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Haftarah: Melachim I 2:1-12

JANUARY 13-14, 2017 16 TEBET 5777


"A son of grace is Joseph, a son of grace to the eye, girls stepped up to gaze." (Beresheet 49:22)

The Torah describes Yosef as an extremely handsome, young man. Rashi explains: "The girls of Egypt would step along the wall to gaze at Yosef's beauty." However, the Midrash Yalkut Shimoni adds an important point: "He didn't lift his eyes to one of them, and he didn't have any impure thoughts with any of them, and therefore he merited to inherit two worlds." Yosef was pure - no looks, no thoughts.

When Rabbi Obadiah Yosef's wife, Margalit, passed away, the Rabbi received many visitors. Amongst them was Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzera zt"l. He asked the Rabbi what his merit was that all of his sons were Torah scholars and sadikim. He added that it's well known that gifts don't come down from heaven for no reason. A person must have done something to get this reward, so please reveal what it was.

The Rabbi answered with his usual humility, "I don't know. Hashem just gave me a gift. Hashem just gave me!"

But Rabbi Elazar continued, "If it's because of non-stop learning of Torah, there are others also. If it's because of helping many to return to religion, there are others also. If so, what's the secret?" But Harav Obadiah just gave the same answer.

Finally, Rabbi Elazar said, "I'm not budging from here until you tell me the secret!"

When Rav Obadiah saw that he wasn't able to shake him off, he explained, "As you know, a few decades ago I served on the Bet Din. We had many cases of applications for divorces. Sometimes the women would come dressed improperly. As judges, we were required to try to bring about reconciliation, and we would have to talk to them and investigate the case. However, I was careful with this problem and, Baruch Hashem, I had the merit and I was able never to lift my eyes to look at them. I never studied them to know to whom I was talking to. Rather, I would always investigate their words with my eyes downward, to the floor."

Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Ya'akob saw the wagons that Yosef sent him." (Beresheet 45:27)

Rashi tells us that Yosef sent his father, Ya'akob, a sign that he still remembers the Torah that he was taught, and he reminded Ya'akob of the last subject they had learned together. When Ya'akob saw that, he knew that his son was truly alive in a spiritual sense, and he rejoiced! Similarly, when Ya'akob sent his son, Yehudah, to Egypt before the whole family, he instructed him to establish a Torah academy so that they could study Torah in Egypt. We see from here how important the Torah was to our forefathers. Although we only read of their deeds and their character in the perashah, the Midrash is teaching us how pivotal the study of Torah was to them. They were engaged in it constantly, and this is what kept them alive. Ya'akob mourned very deeply for his son for twenty-two years, yet the only thing that kept him strong was Torah study. Yosef was in a very difficult position for many years in Egypt, spending twelve years in jail, yet his faith and trust never wavered because he was constantly reviewing the Torah he learned.

This should be an inspiration for us to strengthen our Torah learning, especially when the going gets tough. The more we are connected to Hashem through Torah study, the more we can endure all of life's challenges. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Continued Support

"Please place your hand under my thigh." (Beresheet 47:29)

Why did Ya'akob want Yosef to place his hand under his thigh?

During Ya'akob's sojourn in Egypt, Yosef generally supported him and the entire family. As he lay on his death bed, Ya'akob began to worry about the future relationship between Yosef and his brothers.

Ya'akob thought that though Yosef was a great sadik, his mortal feelings might prevail. Possibly, after Ya'akob's demise, Yosef might not treat his brothers so nicely because of what had occurred to him.

Out of concern for his children's welfare, Ya'akob said to Yosef, please put "your hand" your generous support - "under my thigh" - my family who will survive and live together with you in Egypt. When the Torah enumerates the family of Ya'akob that descended to Egypt, they are referred to as "yotzei yereicho - the people who emanated from his thigh."

Upon returning from Ya'akob's funeral, the brothers feared that Yosef would have resentful memories of his past suffering, which would lead to hostile thoughts. Therefore, they sent a messenger to Yosef saying, "Your father commanded before he died, 'Please forgive the evil your brothers did to you'" (50:15-17). Many ask, "When did Ya'akob express this request?" (see Rashi).

According to the above, perhaps the brothers derived it from the request Ya'akob made of Yosef regarding the welfare of his brothers. (Vedibarta Bam)

The Right Blessing

"He held up his father's hand to remove it from Efraim's head…his father refused and said, 'I know.'" (Beresheet 48:17,19)

When Yosef brought Efraim and Menashe to Ya'akob to receive his blessings he positioned them so that Ya'akob's right hand should rest on Menashe and his left hand on Efraim. Ya'akob, however, guided his hands so that the left would rest on Menashe and the right on Efraim. Yosef made an attempt to change his father's hands around, which he resisted.

The Midrash Rabbah (97:4) says that when Yosef held his father's right hand to remove it from the head of Efraim, Ya'akob said to him, "I want you to know that I am very strong and I conquered an angel. Therefore, do not attempt to move my hands." Why did Ya'akob insist that his right hand be on Efraim, and why did he have to prove his strength from the fact that he conquered an angel?

In Egypt, Efraim was occupied primarily with the study of Torah. Yosef was notified of Ya'akob's illness by Efraim, who frequently visited the home of Ya'akob to study (Rashi 48:1).

Though Menashe indeed studied Torah, he also assisted Yosef and headed his household. He also acted as the interpreter between Yosef and his brothers (Rashi 43:23). Thus, Menashe can be credited for performing the misvah of kibbud ab (honoring one's father) in an outstanding way.

Yosef, therefore, was of the opinion that Menashe should receive the "right-handed" berachah due to his exemplary fulfillment of kibbud ab.

Ya'akob sensed this and told Yosef, "The question in your mind is similar to an issue which took place many years ago and was long resolved. While I was the prototype of one who dwelled in the tent of Torah, my brother Esav excelled in the misvah of kibbud ab. As you well know, my father Yitzhak gave the berachot to me. The angel who fought with me was the angel of Esav. He endeavored to defeat me for taking away the berachot, but I was victorious, and he eventually conceded that the berachot be mine. This proves that Torah surpasses all. Your son Efraim is totally immersed in Torah study; therefore, he deserves the "right-handed" berachah. (Vedibarta Bam)

Open Lines

Did you ever consider that most creatures leave the nest soon after birth, yet human beings don't mature enough to leave home until almost twenty years of age? How come Hashem made it work that way?

The answer is that Hashem wants parents to have ample time to transmit the proper values for good living and spiritual success to their children before the children leave to start life on their own. We, who want to give our offspring a solid foundation to withstand the challenges of the non-religious world in which we live, should take advantage of the system Hashem has devised to mankind in regard to child rearing.

Most books on the subject give two basic methods of teaching values: "tell them" and "show them." Some parents are good at teaching by example, and others have stronger explaining abilities, but most would admit they could use help in improving their communication skills. Let's face it: our generations suffer from a wide "generation gap."

What really works is a two-way conversation. Many adults assume that their experience and wisdom gives them the right to lecture their "pupils." Most experts, however, will tell you that the secret to a good lesson is: listen, listen, and then listen some more! Discover your child!

Another good technique is to reserve your comments for last. Let your son or daughter reveal doubts, concerns, and emotional reactions to the subject under discussion. Treat every comment - even childish or foolish ones - with respect. That will keep the lines of communication open for the next time you get together.

When you feel you have something important to teach your children, consider what the best method of communicating your experience may be. Then start a two-way conversation. Your open-minded approach will change the way your talks are listened to from here on in. (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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