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Parashat Vayhi


The Ben Ish Hai zs"l tells the story of a man who went for a walk in the woods. He walked around, enjoyed the beauty and tranquillity of the forest, and hummed to himself. Suddenly, he saw a bear. The bear got up on its hind legs and prepared to pounce on the man. Gripped with fear, the man realized that he had with him a walking stick. He thought to himself, perhaps the bear has seen hunters and knows what a gun is. Maybe it will see the stick and fear that it is a gun! He raised the stick to his shoulder pretending to aim, and "shot" his rifle. Suddenly he heard gunfire and saw the bear drop dead. The man embraced his stick and exclaimed, "You saved me!" He did not see that up on a tree sat a hunter, holding a rifle with smoke rising from its barrel.

Similarly, two of Yaakov's sons plundered the city of Shechem and wiped out the entire male population without opposition. They were but thirteen years old, and yet nobody stood up against them. What impressive military might!

Twenty years later, however, their father informs them that it was he who had captured Shechem, "with my sword and my bow," translated by Targum Onkelos as, "my prayer and request."

In our time, too, let us ask ourselves, did we really have a chance to overcome the seven Arab armies, to defeat our enemies in an emergency six-day operation, to survive for fifty years and, G-d-willing, for many more years, against all practical, military, and economic odds, if not for the prayers of our foregone patriarchs in heaven?

Let us recognize and appreciate their prayers on our behalf and fulfill their single wish - that we follow their example and their heritage.


Recently, an event occurred which generated quite a stir. Some of the details have been changed here so as not to insult anybody. The episode involved a prominent, elderly individual, a man of great dignity who had experienced many moving and stirring moments throughout his life. Clearly, he was a source of pride to his family and community. One of his children brought his own children before the revered grandfather so that they be impressed and inspired by spending time with such a dignified and special individual. The grandfather had difficulty speaking Hebrew but spoke fluent Arabic, which the grandchildren did not understand. Therefore, the son served as the translator. The grandfather was very pleased with his grandchildren, and he blessed them and asked about how things in their lives are progressing. The son then asked that the grandfather tell some of the moving stories which had left such on impression on his life.

"Certainly," said the old man. "Listen carefully. This occurred when I was a youngster, when my friends and I agreed one day to go together to Ziharah Lesaali, to visit the graves of sadikim which are located there. Rabbi Hayim Ben Atar, the grandfather of the Or Hahayim, is buried there, along with Rabbi Hayim Tolidano, Rabbi Yosef Sabah, Rabbi Yehiya Royemi, and Rabbi Yis'hak Kurat. There is also a large edifice over the grave of Rabbi Refael Hamalach Ankwah. Spiritual giants are buried there, and many people go to pray at their grave sites. We took some food and supplies with us, and we set out on the long journey. As we traversed the wilderness, we suddenly came across a band of vagabonds...Translate for them, my son."

His son began translating up to this point. He told them of the trip and got to the point where the bandits appeared. He was then silent, and the children waited eagerly for the old man to continue. "Yes, father," said the son.

"Certainly, you want to hear a story?" continued the old man. "Once, when I was a youngster, my friends and I arranged to travel to Ziharah Saali, where many great sadikim are buried, such as the first Rabbi Hayim Ben Atar, Rabbi Hayim Tolidano, Rabbi David Ben Shapps, Rabbis Yosef and Yaakov Bibaas, and others, including Rabbi Refael Hamalach Ankwah. We took with us food and supplies and set out on our journey. As we were walking through the barren wasteland, a giant cloud appeared. Opposite us stood a band of vagabonds. Can you translate for them, my son?"

The son was quite confused, and told his children about how the bandits appeared in a giant cloud, and, with the best of his imagination, he described the threatening villains, riding on white horses, equipped with shells and bullets. Their weapons were in their hands and the fury of violence was in their eyes. "Yes, father," he said.

"You want to hear a story?" said the old man with a pleasant sigh of joy. "I recall a trip I took with my friends to Ziharah Bisaali. As you know, great sadikim are buried there. There is a beautiful edifice over the grave site of Rabbi Refael Hamalach Ankwah, but he is already contemporary. Earlier sadikim are buried there, such as the grandfather of the sacred Or Hahayim, and others. So listen..."

The son soon learned that, indeed, his elderly father was stricken with a form of Alzheimer's Disease.

The devoted son was very shaken and came to his rebbe to ask if there is a solution. Much to his surprise, the rebbe was even more troubled than he was, and his face turned pale-white.

"What happened?" asked the man in terror. "What happened? I said something really terrible?"

"No," replied the rabbi. "This happens at older age, and you should ask medical experts in this area. Medicine has progressed remarkably in this field of study. I was taken aback because I remembered about myself..."

The student did not understand and asked his rabbi to explain. "You see, each of us has a life-story to complete, for which he was sent here from the heavens. We are each to grow, to purify ourselves, to come closer to our Creator, to strive to be better Jews, more complete Jews. We, thank G-d, have learned, we have become more complete, we have accumulated a certain degree of knowledge, have reached a certain level of observance, a certain type of Torah lifestyle. Very nice. But from there - do we not simply go over and over the same chapter, repeat the same thing all the time? For this I was taken aback by your story! Your story, of the continuous repetition of the first chapter without ever finishing the story, reminded me of our obligation: do we not constantly repeat the previous chapter - instead of growing and progressing?"

Indeed, this is all alluded to in Yaakov's blessings to his grandchildren, Yosef's two sons. The oldest is named, "Menasheh," related to the term, "neshiyah," forgetfulness, referring to Yosef's having forgotten his earlier troubles (Seforno) and the opening of a new chapter. After him comes "Efrayim," related to the expression "periyah," multiplying, becoming numerous. As they approached their grandfather, Yaakov placed his right hand on the head of Efrayim, emphasizing the increase and growth, renewal and continued progress, the concept of not being satisfied with escaping crisis, that we've reached a certain level of religious accomplishment; the ideal of a constant drive towards self-improvement, to continue writing the subsequent chapters of our lives. So many good, Torah-observant Jews are committed to Shabbat, kashrut, and family purity but their religious lives continue in a circle, as long as they do not attend Torah classes, increase their knowledge and understanding, expand their horizons and grow. Let us all get more involved in Torah classes, and place the "Efrayim," the spiritual growth, before "Menasheh," the feeling of satisfaction with the status-quo.


Based Upon the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yosef shlit"a
The Conclusion of the Al Hamihyah Blessing

The rishonim are in dispute regarding the proper text for the conclusion of al hamihyah. Whereas the Tur rules that the berachah concludes, "Baruch atah Hashem al ha'aress ve'al hamihyah ve'al hakalkalah," the Semag rules that only, "al ha'aress ve'al hamihyah" should be recited, omitting the final expression, "ve'al hakalkalah." This second view is also maintained by the Rambam (Hilchot Berachot 3:13), the Ba'al Halachot Gedolot, and the Rosh.

From the writings of the Bet Yosef (208) it appears that he follows the view of the Semag, the Rambam, and Ba'al Halachot Gedolot, not to include "ve'al hakalkalah." The reason behind this ruling seems to be the general axiom, "we never conclude with two [distinct statements]," and mentioning both "hamihyah" and "hakalkalah" in our conclusion appears to be two items in one conclusion. The phrase, "al hamihyah" thanks the Al-mighty for the foods which He has created to feed human beings, whereas "al hakalkalah" refers to Hashem's providing us with clothing and other necessities, as the pasuk states, "Yosef supported ['vayechalkel'] his brothers," and clearly he provided them not only with food but with other necessities, as well. Thus, "al hamihyah" and "al hakalkalah" refer to two different categories and should therefore not be combined into a single conclusion at the end of the berachah. Indeed, as is implied by the Bet Yosef, this is the proper halachah which should be followed.

An important question, however, arises from this discussion. Even according to our practice, which concludes the berachah with only, "al hamihyah," we nevertheless make reference to both categories immediately preceding the closing blessing: "Ve'nodeh ha'aress ve'al hamihya VE'AL HAKALKALAH, Baruch Atah Hashem al ha'aress ve'al hamihyah." In other words, the final statement before the berachah which concludes the entire "al hamihyah" recitation does, in fact, include both "mihyah" and "kalkalah." This seems problematic in light of our general principle that the concluding berachah must always correspond in content to the statement which immediately precedes it. So why does the concluding berachah of al hamihyah - "al ha'aress ve'al hamihyah" - not accurately correspond to that which immediately precedes it - "al ha'aress ve'al hamihyah ve'al hakalkalah"? The answer is that although the two are different, they are nevertheless related, for the term, "kalkalah," as we have discussed, incorporates "mihyah," and therefore the final berachah, which mentions only "mihyah," can be considered as corresponding with the phrase immediately preceding it, and "ve'al hakalkalah" does not interrupt between the theme of "mihyah" and the concluding blessing. Although some argue on this point, this is nevertheless the accepted custom and the ruling of Harav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a.

In summary, the al hamihyah blessing concludes, "al ha'ares ve'al hamihyah," and we leave out "ve'al hakalkalah," despite the fact that right before the concluding berachah we say, "ve'nodeh ha'aress ve'al hamihyah ve'al hakalkalah."

Rabbi Abir Yaakov Abuhassera

Two wealthy merchants once came before the sacred giant, Rabbi Abir Yaakov Abuhassera zs"l, to receive his blessing for success.

He said, "I will give you a fool-proof 'segulah' for great success and prosperity in both this world and in the World to Come: spending time in the Bet Midrash morning and evening. The mishnah states that such a person reaps the fruits of this misvah in this world while the principle remains in its place, ready for him in the World to Come."

They answered, "Of course! We attend services in the synagogue morning and evening!"

Responded the rabbi, "I didn't say, 'spending time in the synagogue.' I spoke of the Bet Midrash, a place of Torah study. Set aside some time for Torah study together with your prayers, a chapter of mishnayot or a portion in the Humash, and you will find success."

They said, "But we are businessmen. The Bet Midrash is the place for Torah scholars, talmidei hachamim!"

"You are making a mistake," he replied. "True, the tribe of Yisachar spent the entire day immersed in Torah study while the people of Zevulun worked and supported them, and in this way the tribe of Zevulun merited a portion in the World to Come. In fact, the word, 'Zevulun' is derived from the word, 'zevul,' which refers to the World to Come.

"However, this is not enough. The pasuk states, 'Zevulun dwells by the shore of the seas.' This alludes to the fact that Zevulun, too, must spend time within the walls of the Bet Midrash and dwell at the shores of the vast sea of Torah. Only then will he merit the next phrase of the pasuk, 'his boundaries will extend until Sidon.' 'Sidon' has the same numerical value as, 'Elokim Hayim' [Living G-d], meaning, that he is guaranteed that Hashem will be at his side. If you promise me that you will study some Torah in the morning and some in the evening, and you will spend time along the shores of the seas - the sea of the Written Torah and the sea of the Oral Torah - then I guarantee you that the Living G-d will be at your side, and success will accompany you on all your endeavors!"

They gave him their promise, and they became very successful, earning both material prosperity as well as spiritual enrichment.


"A fruitful son is Yosef, a fruitful son over the eyes"

The saintly Rabbi Yosef Knaafo zs"l of Mugador warns in many of his writings of the importance of maintaining sanctity, which begins by being careful not too look at anything inappropriate. The eyes see, the heart covets, and the person is spiritually contaminated, Heaven forbid. There are three covenants. The covenant of the eye, as it says, "I have made a treaty to my eyes," and the covenants of the tongue and the "yesod" (the foundation of human existence) which correspond one to another. This is the meaning of our verse, "Yosef is a fruitful son, a fruitful son over the eyes ['alei ayin']." "Alei," which is spelled "ayin" "lamed" "yud" stands for three words - "ayin" - eyes, "lashon" - tongue, and "yesod." All three are dependant upon the eye - "alei ayin" -and one who is careful with his eyes will be saved from all evil!

"Gather and listen, the sons of Yaakov"

Rabbi Yaakov Hadaad zs"l explains that every father, most certainly the father of the entire nation, Yaakov, wants his children united. However, this unison must be on condition: "...and listen to your father, Yisrael." This "ahdut" must be one which leads to the observance of the values of Yaakov, the following of the path of faith. The banner of "the united nation" should not be used as a reason to deviate from the path of Torah and misvot which is our eternal heritage, from one generation to the next.

"And listen to your father, Yisrael"

Rabbi Ovadyah Seforno zs"l explains that Yaakov gathered his children together to tell them, "Listen to your father, Yisrael." In other words, accept upon yourself the path which I have outlined for you all these years, and in this way I will truly be your father, I will maintain my eternal relationship with you and pray for your well-being. Furthermore, Yaakov specified the name, "Yisrael" in this context because he was given that name upon his victory over his enemies, over an attacking angel. He now tells his children that they will enjoy the same success over their enemies if they follow his ways!



Our five senses help us find our way in the world. Vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch - through them a person absorbs information about the outside world and integrates it within his inner world. Most of the information which we absorb from the world reaches us through our eyes. The eyes "film" the world, and they pass these images to the brain which helps us understand and study that which we see. Our eyes are more sophisticated and advanced than any camera ever developed by man. They contain millions of tiny cells which are sensitive to light and can send a million and a half messages to the brain in an instant.

The eye has sensors, tiny cells which are capable of absorbing light. The sharpness of vision of each living creature depends on the density of the sensors in the eyes. In the human eye, for example, each square millimeter contains about 200,000 sensors. The eye of the lion has only 150,000 sensors in each square millimeter.

Eyes in different creatures come in different shapes and forms. Some creatures - like humans - have eyes in the front of the face, others - like birds - have eyes on the sides of the head, while others have eyes on "stems," such as the crab.

The Creator endowed each creature with eyes suitable for its physiological makeup and its behavior. The eyes of most vegetarian mammals such as the giraffe and the zebra are located along the sides of the head. This increases their field of vision and enables them to see their enemies in hiding without having to turn their heads. By contrast, most animals of prey have eyes in the front of their heads so they can accurately identify their prey, calculate the distance between them, and thereby design a plan of attack. Monkeys also need very precise vision in order to grab onto the proper branch and to take hold firmly. Therefore, their eyes, too, are situated in the front of the head.


The Severed Hand (11)

Flashback: The Sultan's brother plotted to take the Sultan's life by having him poisoned by his Jewish doctor, Dr. Shepisser, who was secretly brought into the plot and given a writ of protection signed by the one hundred and twenty rebels. With his wife's advice, Dr. Shepisser turned to the German Consul in Kushta, who then sent the doctor to the palace as his agent.

The Consul's signature opened all the doors for the doctor. When he approached the Sultan, the Sultan was very surprised to see his physician. The doctor decided to use his wit, and said, "I wish to conduct a medical examination. Please have all your servants leave the palace." The order was given, and the two were left by themselves. The doctor said, "Indeed, I came to discuss your health. The life of the Sultan is dear to everybody, and the threat of death has presented itself." The Sultan was very confused and asked, "What are you talking about?" Without saying a word, he presented the Sultan with two documents: first, the letter of the Consul, which described the plot as he had heard from Dr. Shepisser, urging the Sultan to allow the doctor and his family to leave the country as they are now in danger after having revealed the secret, and, secondly, the writ of protection, signed by the one hundred and twenty members of the revolution, headed by the Sultan's own brother.

When the Sultan saw his brother's signature, he recognized it immediately and said, "Yes, yes. I will repay you kindly for this favor which you have done for me. Take twenty thousand gold coins and my chariot will be waiting for you outside the palace to take you and your wife to Fort Triast, where you will take my boat with an armed escort until you arrive safely in your city. You will receive your salary for the rest of your life, only now it will be doubled, and you be paid each month."

The order was given and the doctor left the Sultan. His family joined him and he returned to his hometown, Vienna, where he was appointed Turkish Consul.

The Sultan then turned his attention to avenge those who had plotted to overthrow him...

to be continued...


What Did Yaakov Answer Yosef?

Much has been written about the episode of Yaakov's blessings to Yosef's sons, Efrayim and Menasheh, and the symbolism of Yaakov's placing his right hand over the head of the younger grandson, Efrayim. Here, in this column, we will discuss this event from an educational viewpoint.

The Midrash indicates that Efrayim and Menasheh symbolize two different paths. Menasheh, the oldest, assisted Yosef with governmental affairs. He was the translator when Yosef, the Egyptian viceroy, dealt with his Hebrew brothers. The younger son, Efrayim, never the left the tent of Torah, and, for those seventeen years which Yaakov spent in Egypt, Efrayim studied Torah together with his grandfather.

Which is greater, which is more deserving of the blessing from Yaakov's right hand, wondered Yosef. He figured that Menasheh was more deserving. After all, how difficult is it to be pious dwelling in the secure environment of Torah, spending days and nights in the shadow of Yaakov, the choicest of the forefathers? But to be involved in worldly affairs, proficient in many different languages, among the most talented young diplomats in the palace, an assistant to the viceroy - and still be G-d-fearing, Torah observant, a Jew who carries his heritage with pride, sanctifying the Name of Hashem by the way he conducts himself and surmounting all obstacles which stand in the way of his religious observance - this is greatness, and he deserves the more exalted berachah!

So what was Yaakov's perspective, why did he switch his hands and show preference to Menasheh? Did he disagree with his son's point of view?

Not necessarily. Perhaps he, too, thought that Menasheh was deserving of honor and respect as his challenges are tenfold more difficult than those of his brother. However, Yaakov says, "...his younger brother will be greater than him and his progeny will fill the other nations." Not now, but in the future. You are right, Yosef, Menasheh is deserving of the highest praise. But the guarantee of the continuation of the heritage and the firm educational background of future generations is the path of Efrayim.

We know that many institutions in Europe which diluted Torah education gave rise to generations which gave it all up and left, while the halls of the yeshivot developed the future generations who restored Torah to its glory.

Only deep-rooted, Torah education can guarantee the continuation of our tradition, and therefore Efrayim is given precedence over Menasheh!

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Three sanctuaries (part I)

Aaron: Elucidate, Sir.

Mr. Goodfriend: "The chief divisions of (forbidden) work on the Shabbat are 39" (Shabbat 73a). "These are parallel to the 39 forms of work on the mishkan" (ibid., 49b). In order to erect the Sanctuary of the mishkan, these 39 forms of activity were required; and the Sanctuary of the Shabbat day requires the abstention from these 39 types of activity and all their subdivisions. Just as Shelomo required Menuchah in order to erect the Sanctuary, so we need the Menuchah of the seventh day in order to erect the Sanctuary of the Good Mind.

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