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

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Vol. 14   No. 12

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yehudah ben Mordechai n.y.
whose Yohrzeit is 14th Teives

Parshas Vayechi

Yosef's Rebuke
(Part 2)

Last week, we explained that Yosef's question "Is my father still alive?" was intended not as a question, but rather as a stern rebuke, as we have already seen in the Medrash that we cited there. The Medrash interprets the 'Hey' in "ha'od ovi chai?', not just as a plain question, but with connotations of surprise. What he was saying was 'I am Yosef! Is my father still alive? Is such a thing possible, considering the anguish at not knowing all these years where I am and what happened to me?'

And hidden in these words lies a huge question, a question that negates all of Yehudah's arguments. All of Yehudah's arguments up to this point centered around one theme - the anguish that taking Binyamin down to Egypt would cause their father Ya'akov, and for that reason alone, he had asked Yosef to let Binyamin go. But if that was so, Yosef was saying, when they sold him (Yosef) into slavery, why did the same thoughts not prompt them to let him go back to his father, to spare him the anguish of losing what they knew was his favourite son? And what's more, why did Yehudah tell him that their father would die? Surely, if he was able to survive the loss of himself (Yosef), why should he not also be able to survive the loss of Binyamin? What Yosef was doing was throwing the ball back into his brothers' court. He was accusing them of the same grave sin as they had just accused him.


That is why the Torah records that they were confused, and that they were unable to answer. It was because their actions belied their words, and there was nothing for them to say. And that is why the Medrash concludes ' ... how much more so when Hashem Himself will come and rebuke everyone according to who he is'. Because on the Great Day of Judgement, G-d will employ exactly the same tactics. He will confront each and every person, and show him how his own actions contradict his own defense. He will show him how even, there where he claims to have an excuse, that excuse is full of loopholes, based on his very own life-style. For example, a person will argue that he did not give sufficient Tzedakah because of his high household expenses, and the needs of his family. (To be sure, this excuse is flimsy to begin with, as the Gemara points out in Gittin [7], and besides, Chazal have said that even a poor man who lives off Tzedakah is obliged to give Tzedakah. Yet it might have helped to reduce the severity of the sin and the punishment, as one cannot compare such a person to a rich man who simply refuses to give Tzedakah without any reason at all.) This argument might indeed have mitigated his punishment, had he not been guilty of spending large amounts of money in pursuit of worldly pleasures that are permissive (rather than permitted), to attain Kavod or in connection with Machlokes, all without the least compunction. And how much money does one spend on educating one's children in matters that have nothing to do with Chinuch, and are perhaps even sinful (if not just time-wasting)?

What will the same person answer when G-d asks him what happened to 'his high household expenses, and the needs of his family' in all of the above cases? What will he say (what can he say!) when G-d asks how it is that he had money available for matters of his own choosing, but not for G-d's Mitzvos?


Yes indeed, on the Day of Judgement, G-d will rebuke each person according to who he is - i.e. according to his own personal standards.

And that is what Yirmiyahu ha'Navi means when he says (2:19) "Your evil will chastise you, and your naughtiness will rebuke you". The evil deeds that Yisrael performed, will, at one and the same time, serve a dual prosecution; the sin itself will prosecute, and it will also remove their defense with regard to other sins from which they will try to absolve themselves. And this also explains the double expression used by the Medrash 'The day of Judgement and the Day of Rebuking'; the former refers to the sin for what it appears on the surface, the latter, to the sin after it has been shown in its true light through one's other deeds, as we explained.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Chesed shel Emes

" ... and do with me kindness and truth, please don't bury me in Egypt" (47:29).

Kindness that one performs with the dead, says Rashi, is a genuine kindness.

The kindness that one performs in this world cannot classify as genuine kindness, the Ohel Ya'akov explains, because nobody really knows what is good for the recipient. How often it happens that one believes one is doing somebody a favour which eventually turns out to be to his detriment.

(A wonderful example of this is the story cited by the Gemara in Succah (53a) where, in reply to Shlomoh ha'Melech's question, the Angel of Death told him that he looked dejected due to two certain men whose lives he had been instructed to take. Without more ado, assuming that, for some reason, the Angel of Death was sorry at having to kill the two men, the king ordered them to travel forthwith to Luz, a town where nobody died. The moment however, they reached the city walls, a large brick fell from the wall and killed them.

The next day, Sh'lomoh met a beaming Angel of Death. 'Why do you look so happy', he asked him? Back came the reply 'The reason that I felt dejected yesterday was because I was ordered to kill those two men at the gates of Luz, but I didn't know how to get them there. Thanks to you, my mission was successful!')

Burial is different, the Ohel Ya'akov concludes. There can be no doubt that every deceased person needs it. Hence of all the kindnesses, it alone, falls under the category of 'Chesed shel Emes'.


The first letters of Aron, Mittah, Tachrichin (coffin, stretcher, shrouds), says the Medrash Talpiyos, spell 'Emes'!


Deducting a Sixtieth

" ... and he said behold (hinei) Yosef is coming to see you, and Ya'akov strengthened himself and he sat up on the bed (al ha'mitah)".

The Gemara in Nedarim (48b) states that if a ben gil (someone born under the same Mazal) visits a sick person, he takes away one sixtieth of his illness.

Yosef was a ben gil of Ya'akov, for as Chazal have said, whatever happened to Ya'akov happened to Yosef (Rashi, Vayeishev 37:2). In that case, when Yosef came to visit Ya'akov, he took away one sixtieth of his illness, and that is what gave him the strength to sit up. And this is hinted in the word "ha'mitah", whose numerical value is fifty-nine. Moreover, the numerical value of the word "Hinei", mentioned earlier in the same Pasuk, whose numerical value is sixty, hints at the sixty portions of illness that Ya'akov Avinu possessed before Yosef entered, which prevented him from sitting-up.


An Interesting Segulah

"And the children born to you shall be yours, they shall be called after the name of their brothers with regard to inheritance" (48:6).

The P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro citing the G'ro, suggests the following Segulah for the survival (and even for the longevity) of a baby who is born after a child or children who died. The parents he says, should call him after the name of the last deceased child, but should also add an additional name, which should come first.

And he bases this on the current Pasuk, which he interprets like this: "And the children born to you shall be yours (they shall live, on condition that) they shall be called after the name of their brothers ... ".


Placing G-d in Front of Oneself

"And he (Ya'akov) blessed Yosef and he said "G-d, before whom my fathers walked ... " (48:15).

The opening Remo in Orach Chayim writes that 'I place Hashem before me always' is a major principle in the Torah and in the virtues of Tzadikim, who go before Hashem.

The G'ro in his commentary, comments 'as the Torah writes " ... a perfect Tzadik, No'ach walked with G-d". So it writes in connection with Chanoch, and so it writes in connection with the Avos "before whom my fathers walked ... " '. In effect, this sums up the superior virtues of the Tzadikim.


Why the Shechinah Left Ya'akov

"Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days ... " (49:1).

Ya'akov intended to inform his sons of the 'end of time', when Mashi'ach was destined to come. However, says Rashi, the Shechinah left him, so instead, he showed them how each tribe would settle in Eretz Yisrael.

The reason that the Shechinah left him, says R. Bunim from P'shischa, is because the date he wanted to reveal to them was the final date that Mashi'ach would have to come (assuming Yisrael would not merit his arrival before that date). But that knowledge would negate any chance of his coming earlier, a distinct possibility (in the event that they would).


Coming Unexpectedly

" ... what will happen (asher yikro eschem) to you at the end of days ... " (Ibid.).

The words "asher yikro eschem" imply by chance, meaning that Mashi'ach will come when people are busy with their lives and they least expect him (as indeed it is written in Sefarim - that Mashi'ach will come with Hesech ha'Da'as).

Fortunate is the person who is ready, nevertheless!


Strangers & Brothers

"Please forgive now the sin of your brothers ... And now please forgive the sin of the servants of the G-d of your father" (50:17).

It is easier, says R. Aharon Levine, to forgive a stranger than it is to forgive a brother. Indeed, says the Medrash, when one bangs on gold, it produces a barely audible sound, whereas when one bangs on iron, the noise can be deafening. That is because one tends to bang on gold with a hammer that is not made of gold, whereas one tends to bang on iron with an iron hammer.

The sale of Yosef contained both aspects of wrong-doing: selling anybody is wicked enough, but they did worse; they sold their brother! Both aspects are mentioned in the Pasuk.


I would have explained the Pasuk a little differently. It is evil for someone to sell his brother, I would have said, but it is equally evil for a G-d-fearing person to sell anybody. Yosef's brothers were asking him for forgiveness on both scores, one as Yosef's brothers, and the other, in their capacity as G-d-fearing men.

* * *


' "And I (Ya'akov) will lie with my fathers, and you (Yosef) will carry me from Egypt and bury me in their graves". But because he was his son, he declined to place his hand on his thigh and (merely) said "I will do as you said" ' (47:30).


'And he (Ya'akov) blessed them on that day saying "In you Yosef my son, the house of Yisrael will bless their babies on the day of their B'ris saying "May G-d make you like Efrayim and Menasheh. And in the counting of the tribes, the Prince of Efrayim will precede the Prince of Menasheh ... " ' (48:20).


'And Ya'akov called his sons and said to them "Purify yourselves and I will reveal to you the hidden secrets and the concealed dates concerning the end of time, the reward that is designated for Tzadikim on the one hand, and the punishment for the Resha'im, on the other, and the meaning of 'strolling in Gan Eden'. The twelve tribes of Yisrael entered together and surrounded the golden bed on which he was lying; and when the glory of the Shechinah revealed itself to him, the date on which Mashi'ach is due to arrive was hidden from him, so he said "Come and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days' (49:1).


'All of these comprised the twelve tribes of Yisrael, all Tzadikim of the same caliber, and that which their father spoke to them and blessed them, was each man according to the b'rachah that he was destined to receive' (49:28)


'And Yosef lay his father on an ivory bed overlaid with good-quality gold, set in precious stones and covered with linen cloths. There they poured strong wine and there they burned fine spices. There stood the mighty men of Eisav, the mighty men of Yishmael and Yehudah the lion, the mightiest of his brothers. "Come", he cried out to his brothers, "Let us plant a cedar-tree whose top reaches the heaven, and whose branches spread over all the inhabitants of the world, and one whose roots reach the depths; From him (Ya'akov), there came out twelve tribes; from him there will descend kings and rulers, and groups of Kohanim who will bring Korbanos, and of Levi'im who will sing". Then, leaning over his father's face, Yosef wept and kissed him' (50:1).


'And forty days passed from the time of the embalming ... and the Egyptians wept for seventy days, and they said to one another "Come, let us cry for Ya'akov the pious one, on whose merit the famine, which was predicted to last for forty-two years, ceased from the land of Egypt. After all, it was decreed that it should last for forty-two years, and it was on the merits of Ya'akov, that forty of those years were rescinded, so that the famine lasted for only two years' (50:3).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 66:
Lending Money to a Poor Man

To lend money to a poor man according to one's means, in order to help lighten his burden. The Mitzvah of lending is more powerful than giving a poor man Tzedakah, and takes precedence over it. Because the shame and embarrassment of someone whose hard-pressed situation is known among the people and who approaches them to ask them for financial assistance is not as acute as someone who has not yet reached that stage and who is afraid to find himself there. All the latter needs is some assistance in the form of a loan to enable him to earn a little money, to prevent him from ever having to ask for money ('a stitch in time saves nine'). And when Hashem in His mercy, grants him a sizeable profit, he will be able to repay the loan, and live off the balance. That is why the Torah encourages us to support a poor person with a loan before he reaches the stage where he needs to beg for alms, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (22:24) "If you will lend My people money ...". And Chazal say in the Mechilta that wherever the Torah uses the word "Im" (if) it is conditional, with only three exceptions, which are obligatory. This is one of them, and the source for this is the Pasuk in Re'ei (15:8) "and lend him whatever he is lacking", which specifically obligates lending a fellow-Jew money.

A reason for the Mitzvah is ... that G-d wants His creations to be well-trained in the midah of loving-kindness and compassion, since it is a praiseworthy Midah, and by acquiring such good Midos they become worthy to receive His goodness, as we have said before, because goodness and blessing take effect only on what is good, and not otherwise. And when Hashem performs good with those who are good, His wish to do good to the world is fulfilled. The fact is that G-d Himself could well provide the poor man's needs, only due to His kindness, He has appointed us as His emissaries, to give us the opportunity to merit His goodness.

A second reason is ... that He wants the poor man to be fed through people, in order to chastise him in two ways: firstly, in that he needs to be sustained by human-beings like himself, and secondly, in that he obtains his sustenance in limited quantities. And it is in connection with what we wrote in the previous paragraph that the Gemara in Bava Basra (10a) cites the story of the heretic who asked a Chacham that if G-d really loves the poor, then why does He not provide for them Himself, to which the Chacham replied, that giving Tzadakah is a rich man's passport to Olam ha'Ba.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Such as which poor man has priority with regard to receiving Tzedakah ... and the numerous warnings in Chazal connected with opening one's hand to a poor man; indeed, they said that someone who has the means, but fails to give Tzedakah, is considered distanced, despicable, abominable ... and as loathesome as Avodah-Zarah. And on the other hand, they describe someone who supports a poor man as dear, beloved, merciful and blessed, as is explained in Kesubos, in Bava Basra and in many other places in Shas.


Mitzvah 67:
Not to Claim One's Debt from a Poor Man who is Unable to Pay

One is forbidden to claim a debt from a debtor who does not possess the means to repay it, as the Pasuk writes in Mishpatim (22:24) "Do not behave towards him like creditor". Included in this La'av is the prohibition of taking interest from him. A reason for the Mitzvah ... is to impress on us the Midah of Chesed and compassion, because once they become part and parcel of us, we will be worthy of receiving Hashem's goodness, thereby bringing to fruition His wish to do good to us both in this world and in the World to Come (as we explained in the previous Mitzvah).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal ask in Bava Metzi'a (48b) 'From where do we know that a lender is not permitted to pass in front of the house of the debtor, if he knows that the latter is unable to repay his loan?'. And they answer with the Pasuk in Mishpatim that we cited above. Likewise, the Mechilta learns from the same Pasuk that a creditor under these circumstances, is never permitted to appear in front of the debtor ... and other issues of this nature, are discussed in Bava Metzi'a and in other places in Shas.

This Mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere, at all times. Someone who contravenes it and, knowing that the debtor is unable to pay, claims his debt with the intention of causing him pain, has transgressed this La'av. He should know that he has transgressed a Royal Command.

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