by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YICHI 5768 BS"D
Ch. 48, v. 5: "Efrayim Um'nasheh KiReuvein v'Shimon" - Efrayim and Menasheh like Reuvein and Shimon - If Yaakov's only intention was to give these two grandsons the status of sons, i.e. as tribes, why did he single out Reuvein and Shimon as examples? Simply, we might say that they were the oldest. However, Tzror Hamor says that Yaakov covertly embedded criticism in this comparison. Yaakov was displeased with Reuvein because of the incident with Bilhoh's bed, and with Shimon because of the Sh'chem incident. Similarly he had some level of displeasure with these two grandsons, as we find that he said "mi eileh," explained as, "who are they that they should receive my blessing."
Ch. 48, v. 14: "Si'keil es yodov" - He placed his hands with intention - The Malbi"m says that when Yaakov crisscrossed his hands he placed his left hand above his right. By the priestly blessings the Kohein is supposed to lift his right hand higher than his left hand. Here Yaakov did the opposite so as to at least accord Menasheh, the firstborn, some level of prominence. (This allows for the understanding of KI to simply be "because.")
Ch. 48, v. 14: "Ki Menasheh habchor" - Because Menasheh was the firstborn - The Chizkuni first offers that because Menasheh was the firstborn, Yaakov switched his hands, placing his right one on Efrayim, who was positioned to his left. Because Menasheh was the firstborn Yaakov did not have them switch their positions and not have to crisscross his hands. The firstborn at least deserved to be to the right even though he was to receive a blessing through the left hand.
He then offers that the translation of KI is "even though," as if the verse said "af ki." He cites a few verses where the translation is likewise "af ki." The Riv"o has difficulty with this translation as there are only four translations for KI, "ee, dilmo, ella, d'ho."
Ch. 49, v. 3: "V'reishis oni" - And my first strength - Rashi explains that Reuvein was conceived from Yaakov's first expelling of seed. He had never had an emission before. Paa'nei'ach Rozo notes that "kochi v'reishis oni" has the same numerical value as "shelo ro'oh keri mi'yomiv."
Ch. 49, v. 4: "Pachaz kamayim al tosar" - Swift as water you will not have additional - Rabbi Saadioh Gaon, cited in Ibn Ezra, explains that Reuvein will not merit as extra even something like water, which is for free. Rabbi Avrohom ben hoRambam interprets "pachaz" as "pochus," minimally, even the smallest measure of water. Lekach Tov explains "pachaz" as stiff-willed, based on Iyov 40:17, "Yachpoz z'novo kmo erez."
Ch. 49, v. 4: "Al tosar" - You will not have additional - Note that the beginning of Yaakov's blessings, and Moshe's as well, began with some criticism. Yalkut Reuveini cites the Kanfei Yonoh, who explains that when the blessings of Yaakov and of Moshe were about to commence, a negative power entered the scene and was poised to somehow spoil the blessings. Yaakov and Moshe both sensed this and therefore began with criticism. The negative power thought that he came for naught and left. Then they began their blessings in earnest.
Ch. 49, v. 5: "M'cheiroseihem" -
Rashi: 1) Their weaponry or their bad habit. Abarbanel: 2) Their business thoughts.
Ibn Ezra: 3) Their countenance, 4) or their purchasing, 5) or their digging, 6) or their selling (their souls).
Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh: 7) Their sale of Yoseif.
Ch. 49, v. 8: "Yodcho b'oref oyvecho yishtachavu l'cho bnei ovicho" - Your hand will be at your enemies' nape the sons of your father will bow to you - Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh explains the juxtaposition as referring to King Sho'ul. When your hand will be at your enemies' nape, i.e. when you war with Amoleik, your father's sons, i.e. your brothers, will accord you honour by prostrating themselves in front of you. (Why a reference is made to a Binyomite descendant in the blessing of Yehudoh remains to be clarified.)
The Meshech Chochmoh, running along similar lines, offers that it specifically refers to the tribe of Yehudoh, and not King Sho'ul. As is well known, the bnei Yisroel were commanded to appoint a king and to destroy Amoleik, both shortly after their entry into Eretz Yisroel. Sho'ul waged war with Amoleik, but did not lay to waste all the cattle and sheep. The conscription of soldiers is described in Shmuel 1:15:4 as "200,000 of the "AM" and 10,000 from Yehudoh." When taken to task for leaving the livestock alive, Sho'ul responded that the "AM" had mercy on the livestock. We can derive from this that the tribe of Yehudoh was not included in this group. Since the appointing of a king and the proper destruction of Amoleik are linked it stands to reason that only a one who destroys Amoleik as required will be the king. Sho'ul, by not fulfilling this responsibility, was deposed, and the tribe of Yehudoh, which had no mercy on the livestock became a tribe of kings. This is "yodcho b'oref oyvecho," because Yehudoh will have the proper attitude towards Amoleik, his tribal members will become kings, "yishtachavu l'cho bnei ovicho."
Ch. 49, v. 9: "Gur aryeh" - Lion - What is the difference among gur, aryeh, ari, and lovi?
Ch. 49, v. 17: "Y'hi Don nochosh" - Don will be like a snake - This refers to his descendant Shimshon who fought the Plishtim single-handedly.
1) Most animals, when they attack an adversary, go in groups, but a snake goes alone.
2) Most animals attack when provoked or are seeking prey for sustenance. A snake does it out of hatred of mankind, "v'eivoh oshis." Similarly, Shimshon attacked thePlishtim as an act of revenge.
3) A snake is called "sorof," and Shimshon burned the Plishtim's fields.
4) Just as a snake can be restricted through a vow (chant), so too, Shimshon was restricted through a vow, "Hashbiu li." (Shoftim 15).
5) Just as a snake can have its tail cut off and survive, so too, Shimshon had his arms and legs shakled, and it was only when he had his head shaved that he was weakened.
6) Just as a snake's poisons kills even after it is dead, so too, Shimshon upon his death killed many.
Ch. 50, v. 8: "Rak tapom v'tzonom uvkorom ozvu" - But their babies and their sheep and their cattle they left behind - When was the last time you attended a funeral that was also attended by sheep and cattle? What are these words of our verse conveying? It is telling us that they had no choice but to leave them behind as collateral to ensure their return (just as the babies were left behind). This was surely a concern of the Egyptians as we find Yoseif spelling out that he would return, "v'ek'b'roh es ovi v'OSHUVOH" (verse 5).
Ch. 50, v. 9: "Va'y'hi hamacha'neh ko'veid m'ode" - And the group was very large - This alludes to a celestial group as well, angels who accompanied them to Eretz Yisroel. This was the same group of angels whom Yaakov met upon returning from Lovon. (Rabbeinu Bachyei) According to this insight we might translate "ko'veid" as honourable.
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