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

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Vol. 18   No. 12

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yehuda ben Mordechai z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 14 Teves

Parshas Vayechi

With My Sword and with My Bow

Based on Targum Yonasan and a Medrash Rabah, Rashi interprets the extra portion (the "Sh'chem Achad") that Ya'akov gave to Yosef literally as the town Sh'chem. And the sword and the bow (or the Chochmah and the Tefilah) of which he speaks, is with reference to his participation in the battles that the brothers fought against Sh'chem and its environs, without which they would have all succumbed. He was now presenting to Yosef the Sh'chem that he had captured and that was his to give to whomever he pleased.

Following in the wake of the Ramban, Rabeinu Bachye explains the extra portion as the double portion of land that Yosef would receive when they entered Yisrael, in that his tribe was divided into two tribes, (see Parshah Pearls 'Apportioning Eretz Yisrael').

And although the Torah writes "which I took from the Emori" (in the past), it is referring to the conquest of Cana'an which would only take place many years later. Moreover, the Torah ought to have written 'the Cana'ani' rather than the "the Emori" (which it mentions either because they were the strongest of the seven nations, or, as the Ramban points out, because Sichon and Og, the kings of the Emori, were the first to fall into the hands of Yisrael).

The fact that Ya'akov saw fit to refer to the sword and the bow, R. Bachye explains, serves as a hint that, despite the intense fear that the Cana'ani nations felt towards the invading army of Yisrael, G-d put into their hearts to fight rather than to flee or to surrender (so that the evil Cana'anim should fall by the sword). And the reason that he added the word "My" ("my sword" and "my bow") was to hint further that it was only on his merits (i.e. the merits of the three Avos) that Yisrael would defeat the Cana'anim. And this is borne out by David ha'Melech, who writes in Tehilim (44:4) "For it is not by their swords that they inherited the land but by Your right-hand (Avraham), Your (strong) arm (Yitzchak) and the light of Your countenance (Ya'akov) that You favoured them".

R. Bachye goes on to suggest that Unklus, who translates "be'charbi u've'kashti" as 'my prayers and my requests' also did so having the merits of the Avos in mind. And he bases Targum Unklus' translation on the fact that the word "be'kashti" can be read as 'bakoshosi' (my request), and that prayer after all, is like a sword with which a mighty warrior protects himself. Perhaps, he adds, "my sword" refers to the Torah (which is compared to a two-edged sword) which the Avos learned even before it was given. It seems to me however, that the connection between Unklus' words and Yisrael's conquest of Cana'an is unclear.


The Leiv Shalom citing Targum Unklus, attributes his deviation from the simple explanation to the fact that Ya'akov added "my" to the words "sword" and "bow" (a point to which R. Bachye also alluded, as we explained above).

Be that as it may, if Ya'akov Avinu wanted to convey the concept of Tefilah, he asks, then why didn't he? Why did he see fit to express himself using a Lashon that denotes weapons? And he gives a beautiful answer based on a conversation between the Brisker Rav and his son.


Following the '67 war some relatives of the Brisker Rav were discussing the war and the incredible victory of Yisrael over its enemies in the presence of the Rav. Realizing that they were impressed with the efficiency of the soldiers and the might of the army, he commented that if they thought that it was the guns, the tanks and the planes that were responsible for the victory, they were sadly mistaken. In fact, they had nothing to do with it. The victory was brought about by the Tehilim, the Tefilos, the supplications and the pleas of the Chachamim and the Tzadikim (and here he named a number of Talmidei-Chachamim who lived at that time).

'It is clear ', he told them, 'that the (battle) front lies not on dry land, not in the sea and not even in the air. There is only one front, and that is in Heaven! The sole question is whether the prayers and the entreaties of these Tzadikim have been accepted or not; whether they were able to overcome the prosecutors who stood against us or not! If they do, then we have won; if they don't, then we have lost!

The truth of the matter is, he concluded, that everything that transpires in this world is child's play. True, we are forced to indulge in the game, just as we are in all other areas of hishtadlus that we have to get involved in. But the real battle-front is in Heaven. That being so, it was neither the army nor the airforce that achieved the victory, but the aforementioned Tzadikim.

At that point, one of his relatives raised the question that, if the victory was Heaven-sent, why did Yisrael have to suffer so many sacrifices? To which he replied with a dialogue that took place between the Beis Halevi and one of his sons, who had just become engaged, and whose large Nadan (dowry) seemed to have gone to his head:

'Don't for one moment think that the large Nadan that you received is in any way due to your good deeds. Not at all; it is because you are my son (i.e. in my honour, and not in yours!)'

'Not at all, father' replied his smart son, 'Had it been in your honour, then the Nadan would have been many times greater. It must therefore have been given to me in my honour, which explains why it is not as much as it would have been had it been given to me in yours'.

But the last word went the Beis Halevi. 'In fact, the Nadan was given to you in my honour, as I explained. And the amount of the Nadan was meant to be many times greater as you yourself suggested. Only what can I do, now that you are involved, causing the amount of the Nadan to be reduced?'


And so it is here, the Brisker Rav concluded. As I explained, the real battle-front is situated in Heaven, and it was there that the decision was made to grant us victory. In reality, the victory was meant to be complete, without as much as one casualty on our side. But what can one do when there are nationalists who attribute the victory to the strength and the might of their hands and who believe in the power of guns, tanks and planes. That is what reduces the extent of the victory, resulting in the heavy price we had to pay for defeating our enemies.

And that is why Ya'akov Avinu used the expression "with my sword and with my bow" with reference to Tefilah and request. Because these are the true weapons that we need to employ when fighting against our adversaries.


And this is what David ha'Melech writes in Tehilim (20:8) "Some rely on chariots and some rely on horses, but we call out in the Name of Hashem our G-d". And when we do "They slump and fall; but we rise and are invigorated (Ibid. 9)".

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

The Thirty-Four Good Years

"And the days of Ya'akov were (Vay'hi) " (47:28).

The Riva attributes the Torah's switch from the plural "Vayih'yu" that it uses in connection with Avraham and Yitzchak, to the singular ("Vay'hi") here to the fact that the Gematriyah of "Vay'hi" is thirty-four. This in turn, constitutes the years of Ya'akov's life that he really 'lived' - the seventeen years when he studied in the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver (before making his way to Charan), and the last seventeen years of his life, that he spent in Egypt in the proximity of his beloved son Yosef.

Others attribute the figure to the seventeen years he spent with Yosef before he was sold, and the seventeen years he spent with him after they were reunited.


Why G-d's Promise was Not Sufficient

"And he (Ya'akov) said (to Yosef) 'Swear to me!' (47:31).

Why, asks the Riva, did Ya'akov find it necessary to extract an oath from Yosef? Why was G-d's promise to return him to Eretz Cana'an (see Vayigash 46:4) not sufficient?

Once again citing Rabeinu Tam, he replies that perhaps G-d's promise was confined to returning his bones and not his body. Therefore he made Yosef swear that he would transport his body (i.e. by embalming him) too.

Alternatively, he explains, G-d's promise could have materialized at a later date (perhaps when Yisrael left Egypt some two hundred years later). Therefore he saw fit to make him swear that he would transport him to Eretz Cana'an immediately following his death.


Apportioning Eretz Yisrael

"And the children that you will father after them (Efrayim and Menasheh) will be called after their brothers" (48:6).

Rashi explains that in the event that Yosef has additional children, they are not to be counted as independent tribes, but will become part of Efrayim and Menasheh. Even though the land was distributed according to the number of people, as the Torah writes "To the larger give a larger inheritance" (in which case every person, barring the firstborn, received an equal portion [and there would be no practical difference as to whether subsequent children are considered independent tribes or not]); nevertheless, only Efrayim and Menasheh are called tribes.


Rabeinu Tam queries Rashi however, from the Gemara in Yesh Nochlin, which implies that Eretz Yisrael was apportioned according to the tribes (twelve equal portions, irrespective of size), and the Pasuk "To the larger give a larger inheritance" is referring (not to the tribes, as Rashi explains, but) to the respective families of each tribe?

The Riva answers the Kashya with the Rashbam's interpretation of the Gemara in Perek Yesh Nochlin.

The Rashbam explains that initially, the land was divided into twelve equal portions, of which each tribe received one. Following that however, each tribe divided its territory in accordance to the number of people in the tribe (either according to those who left Egypt or those who entered Eretz Yisrael, depending upon the two opinions cited by Chazal).


Consequently, when Rashi says that they distributed the land according to the number of people, he is referring, not to the first distribution (where each tribe took an equal portion), but to the second, where each member received an equal portion. It is clear however, that Rashi himself does not learn this way.


In Which Country is Beis-Lechem?

"And I buried her there on the way to Efrat, that is Beis-Lechem" (48:7).

Rashi explains that Ya'akov did not take Rachel's remains to Beis-Lechem - so that she should be buried in Eretz Yisrael. But Beis-Lechem is in Eretz Yisrael, asks the Riva?


How a Son should (or should not)
Speak to his Father

"And Yosef said to his father 'Not so (Lo chein) my Father, for he is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head!' (48:18).

Whoever translates "Lo chein" as 'That's not right!' (as we find in connection with the daughters of Tz'lofchad "Kein b'nos Tz'lofchad dovros! - the daughters of Tz'lofchad have spoken correctly), is making a big mistake; Chas ve'Shalom that Yosef should speak like that to this father!

The correct translation of "Lo chein" must therefore be "Not so" ('that is not what I meant!'). And what Yosef was saying was that because it was the done thing to lead one's firstborn on one's right hand side, on the he did not place Menasheh on his right side, assumption that his father would switch his hand. Rather, he deliberately placed him on his left side, so that he should be on Ya'akov's right, circumventing the need for Ya'akov to switch his hands.

To which Ya'akov replied that he was fully aware of where Yosef had placed Menasheh and why, and that that was precisely why he switched his hands.

* * *


'His (Ya'akov's) sons carried him to Eretz Cana'an. When the wicked Eisav got wind of this, he traveled from Har Se'ir with many troops, and came to Chevron, where he would not allow Yosef to bury his father in the Me'aras ha'Machpeolah. Without a moment's delay, Naftali raced down to Egypt, arriving the same day, to fetch the documents in which Eisav had transferred to Ya'akov his portion of the Me'aras ha'Machpeilah. Immediately (upon his return), Naftali motioned to Chushim the son of Dan, who took a sword and de-capacitated Eisav ha'Rasha, whose head rolled into the Cave and came to rest in the bosom of his father Yitzchak. As for Eisav's body, they buried it in the field in which the Me'aras ha'Machpeilah was situated, after which Ya'akov's sons buried their father in the Cave of the field of Machpeilah which Avraham had purchased ' (50:13).


' also when the sons of Machir the son of Menasheh were born, Yosef circumcised them and brought them up ' (50:23).


'Yosef made the B'nei Yisrael swear to tell their children saying "You will be slaves in Egypt, Do not do evil by going up from Egypt until two redeemers will come and say to you that G-d has surely remembered you (pokod yifkod ) " ' (50:25).



"And do with me kindness and truth (chesed ve'emes)" (47:29).

The Ba'al ha'Turim citing Rashi, explains that the kindness that one performs with the dead is emes (since one does not anticipate reciprocation).

The Notrikun (the first letters of the following words) of 'Emes' is 'Aron', 'Mitah' & 'Tachrichin' (coffin, stretcher and shrouds).

The Riva queries this based on the fact that Ya'akov promised Yosef an extra portion over his brothers (see 48:22), in exchange for Yosef's promise to bury him.

And citing Rabeinu Tam, he explains that Ya'akov did not have that in mind when he first asked him to make the undertaking, and that the decision to promise to repay him came only later.


" he (Ya'akov) said (to Yosef) 'Swear to me!" (that you will bury me in Eretz Yisrael). He swore to him; and he prostrated himself (Vayishtachu) ' (47:31).

The Gematriyah of "Vayishtachu", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is the equivalent of 'Modim al besurah tovah' (One offers thanks for good news).

See also Rashi.


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

"Efrayim u'Menasheh", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, share the same Gematriyah as "Reuven ve'Shimon". That is why Ya'akov said that they would receive an equal portion to them.

'And if you will ask', said Ya'akov, 'how I can possibly place my grandchildren on a par with my children? The answer is that when, after I left Padan Aram, G-d said to me that I should be fruitful and multiply, and that a nation and an assembly of nations will descend from me, I understood this to mean that I will still bear children from Rachel. But Rachel died. So now it is from you (Yosef) from whom these 'children' will descend!'

* * *

(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 467: Not to Cut Oneself (cont.)

A reason for the Mitzvah so as not do anything that resembles the actions of idolaters (like the author wrote in connection with the La'av of cutting off one's Peyos in Parshas Kedoshim, Mitzvah 251). And we are forbidden to make cuts on account of a deceased person, because it is not nice for the chosen people, those who posses the wisdom of the precious Torah, to grieve over the actions of G-d, unless it entails doing something that the Torah commands us to do (see also what the author wrote in this regard, in the first Mitzvah in Emor [the prohibition of a Kohen Hedyot becoming Tamei ... ]). But to destroy our bodies and to wound ourselves like fools is neither good for us nor is it the way of wise men and men of understanding. Rather it is the way of inferior people who are lacking in intelligence, who understand nothing about the deeds of G-d and of His wonders. The Ramban writes that this was the Chachamim's reason in forbidding mourning excessively over a deceased person.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara says in Makos (20b) that someone who makes a cut over a deceased person is subject to one set of Malkos for each and every cut that he makes, provided he is warned before each cut. Likewise, someone who makes one cut for five deceased people receives five sets of Malkos and the remaining details of this Mitzvah, are discussed at the end of Maseches Makos The Rambam z.l. writes that Chazal incorporate in this La'av the appointment of two Batei-Din in one town, each one with its own Minhagim - since this only leads to Machlokes; and they learn it from the Lashon "Lo Sisgod'du", which is the acronym of 'Lo sa'asu agudos agudos' (do not make different groups that quarrel with one another). The author, citing his Rebbe, explains that this prohibition is confined to one group of people who are both on the same level of knowledge and who have split into two factions. They are not permitted to follow their own independent rulings, since this causes strife between the two groups. What they should therefore do is to discuss the matter on hand between them until they arrive at a joint conclusion. If this is not possible, then they should follow the more stringent opinion, assuming that is, that the issue is one that is min ha'Torah. But if at the outset, there are two Batei-Dinim, who are both on the same level of knowledge, then the La'av of "Lo sisgod'du" does not apply. A proof for this distinction lies in the Gemara in Avodah-Zarah (40a) where the Gemara tells us how 'the trumpeters of Rav went out and forbade a certain disputed issue, whilst the trumpeters of Shmuel went out and permitted it'.

This Isur applies everywhere and at all times, to both men and women. Anybody who contravenes it and makes a cut for a deceased person or for the purpose of idolatry, is Chayav Malkos.

* * *

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