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

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Vol. 20   No. 12

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

Parshas Vayechi

With the Sword and the Bow

"And I gave you (Yosef) an extra portion more than your brothers, which I took from the Emori with my sword and with my bow" (48:22).

When fighting a war, one first of all tends to fight from a distance, shooting arrows at the enemy, and it is only when one gets closer to the enemy, that one begins using one's sword in hand-to-hand combat. In that case, asks the Kehilas Yitzchak, Ya'akov Avinu ought to have said " with my bow and with my sword".

In answer to the question, he cites the Medrash, which translates it, not with regard to a physical battle against a mortal enemy, but with regard to the battle against the Yeitzer ha'Ra, our spiritual enemy number one. Hence the Medrash says on "with my sword and with my bow" - 'with Mitzvos and good deeds'.

And in that battle, the order is perfectly correct. First one aims to drive the Yeitzer ha'Ra from one's heart, and having achieved that, one moves further afield, fighting to ensure that he is kept at bay and does not return. Both of these battles, Ya'akov was saying, he fought and won with the help of Mitzvos and good deeds.


The Oznayim la'Torah, who asks the same question, cites Unklus, who translates it as 'bi'Tzelosi u'be'vu'osi', which he interprets as the Sh'ma and the Amidah, respectively. The Gemara in B'rochos (Daf 5), specifically refers to K'ri'as Sh'ma that one recites before going to bed as 'a double-bladed sword'. This in turn, he explains, is because reciting the Sh'ma drives away the demons and other prosecutors, allowing one's Tefilos to go straight up before the Kisei ha'Kovod without hindrance.


Presumably, what the author means is that the order of the two words is now correct, as first one fights the Yeitzer-ha'Ra by reciting the Sh'ma, and then one's Tefilos travel a great distance from this world to the Heavenly Throne (even though he does not use the Mashal of the Kisei ha'Kovod).


The Meshech Chochmah, who does not deal with the problem of the order that we have discussed until now, interprets Unklus' translation differently. According to him, 'Tzelosi' refers to the official Tefilos instituted by the Chachamim, and 'be'Vu'osi', to one's private Tefilos, with reference to the Tefilos that Chazal permit us to add, in any of the appropriate middle B'rachos of the Amidah.

The difference between them, says the author, is that whereas (the first B'rachah of the Amidah aside), Kavanah (Davening with intent) is not crucial with regard to the former, adding one's own Tefilah without Kavanah is futile.


Elaborating on the Torah's analogy of a sword and a bow, the author explains the aptness of that analogy. A sword, he explains, can kill and maim without much effort. Any metal implement is lethal, as Chazal have taught us, how much more so when it is in the shape of a sword. Not so a bow, which depends on the strength and expertise of the person who wields it. Hence regular Tefilah (like a sword) is effective automatically, even without Kavanah; whereas one's personal prayers (like a bow) will only achieve their purpose if they are said with Kavanah.

Come to think of it, if we see the Tefilah fixed by Chazal as our fist line of attack, and our personal Tefilos as the second one, the Meshech Chochmah's explanation will also answer our opening question.

* * *

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

Why Yosef Felt Bad

"And Yosef saw that his father had placed his right-hand on the head of Efrayim, and it was bad in his eyes" (48:17).

Yosef felt bad, the Da'as Zekeinim explains quoting R, Yitzchak ha'Levi, because he thought that his father must take him for an idiot, in that he had placed his sons in front of him in the wrong order.


Repeating the Same Mistake?

"And I gave to you an extra portion (Sh'chem echad) over and above your brothers" (48:22).

Quoting Rebbi Moshe, the Da'as Zekeinim asks why Ya'akov saw fit to favour Yosef again, inciting the brothers' jealousy as he had done when he gave him the special shirt.

And by the same token, he asks, how Yosef, who had suffered so much on account of his father's previous mistake, could give his brother Binyamin five new suits, whilst the other brothers received only one. (Refer to 'Five new Suits', Parshah Pearls , Vayigash 45:22).

In answer to the first question, the author explains that the reason the brothers were jealous of Yosef was because, at that time, if anything, they were his seniors, and they could not perceive any justifiable reason to favour him over them.

Whereas now he was a king, and there was every reason to honour him.

And as for the second question, one of the answers he gives is because already at that point, he intended to reveal his identity, when they would realize that Binyamin was his full-brother, whom it was natural to favour.

Others answer the first question by interpreting "Sh'chem" as the city (See Rashi), which Ya'akov now gave to Yosef, and he cites the Mashal of the thieves who stole a barrel of wine. When the owner caught up with him, he (the latter) pleaded with the thieves that when they have finished the wine, at least they should kindly return the empty barrel where they found it. And so it was with the brothers, who had stolen Yosef from Sh'chem, they were expected to return him there. Hence Ya'akov Avinu gave Yosef Sh'chem, so that he would be buried in his own portion of land.


Two Ingatherings

"Assemble and I will tell you what will befall you Gather together and listen " (49:1/2).

This is a hint, says the Da'as Zekeinim citing the Medrash, that Yisrael will go into exile twice and return to their land.


At the End of Days

" and I will tell you what will befall you at the end of (the) days."

The Pasuk does not say 'at the end of days', observes the Da'as Zekeinim, but "at the end of the days" (be'achris ha'yomim). Consequently, he explains, it is a reference to the four hundred and thirty years of Galus Mitzrayim that had already begun. Alternatively, he explains, citing an explanation that he heard (See Rashi), it refers to the days of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu - the end of the five thousand year period that He designated for this world to exist.

Ya'akov Avinu wanted to reveal to his sons when Mashi'ach would arrive, but he never did.

This is because the Shechinah left him, thus the knowledge of the long-awaited day was withdrawn from him.

The Medrash explains how Ya'akov was surprised, as the latters 'Ches' & 'Tes' (which spell Chet) do not appear in any of the brothers' names - an indication that they were devoid of sin. So why, he wondered, were they not worthy of knowing when Mashi'ach was destined to come?

When G-d pointed out to him however, that the letters 'Kuf' & 'Tzadik', which spell 'Keitz' (a reference to the time of Mashi'ach) do not appear in their names either, indicating that, for some reason or other, they were not worthy of that information, and in addition, accused him of revealing Divine secrets, he retracted, and promptly changed the subject.


Yehudah's Greatness

"Yehudah, you your brothers will acknowledge you!" (48:8)

They will do this, the Da'as Zekeinim explains, by appointing him king over them, as occurred with David ha'Melech. Indeed, the Gematriyah of Yehudah equals thirty, which is equivalent to the thirty attributes of a king, as mentioned in Pirkei Avos (6:6), and listed in Sanhedrin (18a).

Alternatively, he explains, the Pasuk refers to the fact that the entire nation will become known as Yehudim (Jews) after Yehudah.

And thirdly, it is hinting at Melech ha'Mashi'ach, who will descend from David may he come speedily in our days!

* * *

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