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

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Vol. 23   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 z"l

Parshas Vayechi

Efrayim & Menashe
(The Talmid-Chacham & the Frume Balabos)

"And Yosef said to his father 'Not so my father, for this one (Menasheh) is the B'chor; place your right hand on his head!' But his father refused, and he said, "I know my son, I know! He will also become a nation, he will also become great, but his younger brother will be greater than him, and his offspring ('s fame) will fill the nations" (48:18 & 19).


The Chofetz Chayim attributes Ya'akov's decision to give Efrayim precedence to Efrayim's extreme humility, as is hinted in the Pasuk " because he is the smaller one" (the one who makes himself smaller) - Ya'akov's explanation as to why he placed his right hand on the head of Efrayim (See also the K'li Yakar). Efrayim made himself small, and as we learn from Moshe Rabeinu, G-d's reward for humility is greatness.

This idea is further enhanced by the Targum Yonasan in Parshas Sh'lach-L'cha, when he explains that Moshe changed the name of Hoshe'a bin Nun, on account of whom Efrayim was greater than Menashe, (See Rashi here, 48:19) to Yehoshua 'when he saw his humility' ( See also the Ba'al-haTurim, which presents what we have just said in a Gematriyah on the words "ve'hu ha'tzo'ir" in Pasuk 14).


To explain the difference of opinion between Ya'akov - who insisted on giving precedence to Efrayim, and Yosef - who maintained that precedence ought to be given to Menasheh, the B'chor (who, unlike his great-uncle Eisav, had done nothing wrong to deserve losing the birthright), the commentaries point to the fact that on a number of occasions, the Torah describes Menasheh as Yosef's executive director - notwithstanding his tender age of nine. He was a man of the world who communicated with people and who had a hand in running the royal estate; yet, educated by his father, he maintained the highest standard of honesty and integrity and of 'Yiddishkeit' in general. And this, in Yosef's view, was the ultimate goal of the ideal 'Jew' - 'the Frume Balabos'.

The role of the Talmid Chacham, epitomized in Efrayim, was to guide the Balabos, to teach him how to live a life of Torah and Mitzvos even as he worked and brought up his family in a secular environment. The latter was the end, the former the means.


And this is where Ya'akov disagreed with his son. Ya'akov, himself the master Talmid-Chacham, maintained that the world was created for Torah. Those who therefore study Torah are not the means; they are the end. And it is the Frume Balabos, whose job it is to support the Talmid-Chacham, on whose merit the world continues to exist, as he sits day and night in the Beis-ha'Medrash learning Torah. If anything, it is on the merit of the Talmid-Chacham that the Balabos is sustained, as Chazal have said in Ta'anis (10a ) 'On account of My son (Rebbi) Chanina (ben Dosa), the world is fed !" On the other hand, it is through his efforts to sustain the Talmid-Chacham that he earns a portion in the World to Come, since, in so doing, he shares in the latter's Torah and is instrumental in keeping the world going.


Ya'akov's will prevailed. Efrayim became the B'chor. And this is the Halachah - that the Talmid-Chacham takes precedence over the Balabos in various aspects of Halachah, and that nobody can compare to the Talmid-Chacham who learns full-time - as the Rambam writes at the end of Hilchos Sh'mitah.

* * *

Yisachar & Zevulun

"Zevulun will dwell by the seashore; he will capture areas with his ships and his borders will reach Tzidon. Yisachar is a strong-boned donkey, he rests between the borders" (49:13 &14).


Despite the fact that Yisachar was the older of the two brothers, Ya'akov gave precedence to Zevulun, Rashi explains, because it was thanks to the latter's undertaking to sustain the former, that he (Yisachar) was able to sit and learn undisturbed.

And when, at the end of the Torah in 've'Zos ha'B'rachah (33:18) Mosheh Rabeinu declared "Rejoice Zevulun, when you go out (on your business ventures) and Yisachar, in your tents (of Torah-study)", giving Zevulun precedence over Yisachar, he clearly took his cue from Ya'akov.


In light of what we wrote in the previous article, this is not because Zevulun was greater than Yisachar. Here too, Yisachar was the Talmid-Chacham, to whom Ya'akov himself had given precedence a little earlier. To understand therefore, the precedence given to Zevulun, we must turn to the Creation of the world, where, Chazal inform us, G-d created Adam last, since his task was to study Torah (See Targum Yonasan there 2:15). So He prepared the world for his benefit, with everything in place, so that he would be able to sit and learn undisturbed. Even the snake, which at that time, stood on two legs and could talk, and which was created in order to serve Adam and see to his every need, was created before him - to be at his service the moment he was created - much in the same way as one first places the furniture in a house before proceeding to live in it.

And it is for the same reason that Zevulun is mentioned before Yisachar. He preceded him, not because he was greater than him, but in order to provide for him ('If there is no flour, there can be no Torah). It is so that he (Yisachar) would be able to settle down and study Torah with a clear mind, without having to worry where his next meal was coming from. And it is thanks to Zevulun that this was possible.

* * *

Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim

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


The word 'leimor' is written with a 'Vav' for two reasons, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains: 1). Because six times in the Torah Efrayim is placed before Menasheh; 2). Corresponding to the six righteous 'judges' who descended from him.

What's more, he adds, it is for the same reason that, in Parshas Mikeitz, when the brothers berated Yosef for his first dream, when they said to him "Will you dominate us?" (Im Moshol timshol bonu [37:8]), the word "moshol" too contains a 'Vav'.

However in the phrase that immediately precedes it "Will you rule (ha'moloch timloch) over us?", the word "ha'moloch" is missing a 'Vav', because all the kings that would emanate from Efrayim were resha'im.

Amazingly, the five kings to which the latter refers are hinted in the previous Pasuk here (19), says the Ba'al ha'Turim, where the word "I know" (yoda'ati) has the equivalent Gematriyah to "chamishah melachim".


Naftali is a hind sent on an errand (ayalah sheluchah), who delivers beautiful sayings" (49:21).


This prophesy refers to the battle of Barak, who took ten thousand men to fight against Sisra, says the Ba'al ha'Turim. And it is due to the major role that Devorah (Barak's husband) played in directing the battle, he points out, that the Torah writes "ayalah sheluchah" in the feminine. Moreover, he explains, the "beautiful sayings" are a direct reference to 'Devorah's Song'.

* * *

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