If you would like to sponsor our site please go to our sponsor page

Archive

Archive for the ‘Parshas Vayechi’ Category

True Might – Parshas Vayechi 5773

Share/Save
Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
December 28th, 2012
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
This entry is part 13 of 34 in the series Torah Themes Volume 5

Yaakov Aveinu blessed each one of his children with a message that encapsulated their personal potential and mission in life. In his unique way and style Rabbeinu Bechaya shares many interesting ideas the twelve sons of Yaakov. This essay will focus on the blessings of Yehuda. Why, asks Rabbeinu Bechaya does Yehuda’s blessings contain every single letter of the Hebrew Alphabet except for the letter zayin?

King’s Job

Yehuda was the king of the tribes and he was the great-grandfather of King David, King Solomon and the future Messiah who will emanate from him. One of the most important lessons of the Jewish king is that of humility and connection to Hashem. The king’s job was not one of ego and personal indulgence. Rather, it was to be an example of sterling character, scholarship and service of God. The king was meant to inspire the people to work on themselves, to give charity and to be the greatest that they were able to be.

In the times of antiquity the king was the leader of the nation who led them in war and in conquest. The greatest warriors of the Egyptian dynasty became the leaders of the nation. We even find reference to this in Shemos, which we recite every morning in ‘az yashir’. Pharaoh led his nation to war against the Jews who had escaped. Yehuda, however, was a different type of king. He was endowed with strength, but it was not for personal advancement. It was for the purpose of bringing the nation closer to Hashem. Yehuda needed to show the nation that he did not rely on his own power and strength, but rather Hashem was the One Who fought and won their wars. King David repeated this theme and spread the fear of Heaven throughout the nation. This is why there is no zayin in the blessing of Yehuda. Rabbeinu Bechaya explains that zayin translates in Hebrew as sword, something that Yehuda and his descendants did not boast or take credit for.

Focus of the Week

Additionally, Rabbeinu Bechaya explains that Yehuda was the seventh person to make up the Jewish nation beginning with Avraham Aveinu: Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda. The number seven refers to the seventh day of the week, the holy Shabbos. This is the day of Hashem upon which we rest and give credit to Him for creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh. Thus, again we see the theme of Yehuda is that of bringing out the authority of Hashem. The verses of his blessing hint to the sacred themes of Shabbos such as kiddush, wine, special clothing and havdalah. Yehuda’s very name has the Ineffable Name of God in its very letters. Shabbos and Yehuda thus represent the recognition of God’s authority over the world. The true strength and greatness of Yehuda was his connection and focus on Hashem.

Categories: Parshas Vayechi Tags:

Holiness on Earth – Parshas Vayechi 5772

Share/Save
Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
January 2nd, 2012
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
This entry is part 12 of 45 in the series Torah Sweets Volume 4

Yaakov Aveinu wished to ensure that even after his death his children would follow in the ways of the Torah. He gathered them together and suddenly lost his Ruach HaKodesh and the ability to tell them prophetically about the End of Days. He thought that perhaps one of them was incomplete with Hashem just as Avraham and Yitzchok had each bore one unworthy child (Yishmael and Esav) but they reassured him that “Shema Yisrael, listen our dear father Yisrael, Hashem is one.” At that time Yaakov responded with the phrase “Baruch Shem K’Vod Malchuso L’Olam V’Ed, blessed is Hashem’s kingdom forever” (see Pesachim 56a). This Gemara explains the connection between the first verse of Shema and the second phrase of Baruch Shem which we always say together in prayer.

The Gemara (ibid.) continues to ask why we only whisper the phrase of Baruch Shem when we say Shema in prayer. When Moshe wrote down the verses of Shema he omitted Baruch Shem, thus really we too should not say it. However, since Yaakov himself said it, we whisper it quietly. What in the world does this mean? To compound this issue, the Gemara gives a parable that is meant to clarify the entire matter which seems to only add to the enigma: There was once a princess who smelled a delicious aroma emanating from the kitchen. She asked her butler to bring her some of that dish. When he got to the kitchen he saw that it was not a royal meal being prepared for the king and his family but rather it was a private dish that the king’s servants has made for themselves. The butler reasoned that it would be disrespectful to present it to the princess for it was food of the simpletons, but on the other hand she asked for it and so he had to sneak her a portion without any fanfare. What is being said here? How and why does this relate to the phrase of Baruch Shem?!

Rabbi Chaim Volozhin (1749-1821, Nefesh HaChaim III:11) explains the depth here. The first verse of Shema establishes Hashem’s Unity and Perfection, there is nothing else to add to this. It states that Hashem is Intrinsically Perfect. Any further words would simply subtract. Hashem is the ultimately Perfect and Unified Being. Baruch Shem talks about Hashem’s rulership of the entire universe including earth and us His subjects. Imagine if a servant stood before the king and wished to make a request. He would begin by saying praises and recounting the King’s greatness. He would mention the King’s power, wealth, greatness and perfection. How would it sound if he would say, “You are the king of one million ant hills, one hundred thousand termite mounds and five million bird nests.” This may be true and that may be a part of his kingdom, but it is terribly disrespectful. It is the same thing with our mentioning of the praise of Hashem. When we say Shema Yisrael we are telling over the Perfection and Unity of God, this is the greatest praise. But when we say Baruch Shem we are referring to His kingdom of planets and earth, things that pale in comparison to His Intrinsic Greatness. We are talking about earth which compared to Hashem is a huge anthill!

So why do we mention it? Yaakov taught his children that Hashem in His Greatness and Infinite Wisdom created us to be His subjects and therefore He loves and cares for us. Although we are lowly in comparison to His Greatness, He put us here in order to serve Him, and praise Him and grow close to Him. That is the greatest pleasure to Him. This is truth was part of the revelation of Yaakov regarding the end of days. Ramchal (Taas Tevunos) explains that the more lowly and dark the world gets, the greater the revelation of Hashem’s rulership is manifest. Yaakov taught us that our job is to elevate our lowly state and to bring holiness and Hashem’s presence down on earth.

Categories: Parshas Vayechi Tags:

Pleasant Labor – Parshas Vayechi 5771

Share/Save
Posted by Binyomin Finkelstein
December 17th, 2010
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...
In this week’s Parsha Yaakov Avinu blesses all of his children before his passing. When Issachar receives his turn he is told “Issachar a strong boned donkey; he rests between the boundaries. He saw tranquility that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant, yet he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured laborer” (Beraishis 49:14-15). At first glance this verse seems to say that he realizes that tranquility is good, but at the same time he chooses the life of toil and labor. Why then does he choose a life of work disregarding the comforts of the world that lie before him?

Rashi explains that the type of work this passage refers to is the toil of Torah study. Yaakov avinu is teaching us something crucial in how one who truly wants to serve G-d should live. Even though he is inclined toward the contentment of a materialistic life, and desires its pleasures it should none the less be shunned. The reason for this is even though many pleasures are available to a person they do not necessarily provide the gratification that is being sought out. A person can live his life with vast amounts of money, nothing withheld from him. He lives life with every desire fulfilled; nothing stands in his way his every whim is carried out. He answers to no one but himself. Is he happy? Not necessarily.  R’ Dessler discusses this topic in his discourse on happiness. He describes that people devoid of spirituality are filled with jealousies and lusts which disturb their minds. They do not find contentment in their lives. Someone who saturates himself with spirituality, he is the rich one. People who devote their whole mind, desire, enthusiasm and ambition to the pursuit of Torah and spirituality are the people that experience true happiness in this world. Happiness is achieved when the goals are attainable, when they depend on no outside sources for their fulfillment. When ambition comes from love of Torah and the desire for ethical living then one can reach the tranquility and pleasantness in life. The more energy and drive put into attaining these goals, the happier a person will be.

Issachar saw this tranquility and pleasantness which he desired for himself. He realized that the only way to reach this goal is through hard labor in Torah study. By applying himself in his spiritual goals, he was able to attain the happiness and goodness that he originally perceived. However without the work, a person may see the tranquility, but will never attain it. It is everyone’s desire to be successful; the only question is how much are you willing to work to achieve that success? 

Categories: Parshas Vayechi Tags:

Yaakov and Yisrael – Parshas Vayechi 5771

Share/Save
Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
December 14th, 2010
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
This entry is part 12 of 46 in the series Torah Sweets Volume 3

I have always been intrigued by the interchange between Yaakov’s names. His parents named him “Yaakov”, and when he fought with the angel of Eisav he received the name “Yisrael”. Unlike Avraham and Sarah, whose names were changed and one was then forbidden to refer to them as “Avram” and “Sarai,” Yaakov’s names both remained (Berachos 13a). Two verses in this week’s Parsha scream for an explanation as their inconsistency is perplexing: “Yaakov lived in Egypt… Yisrael’s life drew to an end… (Bereishis 46:28-9).” Pick one name and follow through with it?!

Rabbeinu Bechayeh explains that the name Yaakov relates more to his body and the name Yisrael to his soul. This is why one is still able to use the name Yaakov, for a man needs both his body and soul to live! Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler zt”l (1892-1953)  brings from the Vilna Goan that Yaakov was connected to Rachel and Yisrael was connected to Leah. Rachel is the physical aspect of the world as it says that she was very beautiful and Leah represents spirituality, as it says that “her eyes were soft,” hinting to a freedom from earthly lures. This explains a lot…

Rachel died shortly after Yaakov fought with the angel and had his name changed to Yisrael. The Baal HaTurim points out that only two verses in the entire Chumash begin with the word “V’Einey, the eyes.” “The eyes of Leah were soft… (Bereishis 45:12)” and “The eyes of Yisrael became weakened from old age… (Bereishis 48:10).” The weakening of the eyes represents the fight against following the desires of one’s eyes (the physical world) and instead strengthening Emunah, faithfulness towards Hashem. Leah cried to Hashem to make sure that she would not be subject to marry the evil and hedonistic Eisav. The passionate cry of the Jews is, “Shema Yisrael, Hear Yisrael, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One!” A striving towards spirituality.

Yaakov thought to marry Rachel first and to perfect one aspect at a time. Hashem showed him however that Leah, the focus on spirituality, precedes. From the onset one must strive to have the highest level in mind.

Our original verse tells us a simple thing. Yaakov lived in Egypt and perfected his physical aspect and Yisrael finally completed his spiritual aspect and was thus at the end of his life.

Categories: Parshas Vayechi Tags:

Who Killed Esav? – Parshas Vayechi 5770

Share/Save
Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
January 1st, 2010
Show/Add Comments (1) Views (250)
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

“…ידך בעורף אוֹיְבֶיך…” (מח:ח).

“Yehuda… your hand is on your enemy’s neck…” (48:8).

I have always found the words of Yaakov’s last blessings to his children to be very fascinating. Yehuda is given acknowledgment of his hand which attacks his enemy’s neck! What is the significance? Why is this something that deserves recognition?

There are three opinions in Chazal as to who killed Esav.

1- The Gemara Sotah (13a) states that Chushim ben Dan killed Esav at the time when Yaakov was being buried.

2- Yalkut Shimoni quotes a Chazal that states that Yaakov himself killed Esav with an arrow!

3- Midrash states that Yehuda saw that Esav was conspiring to kill Yaakov as he went into Ma’aras HaMachpeila to bury Yitzchok, and so Yehuda ran in and killed Esav from behind. Hence, the words of our verse, “your hand is against your enemy’s neck”. (See Tosfos Gittin 55b).

Considering that Esav represents the Evil Inclination in this world, I believe that we can gain much insight by analyzing the three modes of how Esav was conquered in order to shed light on how we too can conquer the evil urge!

1- The opinion that Chushim killed Esav is most famous. Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz learns a tremendous lesson from this. He says that it is very significant that Chushim was hearing-impaired. The people present started to negotiate with Esav who was refusing to allow Yaakov to be buried. However, Chushim didn’t get involved in a discussion. He saw that his grandfather’s funeral was being disrupted in a disrespectful manner and that Esav was the cause and so he acted immediately and killed him. The Yetzer Hara deserves no attention or discussion, when we see the proper course of action necessary, we must work fast to act upon it! The fact that it was done by decapitation will be discussed later.

2- Yaakov by means of an arrow. An arrow is a way of attacking one’s enemy without letting them get near. This is how to fight the Yetzer Hara, nip him in the bud and keep him far away!

3- Yehuda from behind. The face is the master communicator. From our faces we express our feelings and emotions and give respect where it is due. It is most disrespectful to turn one’s neck upon someone trying to talk with you. It powerfully expresses: ‘I do not respect or wish to interact with you’. The neck represents stubbornness and ego. Esav spent his life “turning his back to Hashem and truth”, he didn’t want to hear anything!

Additionally, the head contains the brain which is where man knows the truth intellectually. The body contains the heart. The heart is hot and full of passion. It is the personal desires of mankind. Our job is to connect the head (knowledge) to the body (action). The part which is in between is the neck, that is the area of freewill! This is why Esav was specifically killed from behind upon the neck and by separation of his head from his body. That is how he lived his life, not connecting his knowledge to his action.

Let us take the lesson which Yaakov felt worthy of noting when blessing his son!

Categories: Parshas Vayechi Tags:

True Tribe Number – A Short Thought on Parshas Vayechi 5770

Share/Save
Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
January 1st, 2010
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

The Malbim quotes from Sifrey Kaballah that in truth Yaakov was supposed to have fourteen sons. He was to have twelve from his four wives and then after Rachel passed away, he was to have two more children. When Reuven then went and switched his father’s bed, he prevented the last two from coming into existence….

Many things are explained based upon this, including some words in this week’s Parsha.

Reuven had to repent for this act and thus put in effort in order to save Yosef, as Yosef would be the father of Efraim and Menashe who would be considered the completion of the fourteen head children stemming from Yaakov. This was Reuven’s drive.

When Yaakov met Efraim and Menashe, he asked Yosef who they were. Yosef responded, they are the children whom Hashem blessed me, “בזה, with this” (see Rashi). I believe that Yosef was hinting to Yaakov that these two children would be the completion of the Shevatim. The numerical value of “בזה”  is fourteen!

Categories: Parshas Vayechi Tags:

A Cup of Wine, Drink Up – Parshas Vayechi 5769

Share/Save
Posted by Rabbi Dovid Boruch Kopel
January 8th, 2009
Show/Add Comments (0) Views (113)
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...

It is the eternal mark that we leave in this world that is of the highest regard. Our actions that we do now can plant seeds in the ground to root the essential faculties of Life in the future generations. Not only do those actions establish a future they make the past worthwhile. The now of tomorrow is in our hands, we must protect it from harm. Eventually the time comes when we must pass on this great responsibility and take a step back as our sprouting jewels shine brightly. Such a time is difficult to acclimate to but fear not it shall pass. Our great Father Yaakov expresses this emotion very clearly in the onset of our parshah. As the great commentator the Baal HaTurim notes that the word ויחי is the gematriah thirty-four. Those thirty-four years are the sum total of the years of pleasantry that composed Yaakov‘s life. His life, as the Baal HaTurim concludes was full of pain and sadness for the remainder of his years. It was only the presence of Yosef his son that enabled him to have those years of great happiness. What was it that was so strong about this bond between father and son that made it as though those years were not even lived? It is without question that Yaakov saw that the future was dependant upon Yosef who was in all respects an extension of himself. As the pasuk notes in the previous parshah Yosef is in fact the Toldah of Yaakov[1] .

What is the vital task that Yaakov requests of Yosef in his last days? It is to ensure him that he will have a proper burial. Note the language of his request, as it is written in the negative. Further on in the parshah Yaakov makes a request to all of his children that they bury him in the place that the rest of his holy family lay, Maaras HaMachpaylah. Being that so why must Yaakov make a special request to Yosef to ensure him that he will not be buried in the Land of Egypt? It is of course not superfluous by any means. There can be several explanations to this question one of which I want to focus upon. There must be something that is inherit about Egypt that brought about such a request. It is of course unlikely that simply speaking Yaakov wanted to be buried in a single location, as he could have directly said that. Yaakov is requesting that his son Yosef ensure him that all that he had worked for in this world not remain here in the Land of Egypt.

Egypt or Mitzrayim is the total antithesis to the Jewish People. As is articulated from the word itself Mitzrayim is a branch of the word Matzar or a strait that is the compression of all physicality. That is seen from the names of the nobleman as they are all associated with aspects of agriculture and the like. The society of Mitzrayim in all fashions is source of the opposition to the Jewish People. There are of course four exiles, but the original exile was from Mitzrayim. Had the sin of Golden Calf not occured we would have gone right into Eretz Yisroel and not had to wander. So too had the sale of Yosef never occurred there would not have been the slavery of Mitzrayim. The actions of the Jewish People as a whole are heavily rooted by the actions of Yosef and his brothers.

It is noted throughout the words of Chazal that the death of Yaakov is in fact not mentioned in the Torah. In fact the Torah even when recording his years states that he is approaching them not reaching them. In the gemarah where this dialog occurs the discussion is preceded by a rather puzzling one. The gemara[2] states that two amoraim R’Yitzchak and R’Nachmun were eating. One says to the other a statement of R’Yochanan, don’t speak while eating a meal in the event that you may swallow your food and cause it to enter the windpipe causing in suffocation. Following this gemarah after they completed eating one said to the other in the name of R’Yochanan that Yaakov Avinu never died. Rashi says on the spot, that means he lives forever. A puzzling statement on its own right, but even more puzzling is the continuity. Why was this statement said after their meal when we were talk the first statement of R’Yochanan in regards to eating.

There are two pipes in the throat, the trachea and the esophagus or the קנה and the ושט. In the Laws of Pesach we are obligated to eat on the night of Pesach while leaning. The gemarah[3] asks if leaning on the right side is also acceptable. The gemarah seems to conclude that indeed it is acceptable however there is a prohibition that you may choke. The gemarah[4] states that the Kunuh is where the voice comes from, and the veshet is where everything else comes in and out. Rashi says that speaking while eating is prohibited for fear that when you speak the kunuh becomes exposed and food may enter it. It is clear they it is the voice of Man that separates him from all other species. It is the power of speech that stems from the Neshamah that he is given. The kunuh personifies all that is spiritual as it is rooted in the air we breath and the words that we speak. The veshet represents all physicality as it is the road for food and drink. The prohibition of talking while eating even though it is by all types of speech it is based on the fear that the physical will oppress the spiritual. The eating on Pesach is the task where we eat like royalty. Not royalty and freeman where we live lives full of the pleasures of this world. Rather we ensure that the spiritual rules over the physical.

This idea of Yaakov Lo Mes is of course a deep one. The Maharshah suggests a simple idea if in fact the continued life of Yaakov is similar to all Tzadikim whom are known to live forever in their spiritual form. No this couldn’t be, as that is obvious it must be even in the physical form. In doing so he remains alive in both worlds, this world and the world to come. Chazal tell us another way to live in both worlds by telling over a D’var Torah in the name of that individual. Says the Maharshah[5] that through every word of Torah spoken a vessel is created that contains those holy words. It is through the mentioning those words by the one who spoke of them it results in his lips moving in his grave. That is compared to stirring your finger in a glass of fine wine in a pit. When you stir it the fragrance emanates throughout. That is what enables a life in both worlds simultaneously.

That parable that the Chazal tells us that wine in a pit is comparable to living in both worlds is quite profound. It is known that the Torah and Mitzvos are compared to wine. It is also known as previously written that the act of putting Yosef in the pit was the transgression that led to the slavery. It was an empty pit says the Torah, empty of water but full of snakes and scorpions. Meaning that the lack of water means the despair of no Torah. Not only no Torah but secluded with the reptiles associated with evilness and heresy. The way to fix this emptiness is through the wine. Through the Torah and Mitzvos. Through the utilization of the Torah we will call on all of the previous vessels that were previously filled with spiritual power. This is the middah of Yosef. This is the concept of Yaakov Lo Mes. Yaakov was asking his son Yosef to ensure him that all that had been established in spirituality would be utilized and flourished. The desert of Egypt is no place for the fulfillment of the Torah and it must not lay there. The physical life in Egypt cannot stand in the way of the servitude of the Torah, as it will suffocate us!

The language that Yaakov says to Yosef is that he shall support him to do chessed v’emes. Why is that the way to ask him to ensure that his body not lay in the land of Egypt? Chessed and Emes are the pillars of the Torah and they are what must support this existence. We need to take care in our lives that we don’t choke. We need to constantly keep our spirituality before our physicality. We must remember the strength of all that we do comes from the Almighty and that it is the strongest force possible. That strength has been practiced for generations passed down from Avraham Avinu until now. Now we are the bearers of the cup of wine. Contained within it is the power to conjure the actions of every single Jews. It is your power to tip the scale from the middle to the top. Take your finger, stick it in and immerse yourself in the eternal bliss that lays before you.

  1. Beginning of Parshas Vayeishev []
  2. Taynis, 5, b []
  3. Pesachim, 108, a []
  4. Brachos, 61, a []
  5. Yevomos, 97, a []

Pursuit of Wisdom – Parshas Vayechi 5769

Share/Save
Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
January 8th, 2009
Show/Add Comments (0) Views (108)
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...

…וידגו לרוב בקרב הארץ (מח:טז).

“…and may they multiply increasingly (like fish) upon the earth” (48:16).

Yaakov blessed the sons of Yosef by saying that they should be fruitful like fish. The simple reason why he chose to bless them utilizing this parable is because fish are very productive and are hidden in the sea, safe from the evil eye.

The Midrash Rabbah (97:5) adds another aspect regarding the special characteristics of fish. Fish grow up and live their entire lives in water, but as soon as even a single drop of rain falls from heaven, they go up to drink the fresh water with a thirst as if they have never seen water before in their lives! So too the Jews grow up in water, which is Torah, and when they hear a new explanation or depth, they listen with a thirst as if they never heard a Dvar Torah before in their lives!

The thirst and love for wisdom, says the Sefer Imrei Pi, is a sign that one possesses true wisdom, for he appreciates its’ value. The Mivchar HaPenimim writes, that as long as one is in search of wisdom, he is intelligent, but as soon as he thinks he has found it all, he is a fool!

The Sefer HaChaim says, that our wise men are titled Talmidey Chachamim, students of Wisdom, for the same reason. They do not view themselves as complete in their search for wisdom. Rather they are always striving to be a Talmid, a student, to learn more wisdom.

Talmidey Chachamim are always eager to learn, there is no time that they stop their quest. The Gemara (Berachos 62a) tells us that when Rebbe Gamliel was shopping to purchase food for his son’s wedding, this did not stop Rebbe Akiva from following him to present his questions in learning for Rebbe Gamliel to answer.

R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz recounted how he visited his uncle Rabbi Avraham Yafen in the Yeshiva of Navardok. He asked his uncle to show him the best student present. Rabbi Yafen pointed to one and said, “his depth of perception is the best”. About another he said, “he is the most diligent learner in the Yeshiva”. Then he pointed to a young student sitting in the corner and said, “he is the best”. When questioned as to what quality this young man possessed over and above the others, R’ Yafen replied, “He, is the Mevakesh of the Yeshiva – he sincerely wants to grow!”

That great student was none other than R’ Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Goan (1899-1985), whose Torah lit up the world!

The trait that makes a person, and is above and beyond all great qualities, is his true thirst for Torah knowledge. This is the blessing of the fish.

Categories: Parshas Vayechi Tags: