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Haftarah: Melachim I 2:1-12

DECEMBER 25-26, 2015 14 TEBET 5776

The fast of Asarah Betebet will be on Tuesday, December 22.


"He moved his hands with intelligence." (Beresheet 48:14)

This week's perashah tells us that when Ya'akob Abinu was giving blessings to Ephraim and Menasheh, "sikel et Yadav, he maneuvered his hands." Ya'akob crossed his hands so that his right hand ended up on Ephraim, who was on is left side, and his left hand ended up on Menasheh, who was on his right side. The fact that Ya'akob switched his hands teaches a critically important lesson about our relationships. The right side of a person represents his strengths, his wonderful qualities. The left side of a person represents his weaknesses, the areas in which he needs to improve.

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro explains, that when we face a person and stretch our arms without switching them, we are placing our right arm (the stronger arm) on the other person's left side. This indicates that we are accentuating his "left" side, reminding him of his faults and deficiencies. When we point our left arm (the weak arm) at his right side, we are symbolically neglecting to acknowledge his attributes.

Ya'akob Abinu is teaching us, "switch your hands." When you face a person, let your right arm extend to his right side, emphasizing his fine traits. Give him a meaningful compliment. Remind him of how much he means to you and what an integral role he plays in your life. Your left, weaker arm, will extend to his left side, indicating that although everyone has deficiencies, you will not accentuate his, or remind him of his shortcomings.

In order to be successful in our interpersonal relationships, we must follow this formula of focusing on the positive rather than on the negative. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"May Hashem make you like Efraim and Menasheh" (Beresheet 48:20)

Ya'akob told Yosef that all the Jewish people will bless their children with these words, "May you be like Efraim and Menasheh." Among the many reasons given as to why Jews should always bless their children to be like these two sons of Yosef and not other great personalities, is that Menasheh, the older brother, did not show any jealousy when he saw his younger brother being blessed with the right hand. Usually the concept of sibling rivalry would have caused the older to resent the younger one, but when Ya'akob saw that there was no ill feeling between the two brothers, he told Yosef, this is the example we should have when blessing our own children. It may be suggested that this came about not only because of Menasheh's superb character, but also because Yosef put so much love into them that each one felt special in their father's eyes. Hence, there was no room for jealousy.

We, as parents, must try our best to show as much love and affection as possible to each child so that their self-esteem and self-confidence will be as strong as it can be. This will bring out the best character traits in them and leave no room for jealousy or resentment. A tall order? No! This is included in the blessing of Ya'akob that we will be able to bless our children and raise them in such a way to be like Efraim and Menasheh. It's up to us to try our best; the rest we pray to Hashem for success. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Gather and listen, sons of Ya'akob" (Beresheet 49:2)

Ya'akob gave each of his sons a special blessing specifically for him. However, he made it a point to gather them all together when he blessed them. Even though each brother had a special quality unique to him, Ya'akob wanted them to understand that each brother is only one part of the whole picture. Each one must reach his potential in his own individual task, but he shouldn't feel as if he must do the entire job himself. We all must work as a team, each person contributing in his own special way. (Emet LeYa'akob)


If one looks through Ya'akob's blessing to Yehudah, he will find every letter of the Hebrew alphabet with the exception of the z (zayin). In Hebrew, the word zayin means a "weapon." The absence of this letter indicates that Yehudah's descendants will not be like other kings who rely on their weapons to defeat their enemies. Weapons are Esav's tools. Yehudah will not defeat his enemies with weapons, but miraculously, through G-d's word. (The Torah Anthology)


One may ask why Ya'akob blessed Zebulun before Yissachar, even though Yissachar was older. The reason is that Yissachar and Zebulun were close partners. Their agreement was that Yissachar would study the Torah day and night, and Zebulun would engage in business, and give half his earnings to Yissachar. Since it was Zebulun who enabled Yissachar to study Torah exclusively, Ya'akob blessed Zebulun first. (ibid)


[Ya'akob said about the tribes of Shimon and Levi:] "I will divide them among the rest of Ya'akob and I will spread them among Israel." (Beresheet 49:7)

The Hatam Sofer explains that the dividing and spreading in this verse refers to the anger of the tribes of Shimon and Levi. Shimon and Levi overreacted with violence, but the other tribes did nothing for the benefit of Dinah. This was improper, for they should have taken some action. Therefore, Ya'akob said, "I'll take away some of the anger of Shimon and Levi and spread it among the other brothers who need more than they have now. Then they will all have this trait in a proper amount."

Every trait is necessary. The only question is how much and in which situations it should be used. Someone without anger or zealousness will fail to take action to protest against injustice. On the other hand, excessive anger is extremely harmful. It causes quarrels, hurt feelings, pain and suffering. What is needed is the proper balance to be used according to the directives of the Torah. When one is angry, one is more likely to take action, but anger must be used in the proper amounts. An overreaction will cause more harm than good. The Hebrew word for trait is midah, which means measure. One must study each trait from Torah sources to clarify the right time, place and amount for each trait. To be a complete person every trait must be used. (Growth Through Torah)


Menashe was a very successful entrepreneur. It seemed that whatever he touched turned to gold. Many attributed his success to luck; he was always in the right place at the right time. That, at least, is what people believed.

Ephraim was Menashe's loyal employee. He started working for the company right out of yeshivah, and never left. He saw his boss as a man who worked hard and kept his focus on the business. According to Ephraim's perception, Menashe's success was not due to pure luck, as many thought, but was based on his ability to develop good employees and to delegate responsibility. If the boss appointed other people to handle the details, he could pay attention to the bigger picture. Ephraim would tell you that it was Menashe's well-trained staff of managers and employees that produced the bottom-line profits for them. "He has a knack for delegating responsibility. That is the secret of his success."

The loyal employee was correct regarding how his boss ran the business, for Menashe truly knew how and when to offload responsibilities and tasks to others, and thus gain the time for jobs which required his personal attention.

The picture, however, was very different when it came to spiritual pursuits and misvah performance, where Menashe did everything himself. When he bought a new taleet (prayer shawl), he tied the sisit strings on the corners himself. When Pesah was about to arrive, he was at the matzah bakery, involved in the baking of his matzos. The difficult task of finding the best-quality lulab and etrog for Succot took many trips to many different vendors, but he went himself. No messengers and no managers for Menashe when it came to observance of the Torah's commandments!

The Torah commentators point out that in the list of valuable materials used in the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert, the Torah lists the items in descending order of value (Shemot 35:5-7): first gold, then silver, followed by copper, and so on. Why, then, were the precious stones offered by the heads of the tribes listed last? They were, in fact, the most valuable of all the materials donated by the Jewish people for the construction of the Mishkan! Our Sages explain that the heads of the tribes acquired these precious stones through a miracle, not through personal effort. The lack of toil made their value drop in the eyes of Hashem, and they were mentioned last on the list of donated items.

The lesson is clear. The value of deeds is measured in Heaven not merely by the worldly value invested, but by the amount of toil and self-sacrifice as well. When you are preparing to perform a commandment, don't look for someone else to take care of the "hard stuff." You will be rewarded based on the effort you put in, so give it your all and do it yourself. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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.

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