CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS VA'YICHI 5773 - BS"D
1) Ch. 47, v. 28: "Sheva shonim v'arbo'im u'm'as shonoh" - Seven years and forty and one-hundred years - Rashi comments on the years of Soroh's life (Breishis 23:1) that her one-hundred years are compared to her twenty years, and her twenty years are compared to her seven years. This is because the word "years" is mentioned three times. Here we have the word "years" only twice. Taamo Dikro offers that it is left out once because there is no comparison of years to years for beauty for a man, as per the gemara Kesubos 59. However, this seems problematic, as we find "years" by Avrohom three times, and a comparison of his being sinless by all three. If so, we are left with the question, "Why is the term 'years' only mentioned two times by Yaakov?"
2) Ch. 47, v. 28: "Va'yichi Yaakov" - And Yaakov lived -Rabbeinu Bachyei notes that "va'yichi" has the numeric value of 34. Yaakov had a pleasant life for 34 years, the 17 years from the birth of Yoseif until Yoseif was sold, and the final 17 years of his life. Why weren't the years before Yoseif's birth just as pleasant?
3) 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?
4) Ch. 48, v. 14: "Si'keil es yodov" - He placed his hands with intention - When Yaakov crisscrossed his hands, which was the upper, the right or the left?
5) Ch. 48, v. 15: "HoElokim asher his'halchu avosai l'fonov" - Elokim Whom my forefathers have brought themselves to walk in front of Him - Why is this prelude used to express the blessing he was bestowing upon Efrayim and Menasheh?
Perhaps we can answer that it is left out by the count of forty years because at that age Yaakov was not sin free. He was not fulfilling the mitzvoh of honouring his parents then. Another possibility is because he was still single at that age. (Nirreh li)
Yaakov had the lingering fear of Eisov in the back of his mind, but once Yoseif was born he knew that Eisov would be overpowered (see Rashi on Breishis 35:20).
Simply, we might say that they were the oldest. 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."
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.")
An offering from Sedrah Selections parshas Noach 5759 is brought to explain this:
<< Ch. 6, v. 9: "Es HoElokim his'haleich Noach" - Rashi contrasts this with Avrohom Avinu about whom it says in 17:1 "His'haleich l'fonei." Rashi explains that Noach needed support in his pursuit of Hashem. However, Avrohom was greater than Noach and did not require Hashem's support. We know that Noach was unsuccessful in persuading his generation to repent and serve Hashem properly. Avrohom, on the other hand, was very influential in bringing people closer to Hashem and fulfilling their seven mitzvos. With this we have another interpretation of the contrast that Rashi points out. Noach only walked "ES HoElokim," WITH Hashem. This means that where there was holiness present, Noach could function. However, he was not successful in bringing holiness to a place that was devoid of holiness. Avrohom Avinu brought holiness to places that were even devoid of Kedusha. "Hishaleich l'fonai," walk in front of Me. This means Avrohom could bring holiness in FRONT of Me, even into a place where there is no holiness, he was able to influence people whose lives were otherwise devoid of Hashem, to serve Him.>>
Similarly, we find Avrohom's servant Eliezer relating that his master said that he would be successful in finding an appropriate wife for Yitzchok in Padan Aram, a place devoid of Torah-true spirituality in the merit of "asher his'halachti l'fonov …… v'hitzliach darkecho" (Breishis 24:40). We can likewise explain this as a "midoh k'neged midoh" response. Just as Avrohom brought G-dliness to areas devoid of spirituality, likewise He would bring success in the endeavour of finding a woman who created an environment of spirituality in the spiritual vacuum of Padan Aram.
We can likewise say here that the blessing Yaakov gave Efrayim and Menasheh was predicated upon the same merit of his Patriarchs. Just as they acted in this vein, so too, Efrayim and Menasheh, who grew up in spiritually starved Egypt, should have blessings bestowed upon them in the merit of their forefathers, who also created spirituality in a vacuum. (Nirreh li)
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