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The Kiddush this Shabbos was sponsored by the Feldinger family in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Akiva Moshe.

Connection of Bar Mitzvah to Parsha

This Shabbos is very appropriate for celebrating his Bar Mitzvah not only because it’s actually the week where he is becoming a Bar Mitzvah, but actually because Parshas Vayechi is apropos for a Bar Mitzvah as will be discussed.

(Once a Rebbe came to a village and a Jew came over to him and said Rebbe, in your on honor I’m going to make my son’s Bar Mitzvah. So the Rebbe asked him how old is he to which the Jew responded the truth is he is eighteen but until now I needed someone to carry my Talis to shul on Shabbos. But in our case, the boy is actually becoming a Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos.)

This Shabbos we concluded one chumash which is the completion of one ענין and begin another chumash, another ענין, which is the end of one era and the beginning of another era similar to that of a Bar Mitzvah boy.

When concluding Parshas Vayechi we said “Chazak Chazak Vnischazak.” What is the meaning of this phrase? Why are we talking about Chizuk?

There is a שו"ת מהר"י מינץ ס' פה that discusses what happens if a shul misses Krias HaTorah on Shabbos. This happened because there was a minhag in shul that if there was a dispute between a תובע and נתבע, the נתבע had a זכות to be מעכב the קריאה (עיכוב הקריאה) until the argument was settled. In this particular incident, it went on the entire day and they didn’t end up doing Krias HaTorah. The Ohr Zarua, brought by the Rama in OH 135:2, ruled in such a case that the shul should read the Parshah they missed the following Shabbos along with the actual Parshah of that Shabbos. The Magen Avraham there quotes the מהר"י מינץ saying that is only if the Parshah missed was in the same Chumash because then they can be connected as opposed to if one was in one Chumash and the following week was in another Chumash. Like we see by פרשיות מחוברות that usually the fourth Aliyah connects the two Parshiyos as we read for him some of the first Parshah and some from the next Parshah. However if the missed Parshah was in one Chumash and the current Parshah is in another Chumash, then they do not read it together the following Shabbos. The reason is because you can’t connect Parshiyos from one Chumash to the next being that it’s a separate ענין and his proof is because we conclude with Chazak Chazak Vnischazak which is like we say הדרן עלך. It must be we got to an end if we are talking about review. (The Magen Avraham only brings the ruling from the מהר"י מינץ but in the מהר"י מינץ he elaborates on the reasoning written above.) How does the מהר"י מינץ connect this that we say “Chazak Chazak Vnischazak” is like we say הדרן עלך?

The Rav suggested the following based on the Gemara in Brachos 32b. The Gemara says ארבעה צריכין חזוק ואלו הן תורה ומעשים טובים תפלה ודרך ארץ וכו' תפלה מנין שנא' קוה אל ה' חזק ואמץ לבך וקוה אל ה', and the Gemara earlier says אם ראה אדם שהתפלל ולא נענה יחזור ויתפלל שנאמר קוה אל ה' חזק ואמץ לבך וקוה אל ה'. So we see that “chizuk” means that even if you tried once and failed that you try again, as we say קוה אל ה' refers toראה אדם שהתפלל ולא נענה יחזור ויתפלל. So also when we complete a chumash, more often than not we feel that it was a failed attempt and we didn’t really get it but nevertheless we are going to be מחזק and do it again.

So although we see from here that completing Vayechi is the completion of one inyan and it’s not connected to the next Chumash which is another inyan which is very much likened to that of a Bar Mitzvah boy who is completing his childhood years and beginning his adult years, nevertheless there is a difference. It’s true Bar Mitzvah boy is completing his years of childhood and beginning a new part of his life but there is no need for him to repeat and chaser his childhood in his adult years rather he should just move forward. As opposed to when we finish one chumash, there is a need to repeat and review what was done.

But even more so Parshas Vayechi is an apropos Parshah to be celebrating a Bar Mitzvah because it is concluding Sefer Breishis which is called Sefer HaAvos and moving into Sefer Shemos which is referred to Sefer HaBanim. Similarly, a Bar Mitzvah boy is now moving out of the shadows of his father and he is becoming his own unique self. But even so Shemos begins withואלה with the ו החיבור to show that he should nonetheless not lose the connection.

The Pasuk in the Parshah says כה תאמרו ליוסף אנא שא נא פשע אחיך וחטאתם כי רעה גמלוך (נ,יז). Usually, the word גמול refers to payment. Rabbeinu Ephraim gives two explanations for the word גמלוך. The first is ששלמו לך מה שבהאת דבתם רעה כי לא נכון לפרש שלמו לך רעה תחת טובה כי לא היטב להם קודם לכן that the רעה was “payment” for the דבתם רעה that he brought to their father. The second explanation is הפרישו אותך מאביך כמו ביום היגמל את יצחק. In spite of the fact that Yosef was already seventeen when he was taken away from his father, he still needed that connection with his father and it’s considered a tragedy that he was disconnected.

So even when a boy becomes a Bar Mitzvah, he should still feel that he needs, wants, and has a connection with his father. After Parshas Vayigash, everyone is a “feldinger” because “dinger” means a renter and “feld” is a field; renter of a field. After Yosef removes everyone from their land, everyone became a “feldinger.” In this world, we also should always feel like a “feldinger” because in the context of שמיטה the Pasuk says כי לי כל הארץ and therefore we are all really just renters and we own nothing. This is what we learn at the conclusion of Parshas Vayigsh.

The Bar Mitzvah boys name is Akiva Moshe and both names are very much connected. Moshe Rabbeinu is the one that taught us Torah Shebiksav and Reb Akiva is Torah Shbal Peh. The Gemara in Menachos 29b says the following:

בשעה שעלה משה למרום, מצאו להקב"ה שיושב וקושר כתרים לאותיות, אמר לפניו: רבש"ע, מי מעכב על ידך? אמר לו: אדם אחד יש שעתיד להיות בסוף כמה דורות ועקיבא בן יוסף שמו, שעתיד לדרוש על כל קוץ וקוץ תילין תילין של הלכות. אמר לפניו: רבש"ע, הראהו לי, אמר לו: חזור לאחורך. הלך וישב בסוף שמונה שורות, ולא היה יודע מה הן אומרים, תשש כחו; כיון שהגיע לדבר אחד, אמרו לו תלמידיו: רבי, מנין לך? אמר להן: הלכה למשה מסיני, נתיישבה דעתו.

We see from here that Moshe and Reb Akiva both need each other.

Next Shabbos, Parshas Shemos, we will be reading about Moshe Rabbeinu birth. But Reb Akiva is already connected with this week’s Parshah, Parshas Vayechi. After the brothers have this message told to Yosef in the name of their father, he responds אל תיראו כי התחת אלהים אני, ואתם חשבתם עלי רעה אלהים חשבה לטבה. Yosef was saying to them not to be scared because although Hashem does hold people accountable for מחשבה, people only hold others accountable for what actually happened and being that it all worked out for the good, there is no reason for me to punish. That is the כי התחת אלהים אני, that Yosef was saying “Am I instead of God” who holds people accountable for מחשבה, what they scheme to do. To which he continues ואתם חשבתם עלי רעה אלהים חשבה לטבה, that you only thought to do bad but it didn’t actually pan out and therefore I, Yosef, aren’t to do any harm to you. The Gemara in Kiddushin 81b says as follows:

דתניא: אישה הפרם וה' יסלח לה - במה הכתוב מדבר? באשה שנדרה בנזיר ושמע בעלה והפר לה, והיא לא ידעה שהפר לה בעלה, והיתה שותה יין ומטמאה למתים. רבי עקיבא כי הוה מטי להאי פסוקא הוה בכי, אמר: ומה מי שנתכוין לאכול בשר חזיר ועלה בידו בשר טלה, אמרה תורה: צריכה כפרה וסליחה, מי שנתכוין לאכול בשר חזיר ועלה בידו בשר חזיר - על אחת כמה וכמה!

Reb Akiva was the one who would cry at this Pasuk because it brought him to the conclusion and realization that Hashem does punish for מחשבה and therefore although Yosef didn’t punish the brothers for what they did to him, Hashem would have to exact punishment. Reb Akiva was one of the עשרה הרוגי מלכות that were a כפרה for the חטא of מכירת יוסף.

On the Pasuk ויראו אחי יוסף כי מת אביהם ויאמרו לו ישטמנו (נ,טו) Rashi writes that לו has the meaning of דלמא but אין לו עוד דומה במקרא. The Ohr HaChaim says that it’s from a לשון of הלואי as if to say הלואי Yosef should do to us all the רעה that we did to him in order to prevent what will come in the future as he writes as follows:

ונראה כי הכתוב דברי עצמו קאמר לו, והכוונה בזה שהם יראו על דבר שהלואי שיהיה כן שיהיה משיב להם והוא אומרו ישיב לנו את כל הרעה והיו מצטערים השבטים כשיעור שנצטער יוסף מצדם ובזה לא היו מתחייבים לבסוף מהגלויות ומהצרות בעד חטא זה כאומרם ז"ל (שבת י ב) גלות מצרים וגם בגלות האחרון, וצא ולמד מה היה לעשרה עמודי עולם.

In the Haftorah on Rosh Hashanah, we read about the story of חנה and פנינה which is in the first Perek of Shmuel. In the שירת חנה in the second Perek, the Pasuk saysאל תרבו תדברו גבהה גבהה יצא עתק מפיכם כי אל דעות ה' ולא (ולו) נתכנו עללות (פסוק ג). Reb Yehuda Mudrin, the son in law of the קונטרס הספיקות, explained this Pasuk as follows.

Chazal tell us that Peninah used to tease Chanah for not having children that everytime Peninah would buy clothing for her ten children, she would ask Chanah her צרה, and should I buy for your children as well. But Chazal say that nevertheless her intentions were Lshem Shamayim because the Pasuk says בעבור הרעמה which means she wanted to make her daven stronger for children because she knew if she would daven stronger for children then Hashem would forsure answer her Tefilos.

Chanah in her Shira was saying אל תרבו תדברו גבהה גבהה, meaning don’t speak on such high levels rather a person must speak and act on what is right and correct on the most basic level and not what might be right and correct on a higher level. Like Peninah was doing a horrible thing on the simple level and yet on a high level she was doing the right thing. So Chanah is saying in her Shirah אל תרבו תדברו גבהה גבהה because when a person talks גבהה גבהה what happens is יצא עתק מפיכם-you say the wrong thing. But אל דעות ה' ולא (ולו) נתכנו עללות, because only Hashem is able to do things that are seemingly wrong on the simple level but on a higher level are really right. But a person can only do things not only that really right, but also on a practical level he must do things that are right.

Similarly, Yosef was saying התחת אלהים אני that the brothers wanted him to do what is ultimately good for them which would mean to punish them now in order to prevent punishment and pain in the future. To this Yosef responded התחת אלהים אני that as human he can’t do what is ultimately good if it appears bad now, rather all he can do is what appears good now and not give them more pain even if ultimately by doing what appears good now will end up being bad for them because only Hashem is able to do what appears bad now being that it will ultimately be good. The Bar Mitzvah boy spells עקיבא with an א but it’s not so simple. In the הקדמה to the אור זרוע he write that he named his sefer as such based on a dream that he had where it was revealed to him that the name Akiva needs to be spelled with a “hey” at the end because the סופי תיבות of אור זרע לצדיק ולישרי לב שמחה are עקיבה and therefore the name should be spelled with a ה. To commemorate that dream, he named his sefer אור זרוע.

The Bar Mitzvah boy is named after a great grandfather of his who was named Reb Akiva Yosef Schlesinger and he was insistent on writing his name with a “hey” and not an “aleph” based on this אור זרוע. (This Reb Akiva Yosef Schlesinger did some interesting things such as authoring a book about the importance of making a living and he was behind the establishment of the city of Petach Tikvah. He also blew Shofar in Jerusalem on Rosh Hashanah that fell out on Shabbos and he made a whole campaign promoting this. Reb Shmuel Salant signed against it, but they say nevertheless he went to listen behind the window because he figured that he is blowing already.)

The Kollel Yungerman

The Rav said the following in the name of his father.

The two Psukim describing the Brachah from יששכר are as follows:

יִשָּׂשכָר חֲמֹר גָּרֶם רֹבֵץ בֵּין הַמִּשְׁפְּתָיִם:

וַיַּרְא מְנֻחָה כִּי טוֹב וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ כִּי נָעֵמָה וַיֵּט שִׁכְמוֹ לִסְבֹּל וַיְהִי לְמַס עֹבֵד

Yisachar is the lamdan, the kollel yungerman who sits and learns. But people might say that he only sits and learns because he is incapable of doing anything else. Comes along the Pasuk that says Yisachar is חמר גרם that he is compared to a donkey who has strong bones and can bear any weight so he really is capable of doing something and he still chooses to sit and learn. But still someone might say that he only sits and learns because he has no enjoyment in עולם הזה and he doesn’t care for a good vacation. Comes along the Pasuk that says וירא מנחה כי טוב that he know what a good vacation is all about and he understands the enjoyment of this world. And even with all of this, ויט שכמו לסבול ויהי למס עבד, he bends his shoulder and chooses to sit and learn.

Switching Hands

וישלח ישראל את ימינו וישת על ראש אפרים והוא הצעיר ואת שמאלו על ראש מנשה שכל את ידיו כי מנשה הבכור (מח,יד)

The Pasuk is difficult to read because it ends off that Yaakov switched his hands because מנשה was the בכור. The way it should read is that Yaakov switched his hands in spite of the fact that Menashe was the בכור. Some Rishonim do explain the word כי to mean in spite of, but according to the simple reading of the Pasuk, how does it make sense.

If Yaakov really wanted Menashe on the left side, then he should’ve put him there. But he didn’t put him there rather he just put his left hand on him because he was the בכור and there was a purpose for him to be there. But to show that Ephraim is really the greater achievement, Yaakov put his right hand on him. In Parshas Mikeitz when Yosef has his two sons, he names them based on the things that happened to him. By Menashe, the Pasuk says כִּי נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹהִים אֶת כָּל עֲמָלִי וְאֵת כָּל בֵּית אָבִי and by Ephraim the Pasuk says כִּי הִפְרַנִי אֱלֹהִים בְּאֶרֶץ עָנְיִי. A person who experiences trauma needs to forget not only the traumatic experience itself but the entire background. That’s why it’s not only forgetting כָּל עֲמָלִי but it’s also כָּל בֵּית אָבִי. He has to forget the entire thing. That is the Menashe. But eventually that enables him to build a life for himself after which he has the ability to see the past in a new light and reframe it. That is Ephraim, כִּי הִפְרַנִי אֱלֹהִים בְּאֶרֶץ עָנְיִי that specifically through his suffering and עוני was he able to reach such high levels and had he remained in the בית אבי, he would never be able to reach such levels.

First he needs to forget the בית אבי and turn the page and begin a new life. But once he succeeds in building a new life, he realizes that the new levels that he reached in his new life would have been impossible to attain if he would have stayed under his father wing. Therefore he now has a new appreciation for what he once considered as suffering because he understands the positive side. So Yaakov Avinu is saying it’s true in the chronological order of things what happened first was the Menashe, but in terms of חשיבות and the מעלה, one must understand it’s the כִּי הִפְרַנִי אֱלֹהִים בְּאֶרֶץ עָנְיִי which has the bigger מעלה and is more important, to reframe the past.

The Holy Spark in Every Jew

At the end of the Kiddush the Rav said since the Feldingers come from Basel, Switzerland, he wanted to share a story that has to do with this week’s Parshah and with Basel.

The words “V’Shavu Banim l’Gvulam” come from Jeremiah 31:17 meaning “And the children shall return to their own borders.” These words were quoted at the First Zionist Congress by Dr. Max Nordau (1849 -1923), an assimilated Jew who once wrote, “when I reached the age of fifteen, I left the Jewish way of life and the study of Torah. Judaism remained a mere memory and since then I have always felt as a German and a German only.”

However a chance encounter with a yeshiva boy who referenced the Cave of Machpela in Hebron brought Nordau to tears and prompted his return to Jewish roots. The story is told by Nordau’s friend, the eminent scholar Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877–1951). In his autobiographical book Ever Va-Arav, translated as “When I Studied Rashi”, Yahuda wrote:

On the second night of First Zionist Congress in Basel, Nordau spoke in German, giving a long speech. He mentioned several times, as a motto, three words from Jeremiah, in Hebrew, “V’Shavu Banim l’Gvulam” - “Our Children Have Returned to their Borders.”

When asked by a young representative at the congress how he found this verse, and especially in Hebrew, for this did not fit Nordau’s educational background, Nordau replied: “I know these words from the person to whom I am obliged all my Judaism and Zionism. A person whose name I don’t even know. A person who was, in essence, only a little boy of eight or ten. And this is what happened: “I have a children’s clinic in Paris. A woman, an immigrant from Poland, her hair covered with a scarf, came in with a pale boy, eight or ten, sick for three weeks. Someone recommended that she bring him to me. I took out a form for a new patient and tried to speak to him in our local language, but he could hardly understand French. I asked his mother, who was also very poor at French, and she said, ‘no he doesn’t go to a regular school, he goes to a “Heder,” a Jewish religious school.’ I scolded her harshly. ‘This only causes anti-Semitism. We have opened the door for you, the gates to the country, to refugees from Poland. Why doesn’t your child learn the national language here?’

She apologized and said that he is still young and that her husband is from the ‘old generation,’ but that he will grow and study in the ‘gymnasium’ (modern school), and will learn the language. In anger I asked the child, ‘in Heder, what did you learn?’ His eyes lit up, and in Yiddish, which I understood because of my German, told me what he had last studied in Heder. “Jacob,” he said, “was dying and he invited Joseph and commanded him, swearing him, pleaded before him, please, don’t bury me in Egypt. There is the Cave of Machpela – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca – and there I buried Leah. Take me from Egypt and bury me with them. And when I came from Padan, Rachel died in the land of Canaan, on the way to Efrat, and I buried her there, on the way, in Bethlehem. “Why, in the middle of Jacob’s request, does he tell the story of the Tomb of Rachel?” “Rashi says,” – and this is all the child talks about, eight or ten years old, speaking about the ‘Sages’ – that Jacob felt a necessity to apologize to Joseph and say, I bother you like this, to take me from Egypt to Hebron, and I, myself, didn’t bother to take your mother Rachel. And despite that I was very close. Next to Bethlehem. Even into the city I didn’t take her, I buried her on the way. But I am not guilty and didn’t act wrongly. God wanted it this way. He knew: the murderer Nebuchadnezzar would, in the future, exile the sons of Rachel, her sons, during the first destruction, and then she would leave her grave and weep and wail and her voice would be heard: Rachel weeps for her children. But the Lord responds to her: “Stop your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, because there is a reward for you actions, and a hope for the future, and the children will return to their borders – V’Shavu Banim l’Gvulam.”

“And I,” says Dr. Max Nordau, “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I turned to the window so that the mother and child wouldn’t see the tears rolling down my cheeks, and I said to myself, ‘Max, aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You are an educated man, known as an intellectual, with a doctor’s degree, but you don’t know anything about the history of your people. From all of the holy scriptures, nothing? And here, this sick child, weak, an immigrant, a refugee. And he speaks of Jacob and Joseph and Jeremiah, and Rachel, as if it was yesterday, it all lives in front of his eyes?'”

“I wiped the tears from my cheeks and turned to them and said, in my heart, ‘a people, with children like this, that actually live their past, they will have a sparkling future.” The Rav concluded that obviously nobody in this audience will learn from this story to follow in the ways of this “tinok sh’nishbeh”, but it’s only to show that the pinteleh yid can always be awakened.

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Yartzeits

The Kiddush this week was sponsored by the Orenstein family in memory of their uncle.

Why do Jews commemorate Yartzeits but we don’t celebrate birthdays?

There are two פרשיות in the Torah which talk about people dying and we call them חיי שרה and ויחי, indicating life and not death. The reason is because only once a person is no longer alive can we really evaluate his life. But while a person is still alive and his life is still in the making, it’s difficult to really evaluate a person’s life. This is the reason we commemorate a Yartzeit because once a person is no longer, now his life can be evaluated.

By Yaakov, the Pasuk says ויקרבו ימי ישראל למות. Why are his days getting closer to dying as opposed to saying that Yaakov was getting closer to dying? The reason is because a person is made up of his days and they are all pieces that make up the picture of his life. So when he is coming closer to his death, its really his days which are coming closer because his days are the sum total of his life, meaning he is defined and made up of his days.

וַיְחִי יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם שְׁבַע עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה (מז,כח)

Rashi says the following:

למה פרשה זו סתומה לפי שכיון שנפטר יעקב אבינו נסתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל מצרת השעבוד שהתחילו לשעבדם .

What is the meaning of the word סתומה? It can mean something like blocked or closed off, but either way, the pun that Rashi is making that the Parshah is סתומה because נסתמו עיניהם only makes sense with the Hebrew language.

The Rambam at the end of Hilchos Sefer Torah writes there are 290 פרשיות פתוחות and 379 פרשיות סתומות in the Torah. The difference between פתוחות and סתומות is whether or not the next Parshah starts on a new line or the same line that פתוחות begin on the next line and סתומות begin on the same line but it begins nine אותיות away from where the previous Parshah ended off. But Parshas Vayechi is unique that it continues right where Vayigash ends without the nine אותיות gap. The Medrash Rabbah highlights this point as it says למה פרשה זו סתומה מכל הפרשיות של תורה וכו’ because usually a פרשה סתומה has a nine letter gap from the previous Parshah. But Vayechi has no gap, continuing off directly from the end of Vayigash, so how can this be explained.

Rashi, quoted above, said the Parshah is סתומה because נסתמו עיניהם ולבם של ישראל מצרת השעבוד. But being that Yaakov lived another seventeen years in Mitzrayim, why is it specifically at this point סתום at the beginning of the Parshah if Yaakov has not yet died and he is not going to die for another seventeen years? It must be that already Yaakov, during these last seventeen years, was teaching us how it’s going to be in Galus and it was in a sense a preparation for how to live in a state of Galus. In Galus, people are going to have נסתמו עיניהם ולבם because when people are suffering, they become wrapped up in their own problems and they don’t have eyes to see other people and hearts to feel other people. As a result, people will be self-absorbed and self-centered.

But, in order to bring the Geulah, people must do the opposite and open their eyes and see other people and their hearts and feel other people. This is what it says by Moshe in Parshas Shemos on the Pasuk וַיְהִי בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וַיִּגְדַּל מֹשֶׁה וַיֵּצֵא אֶל אֶחָיו וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתם. Rashi says נתן עיניו ולבו להיות מיצר עליהם that he opened his eyes and heart. Moshe was able to see and feel other people’s pain and therefore it was now the time for the Geulah. As a result, the Pasuk later on says וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹהִים and Rashi says נתן עליהם לב ולא העלים עיניו. We see from here that during the Galus, people’s eyes and hearts are closed and they become self-centered as they are hurting. But once people can open their hearts and eyes and becomes selfless will the Geulah come.

Rashi says on the first Pasuk in Vayikrah, ומה היו הפסקות משמשות ליתן ריוח למשה להתבונן בין פרשה לפרשה ובין ענין לענין. The פסקי רי"ד in Menachos 31b writes שאע"פ שבספר תורה יש ריוח בין הפרשיות, התם מפני שעשויות להתלמד בהן, וכדי שיוכל אדם להתבונן בין פרשה לפרשה, צריך ליתן ריוח ביניהן. So we see that the breaks between Parshiyos in the Torah are there to assist when learning that a person should be able to think about and process that which he just learned. However, when something is סתומה, the point is that there shouldn’t be enough time to start to think and contemplate. The message being given over by having the Parshah begin as a סתומה with no separation of nine letters is to teach us that in Galus, we shouldn’t have moments to ourselves to think. If a person begins to think in Galus, we are afraid of the conclusions he might draw. Therefore, we tell him to keep learning and don’t think out of learning. This is why the Parshah is סתומה already at this point even though its years before the שעבוד which would only begin with Yaakov’s death because through the סתומה, Yaakov was teaching us how to live during the Galus.

The Medrash Rabbah (פרשה צו) says בחייו [של רבינו הקדוש] היה דר בציפורי שבע עשרה שנה והיה קורא על עצמו ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים י"ז שנה וחיה יהודה בציפורי י"ז שנין. It would seem not for no reason did Reb Yehuda Hanasi use the first Pasuk in Vayechi to describe his own seventeen years of living in ציפורי.

על פי קבלה, there is a connection between Reb Yehudah Hanasi and Yaakov, and ראשי תיבות of נשיא is נשמה של יעקב אבינו. Reb Yehudah Hanasi edited the Mishnayos and was responsible for writing down the תורה שבע"פ even though it wasn’t meant to be, but it was nonetheless done because עת לעשות לה’. By writing down תורה שבע"פ at the beginning of the Galus Reb Yehudah Hanasi was filling in “gaps” with letters that were not supposed to written just like Yaakov with the Parshah סתומה was also filling in gaps with letters that aren’t usually there as a preparation for the oncoming Galus. This could be why Rabbeinu HaKadosh referred to his life with the Pasuk in the beginning of Vayechi which is סתומה.

וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת (מז,כט)

Rashi says the chessed done with a dead person is חסד של אמת. One reason could be because every other time a person does chessed, you may be in doubt if its really chessed because maybe the person isn’t really that poor or sick. But when it comes to a מת, he is definitely dead so there is no doubt about that.

But Rashi says the reason חסד with a מת is חסד של אמת is because שאינו מצפה לתשלום גמול. But it would seem not true because the Gemara in Ksubos 71b-72a says if a man makes a neder prohibiting her from going to a בית אבל, the Halacha is יוציא ויתן כתובה, מפני שנועל בפניה. The Gemara explains the reason why it’s considered מפני שנועל בפניה is because למחר היא מתה, ואין כל בריה סופדה. The Gemara goes on to explain that the reason why a person will go to a cemetery and funeral is because if you burry someone than its guaranteed that you will be buried and eulogized on. We see from the Gemara that even חסד done with a מת, people expect a return for their chessed?

The answer is that we are so שקר that any time we do a chessed with one hand, it’s as if our other hand is outstretched already waiting and anticipating the return for the chessed that we did. But when it comes to chessed with a מת, our hand isn’t outstretched because we are willing to wait for the return. This is why Rashi says שאינו מצפהו לתשלום גמול that we are not waiting for the return. For us who are so filled with שקר and we are so far away from אמת, the fact that we are not immediately waiting for the return when it comes to chessed with a מת makes it as if it is חסד של אמת and this is the closest we can get to חסד של אמת.

וישלח ישראל את ימינו וישת על ראש אפרים והוא הצעיר ואת שמאלו על ראש מנשה שכל את ידיו כי מנשה הבכור (מח,יד)

The Pasuk is difficult to read because it ends off that Yaakov switched his hands because מנשה was the בכור. The way it should read is that Yaakov switched his hands in spite of the fact that Menashe was the בכור. Some Rishonim do explain the word כי to mean in spite of, but according to the simple reading of the Pasuk, how does it make sense.

If Yaakov really wanted Menashe on the left side, then he should’ve put him there. But he didn’t put him there rather he just put his left hand on him because he was the בכור and there was a purpose for him to be there. But to show that Ephraim is really the greater achievement, Yaakov put his right hand on him. In Parshas Mikeitz when Yosef has his two sons, he names them based on the things that happened to him. By Menashe, the Pasuk says כִּי נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹהִים אֶת כָּל עֲמָלִי וְאֵת כָּל בֵּית אָבִי and by Ephraim the Pasuk says כִּי הִפְרַנִי אֱלֹהִים בְּאֶרֶץ עָנְיִי. There is a necessity for Menashe to come first because first a person must forget and disconnect from his past. Once he does that, then he can grow as the Ephraim to reshape the past and recognize how it was all for the good. So the meaning of Menashe which is כִּי נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹהִים is necessary for growth and then there can be Ephraim which is ִּכי הִפְרַנִי אֱלֹהִים that a person can grow and reshape his past.

Kollel Yungerman

The two Psukim describing the Brachah from יששכר are as follows:

יִשָּׂשכָר חֲמֹר גָּרֶם רֹבֵץ בֵּין הַמִּשְׁפְּתָיִם: וַיַּרְא מְנֻחָה כִּי טוֹב וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ כִּי נָעֵמָה וַיֵּט שִׁכְמוֹ לִסְבֹּל וַיְהִי לְמַס עֹבֵד

Yisachar is the lamdan, the kollel yungerman who sits and learns. But people might say that he only sits and learns because he is incapable of doing anything else. Comes along the Pasuk that says Yisachar is חמר גרם that he is compared to a donkey who has strong bones and can bear any weight so he really is capable of doing something and he still chooses to sit and learn.

But still someone might say that he only sits and learns because he has no enjoyment in עולם הזה and he doesn’t care for a good vacation. Comes along the Pasuk that says וירא מנחה כי טוב that he know what a good vacation is all about and he understands the enjoyment of this world. And even with all of this, ויט שכמו לסבול ויהי למס עבד, he bends his shoulder and chooses to sit and learn.

וַיְצַוּוּ אֶל יוֹסֵף לֵאמֹר אָבִיךָ צִוָּה לִפְנֵי מוֹתוֹ לֵאמֹר וכו' וַיֵּבְךְּ יוֹסֵף בְּדַבְּרָם אֵלָיו

Rashi says שינו בדבר מפני השלום, כי לא צוה יעקב כן שלא נחשד יוסף בעיניו. Meaning that Yaakov would have never really been חשד Yosef with taking vengeance against the brothers for selling him. According to this, the reason why he cried was because he thought his father was חשד him and therefore Yaakov needed to relay this message with the brothers.

But according to the Ramban in Vayigash (מה,כז) that says Yaakov never found out that the brothers sold him, why was he crying? The Rav suggested that he was crying over the fact that his brother were חשד him that he told Yaakov that they sold him because of course he would never have done such a thing against his brothers.

ויעש לאביו אבל שבעת ימים (נ,י)

The Chasam Sofer writes that the Yerushalmi wants to learn ז ימי אבילות from this Pasuk but asks that we can’t because it was before מתן תורה and ר' בער בלאך asked that the Yerushalmi learns ז' ימי המשתה from מלא שבוע זאת (by לבן) which occurred before מתן תורה so what is the difference between the two?

The Chasam Sofer answers as follows. The Ramban learns that בנים אתם לה' אלוקיכם is a reason for לא תתגודדו ולא תשימו קרחה בין עיניכם למת because being children of Hashem, we understand that when a person dies, he is going back to his father and to a better place. Therefore, there is seemingly no reason for mourning. But the Ramban says in תורת האדם that still mourning, ג' לבכי ז' לאבל, is permissible but not excessive. According to this, it makes sense why we can learn ז' ימי המשתה from before we got the Torah because if there was a reason to have a party before we got the Torah and had mitzvos, then all the more so after we got the Torah and there is the Mitzvah of פריה ורביה is there a reason to have ז' ימי המשתה. But by אבילות, before we got the Torah and had בנים את לה' אלוקיכם, there was a reason to mourn because it was the end of life. But now that we got the Torah and are בנים את לה' אלוקיכם, there is technically no reason to mourn because we understand that when a person dies, he is just returning to his father. Therefor the source to mourn cannot be from Psukim before מתן תורה.

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