JANUARY 5-6. 2007 16 TEBET 5767
"And I have given you one portion more than your brothers." (Beresheet 48:22)
In this week's perashah, Jacob distributes his inheritance among his twelve sons. Instead of giving a double portion to his first-born, Reuben, he gives the double portion to Joseph. The Gemara (Baba Batra 123) explains this unusual decision with a parable. A man once took an orphan into his home and raised him. When the orphan was finally in a position to make a living for himself, he decided, out of gratitude, that he would share his earnings with his foster father. How does this relate to Jacob and Joseph? The Rashbam explains that Joseph is the foster father and Jacob is the orphan! The roles are reversed. This means that Joseph did a great kindness to Jacob to take care of him in Egypt. Therefore Jacob showed his gratitude by giving Joseph an extra share. However, there is an obvious difficulty in the comparison. Jacob was Joseph's father, he brought him up, mourned over his disappearance, rejoiced in the reunion. It is plain to see that all that Joseph did for Jacob was very well deserved by Jacob! It seems that Jacob is very different than the orphan in our parable.
Rabbi Y. Haber explains with an important life-long attitude that we all must develop. There is a great difference of attitude between Jacob and most of us. In America, people are very concerned with their rights. There is a Bill of Rights (which is a good thing to have), but sadikim don't view good things done to them as their right. Jacob would have been completely justified had he taken Joseph's kindness as his due, but he took it as something beyond the call of duty. So he wanted to reward Joseph with the double inheritance.
What can we learn from this? First, it is not conducive to our mental health to brood about what people owe us, since our estimate of people's obligations to us is not usually the same as their estimate. But beyond that, when people do some kindness to us, we should not look at the history of their deed to see if it was more than what they owe us. We should take it as unmerited (which is probably how they consider it anyway) and think about how we can repay them for their kindness. The kindness received by great people always looms larger in their eyes than the favors they have done for others. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
Ya'akob told his sons to come around him so that he could bless them before he left this world. He began by rebuking Reuben for getting involved in his father's conjugal bed. Then he addressed Shimon and Levi, and cursed their anger which was displayed when they destroyed the city of Shechem. The Midrash tells us that Yehudah, who was next on line, shrank back because he was afraid of what his father would say to him, but Ya'akob blessed him instead.
We see from here that a blessing doesn't only mean being praised and having good wishes heaped upon oneself. If someone points out our fault and emphasizes our shortcomings so that we can better ourselves, that is called a blessing. Ya'akob knew that for some of his children, pointing out areas for improvement is the best berachah.
When someone gives us criticism, let's try to see how this can lead us to self improvement. Although it may hurt our feelings somewhat, if we look to better ourselves and are sincerely aiming to improve, we will try to take it constructively, and this will help us change. In the long run, this may be the best berachah! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"By you shall Yisrael bless saying: Hashem shall make you as Efraim and Menashe" (Beresheet 48:20)
Rashi interprets the pasuk above to mean that whoever blesses his sons will bless them with Efraim and Menashe's blessing. Indeed, the standard blessing of father to son is, "Hashem shall make you as Efraim and Menashe." What was unique about these two brothers that so endeared them to Ya'akob? Why do they, from amongst all the tribes, represent the paradigm for blessing?
Rabbi Eleizser Sorotzkin suggests the following reason. Although the tribes were unique in their fear of Heaven, they were regrettably hampered by strife and discord. The brothers' jealousy of Yosef caused tragedy and misfortune. When Ya'akob conferred blessing upon Efraim, the younger brother, Menashe, demonstrated no envy. Only Yosef took issue with Ya'akob's blessing the younger one prior to the older one. Indeed, when Yosef interceded on behalf of Menashe, Efraim did not take offense. When Ya'akob noticed the harmonious relationship exhibited by these two brothers, the mutual respect and esteem in which they held one another, he chose them for blessing. First and foremost in the heart and mind of every parent is that their children maintain relationships in which they are each devoted to the other. (Peninim on the Torah)
"Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days" (Beresheet 49:1)
Ya'akob wanted to reveal to his children the time of Mashiah's coming. However, the Shechinah departed from him and he began to speak about another matter. If it was proper to reveal the coming of the Mashiah, why did the Shechinah leave him? If it was prohibited, why did Ya'akob want to do this?
The Gemara (Shabbat 30b) states that the Shechinah reveals itself to a person only when he is in a joyous and happy spirit, not saddened and grieving.
If Ya'akob was ready to reveal the time of the coming of Mashiah, obviously it was permissible. However, as he was about to reveal it, he saw the extreme pains and suffering that the Jewish people will endure in the future, prior to the revelation of Mashiah. This caused Ya'akob much grief and thus the Shechinah withdrew from him.
The Gemara Sanhedrin (97a) says that Mashiah will come "behesach hada'at" - when the Jewish people are distracted from thinking about redemption. Had Ya'akob revealed the time of Mashiah's revelation, would not the Jewish people eagerly await him and not cease thinking about him?
Obviously "hesach hada'at" does not mean not being mindful of Mashiah. If it did, how could we justify Jews saying daily, "Every day I anticipate his coming," which is based on Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of faith?
Therefore, we must conclude that "hesach hada'at" means a state of mind when our limited comprehension and understanding will not be able to find a rationale or worthiness of the generation for Mashiah to reveal himself. Nevertheless, the merit of our strong emunah and faith in the revelation of Mashiah will cause his speedy coming. (Vedibarta Bam)
"And Yosef died at the age of 110 years" (Beresheet 50:26)
A few pesukim earlier it is written "Yosef lived 110 years." Why does the Torah repeat that Yosef died at the age of 110?
When Yosef was 30 years old, he was appointed viceroy over the land of Egypt. Pharaoh changed the name of Yosef to Safnat Paneah. However, nowhere do we find that Yosef used this name. Moreover, in the same pasuk it is written, "And Yosef went out over the land of Egypt" (41:45).
Yosef knew very well that one of the things that would help him maintain his identity and keep him close to Judaism was his original Jewish name. Therefore, despite Pharaoh's giving him an Egyptian name, he made every effort to be called Yosef. The Torah emphasizes that up to the very last day of his life, he lived and died with his Jewish name, Yosef. (Vedibarta Bam)
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