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

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Vol. 15   No. 12

This issue is sponsored
by the Chaitowitz Family
in loving memory of
אברהם שלום בן שניאור זלמן ז"ל
מאיר דוד בן שלמה אליעזר ז"ל
רבקה בת יונה ז"ל

Parshas Vayechi

Ya'akov's Funeral
(Part 2; see main article, vol. 13)

When Ya'akov's cortege arrived in the Land of Cana'an, all the thirty-one kings of Cana'an with their subjects, a vast sea of people, came to eulogize him and to cry for him. And they paid him homage by placing their crowns on his coffin. When Eisav, who was living in Mount Seir, heard about his brother's death, he too, came to mourn for him, together with his sons and his followers. In what must surely have been the largest burial that ever took place, the huge contingent of Egyptians, Cana'anim, Eisav and his men, and most importantly, Ya'akov's own family, gathered together to pay their last respects to the renowned Tzadik, Ya'akov and to eulogize him.


All went well until Yosef and his brothers carried their father to the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah for burial. That was when Eisav and his men tried to stop them, claiming that the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah was reserved for Eisav, and that they had no right to bury Ya'akov there. This angered Yosef and his brothers immensely, seeing as it was no more than twenty-five years earlier, when Yitzchak died, that Ya'akov had purchased not only the Me'aras ha'Machpeilah, but the whole of Eretz Cana'an for a vast sum of money.

But Eisav countered that they were lying, claiming that no such transaction had ever taken place. And he made this claim in the knowledge that Yosef (with whom he was talking) had not been present when the sale had taken place. But Yosef knew the truth, and when he informed Eisav that the deeds of sale were in Egypt, the latter challenged him to go and fetch them. Without more ado, Yosef called Naftali (who could run like a deer), and instructed him to run to Egypt and to fetch the relevant papers (including the documents dealing with Eisav's sale of the birthright to Ya'akov), and in a flash, he was gone.


Anticipating what was about to happen, Eisav prepared his men for war and they fought with the B'nei Ya'akov and the Egyptians (according to Rabeinu Bachya, it was Tz'fo the son of Elifaz, Eisav's son, who initiated the fighting). The first round went to the B'nei Ya'akov, who killed forty of Eisav's men.

Meanwhile Chushim the son of Dan, together with the other grandchildren of Ya'akov, was guarding the coffin of Ya'akov, nearby. Now Chushim, who was dumb and very hard of hearing, nevertheless heard the terrible commotion that was taking place close to where he stood, and, presumably by means of sign-language, he asked why Ya'akov was not being buried. When they explained to him what had happened, he ran to where the thick of the battle was taking place, and without any more ado, he took his sword and severed Eisav's head. His body rolled some distance and came to rest among his own men. Meanwhile, Ya'akov's sons overpowered Eisav's' men, and they buried their father in the Cave with great honour, and that was followed by the seven days of mourning. According to some commentaries, Ya'akov was buried on the first day of Succos, and the seven days of mourning began only after the termination of the Chag.


Tosfos in Gitin (55b), citing the Yerushalmi, writes that it was Yehudah who killed Eisav. Perhaps, they suggest, Chushim's stroke was not sufficiently powerful to kill Eisav, so Yehudah finished it off.

Whereas the Medrash Shocher Tov maintains that Yehudah had killed Eisav twenty years earlier at the burial of Yitzchak, in which case, he died at the age of a hundred and twenty, rather than a hundred and forty-seven, which is how old he was if he died at the burial of Ya'akov.

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Parsha Pearls

(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Ya'akov Exerts Himself

"And Yisrael exerted himself, and he sat up on the bed" (48:2).

Y'a'kov did not want to bless them lying in bed, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., so that they should think that he was a 'shechiv-mera' (a dying man), whose words cannot be taken too seriously. So he sat on the bed (with his legs over the side, as is evident from the Pasuk at the end of the Parshah 49:33).


Reuven the Firstborn

"Reuven, you are my firstborn … Hasty like water … " (49:3/4).

With one hasty act, Reuven lost just about everything - the birthright, the throne and the priesthood (to Yosef, Yehudah and Levi respectively, as Rashi points out).

All that remained was that the sons of Ya'akov always begin with him. That, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., is why Ya'akov Avinu compared him to water. When one pours water out of a vessel, a few drops remain. Had he compared him to something solid, of which nothing would remain in the vessel, then he would not have retained even the little that he did.


The Young Lion

"Yehudah is a lion cub (gur aryeh)" (49:9).

The young of all animals are called 'gurim', and it is only the lion-cub that is called 'gur', in keeping with its superiority over all the animals.

Indeed, says the Da'as Zekeinim, the first letters of "Gur Aryeh Yehudah", add up to fourteen, just like the letters of David.


David's Rise to Fame

""From the prey, my son, you elevated yourself" (Ibid).

If we translate "mi'teref" as 'from the animals of prey', says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. (in connection with the lion and the bear that he killed when he was a shepherd), the Pasuk can be referring to David, who rose to fame and to greatness on account of the lion and the bear that he killed, since it was those incidents that gave him the impetus to take on Goliath, and beat him.


It Won't be Forever

"The staff will not depart from Yehudah" (49:10).

In the last of four explanations, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., translating the word "ad" as 'forever', explains the Pasuk like this: "The staff (of dominion) will not depart from Yehudah forever (the lapse, following the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash, which saw the last of the kings of Yehudah, will not be permanent), because Shiloh (i.e. Mashi'ach) will come, at which point the royal lineage will resume.


Easy Access for the Ships

"Zevulun shall dwell by the seashore, and he shall be at the ship's harbour ." (49:13).

To explain the apparent repetition in the Pasuk, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. points out that many cities are situated by the sea-shore, but they are some distance from the actual harbour, making access to them from the sea difficult, with the result that the ships prefer to dock in a different port. So what the Pasuk is telling us here is that with Zevulun, the city will be built on the sea-front, giving easy access to the ships.


The Prophetess Devorah

"Naftali is a hind let loose, who delivers beautiful sayings" (49:21).

The first letters of the last three words ("Ha'nosein Imrei Shefer"), says the Rosh, spell 'ishah' (a woman). This he says, hints at Devorah who descended from Naftali, and who sang beautiful words of praise (in the form of Shiras Devorah).

Perhaps we can also say the word 'Imrei' supports this, for so the Torah writes at Matan Torah "Koh somar le'Veis Ya'akov, ve'sageid li'Venei Yisrael" - on which Chazal comment "Koh somar le'Veos Ya'akov" refers to the women, whereas "ve'sageid li'Venei Yisrael" refers to the men.


Giving Kavod to the Sons of Ya'akov

"And Yosef returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all those who went up with him to bury his father" (50:14).

Here the Pasuk lists the Egyptians who accompanied Yosef to bury his father, after the brothers; whereas on the outward journey (in Pasuk 7 & 8), inverting the order, it mentions the Egyptians before them?

It seems, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. that at first, the Egyptians declined to acknowledge the importance of the sons of Ya'akov. However, when they saw the homage the Kings of Cana'an paid Ya'akov (when they all removed their crowns and placed them on his coffin [as Rashi points out in Pasuk 13]), they too paid deference to his sons, allowing them to precede them.

* * *



"And he said 'Swear to me'; and he swore to him. Immediately, the Glory of the Shechinah appeared to him … " (47:31).


"I compare you to a small garden into which there flow swift-flowing, strong rivers which it cannot endure; so it became spoilt. So too, did you become weak Reuven my son … " (49:4).


"In their counsel my soul does not wish to take part and when they gathered against Sh'chem to destroy it, my honour did not join them; because in their anger, they killed a king and his subjects, and with their will, they broke down the walls of their enemies" (49:6).


"Cursed was the city of Shechem, said Ya'akov, when they came against it to destroy it in their anger, which is powerful, and their fury against Yosef was strong. Because, said Ya'akov, when these two live together, there is no king and no ruler who can stand before them. So he divided the portion of the B'nei Shimon into two parts; One portion will fall to them in the middle of the territory of the B'nei Yehudah, and the other portion among the remaining sons of Ya'akov. And I will scatter the tribe of Levi among all the other tribes of Yisrael" (49:7).


"Yehudah, you confessed at the episode with Tamar; therefore your brothers will thank you and will be called 'Yehudim' after you. You will defeat your enemies - you will fire arrows at them when they turn the backs of their necks to you (in flight) … " (49:8).


"I compare you Yehudah, to a lion-cub, for you removed yourself from killing Yosef, and from the Din of Tamar you will be vindicated … " (49:9).


"How beautiful will be the King Mashi'ach who will arise from the House of Yehudah; he will gird his loins, and go and wage war against his enemies; He will kill kings and rulers, and no king or ruler will stand before him. The mountains will be red from the blood of those whom he has slain, and his clothes will be stained with blood; He is compared to a wine-press" (49:11).


"How beautiful are the eyes of King Mashi'ach from not looking at immoral practices and the shedding of innocent blood, and his teeth are clean from milk, from not eating what has been stolen and taken from the owner by force. Therefore his mountains and his winepresses will be red with wine, and his hills, whiter than milk, with corn and with sheep-pens" (49:12).

* * *



(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings of this article reflect

the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch

and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 412

Not to Accept Ransom from a Murderer to Save him from the Death-Penalty

Not to accept kofer (ransom), irrespective of how much, to save a murderer from the death-penalty, as the Torah writes in Parshas Masei (35:31) "And you shall not take kofer for the soul of a murderer, a rasha who has to die".

The reason for this Mitzvah ... is self-explanatory because if the rulers of the land would be authorized to accept kofer from the murderer, it would lead to the scenario that, whenever a wealthy man would become angry with a poor man, he would kill him, and then escape the death-penalty by paying his ransom money. In this way, murder would become cheap and civilization would cease to function.

Some Dinim of this Mitzvah ... the Gemara teaches us in Kesubos (37b) that even if the murdered man's avenger (i.e. his closest relative) is willing to pardon the murderer and to have him set free in exchange for kofer, should the Beis Din agree, they do not have the authority to accept his offer for all the money in the world. The murderer must be put to death in accordance with the command of Hashem ... and all other details are discussed in Maseches Makos (and in the Rambam, Hilchos Rotze'ach [Perek 1]).

This Mitzvah applies … when the Beis Hamikdash is standing (because nowadays the death penalty is not practised), to both men and women. When we say that it applied to women too, even though they were not eligible to judge, we are referring to a situation where, perhaps following a request by the ruling power or for some other reason, if a woman was asked to save a murderer by accepting a sum of money, she was obligated to refuse on account of the La'av. Someone who contravenes it and accepts money to save a murderer has transgressed a La'av and is due to receive a severe punishment since it results in many deaths in Yisrael.


Mitzvah 83: Not To Take Bribery

It is forbidden for a Dayan to take bribery from either of the litigants, even if it is to judge the truth, as the Pasuk in Mishpatim (23:8) writes " … do not take bribery. And this La'av is repeated in Shoftim (16:19). And so they said in the Sifri "Do not take bribes" - 'even to declare the innocent person innocent, and the guilty person, guilty'.

A reason for the prohibition of taking bribes even to judge the truth … is to remove the bad habit, in case one comes to apply it in order to judge falsely. This is abundantly clear and requires no further elaboration.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah … Chazal have said that both the one who gives the bribe and the one who accepts it are Chayav - the former of transgressing the La'av of "Lifnei Iver … " (not causing others to sin); the latter, of transgressing a La'av which is accompanied by a curse, and which he is obligated to rectify by returning it to the owner .. It is also forbidden for a Dayan to elevate his standing in order to obtain a higher wage for his scribes … Bribery of words is forbidden, no less than bribery of money. In the event that the litigants honour him verbally, he must see to it that their words leave him unaffected. In principle then, the Dayan may not receive any benefit from either of the litigants. A Dayan who works however, and who loses income on account of the hours he spends in court, is permitted to request a fee from the litigants, for the work that he loses for the duration of their case, provided he claims 'S'char Batalah' (work-loss, which takes into account the fact that he did not actually work), and no more. He is also obligated to take half the payment from each litigant (so that one does not pay more than the other) … and the remaining details are to be found in Sanhedrin (and in the Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin Chapter 23).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men only, since it is only they who are eligible to judge. Anyone who contravenes it and accepts bribery, has transgressed a La'av, though he is not subject to Malkos, because the money must be returned.

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