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PARSHAS VAYEISHEVYaakov settled in the land of his father's sojournings. (37:1)
It is related that the saintly Gaon,zl, M'Vilna would lecture every Shabbos on the parsha of the week. When it came to Parashas Vayeishev he said, "I find it very hard to speak this Shabbos, in contrast to the previous Shabbosos. This is because I cannot employ the usual syntax I use for my drashah, lecture, this week. Every week I focus on the righteous hero of the parsha, and I elevate him, while I denigrate the rasha, evil individual, in the parsha. I was able to do this with Kayin and Hevel, Noach and the people of his generation, Avraham and Lot, Yitzchak and Yishmael, Yaakov and Eisav, Yaakov and Lavan, and - once again - Yaakov and Eisav. This week, however, the parsha revolves around Yosef and his brothers. I have nothing to say, for they were all tzadikim, kedoshim and tehorim - righteous, holy and pure!" This attitude should prevail whenever we approach the parshios from Parashas Vayeishev until the end of Sefer Bereishis. We do not understand what really occurred and what really was happening behind the scenes. We do know one thing, however, they were all - Yosef and his brothers - holy and righteous individuals. There is no "bad guy" in this parsha - just two distinct perspectives which are far beyond our ability to grasp; it is certainly above our capability to distinguish between them.
Now Yisrael loved Yosef more than all of his sons, since he was a child of his old age. (37:3)
Targum Onkelos defines ben zekunim as bar chakim, a wise child. Yaakov Avinu's affection for Yosef was based upon the reality that he was a bright child with incredible potential. This is a nice pshat, explanation, but what is the connection between Yosef's acumen and his status as the ben zekunim, child of Yaakov's old age? Obviously, as is explained by many a commentator, the ben zekunim is showered with an an extra dose of love, precisely because he is the youngest. A child who receives love will produce. Love begets wisdom. When we smile to a child; when we demonstrate to him that we love him; when he feels loved and cared for, he responds accordingly. He becomes a better student. His wisdom increases in accordance with the love he receives.
On the other hand, a child who is the subject of scorn, screaming and constant rebuke and negativity will not produce effectively. Hitting a child will not make him learn. It will only guarantee that he will distance himself from the parent and his values. It might have worked years ago, which is something I hear, but do not believe. Rabbeinu Gershom writes in Bava Basra 21A, "Do not hit a child more than necessary, for as a result of too much physical discipline, he will not become smarter."
The Chazon Ish, zl, was wont to relate stories about tzadikim, righteous Jews, to young children, claiming that these vignettes would instill yiras Shomayim, fear of Heaven, in the child. He was especially fond of using the sefer, "Chut Ha'Meshulash," stories about Rabbi Akiva Eiger, the Chasam Sofer and Kesav Sofer as a favorite sourcebook. He related that when the Chasam Sofer, zl, was but a lad of four years old, he once came home from cheder appearing very depressed. His father immediately asked him what was wrong. After all, this was a child who loved to study Torah, who ran to cheder, who imbibed every word of Torah with an unquenchable thirst. He explained to his father that his rebbe had beat him for asking a question. His father was shocked to hear this, and he asked his son to explain.
"We learned the pasuk in Bereishis which describes Hashem fashioning Adam HaRishon, 'And Hashem G-d formed the man of dust from the ground' (Bereishis 2,7) The rebbe explained this as, 'He (Hashem) took dust/earth from ground/earth.' I immediately asked, 'From where else does one take earth, if not from the earth?' What is so novel about this pasuk?
"The rebbe became angry with me for asking this question. He did not respond to me. When I repeated my question, he came over to me and hit me a number of times."
When the Chasam Sofer's father heard this, he became incensed. After all, this was a perceptive question, one that even Rashi addresses. How could the rebbe hit a young child for asking this question? Moreover, he was concerned for his young son. How could he study Torah from someone who not only is unable to explain the material properly, but is also impatient and subject to an uncontrolled temper. He went to the rav of Frankfurt, Horav Nossan Adler, zl, who, after hearing an account of the incident, instructed him to cease working in his business and spend all of his time with his brilliant son and personally teach him Torah. The Chasam Sofer's father did not have to be convinced of his parental responsibility. He dropped everything to devote himself to his son's educational development. The Torah world is forever indebted to him.
It is not the act of disciplining that is the problem, as much as the attitude that accompanies it. When one strikes a student out of anger, it fosters negativity and hatred. When one must discipline for a valid reason, it should be with dignity and love. Horav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zl, a Rosh Hayeshivah and mechanech, educator par excellence, was an individual who was famous not only for his encyclopedic knowledge of Torah, but also for his middos, character traits. He once remarked that he never held a grudge against anyone - except for one of his earliest melamdim, elementary school teachers. He related an incident from his early childhood that had never left him. It was a gentile holiday, and the town was celebrating in the usual way with a festive parade. The children in the cheder were admonished by their rebbe that it was absolutely forbidden to attend the parade. Everyone was expected to be in class on time.
The next morning, as the young (Rav) Yaakov was walking to cheder, he noticed an elderly woman carrying a number of heavy shopping bags. He approached her and offered his assistance in carrying the bags. After helping her home with her bags, he went immediately to cheder, but arrived slightly late. The rebbe asked him, "Why did you go to the parade? Did I not tell everyone yesterday that it is absolutely forbidden to attend their parade?" The young boy immediately replied, "But I did not go to the parade. I am late because I was helping an elderly lady with her packages." "Not only did you disobey me by going to the parade, you also have the nerve to lie!" declared the rebbe. This angry retort was accompanied by two slaps to complete the humiliation.
Rav Yaakov concluded, "He is the only person I have not been able to bring myself to forgive, because, to the best of my knowledge, I have never lied in my life."
The Tolner Rebbe, Shlita, once met a man who boasted that he had no problem disciplining his children in the "ancient" practice of spanking or slapping. After all, if it was good enough for his father and grandfather, why should it be different with him? The Rebbe replied, "Your grandfather kept his meat cold in an icebox, not a refrigerator. He also did not have the benefit of a microwave. Perhaps you should place the fish your wife prepares for Shabbos in an icebox and share with me if you care for the taste. Things have changed. Life has changed. We no longer discipline with negativity and corporeal punishment. Today, we discipline with love."
Horav Mordechai Rogov, zl, Rosh HaYeshivah of Bais Medrash L'Torah in Skokie, Illinois, was a distinguished Lithuanian Torah scholar and mussar personality who, following World War II, moved to Chicago. During his tenure as Rosh HaYeshivah, he reached out to many talmidim, students, imbuing them with a love of Torah. What his talmidim recall about him most was the love and respect that he demonstrated towards them. He was warm and caring, making every student feel comfortable in his presence. Rav Rogov never turned his back on a talmid. After speaking with a student, whether it was in the bais ha'medrash or in a classroom, he would always back away when he had finished. He did not turn around and leave with his back to the student. This taught the talmidim to respect and show reverence to those who study Torah.
He once announced to his class that since a student was expected to inform his rebbe if he could not attend class, it was only right that the rebbe should notify his talmid if he was going to miss shiur, class. Since his grandson was becoming Bar Mitzvah that Shabbos in Detroit, he would like to attend - providing that his talmidim did not mind. If anyone had objected, he would not have attended his grandson's Bar Mitzvah!
His son once came home to discover Rav Rogov upset. Indeed, his eyes even seemed damp. Concerned, he asked his father if he felt well. His father explained that a talmid had approached him that day and cried bitterly that he had been unable to achieve success in learning. "Please, rebbe, give me a brachah!" the boy asked. He attempted to encourage the student, but, unfortunately, learning was only one of his problems. He had other troubles as well. Rav Rogov was distressed by his talmid's pain and, even now, many hours later, was still concerned about his student's condition.
A man discovered him, and behold! He was blundering in the field. (37:15)
A chasid once came to the Sanzer Rav, zl, lamenting the fact that his eldest daughter had reached marriageable age, but he did not have the wherewithal with which to marry her off. The Rebbe quickly prepared a letter of approbation for the chasid to deliver to one of his wealthy chassidim who lived in another town, appealing to him to help this individual raise the necessary funds to marry off his daughter. When the poor chasid approached the wealthy man for assistance, the man curtly replied, "Talmud Torah k'neged kulam, 'The study of Torah supersedes everything' I must learn Torah. I do not have the time to run around the city raising funds."
A number of months went by, and the wealthy chasid had occasion to be in Sanz. When he greeted the Rebbe, the Rebbe ignored him. He figured that the Rebbe must be deeply engrossed in thought. When he was about to leave, he came to say "goodbye" to the Rebbe, and, once again, he rebuffed him. This was not typical of the Sanzer Rav. He decided to gather his courage to ask the Rebbe what was wrong. The Sanzer Rav replied with the following Torah thought. "In the Torah in Bereishis 32:25, when Yaakov Avinu encountered Eisav's guardian angel, the Torah writes, 'And a man wrestled with him.' This went on all night until Yaakov prevailed over the angel, after which Yaakov asked for his blessing. It was daybreak, and the angel asked Yaakov, 'Let me go, for dawn has broken.' (ibid.27) Rashi explains that the angel asked to be released because it was his turn to sing praise to Hashem. We also find that when Yosef was wandering in the field, a man showed him the way. Rashi comments that the man was actually the angel Gavriel. Now, let me ask you, why, in the debate between Yaakov and the man, does Rashi say it was Eisav's angel, and, in the incident of Yosef, he says that the angel was Gavriel? It says the man in both cases! What is there about each episode that alludes to the true identity of this man?
"The answer is," the Sanzer explained, "that when Yosef was lost and a man came forward to help him find the way, it must be the angel Gavriel. When Yaakov found himself alone in the middle of the night, however, and asked the "man" to bless him, and he responded, "I am in a rush to praise Hashem," this must have been the response of Eisav's angel. Only Eisav's angel would use such an excuse not to help a Jew. The mitzvah to act kindly to help another Jew is all-encompassing and takes precedence over everything. Obviously, it must have been Eisav's angel."
The Sanzer Rav got his message across to the chasid. There is a time and place for everything. When a Jew is in need, one makes the time to help him. Regrettably, there are many who do not take this idea to heart. They are kind and benevolent, and always there to help, but it is always on their terms. A person in need determines the terms according to his needs. If he is in need now, then the act of chesed demands that he be assisted now - not when it is convenient for the benefactor. Veritably, we do not realize the extent to which a simple act of kindness can go and the difference it can make in someone's life. The following episode illustrates just one instance among myriads of episodes in which a small act of kindness has gone a long way towards saving a soul.
A young bachur, yeshivah student, who was studying in a new yeshivah felt very lonely: he was homesick; the yeshivah was a bit overwhelming; he had a difficult time making friends. He felt out of place and wanted to leave. No one seemed to take a real interest in him, so he decided this was not going to work. He was leaving the yeshivah.
He remained in the yeshivah for one last Shabbos, packed his bags and prepared to leave. On motzei Shabbos, out of the blue, a young kollel fellow struck up a conversation with him. A friendship developed between the two, and they even began to learn b'chavrusa, became study partners. The young bachur forgot about leaving and began to study Torah diligently. He soon became a budding talmid chacham, Torah scholar.
A number of years went by, and he became engaged to a very fine girl from a distinguished family. He decided to look up the kollel fellow who had taken the time to converse with him that motzei Shabbos. He located him and sent him a wedding invitation. At first, the kollel fellow had to think twice before he remembered the name. It was not as if they had had that much time together. However, he did attend the wedding. It was an emotional scene when the kollel fellow entered the room where the chassan was seated surrounded by family and friends. The chassan stood up and ran over to the kollel fellow, and they embraced. Amid tears, he declared, "You are the most important guest at this wedding! If not for you, I would not be here tonight. You went out of your way to befriend a young bachur in the yeshivah. If not for your friendship, I would have left the yeshivah and probably would never have matured into a ben Torah. Thank you!"
It does not take much, but it does take some effort. Everyone has the desire to help. We somehow never find the time. By making the time, we could be saving someone's life, or even more - his neshamah.
For she saw that Shelah had grown, and she had not been given to him as a wife. (38:14)
The Baal HaTurim takes note of the Mesorah, Masoretic tradition, of the words, "For she saw that Shelah had grown" and cites three other instances in total in which a similar phrase is used. The first is, previously, in Bereishis 26:13, "The man (Yitzchak) became great and kept becoming greater until he was very great." The second is this pasuk, which relates Tamar's reaction to Shelah's maturing and the fact that he had still not been given to her as a husband. The third citation is a pasuk in Sefer Iyov, "Because the pain is very great." He explains that there is a distinct relationship between these pesukim. They explain why Tamar merited to be the matriarch of Malchus Bais David, the Davidic Monarchy, from whom Moshiach Tzidkeinu descends. When she saw that Shelah had matured and she had yet not been given to him as a wife, she was filled with great pain, which is a reference to the pasuk in Iyov. Since she was so distressed over not being designated as the progenitor of Moshiach, she merited to become the matriarch of the Davidic Dynasty, which would grow greater and greater until the advent of Moshiach, which is an allusion to the pasuk concerning Yitzchak Avinu's material growth.
This Mesorah is teaching us that Tamar merited this distinction because she felt so much pain, to the point of distress. When someone cares enough about an ideal, and they are worthy of reward, Hashem will grant them what they value the most. Hashem looks at one's priorities and rewards accordingly.
My mechutan, Horav Shmuel Gluck, Shlita, RAM in Telshe Chicago, shared with me an insight regarding this idea. We find that when Aharon HaKohen was designated by Hashem to be Kohen Gadol, he had to be encouraged by Moshe Rabbeinu to approach the Altar. He was filled with fear, trepidation and awe, and he felt ashamed to approach the Altar because of his role in the sin of the Golden Calf. He felt guilty and,thus, unworthy of the High Priesthood. Moshe encouraged him saying, "Why are you ashamed? It is for this that you have been chosen." The commentators add that Moshe was intimating that it was specifically because of his awe and shame, because of his outstanding humility,that he had been chosen. He demonstrated what was important to him. His overwhelming reverence for the Altar and what it represented made him feel unworthy of serving there on behalf of Klal Yisrael. He indicated what his priorities were, and,thus, merited to become one of Hashem's priorities.
Melech mehullal ba'tishbachos.
Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, explains that hallel, which is the root word of mehullal, has two connotations. First, it means to praise. One who is mehallel praises something extraordinary, as we find the Egyptians praising Sarah Imeinu's unique beauty. Another form of the word is tehillah, as in, Tehillas Hashem yedaber pi, "My mouth shall speak the praise of (the extraordinary wonders by) HaKodesh Boruch Hu (Tehillim 145:21). He cites Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, who explains that hallel is the piel conjugation or intensive active voice, whose root is hallol, which means to shine a light on an object, to illuminate it. Iyov says (Iyov 29:3), B'hilo neiro alei roshi, "When He shines His light on my head." When hallol is conjugated in the piel inflection, it becomes hallel, which then means to reflect the light away. Thus, the piel is the reverse of the kal, simple conjugation. A similar structure occurs with the word dashon, which means to put down ashes, while the piel conjugation, dashein, means to remove ashes. Likewise, sakol means to throw stones, and sakeil means to remove them.
When we say hallel or ahallelah and mehullal, we are expressing praise, but in a unique pattern. We say that we are reflecting back to Hashem all of the blessings which He has bestowed upon us. Thus, our praise of Hashem is really an acknowledgement and appreciation that He is the Source of all of our blessings.
R' Noach ben Yehuda Aryeh z'l
niftar 22 Kislev 5726
by his family
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