Parshat Vayechi

A Student Publication of Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Vayechi            16 Tevet 5763             December 21, 2002              Vol.12 No.11

In This Issue:

Dr. Joel Berman
Avi Stiefel
Michael Goldsmith
Ami Friedman
Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by
Dr. Bloch and Dr. Gertler

Gather Together

by Dr. Joel Berman

“…gather together ...” (49:1)  “Hayasfu (49:1)”
Towards the end of the Parsha, Yaakov Avinei assembles his sons for their final brachot.  It’s remarkable how such different personalities grew up in the same family.  By Yaakov’s own description Reuven is powerful and impetuous; Shimon and Levi are violent; Judah is regal: Zevulun is a sailor and businessman; Yissachar is a Talmud chacham; Dan is a judge; Asher is a farmer; Naftali is a nimble servant of God; Yosef is a handsome Tzaddik and leader; Binyamin is a fearless warrior. Despite such differences in personality, Yaakov offers one uniform direction of all; “Hayasfu,” gather together.
Years ago, when I was learning full time in Yeshiva, one of the guys on the shiur decided to leave and get a job.  This would have not been so remarkable if the Rosh Yeshiva had not instructed several of us to gather together for a small party for this student, a “Tzeschem Leshalom,” late that Thursday night after Mishmar in the Rosh Yeshiva’s office.  To my knowledge the Rosh Yeshiva had never done such a thing before.  The event was also remarkable in that the Rosh Yeshiva was ill because he hadn’t given shiur for several days, and that this particular student was very different from the rest of the Yeshiva, both in appearance and Haskofa. 
We feasted on chips and soda and sang a few Zmirot before the Rosh Yeshiva spoke.  I can still hear his voice in my mind.  He told us that Orthodox Judiasm is like a large road that is wide enough to encompass many varieties of legitimate Jewish expression, Yeshivsh, Modern, Chasidic, etc.  Whether one sees himself on the left, right, or center road, the important thing is that we are all together on the same road.
The Midrash recounts how Bnei Yisrael crossed the Red Sea via twelve different paths separated by towers of water.  Although each tribe had its own private path, each tribe could see with perfect clarity every other tribe during the passage.  The Midrash recounts how the experience was frightening and being able to see each other conforted the tribes. 
Twelve very different tribes who walked on twelve different parts towards the same destination were able to “see” and derive comfort form each other.  Perhaps now we can better understand Yaakov’s directum.  “Hayasfu” means not only to gather together, it also instructs us “Ben Adom Lechavero,” to respect and honor one another and avoid Machloket whenever possible.  Throughout our history, Klal Yisrael has fallen on hard times only when we have ignored Yaakov’s wisdom.  Now as we are witnessing a daily multiplication of anti-Semitism, and as we witness the Oomot Haolam once again happily ganging up on Israel and Klal Yisrael, the importance of this directum cannot be overstated.

Spiritual Input
by Avi Stiefel

In this week’s Parsha, we read of the death of Yaakov.  On his deathbed, Yaakov gathers his children, and blesses each one individually.  For a blessing to be successful the receiver needs to provide input.  Since, in reality, a blessing is a prayer to Hashem that the person being blessed should reach his potential.  What kind of input is necessary?  Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch helps us understand this.  Rav Hirsch repeated a nineteenth century issue that faced the Jews of Germany.  He said that many Jews began to support the popular view of life which were based on the philosophical views of Immanuel Kant.  This was a philosophy of moral self-legislation, which is one often found in today’s society.  This is the approach that one develops social characteristics based on their behavior within society as opposed to those who base their values on the Torah. 
Rav Hirsch rigorously made his argument for one to submit his will and morality to the dictates of Torah.  Many of Rav Hirsch’s contemporaries wished to cast off this approach, which would have distinguished them form the society which had already opened their arms to them after the Napoleonic era.  The theory of self-legislation was the perfect moral stepping stone to satisfy their ends, and open the doors to full acceptance in Secular society.   
It is reasonable to argue that the theory of self-legislation, as noble as it is, has the pitfall of only being successful in the society to which it is applied.  Consequently, in a free society, almost anything can be justified.  Therefore, nothing is ever absolute.  Rav Hirsch taught that a consistent and noble morality come out of Torah ideals, but they only appear naturally through diligent study. 
Therefore, in order for a person to realize his greatness he must train to cultivate desired traits within himself.  These traits can then be the tools for success in life.  Generosity, compassion, and the sharing of happiness and pain are all vital to life, and are each specified in the Torah.  Torah study and observance must be seen as a guideline.  Every individual has the potential to carry these traits, but must train to bring them out fully.  It is only after much practice and refining of the raw materials that we can hope the final result will be worthy of great favor and blessing.   


A White Lie
by Michael Goldsmith

In this week’s Parsha, Perek 50 Pasuk 16 says “Vayitzavu El Yosef Laymor Avicha Tziva Lifnai Moto Laymor:”  Yosef’s brothers commanded him that their father commanded them to apologize to Yosef before Yaakov’s death  The question arises as to where in Bereishit Yaakov actually commanded this.  Rashi answers that the brothers altered their father’s wish for the sake of peace.  This is not a bad thing for the brothers to have done, because now they need to rely on Yosef to live in Egypt.  In fact, the Gemara in Yevamot (65b) uses this Pasuk to prove that lying for the sake of peace is halachically allowed.
The Rashbam disagrees with Rashi by saying that the brothers were in fact telling the truth.  He says that when Yaakov told the brothers this commandment, they sent private messengers to tell Yosef.  However, there is a problem with this answer.  Where is the proof from the Chumash that Yaakov commanded all of the brother’s except Yosef?  Also, where  is there proof that they sent any messengers to Yosef?
The Shaloh, Rabbi Yeshayahu Halevi Horowitz, offers another opinion.  In Perek 49 Pasuk 1 Yaakov tells those surrounding him, “Heyasufu Vaagidah Lachem.  Why did Yaakov have to say “Heyasufu” if all the brothers were already surrounding him?  The Shalo answers  that when Yaakov said “Heyasfu,” he meant that the brothers should gather with Achdut, unity.  This is when Yaakov commanded the brothers to make-up.
We all learn from the Sons of Yaakov that only when there is Achdut among all of Bnei Yisrael can we have the Geula and the coming of Mashiach.

Two for One
by Ami Friedman

Before Yaakov dies he calls Yosef and tell how his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim will be like Reuven and Shimon.  This is viewed as a double portion for Yosef because his two sons will produce tribes as great as Reuven and Shimon.  Rashi says that all future sons of Yosef will be included in either Ephraim or Menashe.  Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch commented that all of Bnei Yisrael are trying to fulfill Hashem’s mission in the world.  However, they are divided into twelve tribes since the Jews represent many aspects of life.  Yosef is special because he produces two tribes, which will each embody a separate character trait to bring the world closer to Hashem.  Therefore, Rashi is saying that even if Yosef has many more children only Ephraim and Menashe will stand out by having their own characteristics. 
Therefore, Yaakov could be giving Ephraim and Menashe the Bracha of attaining the potential that Reuven and Shimon should have had.  Reuven and Shimon were two of the most disappointing tribes.  They, along with the tribe of Levi ruined many opportunities to be the leaders of Yisrael, and in the end, Yehuda received royalty.  Chazal teach that Reuven moved Bilha’s bed, and Shimon suggested the murder of Yosef, and as a punishment, the populations of both tribes were ravaged during the plagues in the Midbar.  Majority of the tribe of Reuven were killed out after blaming Aharon for the death of Korach, and majority of the tribe of Shimon were killed because of the sin of Baal Paor.  Further, both tribes were ultimately estranged from the rest of the nation.  Shimon only received a small portion of land below Yehuda’s portion, and Reuven was on the far side of the Yarden. 
Throughout Tanach there is a recurring theme of younger brothers accomplishing more then their older siblings.  This shows that ones owns effort will directly affect his success.  Since Yosef used his life to the fullest by passing tests and making a Kiddush Hashem he was given two tribes who would accomplish together twice as much as any other shavet. 


Halacha of the Week:
Rav Eliezer Waldenburg (Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer 12:21) writes that one should recite the Bracha on lightning if he has seen the sky lit by lightning even if he has not seen the lightning bolt.  I have heard that other Poskim disagree and rule that one should utter the Bracha only if one sees the actual lightning bolt.  One should ask his Rav which opinion to follow.

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