DECEMBER 28-29, 2001 14 TEBET 5762
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died on me" (Beresheet 48:7)
Yosef visited Ya'akob in Goshen and was asked by Ya'akob to make sure that he is buried in Israel. After Yosef returned from Goshen Ya'akob became ill. When Yosef was informed he brought his two sons to be blessed. The blessing included a major change in the composition of the Jewish people. Ya'akob elevated Menasheh and Efraim to the status of his own sons, thereby transferring to Yosef a double portion of the inheritance. Ya'akob removed the firstborn status from the tribe of Reuben and gave it to Yosef. There is an unusual departure in the order of events. As Ya'akob is telling Yosef that he will receive a double portion, he digresses to the untimely death of Rachel and tells Yosef that he buried her on the road instead of in Hebron where it would have been preferred. But, it was upon orders from Hashem, not his own idea. He then returns to the business of Yosef's children. Why the change of subject now? Rabbi Shalom Schwadron answers that Ya'akob is providing a critical piece of information that was needed at that point. Ya'akob is telling Yosef the main factor that is the focal point of the transfer of the firstborn right from Reuben to Yosef. When Rachel died Ya'akob moved in with Rachel's servant Bilhah. Reuben, in an impetuous frame of mind, defends his mother's honor and moves Ya'akob's bed into Leah's tent. That rash move cost him the birthright. Now Ya'akob tells Yosef why he merited to take over. Many years ago Rachel passed away and Ya'akob made the unusual move to bury her by the roadside instead of in the Me'arat Hamachpelah. Ya'akob now says, "I am sure that this has bothered you for years, but I never heard a comment from you about it. You never protested for your mother's honor, never became angry. Do you want to know why your two sons will be equal to my sons? It is because Rachel passed away and you didn't show your anger."
My friends, patience and cool-headedness are not virtues; they are a must! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
The midrash tells us that when Ya'akob's family took his coffin to the Me'arat Hamachpelah to bury him, Esav appeared and protested that the last spot in the cave belongs to him, Esav, and not to Ya'akob. The sons of Ya'akob began to argue with Esav, trying to prove that the right to burial in that cave was sold to their father with the birthright. Esav argues that this was not included, so they decided to send Naftali, who was as swift as a deer, to Egypt to bring the original document. Ya'akob had a grandson named Hushim (the son of Dan) who was deaf, and didn't hear all the give and take. When Hushim saw that Ya'akob was not being buried he asked (in some form of sign language), "Why is there a delay?" When he was told that Esav was blocking the burial, he took a weapon and chopped Esav's head off, saying, "How could we leave our grandfather, Ya'akob, lying in disgrace while we wait for a document?"
The Rabbis ask why only Hushim, the grandson of Ya'akob, had the inspiration to do such a courageous act. Where were all the sons of Ya'akob themselves? Surely they loved and respected their father at least as much as Hushim ben Dan!
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz says that we see from here what happens when we get used to something. The brothers were already involved in the negotiations with Esav so they didn't perceive it as such a disgrace for Ya'akob to be lying around since they were already somewhat accustomed to the situation. Hushim, however, was deaf, and didn't hear all that was going on. He therefore saw the situation in all of its stark reality, and reacted by killing Esav.
The lesson to be derived from this is that we all too often get accustomed to situations. Many times this is beneficial, so that we wouldn't always be shocked by things. Sometimes, however, being used to certain situations, we don't react the way we are supposed to. We become too accepting of things which should be corrected or spoken about. We should try to talk things over with an outsider who will see the situation from a fresh point of view, thereby getting an objective opinion. Sometimes, our spouse can be objective enough when he or she is not involved too deeply in whatever is bothering us. One way or another we should try to look at situations from a new, fresh perspective, which will help us in doing the right thing. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi David Maslaton
"And Yosef's brothers saw that their father was dead and they said: 'Perhaps Yosef has hatred against us....'" (Beresheet 50:15)
Our Sages question the Shebatim's fear of Yosef upon the death of Ya'akob; did they think that Yosef would now hate them because their father died? The Rabbis answer that on the way back from Ya'akob's funeral, Yosef stopped at the pit into which his brothers had thrown him. He recited there the special berachah that is said upon returning to the site where a personal miracle occurred. Not knowing this, the Shebatim suspected that Yosef had gone to the pit to remember the incident and to nurse his hatred towards his brothers over it. They confronted Yosef, requesting forgiveness in the name of their father. Yosef responded: "Do not be afraid; am I instead of G-d? Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good...to keep a vast people alive." (Beresheet 50:19-20) Yosef went to great lengths to convince his brothers that he did not harbor any hatred towards them. He told them that the entire incident was the will of G-d and that tremendous benefit resulted from it. "And he spoke to their hearts" (Beresheet 50:21), telling them that he had only to gain from their presence and he would never harm them.
One who studies this topic will realize that Yosef suffered terribly at the hands of his brothers. Despite this, when they approached him for forgiveness, he was most gracious about it. Instead of the brothers appeasing Yosef, he ended up appeasing them, telling them he had nothing to forgive them for. By nature, a person feels that if he gives in to his friend, he has lost to him. In fact, the opposite is true. One who submits in an argument can never lose. This is alluded to in the amidah (silent prayer). For the duration of the amidah, the person stands before G-d as stiff and still as a soldier before his king, He makes all his requests in this manner. Let us analyze, however, the last berachah (blessing), which is the blessing of peace. One must bow down and take three steps backward and then three steps forward. For peace, a person must be willing to bend, and even to step back. To make peace, one cannot stand stiffly in his place, maintaining his side of the argument. Only when one is willing to compromise, to bend and step away, is the goal of peace achieved. Lest it appear that he has lost the argument, do not be fooled; in the same manner that we end the amidah by taking three steps forward, a person who gives in will never lose. By giving in and going backwards, he is assuring himself of going forwards.
Look at your hand. When you straighten it out, all the fingers are different lengths, some longer and some shorter. However, when your fingers are bent, they are all the same size. There is a lesson to be learned: peace cannot be had when everyone stands his ground. Only when each person bends and gives in and strives for equality and fairness can peace be achieved. When Ya'akob Abinu wished to reveal the time of the coming of Mashiah, he told his children: "Gather yourselves together and I will tell you..." (Beresheet 49:1) Ya'akob was not merely going to tell them when Mashiah would come, but also how Mashiah would come. He taught them that when they would all gather together, they would be worthy of the redemption. Let us learn from Yosef, that even if someone truly wronged us, we should find it within ourselves to forgive. Let us work at stepping backwards to make peace in order to come together to greet Mashiah, speedily in our time, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.
This week's Haftarah: Melachim I 2:1-12
This haftarah tells about the end of Kind David's life, when he gave instructions to his son and successor, Shelomo, to be carried out after David's death. This is similar to our perashah in which Ya'akob gathers his children around him and blesses them before his passing.
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