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

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Vol. 17   No. 12

This issue is sponsored
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Yehuda ben Mordechai z"l
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Parshas Vayechi

The Calmest Galus

When Ya'akov took his family down to Egypt, he set in motion the era of Galus, in fulfillment of G-d's words to Avraham at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim, that his children would be slaves in a land that was not theirs. This part of the decree began with Ya'akov's entry into Egypt, and lasted two hundred and ten years, as Ya'akov himself hinted in Parshas Miketz (42:2) when he bid his sons "R'du shomoh" (see Rashi there).


The Gemara in Shabbos (89b) points out that one would have expected Ya'akov to go into exile in chains - like his descendants did at the hands of the Babylonians during the first exile and the Romans during the second. But this is not what happened. In fact, he was driven in a chauffeur-driven coach, flanked by his children and family, who proudly accompanied him in style.

And not only that, but he went on to spend seventeen of the happiest and most tranquil years of his life in Egypt, worry-free and content, surrounded by his vast family.


Three of the comments the Ba'al ha'Turim makes with regard to the opening Pasuk help shed light on the point that we just made.

Firstly, he observes that during the last seventeen years of Ya'akovs life, Yosef was providing for his father, repaying him as it were for the seventeen years that his father had provided for him before he was sold. Bear in mind that G-d had 'worked hard' behind the scenes to prepare Yosef for the gigantic task of doing so, beginning with his sale at the hand of his brothers, and ending with Par'oh's dreams, his interpretation, and his appointment as viceroy of Egypt.

Secondly, commenting on the Gematriyah of the opening words of the Parshah "Vayechi Ya'akov", the Ba'al ha'Turim explains that out of a life span of a hundred and forty-seven years, Ya'akov only really lived thirty-four, the seventeen years that he lived with his beloved son Yosef before he was sold, and the seventeen that he lived with him in Egypt. What he is saying is that these were the greatest years of his life, placing the years that he spent in Egypt on a par with the years prior to Yosef's sale!

And thirdly, he explains, wherever the Torah says "Vayehi Yemei" (or 'K'reivah lamus', [both of which it does here]), it indicates that the person under discussion did not reach the age of his father. As examples, he quotes the Pasuk "Vayehi kol yemei Chanoch", and "Vayehi kol yemei Lemech" in Bereishis (both of whom did not live as long as their fathers). And the reason that G-d curtailed Ya'akov's life (by thirty-three years) was to prevent him from witnessing the suffering that his children would have to endure, which was destined to begin immediately after his death (just like He did with Avraham, to prevent him from seeing his grandson Eisav going off the path). The pain that Tzadikim feel when they witness their children suffering (physically or spiritually) it seems, is too much to bear.


And those last years spent in Egypt were supposed to be Galus! More than that; they followed a long spate of personal tragedies that Ya'akov had previously suffered in quick succession (Eisav, Lavan, again Eisav, Dinah [Sh'chem], Yosef, Shimon and Binyamin) And now, the calm after the storm - the calm of Galus!

Perhaps leaving Eretz Yisrael was such a tragedy in Ya'akov's eyes, that G-d considered it sufficient punishment (particularly for sins which he did not commit), allowing him the consolation of tranquility.

However, the above Gemara in Shabbos adds that is was due to Ya'akov's merits that he was drawn down to Egypt with ropes of love (Yosef) and not in chains (see Agados Maharsha). Following this train of thought, one might well ascribe the merit that earned him the relief from his endless suffering to the fact that he did not go to Egypt to stay there. As the Ba'al Hagadah, based on the Pasuk in Vayigash (47:4) "We came to sojourn [Logur] in the land" informs us - Ya'akov had no intention of settling down in Egypt, he arrived in Egypt with the intention of sojourning and leaving as soon as the famine ended.

At the beginning of Vayeishev, commenting on the words "Vayeishev Ya'akov" (and Ya'akov dwelt), Rashi explains that all the ensuing troubles struck him as a result of his intention to settle down. 'Notwithstanding the great reward that is in store for them in the World to Come', G-d declared, 'Tzadikim want to settle down in this world too ?!'

It seems that Ya'akov had learned his lesson; he came to Egypt (not 'leishev', but) "logur', thereby earning himself the result to a spate of tranquility.


On a similar note, the K'li Yakar explains the Rashi at the beginning of the Parshah which informs us that the knowledge of the date of Mashi'ach was withdrawn from Ya'akov just as he was about to divulge it. Citing the Akeidah he explains that it was vital that Yisrael not know when Mashi'ach is due to arrive. This is because, if they would, they would see fit to settle down in Galus, and build themselves splendid mansions. And above all, it would discourage them from praying for the redemption. And, he adds, seeing as many people do that in spite of the fact that the date of Mashi'ach's arrival is unknown, and fail to beseech G-d to bring them back to their land, G-d leaves them in Galus. If they would only Daven to Him fervently and sincerely, Mashi'ach would come!

Now the B'nei Yisrael in Egypt knew exactly when the Galus would end, and that is why the Torah writes at the end of Vayigash "Vayeishev Yisrael be'Eretz Goshen". Unlike Ya'akov their father, knowing that they were destined to remain in Egypt for a long time, the first generations settled down, built themselves fine houses and purchased property.


If, as the Ba'al Hagadah suggests, Yisrael merited to go out of Egypt because Ya'akov initially went down to Egypt to sojourn, who knows whether the two hundred and ten years that they ultimately remained there was not the result of their change of heart in deciding to settle down there. Had they taken their cue from Ya'akov, they would perhaps have left Egypt much earlier.

In any event, Ya'akov was not affected by his children's change of heart. On the one hand, he did not suffer the pangs of Galus in his lifetime, and on the other, immediately after his death, his body was taken out of that Tamei country and transported back to Eretz Yisrael.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Ya'akov Avinu's Final Instructions

" do not bury me in Egypt carry me from Egypt and bury me in their graves" (47:29/30).

Ya'akov made two requests of Yosef, says R. Bachye; Firstly, not to bury him in Egypt; and secondly, to bury him in Eretz Yisrael.

Not to bury him in Egypt, because he knew that the Egyptians would worship him as a god (due to his blessing Par'oh that the Nile would rise to greet him), and as Chazal have said, just as G-d punishes those who worship, so too does He punish those who are worshipped, as the Pasuk writes in Parshas Bo (12:12) " and on all the gods of Egypt I will do judgement". And to bury him in Eretz Yisrael, because the Avos harboured a strong desire to be buried there, since it is a holy land that atones for the sins of its residents - as the Navi Yeshayah writes (33:24) " the people who reside there are pardoned from sin". Indeed, the Torah itself states in Ha'azinu (32:43) " and the land will atone for its people". And what's more, it is the gateway to Heaven, through which all Tefilos and Korbanos pass; in addition, writes the author, all the Neshamos that merit to return to Heaven return to their roots via Eretz Yisrael.


And finally, he says, when the time of Techi'as ha'Meisim arrives, a. those that are buried in Eretz Yisrael will be spared the pain of having to roll to Eretz Yisrael via underground tunnels; their graves will simply open and they will emerge painlessly; and b. The Meisim of Eretz Yisrael will be the first to come back to life.


The Day of One's Death

"And I will lie with my fathers and you will bury me in their graves" (47:30).

The first phrase, R. Bachye explains, refers to the Soul, the second, to the body.


Ya'akov Avinu knew, the Medrash explains, that he would join his fathers in Gan Eden, and it infers from here that on the day of death, a person knows where he is destined to go (see footnote in R. Bachye), and that his Soul joins its fathers even before the body is buried (though this seems to contradict the accepted teaching that the Neshamah does not return to Heaven before the body has been brought to rest).


The Medrash, commenting on the Pasuk in Tehilim (31:2) "How great is the goodness that You have put away for those who fear you!" relates how, as R. Avahu was about to die, he was shown his vast reward in the World to Come, at which he exclaimed in wonderment 'All this is for Avahu?!' Interestingly, the Gemara relates the same episode, but specifies thirteen rivers of Afarsemon oil that R. Avahu saw. At that point, he longed to die, and cited the above Pasuk in Tehilim.


Emulating His Father

" and you will carry me from Egypt" (Ibid.)

According to the simple explanation, this means that Yosef had undertaken to carry out his father's wishes, R. Bachye explains.

According to the Medrash however, what Yosef meant was that he too, would emulate his father's example and ask the B'nei Yisrael to carry his body out of Egypt when they left.


The Bechorah Changes Hands

"Efrayim and Menasheh will be like Reuven and Shimon to me" (48:5).

It is to this Pasuk, says R. Bachye, that the Pasuk in Divrei ha'Yamim (1, 5:1) is referring when it writes "And when he desecrated the bed of his father, he gave the Bechorah to Yosef". Because it was at this juncture that Ya'akov took away the birthright from Reuven and gave it to Yosef.


According to Rashi, the Bechorah that was given to Yosef had no real ramifications other than the Kavod of having his sons called tribes, but not that Yosef received a larger portion of land than the other tribes. R. Bachye cites the Ramban however, who disagrees vehemently. It is inconceivable, he argues, for Yosef to have received the Bechorah to be called two tribes, on the one hand, and to inherit the same as the other tribes, on the other.

He therefore maintains that Yosef was called the Bechor with regard to receiving a double portion. Indeed, the Pasuk specifically states in this connection "be'nachalosom" (indicating that they were granted the Bechorah with regard to inheritance). And this explanation has its roots in Targum Unklus on Pasuk (49:22).


A Matter of Perception

"And Yisrael saw the sons of Yosef " (48:8).

He didn't really see them, says R. Bachye, since the Torah will inform us shortly that Ya'akov was blind. What the Torah means is that he sensed them.

However, the Zohar in Parshas Toldos explains that whereas Yitzchak was completely blind, Ya'akov may have been short-sighted, but he was not blind.

The Riva, apparently conforming with the Zohar, explains that although he could not recognize people, he could make out their forms, so that he could see when someone was standing in front of him, even though he might not have recognized him.


Ya'akov's Hands

"He guided his hands, because Menasheh was the firstborn" (48:13).

Rabeinu Chananel is the author of the popular explanation, that Ya'akov crossed his hands, knowing as he did, that Yosef had placed Menasheh on his right front-hand side and Efrayim on his left.

R. Bachye rejects Rabeinu Chananel's explanation however. He queries the need for Ya'akov to have done something as unconventional as that. Consequently, he explains that what Ya'akov did was to change the boys, and leave his hands intact. That being the case, he concludes, when the Torah adds "ki Menasheh ha'B'chor", it means (not 'because Menasheh was the B'chor', but) 'despite the fact that Menasheh was the B'chor'.


To answer Bachye's Kashya on Rabeinu Chananel, I would suggest that (apart from the fact that the words "sikeil es yadav' fit better into his [Rabeinu Chananel's] explanation), Ya'akov deliberately opted to switch his hands rather than the boys, because to move Menasheh to his left, would have suggested that Menasheh had done something wrong and deserved to lose his birthright, which he had not. He therefore left him standing on his right, where he belonged, switching his hands to indicate that it was a matter of personal ideology that caused him to make the change, and not a a flaw in Menasheh's character or a sin that he had performed.

Having said that, we can explain "ki Menasheh ha'B'chor" to mean 'because Menasheh was the firstborn'. And what the Pasuk means is that it was because Menasheh was the B'chor that Ya'akov switched his hands rather than changing the position of the boys.



"And you thought bad about me; G-d thought it for the good" (50:20).

See Targum Yonasan (in 'Highlights ').

It is truly remarkable for a man who wielded so much power - and had done for nine years, to be so humble.

And it is equally remarkable for someone whose brothers had treated him with such disdain to honour and respect them in this way.

* * *


'And Yosef said to his father "They are my sons, whom the word of Hashem gave to me; and here is the Sh'tar Kesubah with which I married Osnas the daughter of Dinah your daughter " ' (48:9).


'There will not cease from the House of Yehudah kings and rulers, nor scholars who teach Torah, from his children ' (49:10).


'And the brothers of Yosef saw that their father had died and that he (Yosef) declined to join them at table to eat, and they said "Perhaps Yosef bears us a grudge and he intends to repay us for all the evil that we did to him!" ' (50:15).

'So they commanded Bilhah to say to Yosef "Your father left instructions before his death to tell you " ' (50:16).

' You thought bad thoughts about me - that the reason that I decline to sit with you at table to eat is because I bear you a grudge. G-d however, judged me favourably - because my father placed me at the head (of the table), and it was in deference to him that I accepted the honour; but now (that my father is not alive any more) I no longer accept it ' (50:20).


'And Yosef saw third generation children from Efrayim; also when the sons of Machir the son of Menasheh were born, Yosef circumcised them and brought them up' (50:23).


'And Yosef made the B'nei Yisrael swear to tell their children saying "You will be enslaved in Egypt, Do not dare to leave Egypt until two saviours will come and tell you that G-d has surely remembered you " ' (50:25).

* * *

(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 431:
To Love Geirim (cont.)

This Mitzvah applies everywhere to both men and women. Whoever contravenes it and taunts a Ger or who is lax in saving him or his property from harm, or who treats him with disrespect because he is a Ger and who does therefore not have anyone to take his side, has nullified this Asei. His punishment will be severe, since the Torah warns in many places not to treat Geirim badly. We must learn from this precious Mitzvah to deal mercifully with any stranger whom we see outside the country of his birth and the location of his family, and not to keep one's distance from him when one comes across him alone without friends. For the Torah commands us to have mercy on all those who need help. With Midos like these we will earn Divine mercy when we most need it, and the Heavenly blessings will 'rest on our heads'. The Torah hints the reason for the Mitzvah when it writes "because you were strangers in the land of Egypt", reminding us that we ourselves have already experienced the deep pain that a person feels when he finds himself among foreign people in a foreign land. And when we recall the terrible heart-ache that such a situation causes, that we went through it and G-d delivered us from it, it will arouse our mercy towards others in the same situation.

* * *

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