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

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Vol. 19   No. 13

This issue is sponsored by
the Chaitowitz Family
in loving memory of
Avraham Shalom ben Shneir Zalman z"l
Meir Dovid ben Shlomo Eliezer z"l
Rivka bas Yona z"l

Parshas Vayechi

Yisachar's Vision

"And he (Yisachar) saw that tranquility is good, and that the land is pleasant; so he bent his shoulders to bear and he became an indentured labourer" (49:15).

"…so he bent his shoulders to bear" - the yoke of Torah, comments Rashi. It is worthwhile bearing the yoke of Torah in this world, the Chofetz Chayim explains, in order to find rest and pleasantness in the world which is all good ("and the land is pleasant") . And he goes on to compare this to a merchant (in his time) on his way to market to purchase goods to sell in his home town. Such a merchant, he explains, is not in the least interested in the comforts to which he is accustomed at home. On the contrary; he makes every effort to cut down on his expenses, making do with the bare minimum, allowing him more cash in his pocket with which to buy more goods to sell when he arrives back home.

That accurately describes Yisachar (and all Talmidei-Chachamim) during the period that they live here in this world. They concentrate on the purchase of the valuable goods (Torah-study and Mitzvos) that they take back with them when they return home after a hundred and twenty years.

And one can be rest assured that if one takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah and Mitzvos, he will be relieved from the yoke of Malchus and of Derech Eretz (as we learned in Pirkei Avos, 3:5).

This means that he will receive Divine Assistance to actualize his intentions of aggrandizing Torah and glorifying it, the Chafetz Chayim concludes.


The Chafetz Chayim's explanation is unusual, in that the Torah rarely speaks about the World to Come, which, the commentaries say, is beyond our scope of comprehension. Moreover, all of Ya'akov's other B'rachos concerned the tribes' connection with Eretz Yisrael, so it is safe to assume that Yisachar's B'rachah did too.

Most commentaries therefore explain "Menuchah" with reference to rest and tranquility in this world, and they do so in various ways. Rabeinu Bachye, for example, explains that Yisachar despised the path of war. He saw that the tranquility of Torah was good. In other words, he realized that in order to study Torah diligently, the body needs to be rested and the Soul to toil, the exact contrast to one's worldly occupations, which require that the body toil and the Soul rests.

And it is precisely because Torah-study needs time and tranquility that Chazal instituted the B'rachah of 'Hashivah shofteinu' in the Amidah. We do not pray for judges in order to claim our debts, but rather for the return of the judges to the Lishkas ha'Gazis (the room in the Beis-ha'Mikdash where the Sanhedrin sat), symbolizing a society that will be prepared to delve into the wisdom of Torah. This, in turn, will lead to a deeper understanding of G-d, as the Navi Yeshayah (11:9) writes, in connection with that time " … and the land will be filled with knowledge … "). Indeed, they added the words 'and remove from us grief and sighing', because it is impossible to attain a full knowledge of G-d with grief and sighing, only with joy and tranquility. And this B'rachah they inserted immediately following that of 'Blow a great Shofar …", which refers to the ingathering of the exiles.

The K'li Yakar follows in the footsteps of Rabeinu Bachye. He adds that this is why the Torah was given on Shabbos, the day of rest.

And commenting on the Pasuk "and that the land was pleasant", he cites Chazal, who say that 'the air of Eretz Yisrael makes a person wise'. Therefore, the Pasuk continues "and he bent his shoulders to bear (the yoke of Torah)".

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Parshah Pearls

What Does "Ki" Mean?

"He (Ya'akov) guided his hands, because (ki) Menasheh was the firstborn" (48:14).

Rashi points out that Ya'akov did not switch his hands, to place his right hand on Efrayim's head, by mistake,. He switched his hands deliberately, he explains, because he knew that Menasheh was the firstborn.

The Riva cites others who translate the Pasuk as "He guided his hands (to place them on the head of Efrayim), even though (ki) Menasheh was the firstborn".

Likewise, they translate the Pasuk in Daniel (9:9) "To Hashem belongs mercy and forgiveness even though (ki) we rebelled against him".

The Riva however, questions this explanation, in that it does not match any of Chazal's four translations of the word "ki" (when, perhaps, but and because). He therefore accepts Rashi's translation of the Pasuk. And as for the Pasuk in Daniel, that too, he translates as "It is (precisely) because we rebelled against Him that G-d adopts an attitude of mercy and forgiveness". If He would not adopt a merciful stance … , but judge us according to our sins, there would be no hope for us.


Re'uven the Navi

"And I have given you an extra portion over and above your brothers …" (48:22).

The Riva queries this Pasuk (which implies that G-d gave an extra portion to Yosef only now), from the Medrash cited by Rashi at the birth of Reuven, which citing Le'ah, presents the difference between her son Reuven and the son of her father-in law, Eisav. The latter despite having sold the birthright to his brother Ya'akov, claimed that it was his by rights; whereas her son, whose birthright was taken away from him and given to his brother Yosef without his consent, not only did he not protest, but he went so far as to attempt to rescue him from the pit. This implies that the birthright had already been given to Yosef before he was sold.

And he answers in the name of the Ra that this aspect of the birthright was given to Yosef now, only Re'uven was a Navi; He knew already before that his father was destined to give the extra portion of the Bechorah to Yosef. Indeed, he says, quoting the Tanchuma, Ya'akov and his sons were all prophets, as was Le'ah and the other mothers.


Efrayim's Superiority

"And Yosef saw the sons of the third generation of Efrayim; also the sons of Machir the son of Menasheh were born on the lap of Yosef" (50:23).

In other words, Yosef saw the fourth generation of Efrayim but only the third generation of Menasheh. The Torah needs to tell us that Yosef saw this, says the Riva, in fulfillment of Ya'akov's prophecy earlier in the Parshah, that Menasheh's younger brother "would be greater than him and that his children would fill the nations".

(See Rashi there 48:19).

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"Naftoli ayalah sheluchah, ha'nosein imrei shefer".

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

"Naftoli ayalah sheluchoh" - the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, refers to the battle between Sisra, king of Cana'an, and Barak captain of the army of Yisrael, who picked ten thousand men from Naftali. And the Torah refers here to a female deer due to the major role played in that battle by the prophetess Devorah (Barak's wife).

" … ha'nosein imrei shefer", he continues, refers to the beautiful song of praise that she subsequently sang (Shiras Devorah).

"Imrei shefer", he points out, has the same Gematriyah as 'shir u'shevochah', and " … ayalah sheluchah, ha'nosein imrei shefer" as the Pasuk "Va'toshar Devorah u'Barak ben Avino'am ba'yom ha'hu" (the introductory words of the Shiras Devorah)


"Ben poras Yosef, ben poras alei ayin, bonos tzo'adoh alei shur".

"A son of charm is Yosef, a son who charms the eye, daughters stepped up to the wall" (49:22).

Ya'akov Ovinu did not begin Yosef's B'rachah with his name, as it did with all the other tribes, but began as if he was speaking to his son. He did this out of respect for Yosef, who was a king (and whom one treats with respect).

"Ben Poras" has the same Gematriyah as 'Menasheh ve'Efrayim', the Ba'al ha'Turim comments, and he also points out that … "Ben poras" has the same letters as 1.) 'Ben poser' (the son who interprets), on account of the dreams (of the butler, the baker and Par'oh), and 2.) 'poros' (cows) since it was through the cows in Par'oh's dream that he rose to power.

Finally, he observes, "bonos tzo'adoh alei shur" contains a prophecy concerning the battle of Yehoshua against Yericho, where, he says, they shot arrows at him (Yehoshua) from the walls.

See also Rashi.

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