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DECEMBER 24-25, 2004 13 TEBET 5765

Pop Quiz: Which son was compared to a donkey in Ya'akob's blessing?


"The grave which I have purchased..." (Beresheet 55:5)

Ya'akob Abinu, giving his last request to be buried in Israel, says to bury him in the grave which he has purchased. The word ???????? is understood by the Midrash to mean "pile", that Ya'akob made a pile out of the money he had, and with this pile, he bought the burial place from Esav. This is the same Ya'akob who went back over the river to retrieve small jars that he had left, thereby having to meet up with Esav's angel.

This is no contradiction. To waste money by leaving jars, that Ya'akob would not do. To spend money for something important, like the proper burial place, that Ya'akob would do, even if it meant making a huge pile of money to buy this grave. It's only a question of priorities!

When we hear that a mezuzah or tefillin or a sefer Torah costs a certain amount of money, we are amazed and say, "Wow, so much!" When we hear of mundane things that people spend an inordinate amount of money on, we shrug our shoulders and think nothing of it. Ya'akob is teaching us to reassess our priorities. Let's not waste our money, but rather spend it on what's really important! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"By you shall Israel bless saying, "May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menasheh." (Beresheet 48:20)

Why did Jacob want his future descendants to bless their children like Ephraim and Menasheh, of all the tribes? Rabbi David Goldwasser cites one explanation of the sages. These two sons exemplified a fundamental principle of the Torah: There was no competition between them and neither considered himself greater than his brother. Although Jacob set Ephraim, the younger son, above Menasheh, the firstborn, Menasheh was not jealous and Ephraim did not become arrogant. Their understanding of the truth and of each other's value made rivalry something far beneath them. Each had a deep respect for the other and was happy with the other's success. Each performed his goal harmonizing with his brother's service of Hashem forming a beautiful symphony in the service of Hashem. Jacob hoped that all of his children for generations to come would behave so beautifully. He therefore created this tradition that all fathers should bless their children in this way.

It is a well known fact that Ephraim studied Torah full-time under the tutelage of Ya'akob Abinu, and Menasheh was responsible to manage the palace of Yosef, his father. One could only imagine the greatness of these two men - Ephraim studying Torah from the great Ya'akob Abinu and Menasheh running a palace that without a doubt was flooded with dignitaries from all over the world. This palace was the hub of activity maintaining a hands-on system of feeding not only the people of Egypt, but all the people of the region. In short, one was the hacham and one was the "businessman." Our community today is blessed with both Ephraims and Menashes. As with Yosef's two sons, there must not be any rivalry between them. There must be a deep respect for each other. One must not feel he is greater than the other, and must celebrate each one's success in his own field. We must create a symphony in the true service of Hashem by each one valuing his brother's role in building up the nation of Israel. I would like to propose that we should have this in mind when we bless our children every Friday night. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days" (Beresheet 49:1)

Ya'akob gathered together his children and wanted to reveal the time of the coming of the Mashiah. Suddenly, the Shechinah left him. He began to worry, "Maybe there is some fault in my children." They immediately responded, "Shema Yisrael, you believe in only one G-d and so do we." Happily, Ya'akob exclaimed, "Baruch shem kebod malchuto le'olam va'ed - Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever" (Pesahim 56a). What did Ya'akob mean with his response, "Baruch shem..."?

When a Jew finds himself in a troublesome situation, he often cries out, "Shema Yisrael." Ya'akob was not surprised to hear his sons pronounce "Shema Yisrael" when they stood around his deathbed.

However, he used the opportunity to convey an important legacy: "Do not only express your absolute faith in Hashem in times of anxiety and distress, but at all times and forever and ever, I pray you will remember to bless His glorious kingdom." (Vedibarta Bam)


Question: Why do we hold the sisit strings in our left hand while reciting the Shema?

Answer: This is in order that they should be held close to the heart. This is hinted to in the pasuk, "Vehayu hadebarim ha'eleh al lebabchem." (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


"You must bring my bones up out of here." (Beresheet 50:25)

Yosef requested from his brothers that, when they are eventually taken out of Egypt, they bring him out to be buried in Israel. The Maharal says that the fact that Yosef is referred to as bones in the request was a dishonor for Yosef. This was a punishment for his silence when his brothers referred to their father, Ya'akopb, as "your slave." When Yosef heard them say this, he should have objected. Because he didn't speak up, the Torah later calls him mere "bones."

A fundamental principle of Judaism is that punishments are always "middah k'neged middah, measure for measure." In this case, what does the punishment have to do with the "crime"? The Maharal ex[plains that a person should be so revolted by improper actions and behavior that he cannot possible remain silent. He wil automatically feel the need to correct the situation. By referring to Yosef as "bones," the Torah is teaching us that if a person is numbed to the point that he is not bothered by misdeeds done in his presence, then he is not really living a true Torah life. He is no more than pile of bones.

Question: How do you react when someone commits a transgression in your presence? Are you exposed to elements of society (people, media, etc.) that desensitize you?


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: Yissachar.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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