by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YICHI 5772 BS"D
Ch. 47, v. 28: "Va'yichi Yaakov" - And Yaakov lived - This parsha should have begun one verse earlier, with "Va'yeishev Yisroel b'eretz Mitzrayim b'eretz Goshen," but then the previous parsha would have ended with "al admas Mitzrayim l'Pharoh," which has a strongly negative connotation. (Rashbam)
Ch. 47, v. 28: "Va'yichi Yaakov" - And Yaakov lived - Rashi comments that this parsha is "s'sumoh," closed, meaning that there is no normal gap between it and the previous parsha. This is because when Yaakov gathered his sons he wanted to disclose the time of the redemption to them and Hashem did not want this, so He "jammed" Yaakov's spiritual signals and he was unable to do so. Rabbeinu Bachyei explains this slightly differently. The basis of what he says can be found in Targum Yonoson ben Uziel. Yaakov calculated all the letters of the names of his sons and noted that there was neither a letter Ches nor a letter Tes among them. This indicated that they had no sin. He then felt that they were deserving of knowing when the redemption would take place. He further calculated that there were also no letters Kuf nor TZadi, which form the word "KeiTZ," the end - the redemption. He then decided to not tell them. This blockage of information (not heavenly interference as per Rashi) is alluded to in the parsha beginning with no earlier gap.
Ch. 47, v. 29: "Im noh motzosi chein b'ei'necho …… al noh sik'b'reini b'Mitzroyim" - If please I have found favour in your eyes …… please don't bury me in Egypt - If Yaakov was so dead set (no pun intended) on not being buried in Egypt, why didn't he simply express it as a command, and it would thus be binding from the point of "kibud av," rather than asking for a favour, as is expressed in our verse? Yaakov gained from this approach since if he would command his son, then it would be a mitzvoh which has certain parameters. Firstly, even if Yoseif were to swear that he would fulfill his father's command, the vow would not be binding (according to many halacha authorities) as he is bound by the Torah mitzvoh. Secondly, there is a limitation to fulfill a positive command, to not expend more than a fifth of one's assets, as is stated in Sh.O. O.Ch. #656 (It would seem that he doesn't have to expend even a prutoh of his own funds when it comes to honouring one's parents.) or to put himself out in a dangerous situation, i.e. Paroh's possible extreme displeasure, which he indeed encountered and only won him over with an interesting strategy mentioned in the gemara Sotoh. Now that the vow was binding, not fulfilling it carries the responsibility, if necessary, of expending all of one's funds to avoid transgressing.
Ch. 47, v. 29: "V'ossiso imodi chesed ve'emes al noh sik'b'reini b'Mitzroyim" - And you shall do with me kindness and truth please don't bury me in Egypt - Rashi comments that the kindness that is done to the deceased is "chesed shel emes." This is most puzzling as earlier in 24:49 Eliezer says to the prospective mechutonim, "Im yesh'chem osim chesed ve'emes es adoni," a request for cooperation with a shiduch, nothing to do with a deceased. The Sifsei Chachomim asks this and answers that the intention of Rashi is not limited to kindness bestowed on a deceased person, but rather, just as it is obvious that a deceased person cannot pay back the kindness, similarly, any kindness that carries with it no expectation of a payback is also "chesed shel emes."
Ch. 48, v. 10: "V'einei Yisroel kovdu mizoken" - And Yisroel's eyes weakened from old age - Just as Yaakov impersonated Eisov when Yitzchok's eyes did not function well, so too, Yaakov's son Yoseif switched the positions of Efrayim and Menasheh when Yaakov's eyes were very weak. (Baal Haturim)
Ch. 48, v. 20: "Va'yosem es Efrayim lifnei Menasheh" - And he placed Efrayim ahead of Menasheh - Efrayim symbolizes the person who devotes himself to total immersion in Torah study, as Efrayim was the grandson of Yaakov who studied Torah with him. Menasheh symbolizes the person who is involved in business, as he was Yoseif's appointee to do numerous different types of governmental tasks. Yaakov's blessing is that the nation Yisroel should bless their children to be like Efrayim in Torah study involvement and have the financial means to subsist, like Menasheh. However, he placed Efrayim ahead of Menasheh, a clear message that involvement in Torah study is the priority and main pursuit, as per the mishnoh in Pirkei Ovos, "A'sei Toros'cho keva." (Chid"o, Chasam Sofer)
Ch. 48, v. 20: "Va'yosem es Efrayim lifnei Menasheh" - And he placed Efrayim ahead of Menasheh - Another insight into this blessing is offered by the Ksav Sofer, which sets a different tone to the blessing. A preface of two questions: Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that this blessing is bestowed on tEe day of circumcision. What indication is there in the blessing that it refers to this particular time? Since Yaakov placed Efrayim ahead of Menasheh in the blessing, why would he add that the blessing also encompass Menasheh, which is a lesser level?
In general people devote their main efforts either to pursuit iof Torah knowledge and mitzvos or to pursuit of a comfortable livelihood. One should aim to inculcate into his children the pursuit of Torah. This doesn't always come to fruition and when one sees that his child finds that he cannot so totally devote himself to Torah study then he should guide him to pursue a livelihood, and imbue the child to work honestly, to set aside charity, to spend a bit of time in Torah study, etc. this is Menasheh after Efrayim.
We can know understand the intent of Targum Yonoson ben Uziel. When a child is already a young adult we are not at the juncture of life where the two-path blessing is applicable, as he has already chosen one over the other. It is when he is first indoctrinated into Jewish sanctity by being circumcised and has not yet chosen a path that we invoke this blessing.
Ch. 49, v. 1: "Asher yika es'chem b'acharis ha'yomim" - Which will happen to you at the end of days - Since "yikra means "will happen," why isn't it spelled with a letter Hei? The letter Alef seems to indicate that "He will CALL you." Indeed they are one and the same. That which will happen is Hashem "calling," sending a message. The challenge is to be attuned and listen and to react properly.
The Holy Pshevorsker Rebbe of Antwerp said that after 120 years of life he will be asked, "Why didn't you do this or why did you do this." Would he respond that he didn't realize that he was faulty in either action or inaction he would surely get the rejoinder: "I sent you a toothache, indigestion, a headache, etc. Why did it suffice to see a doctor, take a medicine, or some other modality, and not take to heart that something was spiritually amiss and these were small messages to correct yourself?" (Rabbi Y.Z. Pollack)
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