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Simcha Groffman

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Parshas Vayechi

For parents to give over to the children at the Shabbos table

The beginning of the parsha tells us that after 147 years, Yaakov Avinu's life is drawing to a close. Rav Moshe Feinstein says that the Torah is numbering Yaakov's years to tell us that they were all equal in the following respect. When we step back and take an overview of Yaakov Avinu's life, we see that he was in many different situations. They all had one common denominator, however. Whether he was a young man with his father Yitzchak, or in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, or in the house of Lavan, or in great distress over Yosef, or in Mitzraim, there was no change in his avodas Hashem. Yaakov Avinu had emunah and bitachon and reached his great madrayga both in his youth as well as in his old age. Kinderlach, we can all learn from the example of Yaakov Avinu. Many times, we are in different situations where it isn't always easy to do the right thing. Sometimes we are under pressure, like on Erev Shabbos, or before a test in school. It is easy to get upset then. Or we are under peer pressure from our classmates or neighbors to do something we know is not right. Sometimes we are tired, like right before bedtime. Yaakov Avinu shows us that we have to be big and overcome all of that. Kinderlach, this week we're all going to follow Yaakov Avinu's example and do what Hashem wants, no matter what the circumstances.

Kinderlach, what brocho does Abba give the boys at the Shabbos table? Hashem should make you like Efraim and Menashe. The posuk (48:5) says that Efraim and Menashe, although they were born in Mitzraim, were like sons to their grandfather Yaakov Avinu. Rav Moshe Feinstein says that the other grandsons who were born in Eretz Yisrael, and were raised close to Yaakov Avinu should be more likely to be considered his sons. What is the Torah trying to tell us? A father must educate his kinderlach very well in Torah and Mitzvos. So well, that the child will follow the Torah even under the most trying of circumstances. Yosef kept the entire Torah while he was a slave, in prison, and in the royal court of Paroh in Mitzraim. None of his family was there to help him. Not only that, he educated his own sons, Efraim and Menashe to be shomer Torah and Mitzvos, even in these alien surroundings. Do you see kinderlach, what a wonderful chinuch Yosef received? This is what Abba and Imma are trying to accomplish. Sometimes we are strict with you. Sometimes it is not easy to listen to what we say. You may think it is not fair. Hashem made us your parents, we have a mitzvah to mechanech you, and we're trying to do our very best. So when Abba gives you that brocho on Shabbos night, think about how much he loves you, and how much he wants you to be tsaddikim, just like Efraim and Menashe.

In posuk 47:29, Yaakov Avinu asks Yosef to do chessed v'emes with him and not bury him in Mitzraim. Rashi comments that chessed that one does with the deceased is true chessed because one receives nothing in return. The Sifsei Chachomim adds that not only the chessed that one does with the departed is true chessed, but any chessed that is done without expecting repayment is chessed v'emes. The mishna in Pirkei Avos (1:3) tells us that Antigonos Ish Socho used to say, "Don't be like servants who serve the Master on the condition of receiving a reward. Rather, be like servants who serve the Master unconditionally. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you." You know kinderlach many times Abba and Imma, our teachers, Rebbes and ganenets give us treats to encourage us to do acts of chessed. It's very nice to receive treats, isn't it? Who doesn't like prizes? We want you to enjoy them. What is the Torah telling us about chessed v'emes? There is a higher madrayga that we can and should strive for. Doing chessed for others without receiving a prize for it. Our teachers are getting us so accustomed to doing chessed, that we will do it automatically, and with great pleasure, even when there is no reward (in this world.) So, let's help our neighbor with her homework, and our Imma with the housework, and our brother with his learning, without getting a treat, just because we love them!

Is it important to smile? Let's see what the Torah says about it. Part of Yaakov's brocho to Yehuda (posuk 49:12) is, "His eyes are red with wine, and his teeth are white with milk." The gemora in Kesuvos (111b) uses this posuk to teach us that it is better to whiten your teeth to your friend (smile to him) than to pour milk for him. The Mishna in Prikei Avos (1:15) also tells us the importance of smiling, "Shammai says . . . receive everyone with a beautiful facial expression." Also in Mishna 3:16, "Rebbe Yishmael says . . . receive everyone with happiness." It's so important kinderlach, to greet people with a smile. When we come home from school, let’s have a big smile on our face. When Abba comes home at night, let’s have a wonderful welcome for him. We can practice greeting people with a smile at our Shabbos table this week. Tell our brother Shloimie to go out of the room for a minute. When he returns, let's all give him a big smile and say, "Shalom Shloimie! How are you?" That will put a big smile on Shloimie’s face. Then each member of the family (even Imma and Abba) can take their turn going out of the room and getting their greeting when they return. We get so many mitzvos kinderlach, when we smile. We make people happy, we do chessed for them, we make shalom between people, and we make a real Kiddush Hashem. We even help to bring Moshiach. How? Let's see from the parsha.

Posuk 49:1 says that Yaakov called his sons and told them, "Gather yourselves together and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days." The Shlah says that he wanted to reveal to them the end of days (coming of Moshiach). What will bring Moshiach? Unity. Moshiach doesn’t want to come when there is strife and sinas chinam. We need togetherness. Let’s start with our family, neighbors, classmates, and friends. As we said earlier, when we do chessed shel emes, kindness to others without reward, that makes people happy! Their happiness increases peace and unity in Klal Yisroel, which will help us bring Moshiach speedily in our days, Amen!

Enjoy your Shabbos table !

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