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

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Vol. 21   No. 12

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

Parshas Vayechi

Efrayim and Menasheh
(Extracts from the Oznayim la'Torah)

The Left Hand on Menasheh

"And Yisrael stretched out his right hand … and his left hand he placed on the head of Menasheh; he guided his hands, because Menasheh was the firstborn" (48:14).

What sort of reason is that, asks the Oznayim la'Torah? Is it because Menasheh was the firstborn that Ya'akov placed his left hand on his head, and not his right?

Indeed it is, he answers. Looking back at his family, Ya'akov saw that, generation after generation, it was the younger brother who outshone the older one - Yitzchak and Yishmael, himself and Eisav, and Yosef and his older brothers. And so he figured that it was safe to assume that Efrayim would outshine Menasheh. Nor was he wrong. Menasheh himself was not guilty of any wrongdoing. Yet, in keeping with the Chazakah, Efrayim did indeed outshine him, as Ya'akov himself goes on to explain (See Rashi on Pasuk 19).


Yosef on a Par with the Avos

"And he blessed Yosef and he said 'the G-d before whom my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, walked, the G-d who looked after me' " (48:15).

After placing Efrayim and Menasheh on a par with his own sons, Ya'akov elevates Yosef to the status of the Avos. This is borne out by the Pasuk in Tehilim" … to the sons of Ya'akov and Yosef forever".


Protecting Efrayim and Menasheh

"The angel that redeems me from all evil, shall bless the boys …" (48:16).

Presumably, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, this refers to the angel that saved him from Lavan's attempts to cheat him time and time again, when, during the last six years that Ya'akov spent with Lavan, he worked on behalf of his own family. And it is via the services of that angel that the Torah writes there that, although Lavan switched his wages ten times, "G-d did not allow him to do me any harm" (31:7).

And to explain why Efrayim and Menasheh needed more protection than the other tribes, he points out that whereas the other tribes came as strangers to Egypt, and however evil it was to treat the people they had invited as guests as total strangers, their treatment of the of the sons of Efrayim and Menasheh in this manner was infinitely worse. Bear in mind that they were princes, the sons of the man who had saved Egypt from starvation. They had been brought up in the royal palace, and so, to force their children into slavery was far more painful and denigrating than their cousins. Just as the injury of someone who falls from a tall building will be far more serious than someone who falls from a one story building.


Efrayim and Menasheh - a Tribute to Yosef

"And he blessed them (Efrayim and Menasheh) on that day saying 'In you (b'cho) will Yisrael bless (their children), saying 'May G-d make you like Efrayim and Menasheh' " (48:20).

Ya'akov said "in you" in the singular, the Oznayim la'Torah observes, even though he was addressing Efrayim and Menasheh, and what he ought therefore to have said is 'bochem' (in the plural)!

A person is worth as much as the Chinuch he gives his children, he explains. Consequently, if we see the level of Torah and Mitzvos on the one hand, and Midos on the other, attained by Yosef's two sons, despite the fact that they grew up in the midst of the most depraved and immoral society of that time, then we see a reflection of their father Yosef and catch a glimpse of his greatness. Because if Efrayim and Menasheh rose to the level of their uncles, then the credit goes to their father Yosef.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Oznayim la'Torah)

The Tranquility Ya'akov Craved

"And Ya'akov lived in Egypt for seventeen years …" (47:28).

Citing the Medrash, the Oznayim la'Torah explains that during these seventeen years, Ya'akov experienced the peace and tranquillity that he craved. If he did not attain this whilst he lived in Eretz Cana'an ('Ya'akov wanted to live tranquilly, there sprung on him the calamity of Yosef … then Shimon … then Binyamin').

But now that he was in Galus, the Galus atoned for his past sins, and it was to appease his beloved Ya'akov for having sent him into exile, the author explains, that Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu freed him from all other travails, allowing him to live in peace and harmony.


Ya'akov Forgot when Galus (Mitzrayim) would Terminate


In one of two explanations, Rashi ascribes the fact that this Parshah is closed (the official space that generally exists between two Sedras does not exist between Vayigash and Vayechi) to the fact that Ya'akov wanted to tell his sons when the Galus would finally come to an end, then it slipped his mind. Ya'akov's initial plan was to remain in Egypt until the conclusion of the prevailing famine, but he realized that this would not be possible. It was difficult enough even for Yosef to obtain permission to leave Egypt to bury his father (and even that, only after agreeing to leave their wives and children behind as hostages). So the chances of Ya'akov and his family obtaining permission to return to Cana'an were non-existent.

Yes, Ya'akov was fully aware that Galus Mitzrayim had begun, says the Oznayim la'Torah, and it was in order to console his children that he planned at least to inform them exactly when they were due to leave Egypt, to give them something to look forward to.

But G-d had other plans, and so he made Ya'akov forget the due date of the Exodus. Presumably, this was because the Exodus from Egypt (although hinted in the word "R'du"[See Rashi in Mikeitz, 42:2]), would still depend on a number of factors, not least of these being Yisrael's level of conduct in Egypt.


A Different Tone of Voice

"If I have now found favour in your eyes" (47:29).

When Ya'akov sent Yosef to enquire about the wellbeing of his brothers and of the sheep, he issued him with a clear set of instructions "Come, and I will send you …", in the way that a father instructs a son.

Now, he spoke in a different tone of voice, pleading with him to do him a favour, as someone might address his friend.

The reason for this says the Oznayim la'Torah, is because Ya'akov was now approaching the day of his death, about which the Pasuk writes in Mishlei "One has no jurisdiction on the day of one's death." Consequently, even the head of a family speaks humbly to his son, in the way that one friend speaks to another.


Hasty Like Water

"Hasty like water, that is why you will not get the extra portion …" (48:4).

But surely it was the episode with Bilhah that lost Reuven the birthright asks the Oznayim la'Torah, and not his haste?

And he explains the Pasuk according to Chazal, who point out that Reuven's sin was switching the beds of Le'ah and Bilhah.

What happened was that, following Rachel's death, Ya'akov needed time to recover from the blow; he needed time to 'forget' Rachel before replacing her bed with Leah's. In similar vein, the Gemara in Mo'ed Katan forbids a man to marry until three Yamim Tovom after the death of his wife. This Tosfos explains, was in order to give him time to 'forget' his love for his first wife before marrying again.

Ya'akov too, would have taken Leah's bed into his room, but not just yet.

But Reuven was not sensitive to his father's feelings. He wanted his father to replace Rachel's bed with Leah's immediately. And that is why his father accused him of being hasty.


Pachaz ka'Mayim

"Hasty (Pachaz) like water"(Ibid.).

For his hasty act, Reuven lost three things - the Bechorah (the birth-right), the Malchus (sovereignty) and the Kehunah (the priesthood).

The opposite of a B'chor is a Pashut; the opposite of Malchus is Chashuch (as in the Pasuk in Mishlei, 22:29), and the opposite of Kohen is Zar, observes the Oznayim la'Torah. And the first letters of 'Poshut', 'Chashuch' and 'Zar' spell 'Pachaz'.


The Bony Donkey

"Yisachar is a bony ox, he crouches between the borders" (49:14).

The Oznayin la'Torah interpreting this Pasuk and the next with reference to the Torah scholar (whom Yisachar represents),"He couches between the borders" means that he has nothing of his own, not fields and no vineyards, and that he relies on others to support him.

On principle he shuns worldly things, not because he is lazy - not at all, he is a "bony donkey", willing to work; not because he is unaware of the pleasures that the world has to offer - as the Torah continues "And he saw rest that it is good and the land that it is pleasant".

It is because of his love of Torah, as the Pasuk concludes "And he bent his shoulder to carry the burden (the yoke of Torah). And it is due to that love ot Torah that he is willing to live on 'Bread with salt and a measure of water', and to forego all the luxuries that others live for.

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