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.
- 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.