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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Then he fell upon his brother Binyamin's neck and wept. (45:14)

Rashi explains that Yosef cried over the two Batei Mikdash that would stand in Binyamin's portion in Eretz Yisrael, which would be destroyed. We have no idea of the value of a Jewish tear - especially if it is shed for the destruction of our Sanctuaries. To emphasize this verity, Horav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, relates that he once had to render a halachic decision concerning the will of an elderly Jewess who had singled out one of her grandchildren, a young woman, by bequeathing her ten thousand dollars. At the time, this was an exorbitant amount of money. What seemed to stun everyone was the fact that this one grandchild had received a single gift that by far exceeded the bequests of the other grandchildren. After awhile, and after much searching, they discovered a letter written by the elderly grandmother which explained her decision. It seems that during a family gathering, the grandmother had related to her grandchildren her experiences and the travail that she had endured during the terrible Holocaust years. While all of the grandchildren were moved by her life story, this one granddaughter began to weep. This display of emotion and sensitivity to her anguish moved the grandmother to the extent that she bestowed on her this extra gift.

If tears for human pain can have such an impact upon a human being, how much more so can tears which are shed for a lack of kavod Shomayim, for the glory of Heaven which has been diminished as a result of the destruction of the Sanctuaries and the ensuing exile, have an eternal effect in Heaven. Hashem saves every tear and values it greatly. One day, these tears will hasten our redemption.

He (Yosef) then kissed his brothers ands wept upon them. (45:15)

Yosef seems to be a baal bechi, one who is often reduced to tears. In the previous parsha, we find a number of times in which he had been forced to leave the room, lest he begin to cry in front of his brothers. In this parsha, the revelation of his identity was accompanied by much weeping. This seems to continue on into Parshas Vayechi. What are we to learn from all this? Horav Zalman Sorotzkin, zl, explains that one who is the victim of much anguish, whose companion in life is agony and persecution, whose burdens and troubles are overwhelming, weeps frequently even during his moments of peace, tranquility and harmony. This is because he is sensitive to -- and is pained by -- the troubles of others. On the other hand, the brothers, who did not sustain the burdens that were so integral to Yosef's life, did not cry even when tears were appropriate. They were just not forthcoming. Yosef was used to crying. Indeed, his concern and sentiment towards others are what catalyzed his rise to greatness.

Yosef was an individual who put another person's needs before his own. At least, he was sensitive to the needs of another person as if they were his own. The Torah teaches us that when Yaakov Avinu and Yosef were finally reunited, Yosef "appeared to him." Rashi explains that Yosef appeared to his father. Horav Leib Chasman, zl, explains that the meeting between father and son after all these years was truly an emotional one. Yaakov had waited for twenty-two years, mourning and weeping for his special son. Yosef's love was certainly reciprocal. He waited longingly to see his father before it would be too late. They each had an agenda. The Torah tells us that despite Yosef's compelling emotions, he deferred to his father and gave him the opportunity to view him and derive the maximum pleasure from the meeting. Yosef remained passive so that his father could experience the greatest enjoyment. He wanted his father to see him, so that he could fully enjoy what had eluded him for these past years.

It was not just Yosef who had this unique character trait. It seems that this was a family trait. Chazal tell us that Binyamin, Yosef's brother, had ten sons. Rashi explains that each son had a name that in some way alluded to his missing brother, Yosef. Interestingly, one of the sons was called Chuppim, a derivative of the word chuppah, marriage canopy. Binyamin gave his son a name that expressed his grief over Yosef not being able to participate in his chuppah. Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, derives from here that being unable to join in a brother's chuppah is a tragedy for which it is worth naming a son. What was the source of this incredible sensitivity for one another? It was their mother, Rachel Imeinu. She was concerned that her sister not be humiliated. Consequently, she assisted her sister in marrying the man whom she thought would become her husband. This selflessness and sensitivity were transmitted through her genes to her two sons. They had not seen each other for twenty-two years . Yet, when they met, their tears were not for themselves, but, rather, for the Batei Mikdash and the Mishkan that would be destroyed in their respective portions of Eretz Yisrael.

Indeed, this is the innate nature of man. In his preface to the Ketzos HaChoshen, the Kunteres HaSefeikos cites the Mahari Muskato,zl, who says that "if a human being could possibly ascend to Heaven and gaze at the Divine beauty and order of the Heavenly Hosts, he still would not be satisfied with this incredible revelation unless he could relate this wondrous sight to his friends." He adds that everyone wants to share the knowledge that he acquires with his friends. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz posits that this desire to share is not a negative trait, but an inherently positive aspect of the human psyche. One does not derive complete satisfaction unless he is able to share his newly- found wisdom with his friend. How often do we learn a penetrating dvar Torah or develop a novel Torah thought and immediately seek to share it with someone?

This type of sensitivity for another Jew has been the hallmark of our gedolim, Torah leaders. The story is told that Horav Avraham Pam, zl, was once asked by a man for assistance in resolving his financial problems. He was in need of a large sum of money in order to return to his original financial position. Rav Pam listened sympathetically and then wrote the man a check. The man began to weep profusely, as he begged the Rosh Yeshiva to phone his talmidim, students, to ask them to contribute to his check. Rav Pam apologized, saying that he had just called upon them to aid in another matter, and he simply could not do it again.

The man accepted this reason and thanked Rav Pam for his help. A short time later, a talmid came in to speak with the Rosh Yeshiva and noticed that his rebbe was going through a roll of index cards and crying. "Rebbe, what is it about the index cards that is making the Rebbe cry?" he asked.

"I just sent a man away empty-handed, because I could not help him. He asked me to call my well-to-do talmidim and implore them to help him. I told him I could not do it. I just went through the index cards to see if maybe there was possibly someone I could ask, but, alas, there is no one."

"But why is the Rebbe crying?" the talmid asked again.

"I am crying because he was crying. How could I not cry, if another Jew is in pain?"

This is the type of love that Rav Pam had for every Jew. It was a love borne of a personality who was sensitive to the needs of his fellow Jews, of a character who was not satisfied unless he shared what he had with his fellow.

Horav Yissachar Frand, Shlita, tells the story of the Z'vilerRebbe, Horav Gedaliah Moshe Goldman, who was interred in a Siberian labor camp during World War II. It was a miserable, back-breaking experience, but at least the one solace was that it was not a Nazi extermination camp. One Shabbos, the commandant summoned both the Rebbe and another Jew, a frail, old man, to his office. "You are both free to go. All you have to do is sign these papers and go," he said.

Rav Gedaliah Moshe reached for the papers and stopped. How could he write on Shabbos? True, it was a release, but could he desecrate the holy Shabbos? After all, as bad as it was, it was not life-threatening. He was young and strong. Even if he would be detained there for a few more years, he would survive.

"No, I am sorry, sir. While I appreciate your kind gesture, I cannot desecrate my Shabbos," the Rebbe replied.

"Are you insane?" the commandant screamed. " I am granting you freedom. How can you waste such an opportunity?"

"I understand and appreciate your kindness, but it is my day of rest. I may not write."

"If you do not sign, you will rot in this place," the commandant responded with disgust. He then pushed the papers to the old Jew and said, "Okay, now, you sign the release papers."

"I am afraid that I cannot sign either. The same law applies to me," the old man said.

"You two are both insane," the commandant said in disgust and retrieved the papers.

"Wait!" said Rav Gedaliah Moshe. "I will sign his papers. Let him go free."

"I do not understand. You just told me that you cannot write on Shabbos. Yet, you are willing to sign his papers. Have you taken total leave of your senses? Why are his papers different from yours?"

"There is a major difference," the Rebbe explained. "I am young and strong. I can survive here. He, on the other hand, is old and weak. He will not make it. Therefore, if he is not prepared to sign, I will sign for him."

The commandant was so impressed by this act of selflessness that he allowed them both to leave without demanding their signatures.

The Rebbe demonstrated sensitivity at its zenith.

And they told him, saying, "Yosef is still alive"…then the spirit of their father Yaakov was revived.

Targum Onkelos interprets the phrase, "then the spirit of their father Yaakov Avinu was revived," to mean that the Divine Spirit which had left Yaakov twenty-two years ago had returned. This is because Yaakov was in a state of depression due to mourning for his lost son, Yosef. Now that he had heard the wonderful news that he was still alive, the Divine Spirit could return to him. We wonder why Hashem did not reveal to Yaakov that Yosef was alive. We understand that until Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, there was a "prohibition" against divulging to Yaakov anything regarding Yosef's whereabouts. Now that Yosef had disclosed the truth about himself to his brothers, however, why did Yaakov have to wait until his sons returned to hear the wonderful news? It seems that Hashem specifically wanted the brothers to be the bearers of the news. Why?

The Ozrover Rebbe, zl, explains that since the brothers had caused Yaakov so much grief, it was necessary that they be the ones to engender the good feeling that Yosef's being alive would generate. This good feeling would increase Yaakov's love for his sons and affirm his relationship with them. Thus, the good news that they shared made up for the bad news they had conveyed twenty-two years earlier.

Perhaps we might add another reason. In order to perform teshuvah properly, one must be sensitive to the negative consequences of his sin. Only after one realizes the evil that he wrought, can he properly offer penance. When the brothers saw the incredible joy that overcame their father when he heard that Yosef was still alive, they were able to comprehend and sensitize themselves to the pain he had experienced as a result of Yosef's loss. Until they understood and felt the terrible pain that Yaakov had suffered, they could not perform the teshuvah necessary to expunge their sin. When they saw Yaakov's joy, they could ascertain his pain and repent accordingly.

He sent Yehudah ahead of him to Yosef, to prepare ahead of him in Goshen. (46:28)

Rashi cites the Midrash which interprets the word l'horos, which means to teach, implying that Yehudah was sent by Yaakov on a mission to establish a house of study. Hence, Yehudah was the first Rosh Yeshivah in Jewish history. He set the precedent and the standard for others to emulate. Why was he, as opposed to the other brothers, selected for this lofty mission? What qualities did he exhibit that rendered him more suitable than the others? Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, posits that it was Yehudah's ability to be moser nefesh, his devotion to the point of self-sacrifice, that earned him the role of Rosh Yeshivah. Yehudah was the brother who did not permit his brothers to leave Yosef in the pit, but rather insisted that they sell him. He was the one that put his security aside and stood up to Yosef, after he came forward, and offered himself as areiv, guarantor, for Binyamin. It was Yehudah who, after discovering that the wagons which Pharaoh sent to fetch Yaakov had the name of an idol etched on them, burned the wagons. Yehudah seems to have had a reservoir of self-sacrifice.

In order to direct a yeshivah, actually, any Torah-oriented organization or institution, one must have within him the ability to be moser nefesh. He must have the fortitude to stand resolute in the face of the winds of change which seek to undermine and usurp Torah authority. He must know from whom he may accept contributions, and from whom these contributions will come with strings attached. Last, he must know when it is necessary to close the yeshivah to prevent incursion or strife from taking it down.

Rav Shternbuch relates that he heard that in the yeshivah in Krinick, Lithuania, which was under the guidance of Horav Zalman Sender Shapiro, zl, there was a talmid, student, who fell prey to the misguided philosophy of the Haskalah movement. Rav Zalman Sender wanted to eject this student from the yeshivah. Regrettably, this young man had rallied the support of a number of members of the student body, and it seemed that his popularity was spreading. The disease of Haskalah was mestastizing throughout the portals of the yeshivah. As a last resort, Rav Zalman Sender sent a telegram to Horav Chaim Soloveitchik, zl, seeking his counsel. Rav Chaim immediately sent back a telegram that was comprised of three chilling words: "Close the yeshivah." Rav Zalman Sender immediately closed the yeshivah.

It is related that when Horav Chaim Volozhiner, zl, was about to open a Yeshivah, he approached his revered rebbe, the Gaon, zl, m'Vilna, and expounded passionately about his goals and objectives in making the yeshivah. He used great detail to explain the multi-faceted curriculum and the type of scholar it would produce. The Gaon listened, saying nothing. Rav Chaim understood this to be a negative response. He did not open the yeshivah. A few years went by, and Rav Chaim returned to the Gaon once again to seek his advice regarding his proposed yeshivah. This time, the Gaon said, "Certainly, open the yeshivah as soon as possible." Rav Chaim was taken aback, and he asked, "Rebbe, why is this time different than the previous time when I asked concerning opening a yeshivah?"

The Gaon replied, "One who makes a yeshivah may not harbor any personal vested interests. His sole purpose in opening the yeshivah is to disseminate Torah - nothing else. When I saw the passion and enthusiasm that you exhibited concerning opening the yeshivah, I was concerned lest you had an element of personal interest in seeing your dream achieve fruition. Thus, if circumstances ever demanded it, you would be reluctant to close the yeshivah. This time, when you came to me, your attitude was more nonchalant. This indicates that your goal is totally l'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven. If the need ever arose, you would be prepared to take the necessary action." Indeed, we know that the Netziv, zl, did close the Volozhiner Yeshivah when the only option of remaining open was to demand secular certification for the rebbeim and recognition and inclusion of secular studies in the yeshivah curriculum.

Regardless of the situation, we can see from here that Torah leadership demands resolution and total commitment. The individual who vacillates, or compromises his principles whenever he is confronted with a challenge, is a poor leader. One has only to peruse the history of the growth of Torah education in this country, in Eretz Yisrael and in pre-World War II Europe to realize the validity of this principle.

Va'ani Tefillah

Klal u'Prat - A general law followed by a specification
Prat u'Klal - A specific law followed by a generalization
Klal u'Prat u'Klal - A general law followed by a specific, which is, in turn, followed by a generalization

When a general law is followed by a specification, the law is limited to the specification. For instance, when listing the animals that are halachically suitable for a korban, the Torah writes specifics: bakar, cattle; and tzon, sheep. This indicates that the general term of beheimah is limited to the specific animals of tzon and bakar.

At times, we find that a specific law is followed by a generalization, such as we find concerning the obligation to return a lost article to its owner: The Torah writes, chamor, donkey; shor, ox; seh, sheep, which is a specific rule. It then concludes with v'chol beheimah, "and any animal," indicating a generalization. The law then implies that the general rule is all inclusive. When a general law is followed by a specific, and then, in turn, followed by a general law, the status of the specific is raised to a generalization and includes everything that has the characteristics of the specification. This will solve the apparent contradiction between the two general rules as opposed to the specific. An example of this rule is: Regarding the laws of Maaser Sheni, whereby one may purchase food in Yerushalayim with Maaser Sheni funds, the Torah writes, "You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires - "general;" for cattle, for sheep, or for alcoholic beverages - "specific;" or "anything that your soul wishes." - general. The last generalization elevates the status of the specific law to a generalization, indicating that cattle, sheep , wine and alcoholic beverages, which imply anything that is an organic product of the earth are acceptable. Likewise, the generalization includes everything that has the essential characteristics of the specification.

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