Eliyahu Hanavi challenged the priests of the “Baal” idol on Har Carmel. There were twin animals, of which one went to Eliyahu to sacrifice to Hashem and the the other went to the priests of the Baal The Medrash says (Tanchuma Massei 8) that the animal the was supposed to go to the “Baal” complained and said “ze lo fair! Why does my twin get to be mikadesh shem shamayim and I have to go to the ‘baal’”?. Reb Chaim Shmulevitz explains the medrash on this event: The animal which would be offered as a sacrifice to the “Baal” was not a wasted sacrifice. In fact, since no fire came down from Heaven (which was a clear indication that the “Baal” is not a god) sanctified G-d’s name as much as when the fire came down from heaven to consume the other sacrifice to G-d. Yet, even though this animal would bring about a sanctification of G-d’s name, Reb Chaim points out that the verses indicate that the animal was still not interested in being sacrificed to the “Baal” idol. The animal indicated that it would still rather have been the sacrifice that was brought by Eliyahu for Hashem. Reb Chaim asks an obvious question: “What is the difference which Kiddush Hashem you are?” and he answers “A good sevara is not as good as pashut peshat” – meaning anything which needs explanation is not nearly as good as something which is self-evident. In Chazal there is an expression praising a Torah thought as “sefasayim yishak” (“silent lips”) – which means that there is no need to elaborate on an explanation.

Chazal tell us that when Yosef revealed himself to the brothers, they were shocked. The Medrash (93:10) comments on this shocking incident: “Woe is it for the day of judgement, and woe is it for the day of rebuke.” I have seen this explained as follows: In a normal situation, when someone does something wrong and he must be rebuked, there is a process that is necessary to go through in order for that person to realize his mistake. But there are times, as in the case of Yosef, there was no need for explanation. After Yosef revealed who he was, all the pieces fell into place automatically. What happened to all the reasons the brothers had for how they treated Yosef? The answer was that those ideas paled to what just hit them: They were simply wrong. This parallels Reb Chaim Shmulevitz’s approach that sometimes the obvious is by far more powerful than an intricate explanation.

I would like to add to this a thought I once saw: Sometimes the shocking realization of the truth can be even more devastating to the person than the punishment which he deserves. In this light we can understand the words of Chazal “Woe is to the day of judgement” but even greater than that is the day of rebuke, when we see the foolishness in our folly.

May we merit to have the proper understanding about the situations in which we find ourselves and not have to have someone shock us by showing us how far off we are.