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DECEMBER 20-21, 2002 16 TEBET 5763

Pop Quiz: Which tribe is compared to a serpent in Ya'akob's blessing?


"May the angel who redeems me from all evil bless the lads" (Beresheet 48:16)

In this week's perashah we find the famous berachah Ya'akob Abinu gave Yosef. "The angel that saved me from all bad situations should bless the children." It seems to be a blessing to Yosef's children, that the angel that had protected Ya'akob should protect them as well.

This berachah seems pretty straightforward. However, the following story, told by Rabbi Kimelman, reveals a deeper side to the intentions of Ya'akob. Once a pious Jew was visiting his Rabbi. While he was sitting there, a messenger from his home town burst into the room and told him that his entire fortune went up in smoke while he was away. He realized that he was now the poorest man in his town. This thought caused such a great shock, that he fainted. All of his colleagues around him tried to revive him. He came around, but as soon as he remembered why he had fainted, he fainted again! This kept happening over and over again, and his friends were at a loss as to what to do. Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk was standing on the sidelines watching this whole thing. He offered a suggestion and said that the next time he comes to, tell him that the news wasn't true and his fortune is intact. These words took his students by surprise, since the Rebbe from Kotzk was famous for never saying an untruth. However, when our friend revived, they had no choice but to follow their Rabbi's words, and one of them whispered into his ear that the message was a mistake and he was still wealthy. With a sigh of relief, the man got up and dusted himself off. Just then, a harried messenger came in, ran up to him and told him that the first message was a mistake, and he was still wealthy. Astounded, the students turned to the Rabbi, waiting for an explanation. He said, "Hashem never gives a person a test with which he cannot cope emotionally. When I saw our friend faint again and again, unable to live with the news he had received, I knew the news couldn't possibly be true." This is the deeper meaning of Ya'akob's blessing. Ya'akob was opening up their eyes, telling them that Hashem sent an angel in all the bad situations. He was telling them he was never placed in a situation that was hopeless. Hashem always gave him a way of coping with it.

How can we make this part of our thinking? One way is to realize that whenever we get out of any predicament, even the little ones, it is Hashem who did it. If you find a parking spot near the bank, or if you catch yourself before using the milk knife for meat, it's not due to your efforts, but it is His angel. Then, when the big test comes we are used to our angel being sent by Hashem. So our first reaction would be to turn to Hashem in faith. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"May Israel bless their children to be like Efrayim and Menasheh." (Beresheet 48:20)

Ya'akob blessed Yosef with this famous verse that the Jewish people will bless their own children to be like Efrayim and Menasheh. The question can be posed, "Isn't it enough that we bless our kids to be like the great leaders of our own generation; do we have to ask that they be like the greats from the earlier times, such as Efrayim and Menasheh? Isn't that shooting very high?"

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein answered that if we aim extremely high, then hopefully we'll get to a good level, but if we raise our sights to something within reach, then we won't even get near it. The lesson is that we should try to have high expectations, at least when we bless our children so that we understand how much greatness there is to be had, thereby encouraging ourselves and our families to strive ever higher. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Your father commanded before he died saying: Thus shall you say to Yosef: O please forgive the transgression of you brothers and their sin" (Beresheet 50:16-17)?

When did Ya'akob tell them to ask for forgiveness?

Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin explains that the sale of Yosef was a terrible thing. Fortunately, the brothers' evil act ultimately benefited him. Through a remarkable sequence of events, Yosef emerged as viceroy of Egypt. Indeed the brothers felt regret. But, since Yosef benefited from their iniquity, they thought an apology unnecessary.

When Ya'akob became ill, he called Yosef and apologized for burying his mother on the road to Bethlehem and not in the Cave of Machpelah. When the Jewish people were exiled by Nebuzaradan, they passed Rachel's grave. She pleaded before Hashem to help them, and received a promise: "Your children will return to their boundaries" (Yirmiyahu 51:16).

Ya'akob's behavior was a message to his children and future generations to ask forgiveness, even if the suffering later results in goodness and blessing. (Vedibarta Bam)


"Yehudah is a lion's cub, from the prey, my son, you have gone up" (Beresheet 49:9)

Rashi comments that Yehudah elevated himself by two actions. One, he stopped his brothers from killing Yosef. Two, he publicly embarrassed himself to save Tamar.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz cited the Kuzari that the righteous person is one who rules over himself and all his impulses. Such a person is worthy of being a ruler over others, because he will rule over them with the same righteousness as he rules over himself. This, said Rav Yeruchem, is the reason Yehudah merited being the tribe of the future kings of Israel. In saving Yosef, he ruled over himself not to be influenced by the behavior of others. He was so self-confident that his brothers listened to him. This is the power of ruling over oneself. Such a person can be a ruler because of his own inner strength and not merely because other people happened to choose him. Similarly, when he willingly caused himself public embarrassment it took much self-discipline. This ability to rule himself made him a true king. (Growth through Torah)


"Yosef said to them, 'Fear not, for am I instead of Hashem?' (Beresheet 50:20)

After Ya'akob passed away, Yosef's brothers were afraid that Yosef would now take revenge on them for selling him. Yosef comforted them, and told them that he did not hold any grudges against them. He explained to them that even though they had intended to do harm to him, Hashem made it work out for the best, since he was now able to provide them all with food during the famine years.

How does the fact that Hashem protected Yosef release the brothers from blame? Yosef saw the entire incident as Hashem's plan to get him to be the ruler of Egypt. His brothers simply served as agents to bring about Hashem's will. Yosef understood that if Hashem did not desire for him to be sold, then the brothers would not have been successful. Everything that happens to a person, whether good or bad, happens because it is Hashem's will. Therefore one should not blame another for any misfortune that comes upon him.

Question: Is there anyone toward whom you have ill feelings because he has done something to harm you? Do you find it easier to endure a hardship when you keep in mind that it is coming from Hashem, rather than from the person who seems to be inflicting it?


This week's Haftarah: Melachim I 2:1-12

This haftarah tells about the end of Kind David's life, when he gave instructions to his son and successor, Shelomo, to be carried out after David's death. This is similar to our perashah in which Ya'akob gathers his children around him and blesses them before his passing.

Answer to pop quiz: Dan.

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