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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Vayechi

A Passing Shadow

"Did you see that, Avi?"

"What, Chaim?"

"Here it comes again! Take a good look."


The two boys watch as a sparrow streaks past them.

"Wow! That bird is flying very fast."

"Did you see his shadow?"

"His shadow? How can you see a bird's shadow? He moves too quickly. You can see the shadow of a wall, or a tree. They are stationary and only move slowly, as the sun moves through the sky. But the shadow of a bird moves as fast as the bird. How can you see it?"

* * *

"The time approached for Israel to die" (Bereshis 47:29). The Medrash Rabba (96:2) comments on the beginning of the parasha. "Our days on earth are like a shadow" (Divrei HaYamim 29:15). Oh, they should be like the shadow of a wall or a tree! Rather they are like the shadow of a flying bird. Life passes so quickly. Eighty or ninety years may seem like a long time. However, it is nothing compared to eternity. Our time in this world is so limited.

"Yaakov lived in the land of Mitzraim seventeen years" (Bereshis 47:28). Rav Zalman Sorotzkin comments that the verse uses the word "lived", even though Yaakov was about to die. Similarly, after Sara died, the verse uses the word "life" when speaking about her (Bereshis 23:1). Why is the death of tsaddikim referred to as life? Because their real life begins after they leave this world. They spend their years on this earth working hard, gathering mitzvos. The main reward for these mitzvos only comes in the next world. Then they have an eternity to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Kinderlach . . .

Your whole life is ahead of you. What will you do with it? What will you accomplish? Nobody lives forever. But the soul never dies. The life of the body is like a passing shadow. In a flash, it's over. You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gather all of the mitzvos that you can. Pack them in. You won't regret it. You will enjoy the fruits of your labors forever and ever and ever.

All the Blessings

What are we striving for? What is our goal in life? To get close to Hashem. To do His will, and bask in the glow of His Shechina (Holy Presence). This is a relationship that will last forever, bringing us eternal pleasure and reward. What is the best blessing that someone can receive? A blessing for success in accomplishing this goal. This is precisely the blessing that Yaakov Avinu gave to Yosef's sons - Ephraim and Menashe. "Hashem Who guided my forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak before Him; Hashem, who shepherds me from my inception until this day: May the angel who saves me from all evil bless the lads" (Bereshis 48:15-16)].

The Abarbanel relates that there are three main blessings that a person gives to his fellow man. Firstly, he should go straight along the path of spiritual success. Secondly, he should be blessed with the material means to pursue Avodas Hashem without interference. Thirdly, he should be saved from all tragedies. Yaakov gave these very same blessings to Ephraim and Menashe. "Hashem Who guided my forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak before Him." This is the first blessing; that one should be guided along the path of Avodas Hashem. As the verse states about Avraham Avinu "Walk before Me and be perfect" (Bereshis 17:1). The second blessing is expressed in the next words of Yaakov Avinu. "Hashem, who shepherds me from my inception ('mayodi') until this ('hazzeh') day". The gematria of the word "mayodi" is 130. Hashem provided parnassa (livelihood) for Yaakov Avinu 130 years of his life until he came to Mitzraim. "Hazzeh" has a gematria of seventeen. Yosef, the shaliach (agent) of Hashem provided for Yaakov and his sons the last 17 years of his life in Mitzraim. The third blessing is the one given to "kal ha'nearim" (all of the young boys) on Simchas Torah. "May the angel who saves me from all evil bless the lads". These three blessings include everything, and are appropriate for anyone at any time.

Kinderlach . . .

Blessings are wonderful. We should all give and receive many of them. When you see a friend, give him a blessing! "May Hashem bless you with all good things!" When you go to a simcha (joyous event), bless the baal simcha (host). "May Hashem bless you with many more simchas!" You may see that blessings are infectious. People may begin to bless you. Always answer "amen" to their blessings. Lastly, pray to Hashem for His blessings. He can help you and bless you the most. Kinderlach, may you always merit many, many blessings!

What's In A Name?

"May the angel who redeems me from all evil bless the boys, and may they be called by my name and the names of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, and may they multiply abundantly like fish within the land" (Bereshis 48:16). This is the blessing that Yaakov gave to his two grandsons, Efraim and Menashe. It is so beautiful that we say it every night before we go to sleep. What is good about being named after Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov? The Sforno explains that tsaddikim do not name their children after evil ancestors, like Terach and Nachor. And the opposite is also true. A wicked person, even though he has righteous ancestors, will name his child after one of his evil ancestors. Therefore, Yaakov Avinu blessed Efraim and Menashe that they should always be ready to do Hashem's will, and they should receive Siyata Dishmaya (Heavenly Assistance) to succeed. In this way, they will be fit to show their relationship to their righteous ancestors, Avraham and Yitzchak.

Kinderlach . . .

What's in a name? A blessing. When we receive the name of a tsaddik or a tsadekes, we know that our parents care about us and love us very much. They are observing Hashem's Torah and Mitzvos, just like their grandfather or great-uncle did. And they want their newborn baby to be a tsaddik just like he was. So they give the baby his name. Isn't that beautiful? This is Yaakov Avinu's blessing to all of us. May we all be tsaddikim and tsidkonios and therefore merit to be named after, and name our children after righteous ancestors.

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