Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 5 No. 12

Parshas Va'yechi


"And Ya'akov called his sons and said: 'Gather and I will tell you what will happen at the end of days' "(49:1).

G-d, however, removed His Divine inspiration, and Ya'akov was deprived of that knowledge, with the result that the date for the coming of Moshiach remains a Divine secret. It is like the Gemoro in Bava Metziía 42a, which says that a bírochohonly appears by something which is hidden from the eye (whose quantity is unknown). (Perhaps that is why the Gemoro attacks those who try to divulge this knowledge, by fixing dates for Moshiach's arrival. If Ya'akov Ovinu was prevented from divulging the date, then who can subsequently dare to do what Ya'akov Ovinu could not?) The reason for this secret may well be to encourage Klal Yisroel to make the effort to bring Moshiach earlier - through Teshuvah and performance of good deeds. The redemption can be brought forward due to various causes - as we find in Egypt, where the Jews left exile after only 210 years, instead of the 400 originally intended, on account of the intolerable suffering that they experienced there. Consequently, withholding the ultimate date of Moshiach's arrival would serve to keep alive the hope that "maybe he will come today" if only we try hard enough, and this hope in turn, will cause the people to redouble their efforts to hasten the event.

The repetition "Gather, and I will tell you", etc. and "Gather and listen", comments the Da'as Zekeinim, hints that Ya'akov's children would go twice into exile (besides the exile of Egypt, which had already begun before Jewish nationhood was established, and which was a prototype of both other exiles which took place) -once to Babylon and once to Rome. And the stress on the word "gather", suggests that the Jewish people will merit an early redemption by virtue of their unity, as the Medrash Rabbo explains: "He (Yosef) commanded them not to quarrel. He said to them: 'Be one group',. as the possuk says in Yechezkel 37: "And you, son of man, take yourself one stick and write on it 'For Yehudah and for Yisroel their brothers', etc. The actual word used for 'their brothers' is missing a Yud, and can be read to mean joined together (Chaveirov - Chibru), to hint that, if the B'nei Yisroel become one group, then they can prepare themselves for the redemption. What is written after that? "And I shall make you into one nation", etc. Conversely, they went down to Egypt, into exile, after Yosef had broken their unity by speaking loshen hora about his brothers, and the brothers made it worse by selling their brother into slavery. Strength, both spiritual and physical, lies in unity, particularly national strength - it is much like the old man on his death-bed who gave each of his ten sons a twig to break. This they easily did. But when he gave them a bundle of ten twigs to break, they were unable to do so. In this way, he reminded them of the importance of remaining united.

In Ve'zos ha'Bírochoh, the Torah writes: "And He (Hashem) was King in Yeshurun (Yisroel) when the heads of the people united, together the tribes of Yisroel". The Ohr ha'Chayim explains how the Kingdom of Israel can only thrive when their leaders are united, because the people will take their cue from *them*. For it is only when Yisroel learn to live in harmony with one another that they can expect to attain a permanent nationhood. The destruction of the Second Beis ha'Mikdosh and the subsequent exile came about through unjustified hatred, and the re-gathering of the exiles will be as a direct result of strong harmony, a bond of love that ties all Jews together into one, strong, inseparable unit. And does it not stand to reason? The Kingdom of Israel is, by definition, the Kingdom of G-d. If we wish to be as one with Him in His Kingdom, then we must be as one amongst ourselves - and this can be achieved only through our adherence to Torah, the medium which gives us all a common purpose to strive for. It is the medium which enables us to unite among ourselves and ultimately with G-d, for Hakodosh-Boruch-Hu, Torah and Yisroel are ONE!

Parshah Pearls
Parshas Va'Yechi
Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye

They're O.K.! The Marriage was Legal

When Ya'akov came to bless Ephrayim and Menasheh, the Shechinah left him, because of the wicked kings that would descend from them (Rashi 48:8). In reply to Ya'kov's query about their maternal ancestry, Yosef showed his father the document of his bethrothal to Osnas and that of her Kesubah, which is what is inferred in the Torah's words "asher nosan li Elokim bo'zeh" (with this).

It is not however, clear, as to what Yosef was showing his father, other than that his marriage to Osnas, his wife, was legal. But that does not appear to be what Ya'akov was querying. (See Sifsei Chachomim, who resolves this difficulty.)

They're O.K.! Their Maternal Grandfather Too, Was Ya'akov

Rabeinu Bachye in Parshas Mikeitz (41:45) quotes the Medrash that Osnas was not really the daughter of Potifera at all. She was his step-daughter. Her mother was Dinoh bas Ya'akov, and her father, Sh'chem. Ya'akov, not wanting such a child to be raised as part of his family, placed her outside, underneath a bush (a 'sneh' in Loshon ha'Kodosh, which explains why she was called 'Osnas'). Around her neck, he tied a note which read 'Whoever cleaves to you, cleaves to the offspring of Ya'akov'.

When Yosef married Osnas, he discovered that note and kept it. Now, when Ya'akov queried the maternal ancestry of Ephrayim and Menasheh, Yosef showed his father the note that he himself had written. This confirmed his son's maternal ancestry, and put his father's fears at rest. And it is to that note which the words 'with this' refer.

To Adopt an Orphan

Rabeinu Bachye also explains the fact that the Torah refers to Osnas as Potifera's daughter, with the Gemoro in Sanhedrin (19b), which rules that when someone adopts an orphan and brings him up, it is considered as if he would have given birth to him. That being the case, since Potifera adopted Osnas and brought her up, it is considered as if he would have born her, and the Torah is perfectly justified in calling her Potiferaís daughter.

The K'li Yokor explains the posuk differently: according to him 'bozeh' means not 'with this', but 'here' - in Egypt. What he was telling his father was that 'they are my children, and, as such, they are deserving of a blessing (because they were tzadikim like Yosef) no less than Yitzchok was deserving of a blessing - in spite of his son, Eisov, whose evil character was the result of a defect in his mother's ancestry (the Rosho Besuel), not in his mother herself. And that also explains the evil descendants of Ephrayim and Menasheh. It was not because of any defect in Osnas, but rather because of one in her mother - the wife of Potifera. It is because they were born here in Egypt, Yosef was telling his father, of such ancestors, that kings of the calibre of Yerov'om, Ach'ov and Yehu would descend from them, not because of any intrinsic faults in Osnas herself.

Did Ya'akov Know?

Rabeinu Bachye (Bereishis 45:22) agrees with the Ramban, in whose opinion Ya'akov never found out about the brothers' sale of Yosef. When the Torah writes that the brothers told Ya'akov everything that Yosef had said to them, that is to the exclusion of the words "whom you sold to Egypt" (45:4).

And he proves that Ya'akov could not have known about the sale, because, if he did, why did the brothers not implore him, before his death, to ask Yosef to forgive them - rather than having to approach Yosef himself - later in the Parshah (50:16-17) with a falsified command from their father to that effect? It is not however clear, if, as Rabeinu Bachye contends, Ya'akov did not know about the sale, exactly what the brothers asked of Yosef? Why should Ya'akov have commanded Yosef to forgive his brothers for a sin which he was unaware that they had committed?

Rabbi Chavel, in the footnote, quotes a P'sikta (of which the Ramban was apparently aware), which explains Ya'akov's statement (48:19) "I know, my son, I know" to mean that 'just as I know about your sale, even without your telling me, so too, do I know that Menasheh is the first-born, even without your telling me'.

The Extra Portion

"Re'uven, you are my first-born son" etc. (49:3). Re'uven was due to receive three unique privileges: the birthright, the Kehunah and the sovereignty, all of which are contained in this possuk.

But, on account of his sin, he lost the birthright to Yosef, explains Rabeinu Bachye, the Kehunah to Levi and the sovereignty to Yehudah.

The Torah Temimah is hard-pressed to explain how Ya'akov could possibly give away the birthright, when the Gemoro expressly forbids a father to deprive his first-born son of the extra portion that comes with the birthright - 'even from a bad son to a good one' (Bovo Basra 126b). The Gemoro calls this 'making stipulations against the words of the Torah', and such stipulations, rules the Gemoro, are not valid. He answers this with a Ramban at the beginning of Parshas Ki Seitzei, who says that the above prohibition applies only in the lifetime of the first-born. But to stipulates giving away the portion of the first-born after his death - i.e. that it is not the first-born who stands to lose the extra portion, but his children (even if the actual transaction takes place in the first-born's lifetime), is permitted and legal. This is because it is only the first-born himself from whom the father is commanded not to withhold the extra portion, but not from his sons. And in our case, it was the double portion in Eretz Yisroel that he was giving to Yosef, a gift that was not due to Re'uven, but to his descendants, from whom he was authorised to withhold that privilege and to give it to somebody else.


This question is often asked regarding the Holocaust. Frankly, the question is annoying, because it is *stupid* - born of short-sightedness; *irrelevant* - born of ignorance; and *presumptuous* - born of arrogance.

*It is stupid* - because, if G-d had not been there, then we would not have survived. Had G-d (chas ve'sholom) abandoned us - an accusation incidentally, of which *we* can often be accused, but which G-d has promised never to do, *and indeed he never has*! - then why did Hitler ( perish, and the Jewish people not only survive, but begin to grow and flourish to the point that never, since the time of the second destruction, has Torah-Judaism and Torah institutions flourished - even in Eretz Yisroel - like they do today? - in spite of the constant efforts of our numerous enemies from within, to turn our beloved country into a secular state, and of our enemies from without, who fight to tear it away from us.

*It is senseless* - because the question suggests that the Nazi Holocaust was the first time in our history that we suffered at the hands of our enemies. It ignores what happened in Egypt, during the Babylonian, Greek and Roman conquests, and the Spanish Inquisition, as well as the living Hell that we Jews suffered at the hands of the Crusaders and at the hands of the murderers in just about every country in Europe since the Middle Ages up until modern times. In fact, it ignores Jewish history with all its ramifications.

The Torah, which was written by G-d, warns us already in Bechukosai, of the calamities that will befall us should we fail to study Torah and observe the mitzvos - and this message is repeated in the second paragraph of the Shema, and in Ki Sovo, Nitzovim, Va'yeilech and Ha'azinu. But the questioner assumes all this to be fictitious.

So how can any thinking person suddenly wake up to the fact that calamities occur to Jews, suggest that they are new phenomena, and then go on to ascribe them to Hashem's having forsaken us - instead of to our having forsaken Him?

In Va'yeilech, the Torah writes about G-d's anger at our misbehaviour, and that He will hide His face from us, as if He did not see what was happening to us. But notice that He Himself remains with us, even in times of our bitterest troubles, waiting for us to turn to Him in prayer and repentance - when He will turn His face back to us and dispel the evil decree.

*And it is presumptuous* - because G-d is our Master, and we are His subjects. It is He who plays the tune, and it is we who must dance to it. Not the other way round! He has the right and the authority to take us to task. But who gives us the authority to do this to Him? One would have to be very naive to imagine arriving at the Heavenly Court after 120 years, and asking G-d where He was. The suggestion is laughable and ridiculous.

And questioning G-d is presumptuous for two reasons: firstly, because it is futile, as Chazal, quoting Shlomoh ha'Melech in Mishlei write, with regard to Yehudah's confrontation with Yosef. He knew that something was wrong, but *'who can take someone who holds all the cards, to task?'*

Secondly, because questioning Hashem presumes that Hashem (kevayochol) is fallible - an arrogant presumption that negates the very essence of our faith, rendering the need to believe in Him,( the foundation of our religion,) meaningless.

It has been said that one may only ask 'Mi k'Elokeinu', after having proclaimed 'Ein k'Elokeinu'! It is only after one is convinced that there is nobody like G-d, that one may ask 'Who is like Him?' The Chofetz Chaim said that for someone who believes in G-d, there are no questions, whereas for someone who does not, there are no answers.

Conversely, someone who has questions, is lacking in Emunah. Consequently, the answer to the questioner - if not to the question - is 'Develop your emunah!'

(See also 'To Question G-d' in next week's edition)

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