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

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Vol. 9   No. 12

This issue is sponsored by the Chaitowitz Family
in loving memory of
Avraham Shalom ben Sh'neur Zalman z.l.,
Meir David ben Sh'lomoh Eliezer z.l.
and Rifkah bas Yonah z.l.

Parshas Vayechi

More Haste ...

When, after the death of Rachel, Reuvcien impulsively switched Bilhah's bed for his mother Le'ah's, he did not stop to think about the ramifications of his actions. Had he done so he would have realized that he was interfering, not only with his father Ya'akov, who was himself an outstanding Tzadik, but also in the affairs of the Shechinah, who would regularly appear on Ya'akov's bed.

That is why he lost the Bechorah, the Malchus and the Kehunah. And that explains why the Torah writes 1. "Pachaz ka'mayim, al tosar"; 2. "ki oliso mishkevei ovicho"; 3. "oz chilalto yetzu'i oloh" (29:4, see Rashi).

The Oznayim la'Torah explains that, because he was hasty like water, he lost the extra portion (the birthright). Because he did not honor his father's marital integrity (his position as master of the family) he lost his right to inherit the sovereignty after him (like we find by Avshalom, whom David rejected as his successor, because he followed the advice of Achitofel and lay with his father's concubines). And because he desecrated his father's bed, he himself became desecrated from the Kehunah.

Furthermore, he explains, his three losses are hinted in the word "Pachaz", which is the acronym of the first letters of 'Poshut' (the opposite of 'bechor'), 'Chosuch' (the opposite of king - see Mishlei 22) and 'Zar' (the opposite of Kohen).


The Or ha'Chayim asks how Ya'akov could possibly deprive Reuven of the birthright and give it to Yosef, in light of the Pasuk in Ki Seitzei, which specifically forbids giving the Bechorah ot one of the other sons. And what's more, the Gemara in Bava Basra rules that if someone attempts to do so, his actions are not valid (even if it is from a bad son to a good son). See also Torah Temimah Ki Seitzei 100, from d.h. 'Omnam'.

The Ramban comments on Ya'akov's statement to Yosef (48:22) "And I have given you an extra portion over your brothers" (which he connects with the Pasuk currently under discussion). He explains that, on the one hand, Ya'akov wanted to reward Yosef with a special gift, to demonstrate his love towards him (see also Rashi there), whereas on the other, he did not wish to deprive any of his sons of what was rightfully their's. So what did he do? He gave him the one thing that was his to give away - the extra portion of the birthright which he captured from the Emori with his sword and bow.

This implies that, at that time, the birthright did not automatically belong to the firstborn (but was negotiable - and who should know that better than Ya'akov). We hope to elaborate on the Ramban's explanation next week.

The Kur Zahav however (cited in the footnotes) poses the same Kashya as the Or ha'Chayim. And he answers that, based on the principle of 'Hefker Beis-Din, Hefker' (the Beis-din's right to declare someone's property Hefker, should they see fit), Ya'akov had the right to penalize Reuven for his sin, and to deprive him of his Bechorah. In other words, when Ya'akov took away the Bechorah from Reuven, it was in his capacity as the Gadol ha'Dor punishing a malcreant, rather than as a father depriving his son.

And this answer is even more apt, bearing in mind that, in any event, all the Mitzvos performed by the Avos, were 'Eino Metzuveh ve'Oseh' (voluntary), as the Ramban explains in Parshas Toldos.


The Or ha'Chayim bases his answer to the above Kashya on his proposal, that, as B'nei No'ach, the Avos were obligated to keep the seven Mitzvos of the Noachide code, but no more. And he queries the Ramban, who maintains that they strictly adhered to the entire Torah as long as they lived in Eretz Yisrael. He agrees that, based on their love of G-d, the Avos did on principle observe the entire Torah. However, because they were no under no obligation to do so, they discarded whatever they felt would impede their spiritual growth, even in Eretz Yisrael. That is why Ya'akov married two sisters, Levi married his aunt and that is why Ya'akov had no trouble in depriving Reuven of the birthright.

He then goes one step further. He suggests that Ya'akov's punishing of Reuven was Divinely ordained, and that Ya'akov was merely obeying G-d's instructions. For, based on Eliyahu at Har ha'Karmel, who permitted sacrifices outside the Beis-Hamikdash, Chazal have taught that a Navi has the authority to ordain something that contravenes Torah, as long as he does not dissolve the law altogether.

And this explanation would be valid even in Eretz Yisrael, or even if the Avos had been commanded to keep the whole Torah outside Eretz Yisrael, too. Interestingly, the Or ha'Chayim's second explanation differs little from that of the Kur Zahav that we cited earlier. As we hinted earlier though, there is not the least indication that the Ramban (or Rabeinu Bachye, who follows in his footsteps), even agrees with the Kur Zahav's question, let alone his answer.


And the Or ha'Chayim quoting the Zohar, also explains why Ya'akov gave the birthright specifically to Yosef, and not to Yehudah or one of the older brothers. It is, he says, due to the fact that when Ya'akov had his first relationship with Le'ah, he had Rachel in mind, and, because of the significance of 'Machshavah' in the upper worlds, the true Bechor was therefore the first son to be born to Rachel.

Rashi in the Parshah gives a more down to earth answer. He explains that Yosef received the Bechorah as an advance payment for his services in arranging and organizing Ya'akov's burial in Cana'an.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)
Naftali, Barak and Devorah

"Naftali ayalah sheluchah, ha'nosen imrei shafer (Naftali is a gazelle that has been sent on an errand) who gives forth beautiful words" (49:21).

Ya'akov was hinting at the battle which Barak fought against Sisro, in which ten thousand soldiers from Naftali took part, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim. The Torah uses the feminine "ayalah sheluchah", he says, because of Devorah, who played a major role in that episode, and "beautiful words" refers to her song of praise that followed the victory.

The numerical value of "imrei shefer" is the equivalent of 'shir u'sh'vochoh' (song and praise), and that of "ha'nosen imrei shefer", to "va'Toshar Devorah u'Barak ben Avinino'am ba'yom ha'hu" (Shoftim, 5:1).


Yosef the Interpretor

"Bein poras Yosef" (49:22).

"Bein poras Yosef" contains the same letters as "Bein po'ser Yosef" (Yosef is an interpreting son) or "Bein poros Yosef" (Yosef was among the cows - as if the word "Bein" had been written with a 'Yud'), an obvious allusion to the cows in Paroh's dream, through which he rose to greatness.

Indeed, the Medrash, commenting on this Pasuk, explains how Yosef, when interpreting Paroh's dream, pointed out a number of subtle changes that Paroh had made when relating the dream to him, upon which Paroh replied in awe 'Were you among the cows"?


Yisrael Forever

"Binyamin ze'ev yitrof ... ve'la'Boker yechalek sholol" (49:27).

The first letters of the word following the name of each of the twelve tribes (Reuven bechori atoh", "Shimon ve'Levi achim" ... "Bein poras Yosef bein", "Binyamin ze'ev yitrof") add up to 365, the number of days in a solar year. And the last letters of each of the b'rochos "yetzu'I oloh", "va'afitzem be'Yisrael" ... "ne'zir echov", "ve'lo'erev yechalek sholol") add up to 354 - the number of days in the lunar yeary.

This hints, says the ba'al ha'Turim, at the Pasuk in Yirmiyah (31:34/5) "So says Hashem, who places the sun for the light of the day, the laws of the moon and the stars for the light of the night ... . That just as these laws will never depart from before Me ... so too, will the seed of Yisrael never cease to be a nation all the days".


Taking One's Cue

"ve'Zos asher diber lahem avihem (And this is what their father spoke to them)" - 49:27.

Ya'akov's b'rachah concluded with "ve'zos", so Moshe took his cue from Ya'akov and began his b'rachah with "ve'Zos ha'b'rachah", says the Ba'al ha'Turim. And this is what David ha'Melech refers to when he writes in Tehilim (119:100) "I will reflect (take my cue) from the elders".


It Takes Forty Days

"Va'yimle'u lo arbo'im yom (And the forty-day period was completed, because that is how long the embalming would take)" (50:3).

The word "Va'yimle'u" appears one other time in the Chumash - in Parshas Toldos (in connection with Rifkah's pregnancy), where the Torah writes (25:21) "Va'yimle'u yomehah loledes (and her days for giving birth terminated)".

This hints to what Chazal teach, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that a baby is formed in forty days.


Its Good to be Hated!

"Lu yistemeinu Yosef (Perhaps Yosef will hate us and perform with us like all the evil that we performed with him)" (50:15).

The brothers suspected this, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, when, at the burial of their father Ya'akov, they saw Yosef look into the pit into which they had thrown him and recite the B'rachah 'she'osoh li nes ba'mokom ha'zeh'.

Some commentaries explain, the Ba'al ha'Turim adds, that they actually hoped that Yosef would only hate them in his heart (since that is the meaning of the word "yistemeinu", used by the Torah here). And even if he were to act on that hatred, they added, he should only do to them what they did to him - namely, causing him to rule over Egypt (which was, after all, the result of the intended harm that they meant to cause him).

Both explanations are based on the fact that the word "lu" has positive connotations, as if to say 'We wish that he would' (see Rashi).


All's Well that Ends Well

"Onochi meis ve'ho'Elokim Pokod yifkod eschem (I am going to die, and G-d will remember you)" (50:24).

'I (for all my power) am destined to die, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim (so don't rely on me, but) G-d, who lives forever, will certainly redeem you.'


A Double Pey

And by using a double 'Pey' (whose numerical value is eighty), Yosef was hinting to his brothers that, just as he ruled over them for eighty years, so too would an eighty-year old redeemer (Moshe) come and take them out of Egypt.

And the words "pokod yifkod" can also be translated as 'He will deduct 'pokod' ' (from the exile), a hint at the hundred and ninety years (the numerical value of "pokod" that Hashem would deduct from the four hundred years' galus of which He had originally spoken. Consequently, they only spent two hundred and ten years in Egypt.

Alternatively, "pokod" represents the merits of the Ovos, and "yifkod", of the Imahos, because it was due to the combined merits of the Avos and the Imahos that we left Egypt.


The Matonos

1. T'rumah Gedolah and T'rumas Ma'aser are forbidden to Yisre'eilim and Levi'im, and may be eaten only by tohor Kohanim. Consequently, seeing that nowadays, all Kohanim are assumed to be Tomei Meis, neither of the above may be eaten.

2. T'rumah Temei'ah must be burned. Consequently, if detached T'rumah became Tamei after having had contact with one of the seven liquids (wine, bee's-honey, olive-oil, milk, dew, blood or water) that render food fit to receive Tum'ah, it must be burned. And a Yisrael is not permitted to benefit from it unless a Kohen benefits from it at the same time.

3. T'rumah and T'rumas Ma'aser that have not become Tamei after having designated them, should be buried or placed in a plastic bag and thrown away. They may not be treated with disrespect, nor may one render them Tamei after designating them.

4. In addition to the Mitzvah of separation, there is also a Mitzvah of giving T'rumah to a Kohen, Ma'aser Rishon to a Levi and Ma'aser Ani to a poor man. However, with regard to T'rumos and Ma'asros, we do not do this nowadays, seeing as the Kohanim and Levi'im of today cannot prove that they are genuine Kohanim and Levi'im.

5. The obligation of giving Ma'aser Ani to a poor man however, is applicable nowadays, but only as regards Vaday Tevel, but not in the case of Safek Tevel. Someone who has Vaday Tevel however, and, unsure as to whether he is obliged to separate Ma'aser Sheini or Ma'aser Ani, separated both Ma'asros to be on the safe side, must give the Ma'aser Ani to a poor man.

6. Ma'aser Sheini may only be eaten in Yerushalayim when the Mizbei'ach is built, and even then, it may only be eaten when both the owner and the fruit are Tahor. Consequently, we are unable to fulfill this Mitzvah either. The only option that one therefore has it to redeem the Ma'aser Sheini on to a coin.

7. Ma'aser Sheini inside the walls of Yerushalayim as they were in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash, cannot be redeemed unless the fruit became Tamei whilst it was still Tevel. Consequently, someone who has Tevel within the old borders of Yerushalayim, should render it fit to receive Tum'ah by bringing it into contact with one of the seven liquids (listed in paragraph 2). Following that, he should touch all the fruit on the 'south' side (i.e. that he intends to declare Ma'aser Sheini). Following that, he will be able to redeem his Ma'aser Sheini after designating it.


The Redemption of Ma'aser Sheini

1. Nowadays, one redeems Ma'aser Sheini with a coin that could buy silver that weighs a P'rutah. But if the Ma'aser is worth less than a P'rutah, he should redeem it for its value.

If a silver coin (currently in circulation in whichever country the Ma'aser is being redeemed) is available, one should use that to redeem one's Ma'aser-Sheini. One may subsequently use the coin as many times as the P'rutos it contains.

If not, then one may use a copper coin. Here too, it may be used to redeem as many times as there are P'rutos in it. Note, that a gram of silver contains forty P'rutos.

2. Only a coin that has been used to redeem Ma'aser Sheini worth a P'rutah is eligible to redeem Ma'aser Sheini that is worth less than a P'rutah, and then, only if the batch of fruit that one is about to redeem is not on a higher level of Kedushah than the first batch. The order of levels in this regard, is 1. Corn (the five kinds of grain), wine (grapes) and oil (olives [whose T'rumos and Ma'asros are basically min ha'Torah]); 2. Other fruits that grow on trees and legumes (which some opinions consider to be min ha'Torah); 3. Vegetables (whose T'rumos and Ma'asros are definitely only mi'de'Rabbanan).

In the same way, whatever the owner winnowed with the intention of selling is not on the same level as what he winnowed in order to eat. And this progression of stringencies is not affected by the fact that nowadays, all T'rumos and Ma'asros are mi'de'Rabbanan, seeing as their basic obligations differ. Consequently, it is a matter of one de'Rabbanan being on a higher level of Kedushah than two de'Rabbanans, and of two de'Rabbanans, more than three.

If, for example, the owner winnowed vegetables (which are already two de'Rabbanans) with the intention of selling them, the T'rumos and Ma'asros are relegated to three de'Rabbanans. Consequently, he will not be permitted to use a coin that was used to redeem a P'rutah's worth of Ma'aser Sheini of those vegetables, to redeem less than a P'rutah's worth of Ma'aser Sheini of S'tam vegetables that were winnowed in order to eat. Similarly, he will not be permitted to use a coin that was used to redeem a P'rutah's worth of vegetables that were winnowed in order to eat (two de'Rabbanans), to redeem less than a P'rutah's worth of grapes or wine (one de'Rabbanan).


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