He writes that when one receives a cup "Al Kaf," this is not the standard way, because it is somewhat unusual to take it in the palm of one's hand. If one receives an item in an unusual way, this suggests that one is not fully happy with the service being provided. The fact that Pharaoh received the cup in this non-standard way, both in the dream and in reality, suggests that the Sar ha'Mashkim was concerned that Pharaoh was unhappy with him, and that indeed even though afterwards he spared the life of the Sar ha'Mashkim and restored him to his job, nevertheless he never returned to have the full favor of Pharaoh again.

[3. Rav Kluger cites a source that if one receives a present in an unusual way, this indicates that one is unhappy with the present. This is from Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 148:5, which discusses what to do if an idol-worshipper brings a present on the day of his pagan festival. One should not receive it, but if not doing so might cause animosity, one should receive it in an unusual way and then make it look that it "fell" into a pit. This way, the idol-worshippper will not hate the Jew, but on the other hand he also will not be happy that the Jew enjoyed receiving his gift.]

4. However, Yosef's interpretation of the dream was that the Sar ha'Mashkim would place the cup "b'Yado," into his hand in the standard way, with his fingers surrounding the cup. So Yosef was predicting that Pharaoh would receive the cup in the normal way which would be a sign that he was totally satisfied with the Sar ha'Mashkim again. This is what Yosef meant when he said "like the original way that you used to serve him." The Seforno explains that Yosef was reassuring him that Pharaoh would accept him back cordially. The Sar ha'Mashkim was very happy to hear this but, in reality, it did not happen exactly like that.

5. Rav Kluger suggests that this might also be one of the reasons why the Sar ha'Mashkim forgot Yosef's interpetation; he felt that it was not totally accurate. In reality, the Sar ha'Mashkim should have been satisfied merely by the fact that his life had been saved, but he actually wanted a bit more, too -- that he should find favor in Pharaoh's eyes.

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Bloom

The Kollel adds:

After further thought, it appears to me that there are certain problems with the explanation of Rav Shlumer Kluger zt'l, so I will attempt to give a different explanation, which is actually quite similar that of Rav Shlomo Kluger but with a few emendations.

1) Rav Shlomo Kluger writes that the word "Kaf" means the outer side of the hand, while the word "Yad" means the inner part of the hand. He writes that the latter definition is apparent from several sources but does not cite any of these sources. I find it difficult to understand what Rav Kluger means by this. In addition, one of the Rishonim, the Radak (Rabeinu David Kimchi), in "Sefer ha'Shorashim," writes that the word "Kaf" is derived from the word "Kafuf," which means "bent over," because one bends the palm of the hand in order to receive what is placed inside it.

2) There is also an important source where our verse about Kaf Par'oh is used. This is the Be'er Heitev to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 183:5) in the name of the Shelah ha'Kodesh. The discussion there concerns saying Birkas ha'Mazon over a cup of wine. The Shelah writes that one stands the cup on one's right "Kaf" and the fingers should be pointed up around the cup. The Shelah writes that "the secret of this" is from the verse, "And I placed the cup Al Kaf Par'oh."

This is clearly referring to the practice (that many have) of holding the base of the Kidush cup in the palm of one's hand (rather than wrapping one's fingers around the cup like many others do). "Kaf" clearly means the palm of the hand, and in addition it is clear from the Shelah that he understands that the words "Al Kaf Par'oh" refer to the choicest way of receiving the cup; not an unusual and inferior way as Rav Shlomo Kluger wrote.

3) One of the Mefarshim on the Chumash, the Tiferes Tziyon by Rav Yitzchak Yadler zt'l of Jerusalem, also writes (on verse 40:21) that by the fact that Pharaoh opened the palm of his hand in order to receive the cup from the Sar ha'Mashkim, Pharaoh was giving a sign that he was just as happy with the Sar ha'Mashkim now as he was in the beginning before his sin.

4) I also would suggest another source, this time from Nechemyah 2:1, where Nechemyah describes how he served King Artachashta. He said, "I carried the wine and I gave it to the king." This is a much more simple description than we read in Parshas Vayeshev. Not only does it not say that he placed the wine in the king's Kaf, but it does not even say that he put it in his hand. This source is another suggestion that there was something very special about the way Pharoah received the wine on the palm of his hand, and this was not the standard practice of kings.

5) However, we are still left with a slight problem -- namely, that verses 11 and 21 read "Al Kaf Par'oh," while verse 13 reads "the cup of Par'oh b'Yado." I explain that "b'Yado" refers to the more standard way of holding a cup, by wrapping one's fingers around the middle, not the base, of the cup. Why did Yosef not intepret the dream of the Sar ha'Mashkim to mean that he would serve the cup in the deluxe way, which in fact is what happened in the end?

6) I suggest that this was Divine Providence (and this is not so different from the explanation of Rav Shlomo Kluger) that Yosef was slightly inaccurate on one small detail of the dream. He predicted that the Sar ha'Mashkim would be restored, but he did not stress that he would be restored totally to his original favor. Possibly, Yosef did this deliberately because it was really not such an important detail, since the most important thing was that the Sar ha'Mashkim's life would be saved and his job returned to him. However, when the Sar ha'Mashkim saw that in reality it worked out even better for him than Yosef had told him, he now made light of Yosef's interpretations. This was also a punishment Min ha'Shamayim for Yosef, for asking the Sar ha'Mashkim to remember him to Pharaoh.

(I have not related to the meaning of "like the original way that you used to serve him" of verse 13, that Rav Shlomo Kluger and Tiferes Tziyon both explain. That would require a slightly additional discussion.)

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Bloom

The Kollel adds:

Here is a somewhat different approach to why Yosef only said "b'Yado." The idea is that the Chumash deliberately states things in a short, succinct way, without going into all the details.

1) An example of this idea may be found in Rabeinu Bachye on Bereshis 35:6. He cites sources which relate how, after the incident of Shechem and the sons of Yakov, the neighbors of Shechem assembled and waged three wars against the sons of Yakov. If Yakov had not have taken up his sword and fought against them, Yakov's family would have been in great danger.

Why does the Torah itself make no mention of this great miracle, that Yakov managed to defeat his enemies? Rabeinu Bachye answers that it is the way of the Torah to write only briefly about such things because this was a hidden miracle.

(See Rabeinu Bachye at the beginning of Parshas Ki Tisa, where he writes that the war of Avraham Avinu against the kings was a hidden miracle because it happened in what appeared to be a natural way. Even when a small army defeats a large army, this is also considered a hidden miracle because it happens in a way that can be interpreted by the onlookers as merely working according to the laws of nature. For a similar reason, the Meshech Chochmah writes (Parshas Vayeshev 37:24) that the victory of the Chashmona'im over the Greeks is considered a hidden miracle, while the oil lasting for eight days is a revealed miracle.)

2) We therefore may suggest that Yosef did actually interpret the dream to mean that the Sar ha'Mashkim would place the cup on Pharaoh's palm, which was a greater honor than merely putting it in his hand, but the Torah did not mention this detail, that he had interpreted the dream ia a very accurate way, because the way of the Torah is to be concise with its langauge. (See also Ramban to Bereshis 37:2 and to Shemos 16:1 that "the Torah adopts a short way"; see Rashi to Divrei ha'Yamim II 1:3 that the way of the verses is to be short.)

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Bloom

Marvin Sigler asks:

Thank you, Rav Bloom, so much, for this totally satisfying explanation which I receive in the spirit of "b'yado".

I have been searching for an answer to this question since it was posed to me 2 years ago and discussed it with others. I will send it to those with whom I have discussed it and am certain they too will receive it "biyado".

I do have a follow up query. For those who follow the Kabbalistic custom to hold the kiddush cup in the palm of your hand to emulate the shape of the Shoshana, it may not seem unusual to hold the koss "al kaf". Moreover, during benching bizibur, the person next to to the one who leads the benching, presents the koss onto the palm of his hand. So it seems from a kabbalistic perspective, placing the koss "all kaf" is not unusual at all. Would we say that this kabbbalistic minhag has no bearing on Paroah because he was not a member of Klal Yisroel?


Marvin Sigler

The Kollel replies:

I would pose this question from a slightly different angle, and ask as follows. How can we reconcile the Kabbalistic custom to hold the cup in the palm of the hand with the Gemara in Sanhedrin 52b which says that learning the different ways of carrying out capital punishments from the ways that the worldly kings administer them constitutes a prohibition against following the statutes of the nations?

In other words, the very fact that Pharaoh was not a member of Klal Yisrael should mean that we not hold the cup the way that he did! Why do we learn from Pharaoh the proper way to hold the cup?

I looked up the Shnei Luchos ha'Bris, who cites the verse about Pharaoh as the source for this custom. The Shelah may be found in Sha'ar ha'Osiyot #236. There is a slight change from the way he is cited by the Be'er Heitev on the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 183:5). In the latter, the Shelah is cited as writing that "veha'Sod" ("the secret") of this practice is the verse about placing the cup on the palm of Pharaoh. However, the Shelah himself merely writes "v'Siman"; "the sign" for this practice is from Pharaoh.

I understand this to mean that we are not actually deriving a Halachah, or even a custom, from Pharaoh. Instead, the verse is merely an indication that this is a special royal way of holding a cup. This is the most beautiful way of doing the Mitzvah.

So now I may be able to suggest an answer to your question. For Kabbalists, this may not be an unusual way of holding the cup. However, the point is not to be unusual but rather to be special. This is the deluxe way of holding the cup and all Kabbalists are very proud of doing it this way.

I will just add a short anecdote. When I was a Bachur in yeshiva, we had a Sho'el u'Meshiv who was a big Talmid Chacham. This was nearly 40 years ago, and possibly I now see what Chazal meant when they said that it takes 40 years to understand what your Rebbi says. I once asked this Rebbi how did his yeshiva days compare with our atmosphere. He replied, "I am not claiming that we had the Maseches we were learning every semester 'Al Kaf ha'Yad,' but things revolved less around the Shi'ur than they do now, and this meant that we had more time to try and master the Maseches."

This Sho'el u'Meshiv was a very modest person, and yet we were always amazed at how well he knew every Maseches that we learned. However, possibly now I can understand him better. To be sure, he had the Maseches "b'Yado." There was no question about that. He was hinting that the higher Madrega of "Al Kaf ha'Yad" is even more difficult to reach!

So even though those of us who are not Kabbalists may not put the cup "Al Kaf ha'Yad," our aim here in Kollel Iyun Hadaf is to have Shas "Al Kaf ha'Yad"!

Kol Tuv,

Dovid Bloom