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Parshas Vayigash - Vol. 12, Issue 11
Compiled by Oizer Alport
A wealthy man passed away and stipulated in his will that his estate be preserved as a keren (principal), and the profits that it generated should be used to provide for his descendants who engaged in full-time Torah study. He added that this arrangement should be continued until the fourth generation, at which point all of the money should be divided. However, a dispute subsequently arose regarding the man's intentions in counting the generations. His great-grandchildren maintained that they were considered the fourth generation, in which case the will's condition was fulfilled and the money should be split amongst them. The earlier generations who were involved in Torah study and were still supported by the estate disagreed and argued that the dead man himself was not counted as the first generation, but rather his children, in which case his great-grandchildren were only the third generation, and the assets should be preserved to enable Torah study for another generation before being divided up.
The dispute was brought to the Noda B'Yehuda, who noted (Shu"t Noda B'Yehuda Choshen Mishpat 1:38) that in Parshas Lech Lecha (15:16), Hashem promised Avrohom that after the Jewish people descended to Egypt, dor revi'i yashuvu heina - the fourth generation will return here (to Eretz Yisroel). Who was the fourth generation who returned to the land of Israel in fulfillment of this promise?
The Ibn Ezra writes that Levi's son Kehas was among the 70 Jews who descended to Egypt and was considered the first generation, and his son Amram was the second generation. Amram's children Moshe and Aharon were the third generation, and their children entered Eretz Yisroel as the fourth generation. This explanation would seem to indicate that the initial generation is included in the count, which would support the argument of the great-grandchildren, who maintained that the deceased should be counted as the first generation, making them the fourth generation.
However, Rashi makes a different calculation, explaining that beginning from Yaakov, Yehuda was the first generation, his son Peretz was the second generation, and his son Chetzron was the third generation. Chetzron's son Calev was the fourth generation and merited entering Eretz Yisroel (Bamidbar 14:24). According to Rashi, the original generation as represented by Yaakov is not counted. This supports the position of the descendants who were still studying Torah and supporting themselves from the profits generated by the estate, as they argued that the calculation of four generations does not begin from the deceased, but rather from his children, in which case the great-grandchildren were only considered the third generation and the condition of the will was not yet fulfilled.
The Noda B'Yehuda adds that the explanation of the Ramban regarding the four generations also appears to be in agreement with Rashi's position on the issue of not including the original generation in the count. Therefore, since the opinions of Rashi and the Ramban are more widely accepted and we generally side with them when they disagree with the Ibn Ezra, the Noda B'Yehuda rules that the wealthy man is not considered the first generation, but rather his children, and his estate should therefore continue to be used to provide for his descendants who are engaged in Torah study for one more generation.
After a tumultuous roller-coaster of events, Yosef's brothers returned to Canaan and informed Yaakov him that his beloved son Yosef, whom he had assumed was dead for 22 years, was in fact alive and prospering in Egypt. Astonished by the remarkable turn of events, Yaakov and his family undertook the lengthy journey to Egypt in order to be reunited with Yosef.
Rashi writes that as they approached their destination, Yaakov sent Yehuda ahead to establish a beis medrash (house of study), where he would be able to study and disseminate Torah. This is difficult to understand. Yaakov and his sons were certainly involved in learning Torah throughout their journey to Egypt, as Rashi writes (45:24) that prior to sending his brothers back to Yaakov, Yosef had to warn them not to become too deeply engrossed in Torah study, which could cause them to get lost. If so, shouldn't Yaakov have first focused on reuniting with Yosef and comfortably settling his family into their new homes, especially in light of his advanced age and all that had recently transpired?
Rav Nissan Kaplan of Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim explains that Yaakov understood that learning Torah day and night is insufficient. A person also needs a beis medrash, a fixed placed designated for the sole purpose of toiling in Torah study. He recounts that when one of his sons became Bar Mitzvah, he took him to visit an old Jew in Far Rockaway named Mr. Talansky and asked him if he had any advice for his son upon this momentous occasion. Mr. Talansky responded that decades earlier, as he was driving to Lakewood, he noticed that he passed many exits along the highway. Each exit led to a town, and virtually every one of these towns had a large shul with a dedicated Rav and many members, yet years later, nothing remains of these shuls, and most of these towns no longer have a sizeable observant Jewish community.
The cities of Lakewood and Far Rockaway were different, because in addition to shuls, they also had high schools for boys, where the local teenagers were able to study the words of Abaye and Rava. The schools were run by Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yechiel Perr, and although they did not have many students in those days, their existence ensured that their respective communities thrived and blossomed, and over time they became world-renowned bastions of Torah, while the other cities in between lie bereft of their former glory. This is the lesson of Yaakov, who taught future generations that mitzvah observance and even Torah study in a vacuum are not enough to ensure Jewish continuity, which can only be safeguarded by establishing a fixed place dedicated to Torah study.
When famine struck Egypt, the people had no choice but to purchase grain from Yosef, who had accumulated and stored a substantial supply during the seven years of plenty for this purpose. As the famine intensified, the people paid for the grain with their money and their livestock, later with their land and themselves. Yosef responded by telling the Egyptians, hei lachem zera - Here is seed for you. However, on a kabbalistic level, the Arizal suggests that Yosef was hinting to a different kind of seed: children. In a play on words, he writes that the reason several of the Avos (Patriarchs) and Imahos (Matriarchs) were barren was because they did not have the letter hei in their names, which alludes to herayon (pregnancy).
Avrom and Sarai were unable to have children because both of their names lacked the letter hei. Only after Hashem added a hei to each of their names, transforming them into Avrohom and Sorah, were they able to conceive Yitzchok. Yitzchok also had great difficulty having children, as even though his wife Rivkah had a hei in her name, he did not have a hei in his name. This also explains why Yaakov was able to have children with Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah, all of whom had hei's in their names, but not with Rochel, who did not have a hei and was therefore unable to conceive. In an attempt to help herself become pregnant, Rochel gave her maidservant Bilhah to Yaakov, with the hope that by doing so, she would merit one of the two hei's in Bilhah's name.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) In Yehuda's entire passionate address to Yosef (44:18-34), he added no information or arguments which weren't already known to Yosef. What was his intention in reiterating the information to Yosef, and what did he hope to accomplish by doing so? (Beis HaLevi)
2) Rashi (45:12) writes that Yosef proved his true identity to his brothers by virtue of the facts that he spoke their language and was circumcised as they were. Why weren't they able to verify his identity by virtue of recognizing his voice? (K'Motzei Shalal Rav, M'rafsin Igri)
3) Which descendants of Yaakov and Eisav, mentioned in Sefer Bereishis, have identical names?
4) Rashi writes (47:6) that Pharaoh told Yosef that if any of his brothers are capable, he would like them to serve as shepherds for his flock. How can this be reconciled with Rashi's earlier comment (46:34) that because Egyptians worshipped sheep, they hated shepherds and would insist that because the brothers were shepherds they must live separately? (Moshav Z'keinim 46:34, Ibn Ezra, Maskil L'Dovid)
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