A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County

Parshat Vayechi          21 Tevet 5764              January 10, 2004              Vol.13 No.18

In This Issue:

Mr. Ezra Frazer
Uri Carl
Oren Levy

Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman

This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Patty and Sam Borodach and family in loving memory of their father and grandfather Shalom Shmuel, Seymour Madow
This week’s issue of Kol Torah has also been sponsored by
Mark (Mendy) and Nomi Schwartz in loving memory of Mendy's brother Benjy Schwartz,whose Bar Mitzvah Parsha was Parshat Vayechi.


Beit David
by Mr. Ezra Frazer

In this week’s Haftorah, we read how David prepares Shlomo to become the next king (I Melachim 2).  In David’s charge, he includes both general advice regarding the importance of observing Mitzvot (2:2-4) and specific instructions about settling accounts between David and several private individuals (2:5-9).  The Haftorah concludes by informing us that, indeed, Shlomo ascended his father’s throne, and his rule was “well-established” (2:12).  The Metzudat David interprets “well-established” as a reference to the sharp contrast between David’s and Shlomo’s experiences.  David faced repeated rebellions during his years as king, one from his son Avshalom and one from Shaul’s relative Sheva ben Bichri, whereas Shlomo, after an initial confrontation with Adoniyahu, experience peace and stability.
The Navi apparently sees tremendous value in the stability that characterized Shlomo’s rule.  It repeats that his rule was “well-established” (“Nachonah”) after he actually settles his father’s outstanding accounts (2:46).  The Navi also emphasizes that he ruled over all of Israel following his successful resolution of the two prostitutes’ conflict (4:1), and later adds that his rule was characterized by peace and prosperity (5:4-5).
While the political benefits of peace and stability are obvious, there is also a religious dimension.  When David requests to build God a home, God’s response, as recorded in Shmuel II (7:5-16), appears quite vague.  He does not inform David of any specific reason why he will not build this house himself; instead He emphasizes that He has functioned just fine without a permanent dwelling, and He adds that David’s son will build the Beit Hamikdash.  God further emphasizes that He will solidify Shlomo’s rules, “I will establish his kingship.  He will build a home for My name, and I will establish his throne forever” (7:12-13).  Apparently, the very fact the Shlomo ruled as part of a dynasty, unlike his father (who was not the previous king’s son), meant that he was more qualified than his father to build God a home.

Rav Yosef Kara (7:11) notes that David’s dynasty could only be called a “Bayit” (“home” or “dynasty”) once his son would rule after him.  Rav Kara further comments that the verse from the end of our Haftorah is telling us that God fulfilled His promise that Shlomo’s rule would be “well-established.”  Thus, only through a political Bayit, a royal dynasty, could the spiritual Bayit, God’s dwelling place, be built.

Yehudah vs. Dan
by Uri Carl

Towards the end of Parshat Vayechi, Yaakov blesses each of his sons before his death. Each son receives a different bracha dependent on his individual character.  For example, the blessing given to Yehudah used the symbolism of a lion. Since the lion is strong, powerful, and dominant, Yaakov blessed Yehudah that he, too, would have those qualities. Another example is the blessing given to Dan, which used the representation of a snake. Just as a snake is powerful because it is sly and attacks people from behind, so too Dan will demonstrate these traits. 
The Radak explains that a snake may even be more powerful than a lion, as a snake attacks its prey alone, whereas the lion virtually always attacks in packs.
The question may then be asked why Yehudah is the most powerful and dominant, instead of Dan? After all, Dan is compared to a snake and a snake, very powerful, and maybe even more powerful than a lion, Yehudah’s animal!
In order to answer this question, one has to look at the characteristics of both Yehudah and Dan. A look at Yehudah and his descendants reveals that he not only starts off as powerful, but maintains his power. David, for example, was a great king and a heroic leader who never lost these qualities; he always managed to fight off his enemies and be a fair king. As Rav Saadia Gaon says, Yehudah will never lose the authority he had over everyone else.
Dan, on the other hand, does not always keep his power, but rather loses it in the end. Dan is like the snake in the Bereshit story, which at first had great powers of language and slyness, and was able to persuade Chava to eat from Etz Hadaat. However, in the end, he lost his power and was punished by only being able to eat dirt. Shimshon, a member of the tribe of Dan, was very strong and dominant in the beginning.  He was able to tear apart a lion and he was a Nazir, making him very close to Hashem. Nevertheless, he lost his dominance in the end, and gave way to weakness. Overall, Dan, unlike Yehudah, cannot maintain strength, and is therefore less worthy of the Malchut.
It now makes sense that Yaakov gave Yehudah the blessing that he will be dominant and rule over others, instead of giving it to Dan.  Yehudah always exhibits the characteristic of being able to maintain his dominance, whereas Dan cannot. However, Dan was still blessed by Yaakov that he would have power, only not with the same magnitude and authority as Yehudah.

In Hashem's Hands
by Oren Levy

In this week’s Parsha, Yaakov delivers his final message to his children before he dies. In this message he blesses each son and also rebukes them when necessary. As such, it seems surprising that throughout the speech he never once rebukes the brothers about Mechirat Yosef! Although Rashi says that Yaakov hints to the sale when rebuking Shimon and Levi, most “Pshat” Mefarshim do not agree. One way of resolving this difficulty is the Ramban’s approach, that namely Yaakov did not know about the sale. Yaakov thought that Yosef was wandering in the fields near Shechem when someone found him and sold him as a slave to Egypt.  In fact, the brothers never revealed their sin to Yaakov, and Yosef, compassionate toward his brothers, did not want to tell his father.
The Abarbanel, however, says that Yaakov did indeed know about the sale. However, he did not rebuke them because Yaakov understood that the brothers’ Bechirah Chafshit, free choice, was revoked when they sold Yosef, as Hashem forced them to do it. In order to bring Bnei Yisrael to Egypt and initiate the Brit Ben Habetarim, Hashem “decreed” upon the brothers to sell Yosef. Yosef acknowledges this when he says, “Veata Lo Atem Shalachtem Oti Heyna Ki Haelokim...” “And now it was not you who sent me here, but Hashem…” Because of this, Yaakov felt that they did not deserve punishment or rebuke.
It is important to note that the Abarbanel does not mean to cast doubt upon the principle of Bechirah Chafshit. Certainly he would agree that Bechirah Chafshit is a major principle; a person can do whatever he wants, as the Rambam writes in Hilchot Teshuvah. However, though the Rambam is talking about the general principle, there are exceptions, as the Rambam himself writes that sometimes a person’s Bechirah Chafshit is revoked as a punishment. Along the same lines, the Abarbanel understands that sometimes, for the purpose of guiding the course of history, Hashem revokes the Bechirah Chafshit of man. The basis in Tanach for this special exception is the Pasuk in Mishlei, “Palgei Mayim Lev Melech Biyad Hashem Al Kol Asher Yachpotz Yatenu” “Like streams of water is the heart of a king in the land of Hashem, wherever He wishes, so He directs it.” The Yalkut Shimoni comments on this Pasuk, that just like water when put into a vessel can be moved about and tilted any way a person wants, so too, when a person rises to greatness, his heart is given in the hand of Hashem. If the world merits it, Hashem tilts the “king’s heart” to good and if the world does not merit He tilts it to harsh decrees.
In contrast to the Abarbanel, Rav Saadya Gaon emphasizes that the Pasuk in Mishlei should not be understood to mean that sometimes king’s Bechirah Chafshit is revoked, but rather the Pasuk should be interpreted otherwise. Similarly, the Abarbanel quotes that the Rambam understood that Mechirat Yosef was done out of Bechirah Chafshit. Rabbeinu Yonah says on the Pasuk in Mishlei that the goal of the people’s hearts should be to fear Hashem and not to fear the anger of a king. A person should ask mercy of Hashem and raise his eyes towards Him, for He tilts the heart to wherever he wants. In the end, that which determines the course of history is neither the political platform of this party or another, nor the members of the government themselves, but rather, “The heart of a king is in the hand of Hashem.”

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