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

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Vol. 12   No. 12

This issue is sponsored
by the Chaitowitz Family
in loving memory of
Avraham Shalom ben Shneur Zalman z.l.
Meir David ben Shlomoh Eliezer z.l.
Rivkah bas Yonah z.l.

Parshas Vayechi

Yosef's Oath

Commenting on the Pasuk "And you will do with me kindness and truth" (48:29). Rashi explains that the kindness that one performs with the dead is a kindness of truth (one that is performed for the sake of the Mitzvah, and not for any ulterior motive).

The P'ninei Torah, citing a note in the Seifer Ohel Ya'akov, points out that it is really quite possible to attend to the needs of a dead person in the hope that one will receive the same treatment. Only who thinks about dying whilst he is still alive and well? ...


The Torah describes how Ya'akov first asked Yosef to place his hand beneath his thigh, and to perform with him kindness and truth, by not burying him in Egypt. And it was only after Yosef replied 'I will do as you said' that he asked him to swear, which he did.

The question arises why Ya'akov made Yosef swear only after he had acceded to his request? True, Rashi does comment on the words "place your hand beneath my thigh" - 'and swear'. Yet it seems that he writes this based on the conclusion of the dialogue, where Yosef did indeed swear. (In fact, Rashi already inverts the order of the phrases, when he comments on "And I will lie with my fathers" that this refers back to "place your hand beneath my thigh").

The Chochmas Chayim therefore gives the following explanation in the name of R. Shmuel Nadash (R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld's grandfather).

When Ya'akov first asked Yosef to transfer his corpse to Eretz Cana'an, it never occurred to him (in spite of the Gemara in Kesubos [72a] 'One who eulogises will be eulogized; and one who accompanies the dead, will be accompanied', because G-d pays a person 'measure for measure'), that Yosef would expect anything in return. Which is why he described his request as 'Chesed shel Emes', as we explained earlier.

That being the case, Yosef's response in the affirmative would have been based on the dual Mitzvos of Kibud Av va'Eim and Halvayas ha'Meis; and Tosfos in Menachos (81b) rules that such an undertaking is irretractable, either 'Toch k'dei dibur (the maximum time lag within which one may normally retract from a deal), or through annulment via a Beis-Din. Consequently, no oath was necessary.

Yosef however, replied "I will do like your words", which the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos interprets to mean that he would emulate his father and make the same request of his children as Ya'akov had made of him. In other words, Yosef did anticipate reward, in the form of 'measure for measure', for burying his father in Eretz Yisrael.

In that case, Tosfos' ruling was no longer applicable, since someone who makes an oath for his own personal benefit has the right to retract (within the parameters of the Halachah). That is why, when Ya'akov heard Yosef's reply, he insisted that Yosef swear, which he did.


Rabeinu Bachye and other commentaries explain that the oath was not really meant for Yosef, whose word Ya'akov trusted, but as a safeguard against Paroh, should he attempt to force Yosef to break his word (as indeed he did when the time arrived to bury Ya'akov). This too, will answer our original question, explaining adequately why the oath was inserted, not together with Ya'akov's request, but only afterwards.


Neither of these explanations however, explains why Ya'akov asked Yosef to place his hand under his thigh, which normally has connotations of an oath (as Rashi explains in Chayei Sarah 24:2 [see the explanation of the Tur on the Chumash]). The Targum Yonasan however, seems to deal with this problem, when he explains that although Ya'akov instructed Yosef to place his hand beneath his thigh, the latter declined to fulfill that request, because, as a son, he felt uncomfortable doing so. Clearly, Ya'akov intended to make him swear by the B'ris Milah, but Yosef, perhaps under the impression that this was an integral part of an oath, preferred to undertake to fulfill his father's bidding without taking an oath. Ya'akov however, was not satisfied (perhaps for the reason that we just mentioned in the name of Rabeinu Bachye), and he made him swear, with or without the B'ris Milah. And it seems to me that that is what Rashi is referring to when he comments on the Pasuk "place your hand beneath my thigh" with the words 'and swear', as we explained above.

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Parshah Pearls

A National Tzadik

"And Ya'akov lived in the land of Egypt ... " (47:28).

Some people live only for their families; others, for the city in which they reside, and yet others, for the whole world. The latter are described as 'A Tzadik who is the foundation of the world'.

Ya'akov Ovinu lived not just for his family or even just for the land of Goshen, but for the entire land of Egypt, who all benefited from his sojourn there, for so Chazal have taught, the moment Ya'akov arrived in Egypt, the famine terminated, and from the time of his first visit to Paroh, the Nile would rise to meet him (a sign that the famine had come to an end, five years before it was due to do so). Hence the Torah writes "And Ya'akov lived in the land of Egypt" (and not just 'in the land of Goshen').

Rebbi Yehudah ha'Nasi, on the other hand, said about himself, immediately prior to his death 'And Yehudah lived in Tzipori seventeen years', because, the Meshech Chochmah points out, in his deep humility, he played down his own greatness, as if he only affected his town Tzipori, and not the rest of the country. Rebbi Chiya his close disciple however, knew the truth. That is why, when he eulogized him, he said 'Woe are you, the pregnant women of Eretz Yisrael!' He knew that Rebbi's righteousness affected not just Tzipori, but the entire country.


A Kindness of Truth

"And perform with me a kindness of truth" (48:29).

The Navi Michah writes (7:20) "Give truth to Ya'akov, kindness to Avraham, which You swore to our forefathers in days of old".

This can be compared to someone who wants to give his friend a gift, but due to the fear that his wife will veto his good intentions, he writes him out a pre-dated cheque for the exact amount, to be claimed on the day that he will be ready to hand him the gift. It transpires that the gift began as an act of kindness, but later turned into one of emes (of keeping his word).

In much the same way, the gift of Eretz Yisrael to the B'nei Yisrael began with an act of kindness, with the covenant that G-d made with Avraham to give him Eretz Yisrael. Having made the covenant however, G-d now became obligated to keep His word. That act of kindness now became one of truth. That is what the Navi means when he says "Give truth to Ya'akov, kindness to Avraham ... " - 'Carry out with the children of Ya'akov the truth that You established with Ya'akov, what began as the kindness with Avraham', as Targum Yonasan there explains.

And that is what Ya'akov meant here, when he said to Yosef "And you will perform with me kindness and truth" - your undertaking now will be an act of kindness. But fulfilling that undertaking will be one of truth (the Dubno Magid).


Worthy of a Blessing

"These are my sons, which G-d gave me here (with this)" 48:9.

Rashi explains that Yosef produced his Sh'tar Eirusin (document of betrothal) and his Sh'tar Kesubah, to show his father the legitimacy of his sons' parentage. And he did this, in response to his father's perplexity when, initially unable to bless Yosef's sons, he foresaw that Yerovom and Achav would descend from Ephrayim, and Yeihu and his sons from Menasheh. It is not at first clear what Yosef achieved by producing these documents (since Ya'akov did not seem to be doubting the legitimacy of Yosef's marriage). The P'ninim Yekarim however, explains it like this.


Chazal say that a ben Sorer u'Moreh (a son who rebels against his parents) is judged according to the inevitable outcome of his deeds, even though he is not yet guilty. The commentaries point out that this appears to clash with another Chazal, who explain the Pasuk (with regard to Yishmael) " ... because Hashem has heard the voice of the lad as he is now" to mean that G-d accepted his prayers in spite of the crimes that his descendents would later perpetrate against the Jewish people. They learn from there that G-d judges a person for what he is, and not for what he is destined to become.

To answer this discrepancy, they cite the Maharsha, who explains that a ben Sorer u'Moreh is different, inasmuch as he is the product of an Eishes Yefas To'ar (a non-Jewish woman captured in war), whom the Torah 'reluctantly' permits, yet warns against marrying, together with the consequences (see opening Rashi in Ki Seitzei).

When Ya'akov asked here "Who are these children?" (who are unworthy of a B'rachah), he suspected that perhaps Ephrayim and Menasheh's mother was an Eishes Yefas To'ar, and that Hashem was withholding from them a B'rachah because of the evil men that would inevitably descend from them as a result. Yosef therefore produced the necessary documents to show Ya'akov that his marriage was fully above board, and that his children were no worse than Yishmael, who retained favour with Hashem, in spite of what would happen later.

To which Ya'akov replied "Bring them to me and I will bless them".


The More the Merrier

"And they will increase like fish in the midst of the land" (48:16).

Like these fish, Rashi explains, that increase rapidly, and that are not subject to Ayin ha'Ra.

R. Yosef Shaul Natanson, commenting on Rashi, quotes the Zohar, which cites the Shunamis, who declined Eliyahu ha'Navi's offer of assistance, with the words 'I (prefer to) dwell among my people'. What she meant, says the Zohar, is that a person is better off if he is not mentioned before G-d as an individual, but rather as part of a community. And the reason for this it appears, is that an Ayin Ra has no power over a community (More simply, it would appear that it was the communal merit, which outweighs by far, that of the individual).

And that explains Ya'akov's B'rachah here to the B'nei Yosef - they should increase like fish, which are not subject to Ayin ha'Ra, because they live in large numbers, and individualism among them is non-existent.

Consequently, he blessed his grandsons, that their large numbers too, should eliminate the Ayin ha'Ra.

Interestingly, when Yisrael left Egypt, the combined tribes of Ephrayim and Menasheh (Yosef) formed the largest tribe.


Chesed shel Emes

R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld held the Chevra Kadisha (of which he was head [of the Ashkenazi section]) in the greatest esteem. They performed their holy task according to the highest standards and often under the most extreme conditions. In those days, it was customary to carry the dead on the shoulders from the west of Yerushalayim, if need be, all the way to Har ha'Zeisim in the east, summer and winter, day and night, whatever the weather, whatever the time.

R. Ya'akov Gelbstein, a senior member of the Ashkenazi section of the Chevra Kadisha, told how he was once walking the Rav from his house to the Chevra Kadisha feast on the 7th. Adar, when a storm arose. R. Ya'akov opened his umbrella and attempted to protect the Rav from the rain with it. The Rav however wouldn't hear of it. He explained that he considered each and every member of the Chevra Kadisha to be 'a warrior of the holy work', and it is undignified for such a person to serve others.


The respect, it seems, was mutual, and R. Ya'akov would often relate personal stories and anecdotes of things that took place between the Rav and himself. Here is one such incident.

It happened once that his wife took ill, and it reached a point where even the doctors gave up hope for her life. R. Ya'akov in desperation, went to pour out his heart to the Rav. Standing before him, he burst into tears, and cried out 'Who will look after my young fledglings, if they have no mother?'

The Rav, who, as we have already pointed out, had the deepest respect for R. Ya'akov, calmed him down and told him to return home, adding that by Sunday, his wife would return to her full strength.

R, Ya'akov, whose faith in the Tzadik was absolute, did as he had bade him.

Sure enough, on Sunday morning, when he returned home from Shul, he found his wife sitting up in bed, back to her normal self. She greeted him with a smile and a 'good morning', and that very same day, he sat down together with her and their children to eat the lunch that she herself had prepared.

'Our tears', he concluded, 'flowed freely into the lentil soup. True', he concluded, 'the soup was a bit salty. But believe me, I have never in my whole life tasted a sweeter-tasting lentil soup than that.'

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 430:
To Bless Hashem After a Meal

(cont. from Parshas Vayigash)

Some of the Dinim of the mitzvah ... what Chazal have said that, although the Torah only obligates us to 'bensch' after we have eaten 'mozon' (incorporating bread and cake) and are satisfied, the Chachamim, have obligated us to recite a B'rachah even after having benefited from (a k'Zayis of) 'mozon', the seven species (by which Eretz Yisrael is praised) or any other food, irrespective of whether that food sustains or not. The Chachamim took their cue from the Torah, which obligates us to recite a B'rachah after having eaten to satisfaction food which sustains our bodies.

Likewise, they obligated us to recite a B'rachah even before eating. And they based this on the S'vara that it is not correct for a person to derive benefit from this world without first reciting a B'rachah, which they consider as a sort of request from the Master of the food, to partake of it.

There are some Poskim who extend the Torah's obligation to recite the B'rachah after eating, to all the seven species, in the same way as, everyone agrees one is obligated to do, after those that satisfy (such as dates, wine and a cake of figs). On all of these, the Torah writes "And you shall eat, be satisfied and bless Hashem your G-d ... ". And they also said that the 'satisfaction' mentioned by the Torah refers specifically to a 'k'Beitzah (the volume of an egg), since that is the volume of food that generally satisfies.

The author supports this opinion (incorporating all of the seven species in the Torah's obligation of 'B'rachah') from the Gemara in B'rachos (35a), which states 'Just as the seven species constitute food from which one derives benefit and over which one must recite a B'rachah, so too, must one recite a B'rachah over any food from which one derives benefit'. This implies that the Torah draws no distinction between those of the seven species which satisfy and those which do not. The Rambam however (and others), does not extend the obligation to the species that do not satisfy (such as pomegranates, grapes, fresh figs and olives). This is because the Torah's obligation pertains specifically to 'mozon', which is why the Torah juxtaposes 'lechem' to "ve'ochalto ve'sovo'to u'verachto". The author however, accepts the ruling of the Chachamim of his time against that of the Rambam.

Consequently, someone who is uncertain as to whether he recited the 'B'rachah Achas Me'ein Shalosh' (after having eaten any of the seven species), or whether he recited the B'rachah Acharonah (after having eaten bread), even if he ate only a k'Beitzah (and not sufficient to be satisfied), remains obligated to recite it.

After having said that, the Chinuch adds that from the Rishonim it would seem that he is not Chayav to recite the B'rachah unless he is actually satisfied.

Many people, he adds, adopt the lenient opinion with regard to the 'B'rachah Me'ein Shalosh', but nobody (not even the biggest ignoramus) takes such a liberty with regard to Birchas ha'Mazon. And he explains that this is because the Rishonim assume that only Birchas ha'Mazon after bread is min ha'Torah, but no other B'rachah, with the sole exception of Birchas ha'Torah before learning Torah, as the Gemara expressly states in B'rachos (21a), a ruling with which the Ramban agrees. In any event, the Torah obligates us to recite a B'rachah after eating, but before learning Torah. The reason for this, the Chinuch explains, is because food is for the benefit of our bodies, which, like animals, cannot fully appreciate G-d's goodness until after they have benefited from it. Whereas it is our Souls that benefit from learning Torah, and one's Soul (which is bound with the Seichel) understands fully the advantages of Torah-study, even before one has actually studied it.

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