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

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Vol. 24   No. 12

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

Parshas Va'Yechi

Yisochor and Zevulun

"Zevulun will dwell by the sea-shore (they will be sailors). Yisochor is a bony ox (to carry the burden of Torah-study)" (49:14).

Taking into account the impracticality of an entire nation learning Torah, G-d, in His infinite kindness, writes the Chofetz Chayim, arranged the distribution of Eretz Yisrael in such a manner, that one tribe would settle down to become a tribe of Torah-scholars (their portion of land was actually conducive to that profession) as Rashi ecplains n Va'yechi (49:15), whilst Zevulun would, by virtue of living by the sea-shore, be encouraged to go overseas and become wealthy merchants. In the process, they would also provide Yisochor with all their material needs, leaving them free to pursue their Torah studies. Each of these tribes was encouraged by his own portion of land and by the other one's choice of profession, to pursue the profession of his own choice and to succeed therein.

And because, a. the world was created solely for the Torah, as it is written (in Yirmiyoh 33), "Were it not for My covenant (Torah), day and night, the laws of Heaven and earth I would not have put in place"; and b. And because G-d made a stipulation with the work of the creation that only if Yisrael keep the Torah will the world continue to exist, whereas if not, it will revert to its former state of null and void - Yisochor and Zevulun are considered to be the pillars of the world, for between the two of them, they keep the world going.


We can compare this to two people who break the Shabbos together. There where each one could have done the job on his own (e.g. they were carrying a light chair), they are not guilty of desecrating the Shabbos (for each one, so to speak, has only performed half a task). Whereas, if they are carrying a heavy table, which requires their combined efforts, then they are guilty of desecrating the Shabbos. We see that where two people combine to perform a task which one of them could not have performed on his own, then it is as if each one has performed the entire task. Likewise, when Yisochor and Zevulun combine to maintain Torah in the world, when each of them cannot manage on his own, it is as if each of them has performed that task. Each one is considered as if he had kept the world going.

So important is Zevulun, in his role of providing Yisochor, the talmid-chochom, with all his needs, that Ya'akov Ovinu, in acknowledgement, blessed Zevulun before Yisochor (Bereishis 49:13-14) and Moshe Rabeinu, in ve'Zos ha'Brochoh, took his cue from Ya'akov Ovinu and did likewise (Devorim 33:18). Interestingly, Targum Yonoson (42:13-14), understands that the agreement between the two brothers had already been drawn up before they went down to Egypt.


The Shulchan Oruch in Yorei Dei'oh (Siman 246) rules that someone who is unable to study Torah extensively, either because he does not possess the knowledge or because he is fully occupied with sustaining his family, is obliged to support those who do study full-time, in which case it will be considered as if he has himself studied full-time. One must, however, point out that this does not exempt him from fixing times to study Torah every day and every night, according to the time available to him, because the mitzvah of Torah-study, like the mitzvah of reciting the Shema, is mandatory twice daily, every single day, in a Jewish man's life.


With regard to the above partnership, a number of important specifications and stipulations need to be clarified:

1. The concept of Yisochor and Zevulun is not confined to those two tribes, but is merely a symbolism of any wealthy balabos who supports a talmid-chochom. 2. It must be a full contract, with the balabos sharing his income with the talmid-chochom on a fifty-fifty basis, providing him with all his basic needs to live comfortably. Then, and only then, will he receive fifty percent of the reward due to the talmid-chochom for his intense Torah studies.

3. As a result of the above, the talmid-chochom should not be surprised when, in the World to Come, he discovers that half of his reward is no longer due to him. After all, he did sell it to the balabos for his material needs in this world - and he cannot "have his cake and eat it!" (though not everyone agrees with this).

4. It should also be noted that, without the slightest shadow of doubt, it is the balabos who strikes the better bargain, for he has bought himself an eternal share in something which is priceless, in exchange for money, which by comparison, is truly valueless, and the little practical value that it does have is only temporary. Perhaps this is offset, at least to a degree, by the intense spiritual bliss which Torah-study transmits to all who study it in depth, and which the talmid-chochom cannot possibly transmit further to the balabos.

Supporting talmidei-chochomim is a means to a glorious end, but it is also a glorious end in itself!

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Parshah Pearls

Just One Sixtieth

"And they told Ya'akov and said, 'Behold, your son Yosef is coming to see you'; so Yisrael gathered his strength and sat up on the bed" (48:2).

The Gemoro says in Nedorim (39b) that if a ben Gil (someone born under the same Mazel) visits a sick person, he takes one sixtieth of his illness. It is well-known, writes the G'ro, that the only son of Ya'akov who was his ben Gil was Yosef - which is, no doubt, why Ya'akov and Yosef had so much in common - see Rashi Bereishis 37:2.

This information will help us to understand the above pasuk. How?

The word for "Behold" is "Hinei" (gematriyah 60), whilst "the bed" is the translation of "ha'mittah" (gematriyah 59). In other words, Ya'akov began with sixty parts of illness, which rendered him unable to sit up. But as soon as Yosef (his ben Gil) entered, he took one of the sixty parts, leaving Ya'akov with only fifty-nine, sufficiently strong to be able to sit up on the bed.


And They will Increase Like Fish

Ya'akov blessed Yosef that his tribe would increase at a rapid rate in the midst of the land. 'Now where was this brochoh fulfilled?' asks the G'ro. Certainly at the various counts in the desert and in the plains of Mo'av, we do not find Yosef being a particularly larger tribe than the others. (This is difficult however, since Efrayim and Menasheh together were the largest tribe - 72,000 - and, if one adds the 200,000 men from Efrayim who left Egypt thirty years earlier - see Targum Yonoson at the beginning of Beshalach - perhaps divided by five, to balance with the four-fifths who died when they left Egypt, it comes to 112,000, approximately 50% more than Yehudah, the largest tribe.)

The Gro therefore explains that Ya'akov only blessed Yosef that his tribe would increase "in the midst of the land" - in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, as long as Yisrael were in Egypt or in the desert the blessing was not due to take effect.

Sure enough, the moment they entered Eretz Yisrael, they began to increase rapidly, to the extent that, immediately after the seven years of conquest, the sons of Menasheh complained bitterly to Yehoshua about the inadequacy of their portion of land, considering the tremendous increase in numbers that had just occurred.

(Interestingly the blessing had already begun to take effect before their entry into Eretz Yisrael, as the combined total of Efrayim and Menashe already equalled 86,000, as against Yehudah's 76,000.


A Segulah for Having Children who Survive

The Gro brings a hint from the Parshah for a wonderful Segulah, which ensures that subsequent children who are born after losing one child in the family will survive without any problems.

The Segulah is to call the new child by the same name as the one who died, but to add a second name, which should precede the name of the deceased child. The hint from the Parshah lies in the words "And the children whom you will bear afterwards, will be yours" (in other words, they will live - any derivative of "lih'yos", to be, also has a connotation of permanency). The Segulah for this is contained in the phrase that follows - "they shall be called by the name of their brother".

In fact, the G'ro's daughter lost a number of children in their infant years. It was only when, already pregnant with R. Zalman, she went to the G'ro, that he gave her this piece of advice. She obeyed, and the child, whom they subsequently named Zalman Ber (the last child she had lost was called Dov Ber), survived, as did a number of children who were born later.

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