We are taught a person on a mitzvah mission will see no harm. Yaakov Avinu askes Yosef to go to Shechem to locate " the brothers". "The brothers" are not in Shechem, rather they are in Dosan. By going there, he was susceptible to harm.

So if Yosef does a little bit more for his father, he's no longer under the protection of Kibbud av?

  • See the Beis HaLevi on this!! Dec 10 '17 at 22:05
  • 2
    Who says that kibbud av vem protects? Why do you assume that it wouldn't apply to finding them regardless of their location? Yaakov said "lekh na r'eh et shlom ahekha vet shlom hatson vahashiveni davar"' it sounds like he cared about the mission; not where it happened to take place.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 10 '17 at 22:53
  • @sabbahillel Right. The question is, why the OP assumes that the protection exists, and why he assumes it ceased in dotan,
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 10 '17 at 23:47
  • I think we better learn it from Kiddushin 39 where it speaks of Kibbud and not from Pesochim. sefaria.org.il/…
    – Al Berko
    Dec 1 '18 at 18:39

Rabbi Frand deals with this question. The Ohr HaChaim asks the question

The Ohr HaChaim asks — how could this happen? There is a principle “Harm does not come to those sent on a mission to do a mitzvah” (shiluchei mitzvah einan nizokin) [Pesachim 8a]? What happened to the rule of shiluchei mitzvah einan nizokin when Yosef carried out his father’s instructions?

There are two answers given to this question. One answer is based on the idea that Yosef was sent to Shechem to find his brothers. However, he decided to go to Dosan since they were not at Shechem. That is, the mission was to go to Shechem and see what was going on. If the brothers were no longer in Shechem then he should have returned home to report. As a result he was no longer a shaliach when he continued on to Dosan. This answer is rejected because of the following halacha.

(The HaMakneh (by Rav Pinchas haLevi Horowitz [1731-1805] in Maseches Kiddushin asks on this answer of the Ohr HaChaim, and says that this argument is not based on normative halachic ruling. The Halacha is that if a person says to an agent “Give this Get [divorce document] to my wife in Shechem” and he gives it to her in a different city, the Get is invalid (because the agent did not carry out the instructions of the husband). However, if the husband says to the agent, “Give this Get to my wife – “she can be found in Shechem” — then even if the agent finds her in a different city and gives her the divorce document there, it is valid. We say that when the husband specifies, “she can be found in Shechem” — he is merely helping the agent find his wife (mar’eh makom hu lah), rather than insisting that the divorce be carried out in a specific location. Thus, the HaMakneh rejects the first answer of the Ohr HaChaim.)

The second answer is based on the fact that Yosef, and his entire family (including Yaakov and his brothers) were actually going to be helped by this turn of events.

The Ohr HaChaim gives a second answer to his question, in which he redefines the definition of “harm” [nezek]

“Harm whose ultimate purpose is good, is not considered harm.” Ultimately, what happened to Yosef was not a bad thing. Shiluchei Mitzvah einan nizokin means no bad will befall an agent of mitzvah. This was not bad because this mission led to Yosef’s winding up in Egypt, and ultimately saving the world! Admittedly, he went through some difficulties to get there, but the bottom line was that the result was not only salvation for his family, but also salvation for the entire world. Such “trouble” from which great salvation emerges, is not considered “nezek.”

This idea espouses a very important truth that is not always easy to realize or accept. Many times, people experience tremendous challenges, certain that they are experiencing tragic misfortune, yet the challenges eventually turn out not to be misfortune at all, but rather a true salvation.

Indeed, why did Yaakov Avinu send Yosef to his brothers when he knew how they felt. He knew that the brothers were watching the sheep in Shechem. He knew that the shepherds and other servants were there and that it was a good sized town. As a result the brothers would not have harmed Yosef. Rav Hirsch points out that it also tested Yosef to see his attitude towards his brothers. Yosef passed the test by going. The brothers were not in Shechem so Yosef would not have found them (and he would have returned to his father saying that they were not in Shechem) had he not stumbled on a stranger (the malach Gavriel) who had happened to overhear them saying that they were going to Dosan. This is an example of how Hashem twists matters so that they come out the way He wants no matter what plans a man may make.

Vayeishev 37:15 Rav Hirsch uses the term blundering.

Then a man found him, and behold, he was straying in the field, and the man asked him, saying, "What are you looking for?"

We see then that Yosef would not have found his brothers at all had Hashem not decided that this is what needed to be done to save the Bnai Yisrael.

  • "As a result he was no longer a shaliach when he continued on to Dosan." My counter-argument - the verses say, "Your brothers are shepherding in Shechem, I will send you there." Yosef responds, "Here I am." Then Ya'akov says, "Go and see how your brothers and the sheep are doing and bring word to me." Atthis point, Ya'akov does not say specifically, "Go to Shechem." he says, essentially, "Find them and tell me how they are doing." It seems that Yosef followed his father's request, exactly, he was looking for his brothers, regardless of where they were.
    – DanF
    Dec 11 '17 at 16:45
  • @DanF Yes that is the point that Hamakne makes to disprove the first statement of Ohr Hachaim. I say This answer is rejected because of the following halacha. That is why the second answer is given. Indeed that is why the analogy of the get is given. Dec 11 '17 at 16:54

If you were asking your question from a better source in Gemmorah (Kiddushin 39) which speaks of one who did Kibbud Av and tragically died, you would immediately get to the Torah Temimah's answer:

"והא אמר רבי אלעזר שלוחי מצוה אינן נזוקין לא בהליכתן ולא בחזירתן סולם רעוע הוה דקביע היזיקא וכל היכא דקביע היזיקא לא סמכינן אניסא דכתיב (שמואל א טז, ב) ויאמר שמואל איך אלך ושמע שאול והרגני "

"But didn’t Rabbi Elazar say that those on the path to perform a mitzva are not susceptible to harm, neither when they are on their way to perform the mitzva nor when they are returning from performing the mitzva? The Gemara answers: In that case it was a rickety ladder, and therefore the danger was established; and anywhere that the danger is established one may not rely on a miracle."

As Shechem (and the whole area) was the [well-known] dangerous place, Kibbud-Av could not save him miraculously.

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