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Parashat Vayesheb: Snakes and Scorpions

The Torah in Parashat Vayesheb tells of the sale of Yosef, which began with the brothers casting Yosef into a pit. The pit is described by the Torah as, “empty; there was no water in it.” Rashi, citing the Gemara, notes the seeming redundancy in this Pasuk. Quite obviously, once we know that the pit was empty, we know that it did not have any water. Why, then, did the Torah find it necessary to emphasize that the pit had no water?

Rashi briefly explains: “It had no water, but it did have snakes and scorpions.” Meaning, the pit was not entirely “empty.” Although it did not have water, it had dangerous snakes and scorpions that could have killed Yosef.

On a symbolic level, Rashi’s brief comment conveys a vitally important message, namely, there is no such thing as a vacuum. If a pit does not have water, then it becomes filled with snakes and scorpions. If we do not fill our minds with “water” – the symbol of Torah wisdom – then it becomes filled with “snakes and scorpions” – negative and destructive qualities. We need to fill ourselves with Torah, as otherwise we are prone to vices and inappropriate conduct.

This notion is especially manifest in the area of time. If we do not fill our time with meaningful pursuits, then it becomes filled with negative behavior. We do not remain “parve.” Either we’re engaged in Torah and Misvot, or we are involved in misconduct. There is no middle ground. Indeed, crime rates tend to rise in the summer. When the youngsters are out of school and left without structure and without worthwhile activities to engage in, they resort to mischief.

The Torah’s description of Yosef’s pit is thus also an accurate description of the human being. We need to fill our lives with Torah and Misvot in order protect ourselves from the “snakes and scorpions” – from the destructive vices that otherwise threaten to overtake us.


Sefer/Parasha:
Parashat Tazria- A Gossiper’s Prayer
Parashat Shemini: The Inherent Value of Preparation
Pesah- Our Response to the Wicked Son
Parashat Sav: Making Sacrifices
Parashat Vayikra- The Danger of a Scholar Who Lacks Manners
Parashat Vayakhel: The Definition of a Misva
Parashat Ki Tissa- Enabling Our Misvot to Ascend
Shabbat Zachor: Linking the Generations
Parashat Teruma- The Fly in the Sugar Bag
Parashat Mishpatim- The Elixir of Life
Parashat Yitro- Yitro and the Two Kinds of Miracles
Parashat BeShalah- Staying Away From Trouble
Parashat Bo: The Greatest Miracle of the Exodus
Parashat Shemot: The Greatest Praise of All
Parashat Vayehi: “Am I in G-d’s Place?”
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671 Parashot found