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January 2, 1999 14 Tebet 5759

Pop Quiz: Which tribe does Ya'akob compare to a snake?

ANGRY YOUNG MEN by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Accursed is their rage for it is intense!"(Beresheet 49:7)

Ya'akob Abinu at the end of his days blesses all of his sons, each one receiving fatherly blessing and rebuke. Shimon and Levi are two brothers who are comrades in arms. They joined together and destroyed the city of Shechem in retaliation for the rape of their sister, Dinah. Ya'akob says to them that their trait of anger is too strong, and Ya'akob curses their trait of anger. Rashi points out that at this time of rebuke, Ya'akob does not curse Shimon and Levi, but he curses their trait of anger. We can learn from this that a character flaw as loathsome as excessive anger is a curse, but it does not make the person a cursed or evil individual. Shimon and Levi were blessed and holy people, who possessed a bad trait of anger. People that we know who obviously have certain character flaws should not be automatically rejected by us. They might be loud people who have to work on improving that flaw. Ya'akob said, "I will separate them within Ya'akob and I will disperse them in Israel." Of course Ya'akob did not intend to punish them, but he gave them advice how to mitigate their excessive trait of justice and indignation, by separating them and having them travel throughout Israel, teaching and helping people. We see Ya'akob trying to improve the character of his children with concrete advice. We constantly emphasize the great importance of learning Torah. Without learning Torah person will not have the great desire and strength to improve his character. However, besides studying Torah, we must study the ethical works of our Sages to improve our character. We must allow our true greatness to shine forth with the help of sterling character. Shabbat Shalom.

A GOOD EXAMPLE by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"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.


"Ya'akob called to his sons and he said, 'Gather together and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days'" (Beresheet 49:1)

Ya'akob told his sons to gather together, to have unity. Only when there is unity among the descendants of Ya'akob can there be redemption. If there is not yet unity, it is not time for redemption. With this we can understand what Yosef's brothers meant when they said to him later on (50:16-17) that before Ya'akob's death he requested that Yosef forgive them. Commentators are puzzled on the issue of where he requested this. The answer can be seen in our verse. Ya'akob asked for unity and the deep love that comes from unity. Where there is love, there is forgiveness.

This is a crucial issue for our time. People are very different from one another in many ways. But if all the descendants of Ya'akob realize how important it is to have unity, this unity will bring about a love that transcends the specific complaints one person has against another. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Dan.

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