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Parashat Vayegash


When Yaakov was reunited with his son, he said, "I can die now" - at ease - "now that I have seen your face, that you are still alive." The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l explained that Yaakov could discern the nature of one's conduct by looking at his face. When he looked upon his son for the first time after so many years, he saw "that you are still alive," that Yosef's spiritual life was still in full force, and had not diminished even one iota throughout this period.

A ssadik named Rabbi Mordechai Hayyim lived in Teveryah about a generation ago. He used to say that when Moshiah comes, he will stand on one side of the river and Benei Yisrael will stand on the other side. One by one, we will cross the bridge and stand before him. He will then look closely into the face of each one and see everything, all that he has done, spoken and thought. Then he will sigh and say, "Okay, you can go through." The blockade will be lifted and permission to pass will be granted, but what shame, what embarrassment!

Then again, on second thought, there will be not a single Jew who will not think in his mind thoughts of teshuvah as he anxiously steps onto the bridge. And with that heartfelt sense of regret, the impression of his sins will be wiped away.


"All the souls in the house of Yaakov that came to Egypt numbered seventy."

Rashi cites the comment of the Midrash that when the Torah had earlier described Esav's family, which numbered only six people, it employed the plural expression "nafshot beito," the souls of his house. Regarding Yaakov's seventy-member family, however, the Torah refers to the household with the singular form, "nefesh." The "Shai Lamora" zs"l explains this difference with the following parable:

There once lived a man who made an easy, gainful living by honing diamonds and stringing jewels. But he was a stingy miser and saved every penny he had. He didn't buy any furniture or new clothing. He walked around wearing worn-out tatters of clothing and would buy the stale leftovers in the market. His wife, well, what could she say to him? She suffered this life silently and never protested.

Even so, he was not content with his savings. After all, he still had to spend some money here and there on food. One day, his wife suddenly heard shrieks coming from his work-station: "Help! Robber! Thief!"

His wife was terrified - he dealt with precious jewels and diamonds that were worth a fortune! She quickly called the police, and they arrived and stormed the office. They looked inside and saw an emaciated-looking man, dressed in rags, clearly an impoverished vagabond who attempted a robbery to try to make some money. They arrested him and dragged him to the judge, the woman following behind claiming that this man was her husband. Despite her insistence, nobody listened.

"What happened?" asked the judge.

"A robbery occurred in the jeweler's workroom, and this man was found hiding there," reported the policeman.

"This is my husband!" pleaded the woman. "He is the jeweler!"

The judge looked at the figure dressed in rags and couldn't believe the woman's claim. "So where is the robber?" he asked.

"I am the jeweler, and my mouth is the robber," shouted the husband frantically. "What have I done to it, that it consumes all my hard work, it uses up all the fruits of my labor? It grinds my hard-earned money with its teeth and destroys it!"

The judge realized that before him stood a habitual miser who simply lost his mind as a result of his miserly tendencies. He replied, "You are right! What is done is done, and what was taken can never be retrieved. From now on, however, true and fair justice will prevail." He called the policeman and ordered, "You must accompany this gentleman to his home and make sure that his mouth does not steal from him anymore. Don't let his mouth grab any food - stand guard!"

Everyone listened in amazement, and only the crazed man himself was pleased with the verdict. The judged had executed his responsibilities adequately, and a week later the miser asked with whatever strength he had left that he be brought to the judge. "Will his honor allow me to take something to eat?" he whispered faintly.

"What?" asked the judge. "You want to go ahead and feed with your own hands the cruel criminal that robs and consumes your hard work?"

"I was foolish," confessed the miser. "I mistakenly thought that my mouth was an independent limb. I know realize that my body is a single entity, and the food that comes into my mouth nourishes all my limbs."

The gentiles are like disjointed limbs; the actions of one have no effect upon the other. Am Yisrael, however, are "one nation on the land." They constitute a single, organic entity, each of whose components contributes to the composite whole and is concurrently impacted by the rest of the body.

If a Jew learns Torah, he nourishes the entirety of Kenesset Yisrael, he brings about an impact of kedushah upon the nation as a whole. And if a Jewish child studies Torah - "The world exists only in the merit of the breaths of the mouths of the schoolchildren." And after a Jew works hard for his money, he allocates a portion of his earnings to support Torah education and increase the spiritual light in the world. In this way, everything is bound together and unified, like the coordination of the limbs within a living organism - "all the 'nefesh' of the house of Yaakov" - harmonious cooperation to yield merit and spirituality!


Imagine a small kibbutz along the coast of Israel, surrounded by settlements, with an aging population. The overwhelming majority of the children moved out, some to the big city, others to the Diaspora. There are very few young families, and they, typically, have one child, maybe two.

Obviously, they have a local school. It's a spectacular building, surrounded by elaborate gardens, huge classrooms, many of them practically empty. The classes almost resemble private lessons. Understandably, the members of the kibbutz wouldn't send their children to the schools in the city, where they don't learn about socialism and brotherhood among nations. They wave flags of a much different nature, they espouse different values.

They teach their students about respecting individuality. In any event, this tiny school is fully subsidized, regardless of the number of students in each class. This is only appropriate for a democracy, where respect is afforded to the minority and its views, and thus the opportunity is granted to the minority to educate according to its ideology. The taxpayer, who willfully bears the burden of paying the debts of the kibbutzim incurred by poor investments in the stock-market, is prepared as well to fund the kibbutz educational system and all its classes, without petty, stingy calculations regarding the population of the classes.

Now consider a group of parents in a settlement adjacent to this kibbutz, who decided to provide their children with an excellent Torah education. They are disgusted with the ongoing violence in the schools, the rampant permissiveness, the education based on heresy and disdain for all that is sacred, the youth's detachment from their ancient heritage. They turned to a Torah educational network that rented a building and renovated it to make a suitable home for their school. Furniture was purchased and superlative educators were hired. The parents were thrilled, the children were truly privileged. Everything is great, right? Yet, they will not receive a budget. Why? Because the school is still new, there are not enough students in each class. They cannot raid the public funds, and those in charge make sure to safeguard the budget. There are strict rules; anarchy cannot be allowed.

And don't tell us that next year the registration will double and then triple in the following year, because we know that already and are terrified of such a prospect - this is exactly what we're trying to prevent! We will strangle you when you're still small, in the name of democracy and effective management. We will not allow anarchy or the wasteful draining of our resources. Do not compare yourselves to the kibbutzim and their small size. Otherwise, we will shrink you.



There's an old saying that goes, "Not everything that shines is gold." Similarly, when we want to express appreciation for someone with a good, generous heart we say that "he has a heart of gold." Along the same lines, a skilled worker who works efficiently and with expertise is said to have "hands of gold." Indeed, gold has turned into a symbol of something fantastic, and it has become the means of expressing superior quality in many different colloquialisms and slogans. What is gold? What is its source and wherein lies its true value? Gold is a heavy, yellowish metal whose outstanding feature is its ability to be stretched and beat out.

For example, from one kilogram of gold one may produce a thin thread 2,000 kilometers long, or a thin tapestry spanning a surface of 1,000 square meters, a millionth of a centimeter thick. Gold reaches its familiar form only after much back-breaking work by miners. In the past, the manufacture of gold was performed mechanically by moving the gold ores, stirring them and then soaking them in water. The heavy gold sunk to the bottom while the lighter materials were washed away. In modern mines, machines are used both in the transporting of the ores as well as the soaking. The gold is then produced from the mire left at the bottom by adding mercury. The mercury attaches itself to the gold and when the resultant material is heated, the mercury evaporates and leaves behind pure gold. The process of manufacturing gold from rock where it is mixed with other minerals is far more complex and is performed through chemical processes employing chlorine and cyanide. Pure gold is particularly soft and almost unusable, and can be found only in coins or in gold depositories kept very deep down in the cellars of national banks. It is interesting how people in the world are prepared to sacrifice so much to earn some gold. It is difficult to understand, then, that so much of it is concealed underground. As Jews, we know that everything in the world has a reason. Why is their gold in the world, and what is its function? Why is it buried underground even after being discovered, and most of it is never used? Hazal teach us that the Almighty "looked at the Torah and created the world." In other words, the Torah is the blueprint of the world. In this blueprint it is written that gold is required for the building of the Bet Hamikdash, and for this reason God created gold. As it turns out, then, in the merit of the gold required for the Bet Hamikdash, the world was privileged to this precious metal.

In any event, whoever experienced the taste of Torah study and has the good fortune to experience spiritual elevation knows that "The Torah of Your mouth is greater to me than thousands of gold and silver." Torah study brings the Jew blessing, and the blessing of God will make on rich.


"Yosef could no longer control himself before all his attendants"

Rav Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains that Yosef could not wait until he finished dealing with those who waited for their turn to speak to him about their issues, and therefore called, "Remove everyone from before me." Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra, too, explains that Yosef could not wait for everyone to leave, and therefore requested that they leave. The Ramban zs"l writes that many people from the royal court came to appeal to Yosef that he forgive Binyamin, as their hearts were stirred as a result of Yehudah's impassioned plea. Yosef thus ordered them to leave so that he can speak with them privately and finish the entire matter with the brothers.

Rashi, however, writes that Yosef could not bear having Egyptians present when he finally reveals his identity to his brothers, as he did not wish his brothers to be ashamed. The Ramban adds that Yosef suspected that if the Egyptians would hear of his having been sold, they would deny the brothers permission to reside in Egypt. He figured that the Egyptians would feel that if the brothers could turn against their brother and lie to their father, then they could potentially rebel against the native population and government. Rabbenu Efrayim zs"l notes an allusion to this interpretation from the pasuk: "and no man stood with him when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers." The word "behitvada" - "when he revealed himself" - has the same letters as "ha'avdut" - the subjugation. That is, Yosef did not want the Egyptians to hear of the brothers having sold him into slavery.

Rabbenu Behayei zs"l cites the Midrash that notes the great risk Yosef took when he ordered everyone present to leave the room. Were the brothers to have attempted to kill Yosef at that moment, nobody could have saved him or avenged his blood. He figured, however, that better he risk his life than embarrass his brothers in public.

As is his want, the Ralbag finds within this pasuk a profound lesson and directive: "It is improper for a ruler to proceed to cry or laugh before his men, for he thereby diminishes his stature in their eyes and reduces their reverence for him. Thus we find that Yosef did not want to cry in the presence of other people, and therefore ordered that everyone leave at the moment when he felt the need to cry."

Rabbenu Abir Yaakov Abihassera zs"l found in this pasuk an allusion to imminent redemption. The name "Yosef" here refers to the Almighty Himself, the Ruler and Provider of the entire world. Indeed, the numerical value of "Yosef" equals the numerical value of the Divine Name "H-V-Y-H" multiplied by six. He now wishes to "reveal Himself to His brothers" - to reveal Himself to Kenesset Benei Yisrael - but the heavenly prosecutors prevent His doing so through their prosecution against Benei Yisrael. The Almighty will ultimately send them away and call, "Remove everyone from before Me," and He will then reveal Himself to us!


Rabbi Mordechai Hayyim Libton zs"l

On Shabbat Evenings, the Jews of Halav would gather in the old Bet Kenessset in the center of town. In his place near the aron kodesh sat the rav, who resembled an angel, Rabbi Mordechai Hayyim Libton zs"l, studying the Zohar's comments on the parashah. The community divided into two groups, one to the right and one to the left, and began singing the songs of requests to the Almighty. The rav lifted his hand, and the song intensified and penetrated the heavens.

Suddenly, the door swung open and into the sanctuary stormed the officer Madrov Al Hamsani, and his frightening voice poured a steady flow of angry words. He complained that the sacred song disrupted his rest and was keeping him up. He ordered that it be ceased immediately. Hacham Libton heard the order and lifted his hand, signifying the continuation of the song. The officer's face turned red, and as he left he slammed the door behind him furiously. He headed towards the police station to file a complaint that the Jews were disturbing the public tranquillity and causing a public nuisance. He added, "And especially their rabbi, who encourages the singing with his waving hands - he must be imprisoned and stand trial!"

Rav Libton had earned the reverence of even the local gentiles, and the authorities were hesitant to take steps against him. They had no reason to anger the Jewish community or infringe upon their practices. The officer, however, would not relax his efforts. He was determined to compel the authorities to act. He initiated a letter-signing campaign among the families living in vicinity of the Bet Kenesset, who joined his protest against the evening song emanating from the House of God. His efforts climaxed with a giant demonstration he organized one Friday as worshippers were leaving the mosques. The embittered officer spoke harshly into the ears of his audience and incited them to follow his lead and conduct riots.

Upon the conclusion of his speech, he got into his wagon and headed towards the Jewish neighborhood, the incited mob following closely behind. As they approached the Jewish neighborhood, the horses suddenly broke into a frantic gallop. The driver managed to jump out at the last minute, and the horses continued down the stairs leading to the lower city. The chariot, in which sat the enemy, slipped away, overturned and was smashed. So may all of Hashem's enemies be destroyed!


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

The Proper Intention While Putting on Tefillin

The Berachah on Tefillin

Prior to putting on the tefillin shel yad one recites the berachah, ".asher kideshanu bemissvotav vessivanu lehani'ah tefillin." After putting on the tefillin shel yad, one puts on the tefillin shel rosh. The practice of the Sefaradim and Edot HaMizrah is not to recite an independent berachah on the tefillin shel rosh, as the berachah recited on the tefillin shel yad applies as well to the tefillin shel rosh. Despite the fact that the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh constitute two distinct, independent missvot, and the fulfillment of one is not contingent upon the fulfillment of the other, nevertheless, both involve the same principle of remembering the Torah. This is also the practice of some Ashkenazim.

However, if one spoke in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh, he recites a special berachah before placing the tefillin shel rosh: ".asher kideshanu bemissvotav vessivanu al missvat tefillin." Some Ashkenazim have the practice of always reciting this berachah - ".al missvat tefillin" - on the tefillin shel rosh. According to this custom, if one speaks in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh, then he must recite two berachot before placing the tefillin shel rosh - "lehani'ah tefillin" and "al missvat tefillin."

Those who have the custom of always reciting "al missvat tefillin" on the tefillin shel rosh should preferably say after the berachah, "Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto l'olam va'ed," so as to save themselves from a possible "berachah levatalah" (wasteful berachah). However, they must be especially careful not to recite "Baruch Shem." until after they have properly fastened the tefillin shel rosh onto their heads, so as not to interrupt between the recitation of the berachah and the performance of the missvah (i.e., the placing of the tefillin shel rosh).

One who hears another reciting the berachah "al missvat tefillin" should not answer "amen," as "amen" is not recited when its requirement is in doubt. Even if one hears the berachah from an Ashkenazi, who is accustomed to reciting the berachah on the tefillin shel rosh, he should only think the response of "amen" in his heart, without articulating it verbally.

Therefore, those who are accustomed to reciting "al missvat tefillin" on the tefillin shel rosh should preferably recite the berachah quietly, so that others don't hear and thereby face a situation of a doubtful requirement regarding the response of "amen."

If one mistakenly recites the berachah "al missvat tefillin" on the tefillin shel yad and catches his mistake only after "kedei dibbur" (the time normally required to say "shalom aleichem rebbe"), then if he is generally accustomed not to recite any berachah on the tefillin shel rosh, he has fulfilled his requirement and does not recite any additional berachah.

However, if he is accustomed to always reciting the berachah on the tefillin shel rosh, and he catches his mistake before fastening the tefillin on his arm, he should recite the berachah of "lehani'ah tefillin," tie the tefillin on his arm, and then place the tefillin shel rosh without reciting any berachah. If, however, he catches his mistake only after he fastened the tefillin shel yad on his arm, then when he places the tefillin shel rosh he should recite the berachah of "lehani'ah tefillin."

If one mistakenly recites "al missvat tefillin" on the tefillin shel yad and catches his mistaken within "kedei dibbur" (as explained above), and he immediately corrects himself and recites the appropriate berachah - "lehani'ah tefillin" - then he is considered as having recited only the correct berachah, "lehani'ah tefillin."


The Faithful Student (10)

A Story From the Book "HaSaraf miBrisk,"
the Story of the Life of Mahari"l Diskin zs"l

Flashback: For two years, the ssadik Reb Nechumke of Hordona supported the family of an assimilated attorney who was imprisoned for his efforts on behalf of the Polish underground. Upon the lawyer's return home, he saw his benefactor and fainted, as he recalled how he had driven the ssadik from his home when he came to collect money on behalf of the poor. Now, the attorney offered to pay back in full the money the ssadik raised to support his family during his imprisonment. Reb Nechumke, however, refused.

"I don't receive gratuitous gifts," insisted the attorney.

"If you wish, you can pay me back, only not with money," replied the ssadik.

"Whatever you wish. Please tell me how I can repay you for your kindness," the lawyer said.

"Please understand that nothing happens by chance," began the ssadik. "A well-respected man such as yourself is arrested and thrown into prison. He is stripped of his freedom and all the comforts to which he had become accustomed suddenly disappear. This is no coincidence; it is a sign from the heavens. Have you ever thought about the reason why this occurred?"

"I come from an assimilated family; I am not used to thinking along these lines," answered the lawyer. "I must confess that this is an interesting approach. So, let me hear - what am I to conclude from all this?"

"I would say that this is a sign to you. You are a defense attorney, who defends prisoners. It is one thing to defend them while living amidst the warmth of your family, the wealth and comforts to which you have been privileged. It is a different matter entirely to defend them after having experienced prison and knowing firsthand how it feels to be torn away from one's family, uprooted from one's home and profession, cast into the dingy and distressing environment of the dungeon."

The lawyer nodded in agreement, and the ssadik continued: "Well, at this moment a sacred Jew sits in prison. He is among the greatest Torah sages of this generation, revered by thousands, and he sits in prison on false charges, awaiting his trial. Will you agree to accept his defense and represent him in court?"

"Certainly you refer to the rav of Brisk," responded the attorney. "The press is replete with articles of contempt and disdain, their authors overjoyed at his imprisonment. Although this is a legal trial, there is no question that an intentional wave of incitement has been conducted through the authorities. Someone is feeding this material to the press. Any lawyer accepting upon himself the rav's defense stands in direct opposition to the government. Please forgive me, but whereas my experiences in prison are still fresh in my mind, I am not too excited about confronting the authorities."

"Everyone has his considerations," answered the ssadik. "When all is said and done, each of us lives with his conscience. When I thank Hashem in the morning for restoring my soul, I will thank Him as well that I don't have to live with your conscience."

To be continued.

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