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Parsha Pearls Archives
- Beraishis

TO DO:

Ki Vo Shovas Mikol Milachto Asher Boro Elokim La'asos
"For on it (the Shabbos day), He (G-d) rested from all His work that G-d created to do."

What is the meaning of the term "to do" in this verse?

This term indicates G-d's focus in creating the world.

G-d created the world to give people the ability ‘to do’ actions that elevate them and their surroundings spiritually, through observing the laws of the Torah.

(R' Chayim of Volozhin - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

THE NECESSITY OF DEATH

Ki Bayom Acholcho Mimenu Mos Tomus
"For you will die on the day you eat of it."

This verse states that the consequence of eating the forbidden fruit would be death. This was not meant as a penalty. Rather this is the only way to fix the damage Adam would cause itself by eating the forbidden fruit.

We understand this as follows.

Prior to Adam’s sin, it was possible for Adam to elevate his body to such a spiritual level that it could be united with his soul, providing a means for the soul to achieve perfection while still contained within the body.

When Adam and Chava (Eve) ate of the forbidden fruit, they brought evil inside their bodies and this was was passed on to all their descendants.

As a consequence, a soul cannot reach its fullest potential until it is separated from the body. Thus, after the sin of the forbidden fruit, death became a necessity so that the soul can reach its highest possible level of purity.

This is why G-d took measures to prevent Adam and Chava from eating of the Tree of (Eternal) Life (Gen. 3:22). Gaining eternal life would rob them of their only available route to spiritual perfection.

G-d, in His infinite kindness, never wishes to punish for the sake of punishing.

(R' Chayim of Volozhin - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

THE WHOLE PICTURE

"Vayar Elokim ess kol asher osuh v'heenay tov meod"

And Hashem saw all that he did was very good.

Sometimes, certain events or things don't seem to us to be good. This is because our scope is quite limited. We don't know all of the causes and effects,that surround each occurrence. Hashem sees ALL of His actions according to His master plan of creation. He can see that ALL is very good

  • (Tal Oros)

THE BACK SEAT GABBAI

A point is illustrated in the following parable. A guest in a synagouge found himself puzzled by the seeming randomness by which the gabbai distributed the aliyos. The gabbai called a venerable Cohen to the Torah followed by a boy barely past Bar Mitzvah for a Levi. He gave the next aliya to a simple man seated in the back row. The guest expressed his bewilderment to the gabbai. The gabbai said "Our shul has an elaborate system to ensure the fair distribution of aliyos. How do you expect to understand our system during a brief visit?"

Compared to the length of the eternity and the complex webs of cause and effect throughout the world, our view of world events is as narrow as the guest in the shul. (Choifetz Chayim)

THE LEGAL SACRIFICE :

"Vayovay Kayin MePree' Ha'adomah Mincha LaHashem" .

And Kayin brought from the fruit of the land as a sacrifice to Hashem.

As Rashi says, Kayin brought inferior produce as a sacrifice. This led to the rejection of the sacrifice, which spurred Kayin's envy of his brother Hevel. The question remains, If Kayin realized on his own the importance of bringing a sacrifice, why did he bring an inferior one? It is possible that Kayin rationalized that Hashem doesn't need our sacrifices for any purposes of His Own, so to speak. A sacrifice is just a personal opportunity for us to be giving. Hashem doesn't care about quality. Rather, it is the thought that counts. However, if someone is truly giving on the emotional level, it would be natural to give only the best. Kayin was lacking in this element. We must be emotionally involved in each Mitzvah to do it to the fullest, instead of rationalizing that we are getting by

  • (R' Moshe Feinstein ZT"L)

  • Parshas Noach

    KEEPING PERSPECTIVE

    Tomim Hoyoh B'Dorosav, Ess HoElokim Hishalech Noach
    "He was complete in his generations, Noach (Noah) walked with G-d"

    The Talmud interprets the term "complete" to mean that Noach was very humble. How was he able to remain humble even though his righteousness towered over his entire generation? The key to Noach's success was that "he walked with G-d." That is, he was mindful of the infinite righteousness of G-d, and how insignificant his deeds were in comparison. He therefore did not become haughty despite all of his spiritual accomplishments.

    (Noam Megadim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

    THE WRONG AGENT

    Vayishlach Ess HaOrev Vayeitzei Yatzo V'Shov
    "And he sent the raven, and it went out leaving and returning"

    In the end, the raven did not fulfill his mission. He refused to leave the vicinity of the Ark to report on the condition of the world.

    The Chofetz Chayim states that this was an example of the rule "Merits come through the meritorious."

    The Midrash states that the raven was one of three creatures that sinned while in the Ark. Because of this, Noach (Noah) did not see success from the raven - because things that are ultimately good come only through those that are meritorious.

    (P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

    STOLEN ATONEMENT

    Ki Mola'ah Ha'Aretz Chomos Mifneihem "For the land was filled of robbery from before them." Rashi comments that although the Generation of the Flood were guilty of many serious sins, it was the sin of robbery that ultimately sealed their fate - as this verse indicates. Although some of their sins were far more serious than robbery, such as idolatry, murder, and adultery, it was robbery that actually sealed their fate.

    What is so unique about robbery?

    When Hashem punishes a person who deserves death, in His abundant mercy, He does not kill the person right away. Instead, Hashem will usually strike at the person's possessions, hoping that the person will repent.

    However, this approach could not be used with the Generation of the Flood because their possessions were not rightfully theirs! Their sins could not be expiated with others' property. Thus, had they not been guilty of robbery, they could have escaped destruction.

(Melo Ho'Omer - Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

TELL IT LIKE IT IS

U'Min HaBeheimah Asher Ainenah Tahorah
"And from the animal that is not pure."

The Talmud notes that the Torah uses a wordy expression, "the animal that is not pure" rather than a more concise term, "the impure animal." The Talmud explains that the Torah did so in order to demonstrate the importance of being careful with our language. However, we find the Torah constantly referring to forbidden animals as "impure" when discussing the dietary laws. What happened to the ideal of delicate speech?

This can be explained with the following parable. A stranger once walked into the rabbi's home and asked for directions to Yankel's house. The rabbi's steward replied "You mean Yankel the Crook? He lives half a mile down the road." The rabbi rebuked his steward for unnecessarily denigrating Yankel. Some time later, a matchmaker visited the Rabbi's home and proposed Yankel’s daughter as a match for the rabbi's son. The rabbi shouted "What! Yankel the Crook's daughter? For my son? Never!" After the matchmaker left, the surprised steward asked the rabbi "Didn't you once tell me that I shouldn't refer to Yankel as Yankel the Crook? Why did you use the same name for him yourself just now? The rabbi replied "I told you not to use that title unnecessarily It is forbidden belittle someone needlessly. However, when the matchmaker approached me, I had to state my position unequivocally. I therefore spared no details to clarify exactly why I could not allow such a match to occur. The rabbi's conduct is analogous to the Torah's choice of terminology. In the story of Noach (Noah), the Torah was merely stating how many animals were to be brought into the Ark. There was no reason to make mention of any impurity. Rather, the status of the animals was only used as a point of reference. However when the animals were discussed in regard to their non-kosher status, the Torah did not hesitate to label them as they are, IMPURE.

This term is used to emphasize that they are absolutely forbidden for us to eat.

  • (Dubner Magid)

Vayavo Hapalit Vayaged L'Avrom

"And came the survivor and he told to Avrohom (Abraham)"

A survivor from the battle told Avrohom that his nephew Lot was captured. Avrohom subsequently rescued his nephew.

The Midrash states that this survivor was an evil giant named Og. This person had an ulterior motive. By informing Avrohom, he hoped to lure him into battle and that Avrohom would be killed in the attempted rescue. Afterwards Og hoped to marry Avrohom's wife Sarah. Fortunately, Avrohom was successful.

Later on in history, Moshe led the Jews near Og’s territory. The Midrash notes that Moshe feared that Og’s merit, since the giant contributed to the rescue, thereby helping Avrohom rescue. This merit was so great that Moshe feared that it would shield him being conquered by the Jewish people.

It is remarkable that the merit that Og earned merit for his deed was so substantial that Moshe considered it a force to be reckoned with. Although his motives were evil, he nevertheless provided a benefit.

Benefits to our fellow man are considered meritorious regardless of the intentions. If the merit of one who causes his friend to benefit is so great even if the person had evil intentions, imagine how great is the merit of one who helps his friend while having proper intentions!

(R' Yosef Zundel Salanter)

V'Heemin BaHashem VaYachsheveha Lo'Tzedaka

"And he (Avrohom) believed in Hashem, and he considered it to him a righteousness"

The simplest explanations of the phrase "and he considered it to him a righteousness" is that the pronoun "He" refers to Hashem and "to him a righteousness" refers to Avrohom. This would mean that Hashem considered Avrohom's faith meritorious.

This pronoun "he"can also be interpreted as referring to Avrohom.. Thus, the verse would be stating that Avrohom considered his own faith as a manifestation of the righteousness of Hashem.

Avrohom's recognized that his ability to have faith in Hashem was made possible only because Hashem had granted him intelligence and understanding. These capabilities enabled him to comprehend some of His greatness. That is, Avrohom realized that his own faith was made possible only by Hashem's kindness.

  • (Avodas Yisroel)

KINDNESS THAT STOPS AT NOTHING

Achar HaD'vorim HoEiloh Hoyoh D'var Hashem Ell Avrom Leimor `Al Tiro Avrom'
"After these things (occurred), there was the word of G-d to Avrom (Abraham) saying "Do not fear, Avrom"

Targum Yonasan explains this verse to mean that after Avrom had vanquished the four kings, he feared a reprisal from their relatives. He was especially concerned that the victory may have caused him to use up all of his merits, and would consequently not receive any more Heavenly protection in the event of another attack. G-d reassured him that he still had enormous merit.

It is noteworthy that Avrom entered the battle with the four kings in the first place, even though he knew ahead of time that his merits may become depleted. He did this anyway in order to save his nephew, Lot. This exemplifies Avrom's kindness. To help his fellow, he was ready to do that which he was otherwise very afraid to do.

(Rav Aharon Kotler - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

PASSIVE CHEATING
VaTomer Sarai Ell Avrom Chamosi Olecha

"And Sarai (Sarah) said to Avrom, `My iniquity (with which I have been cheated) is upon you."

Rashi explains this to mean that Sarai was complaining that Avrom did not praying hard enough for her to bear a child. She therefore said that he was committing - so to speak - an iniquity towards her.

An important lesson can be learned from this.

If someone has the ability to do someone else a favor and he neglects to do so, besides losing the opportunity to gain a merit, it is considered as if he did an injustice against that person.

(HaRav Elazar Menachem Shach Shlita - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


"Va'yeira Ailav Hashem Ba'Alonai Mamrei," etc-

And He (Hashem - G-d) appeared to Avrahom in the plains of Mamrei.

The Ohr HaChayim observes that the doer of an action is typically mentioned before the object about which the action is refers to. Since Hashem appeared to Avraham, it should be stated that way, more directly. Instead, Avraham’s name is mentioned first and G-d’s name is only implied.

The sefer Chalav U'Dvash answers that Hashem's presence is constant. It is a person's perception of Hashem's presence which changes. Hashem’s appearance was caused by Avraham’s piety. Therefore, we can consider Avraham as doer of the action and his name is referenced first.

  • (Itturei Torah)

"V'hu Yoshev Pesach HaOhel K'chom Hayom"

- And he sat at the opening of his tent as the day was hot.

Rashi says that Avraham was at the opening of his tent to search for wayfarers to invite in as guests. At this moment, the Divine presence appeared before him. As soon as he saw guests, Avraham interrupted his encounter with G-d and took care of the guests.

Chesed (kindness) for Avraham was something that he actively pursued. It did not result from merely a reaction to seeing other people suffer. If there were no guests to be had, he felt compelled to run out and find some. Chesed was Avraham's very being and the essence of his service of Hashem. This is why Avraham felt it was so important to pursue guests and hospitality, even during the moments when he stood before the Divine Presence. He viewed these guests as a chance to develop his inner soul, the essence of which was chesed. That is why the hospitality of Avraham was so special. He realized that this was G-d’s will and he didn't waste any opportunity

  • (Michtav M'Eliyahu)

"Va'tabet Ishto Me'Acharav VaThi Netzivb Melech"

-And his (Lot's) wife looked back after him (during their flight from the destroyed) city and she became a pillar of salt.

Chazal say that when Lot invited the angels into his home, his wife did not participate in his act of hospitality, which was against the law in the wicked city of Sedom. Instead, she asked her neighbors "Who has salt for my guests," thereby publicizing that they had visitors. Soon thereafter, all the townspeople gathered around the home and demanded that the visitors be handed over to them.

She now got the fitting punishment of being turned to salt. But, why did the punishment occur now, when she looked back?

The words "after him" are meant to refer to the time when Lot would no longer be living and she would be a widow. Now that they had lost all of their worldly belongings in the destruction of Sedom, even though her life was being spared and they were running for their life, her thoughts turned to her property. The concern about property at this time of crisis aroused judgement in Heaven. She was found lacking in generosity. She failed to demonstrate good use of worldly goods and that is why she received her punishment now.

  • (Kli Yakar)

UNFETTERED BY PIETY

"Rak Ain Yiras Elokim Bamakom Hazeh V'Harguni Al Dvar Ishti"

"Only (there is) no fear of G-d in this place and they (would) kill me on account of my wife"

Avrohom feared that the Philistines would murder him in order to take his wife Sarah. He stated that the basis for his fear was the fact that there was "no fear of G-d in this place."

The Philistines may have been a civilized people. However, without fear of G-d there was no guarantee that they would refrain from committing even the most heinous act.

A number of civilizations throughout history have condoned even the most abominable acts under various pretenses. The only true guarantee of proper conduct is fear of G-d.

  • (Malbim-Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

"Vayihyu Chayei Soroh Me'ah Shonoh V'esrim Shonoh V'Sheva Shonim Shnei Chayei Soroh."

And the life of Soroh was a hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Soroh."

DEFINITION OF AN ERA

The repetition of the phrase "the years of the life of Soroh" indicates that these years were defined by Soroh's presence. Just as a righteous person leaves an indelible mark on the place where he or she lives, he/she also leaves a mark on the entire era.

  • (S'fas Emes)

"Sh'say V'gam G'malecha Ashkeh"

Drink and I will give your camels to drink .

OF COURSE!

Yitzchok needed a wife who excelled in the trait of kindness. When Eliezer set forth to
find a wife for Yitzchok, he set up the following test. He would approach a maiden and ask for a drink.
The worthy bride would respond by offering a drink for both Eliezer and his camels. When praying to
Hashem that this test should work, he expected the girl to say "Sh'say V'gam G'malecha Ashkeh"
(Drink and I will give your camels to drink).

Rivka however let Eliezer finish drinking and only then offered to draw water for the camels.

Eliezer's objective would have been fulfilled if the prospective bride would have said, "Not only will I do
what you asked for, I'll do a bigger job, one that you didn't ask for." Although this reflects a bit of
self-aggrandizement, Eliezer did not set his sights above this level. Rivka’s reaction shows that the act of
kindness was perfectly natural to her and she had no reason to boast about the great deed she was doing.

  • Darash Moshe

"Vayiten Teven U'mispoa Lag'malim U'mayim Lirchotz Raglav V'raglei

Hoanoshim Asher Ito: Vayisem L'fonov Le'echol Vayomer Lo Ochal Ad Im Dibarti D'vorai" etc.

And he placed straw and fodder before his camels, and water to wash his feet and those of the men who were with him. And he put food before him, and he said "I won't eat till I say my words."

TO FEED A CROWD

It seems from the verse that food was originally put only in front of Eliezer, not the men who were with him. They had only received washing water.

Someone who invites guests only because he is ashamed not to, will try to get away with the minimum.
Lavon felt that only Eliezer seemed respectable enough to warrant a meal. However, when Eliezer insisted on immediately broaching the subject of the marriage between Rivka and Yitzchok, Lovan realized that treating the entire party properly would be in his best interests, because it would increase his chances of success in closing a deal with Eliezer. Indeed we see that following Eliezer's narration, "Vayochlu Vayishtu Hu V'haanashim Asher Ito". (And they ate and drank, he and the men who were with him.) The other men got to eat only when Lavan realized what was at stake. -

  • Chasam Sofer

ALL THIS AND BRAINS TOO

V'Hoyoh HaNaarah Asher Omar Ailehah Hati Na Kadech V'eshtoh V'Omrah Shisaih V'gam Gmalecha

Ashkeh Osah Hochachto L'Avdecho L'Yitzchok

"And it shall be that the girl that I will say to her "Please tilt your pitcher so that I may drink" and she will (afterwards) say (to me) "And also your camels I shall water." She (is the one ) you have identified for your servant Yitzchok (Isaac).

Eliezer was sent on a vital mission by his master Avraham (Abraham). He was charged to find a wife for Yitzchok (Isaac). He devised a test to screen potential candidates and he prayed for success. Avraham was the paradign of kindness and hospitality. The girl who was worthy of joining the household of Avraham should sieze every opportunity to do a good deed. Therefore, Eliezer's test measured kindness. He looked for a girl who would freely volunteer to draw the huge amount of water needed by a caravan of thirsty camels. There is even more to Eliezer's test than meets the eye, because the test also demanded intelligence and resourcefulness. Eliezer, a perfect stranger, was to request a drink for himself. He assumed that the girl will have no cup for him to drink from and that he will drink directly from the pitcher.

Now, what should she do with the water that remains in the pitcher? She can't bring it home to her family because the stranger may have a contagious disease. She can't spill it out because it may offend the stranger. Her best course of action would then be to offer the water to the stranger's herd of camels. In this manner she would avoiding hurting the stranger's feelings. Thus, this test would ensure that Yitzchok would get a wife who had both a heart and a head.

  • (Bais HaLevy - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

ALL THE YEARS OF HER LIFE

Vayihyu Chayei Sarah Me'ah Shonoh V'Esrim Shonoh V'Sheva Shonoh Shnei Chayei Sarah
"And the years of the life of Sarah were a hundred years and twenty years and seven years. The years of the life of Sarah."

The phrase "the years of the life of Sarah " at the end of the verse seems redundant. However, it teaches an important lesson.

The Midrash tells us that Saraah died of shock from the news that her son was almost slaughtered.

It is important to realize that the real cause of Sarah's death was that her time to depart this world had come. The shock was only the means of her death.

This is indicated by the phrase "the years of the life of Sarah" The words emphasize that these 127 years were "the life of Sarah," her intended life span.

(Rabbi Ya'akov Kamenetzky - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

(I also heard this in the name of Rabbi Avrohom Pam)

V'Avrohom Zaken Ba BaYomim
"And Avrahom was old, he had come in days."

The term "he had come in days" is usually understood to mean, "he was advanced in age. The usage of this term also has a special meaning for Avraham, indicating a special characteristic.

He "came with days," he was able to bring all of his days with him. That is, he made good use of each and every day. He filled all of his days with spiritual accomplishments and did not waste a single one.

(Ma'ayana shel Torah - various sources)


SPARE NO EFFORT

Vayorotz Haeved L'Krasa

"And the servant ran towards her "

Rashi comments that Eliezer ran towards Rivka (Rebecca) because he noticed that the water miraculously rose up toward her as she neared the well.

The Ramban explains that Rashi inferred this from the verse (Gen. 24:16) which describes how Rivka initially filled her pitcher. The Torah omits the words "and she drew the water." This indicates that was no need for her to draw it out from the well and this was because the water rose toward her.

In contrast, when the Torah describes how Rivka drew water for Eliezer's camels (ibid. v. 20) it does use the term "and she drew ." The Ramban's explanation answers one question but raises another. Why didn't the water rise when Rivka drew for the camels? Once Rivka siezed upon the opportunity to do this act of kindness, every effort that she spent doing it earned her extra merit. She gained merit in proportion to the difficulty she incurred. Had the water risen up in a miraculous manner then it would have reduced the quality of her good deed.

  • (Kedushas Levi - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

TRY AND TRY AGAIN

The Torah relates how Yitzchok (Isaac) dug wells and that the Plishtim (Philistines) contested his ownership of the water. Finally he dug a well that the Plishtim did not lay claim to.

This episode illustrates an important lesson.

Sometimes, when one meets difficulties while working on a particular project, he is inclined to interpret this as a Providential sign that this project was not meant to be. As a result, the person may give up the project.

Usually, such a feeling is erroneous. Often, G-d's will is that one should be faced by such challenges - and overcome them.

The Torah relates how Yitzchok persisted in his efforts of digging wells, despite the problems that the Plishtim caused. The Torah thus provides us with a role model for the trait of persistence.

(R' Aharon Bakst - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

OPEN LINE

V'Yiten L'cho HoElokim MiTal HaShomayim
"And G-d shall give you from the dew of the heavens etc."

This is the first verse of Yitzchoks's blessing to Ya'akov (Jacob). It is noteworthy that the paragraph begins with the conjunction "and," which is generally used to connect a statement with one previous.

Rashi explains that the term "And G-d will give" is to be interpreted to mean "G-d shall give and give to you." That is, Yitzchok blessed Ya'akov that G-d should keep giving him material blessing repeatedly.

The question arises: This implies that Yaakov will always be in need of more giving? Why didn't Yitzchok bless him with one large "giving," big enough for all time?

Yitzchok gave his blessing to Ya'akov in a way that he should constantly be aware that all blessings come from G-d. When one has an abundance of material wealth, it is easy for him to forget the source of his wealth because he is accustomed to having it. Yitzchok therefore opted to give a blessing that G-d's gifts should come in small increments. By seeing G-d’s constant giving, Ya'akov would form a stronger relationship between himself and G-d.

(R' Shmuel Rozovsky - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

BEYOND "BY EXAMPLE":

"V'Aileh Toldos Yitzchak Ben Avraham, Avraham Holid Ess Yitzchak"

These are the children of Yitzchak (Isaac) the son of Avraham (Abraham), Avraham begat Yitzchak.

The words "Avrohom, begat Yitzchak" seem redundant because the verse already stated that Yitzchak was the son of Avraham. Rabbi Moshe Feinstien (of blessed memory) explains the separate meanings of the phrases "the son of Avraham" and "Avraham begat Yitzchak"

Avraham was the paragon of righteousness and Yitzchak loyally followed his example. This is alluded to by the words "the son of Avraham". Yitzchak was a son who embraced his father's example.

However, his development was not left to chance. Avraham took an active role in Yitzchak's spiritual growth. This is what the verse indicates with the words "Avraham begat Yitzchak." Avraham not only set an example for Yitzchak but provided him with proper guidance as well.

Good role models are essential for a child, but without proper guidance there is no assurance that he will emulate them.

  • (Darash Moshe)

CAMEL BLINDERS:

"Vayomer Eisav Ell Yaakov Haaliteni Na Min Ha'adom Ha'adom Hazeh Ki Oyef Anochi etc."

And Eisav (Esau) said to Yaakov "Pour down my throat of this red stuff please, because I am weary." 

The Bais Halevi explains these verses as follows.

Although Avraham had passed away that day, Eisav didn't want to be bothered with mourning. Nevertheless, he was ashamed to appear apathetic about Avraham's passing while he enjoyed his meal. He decided to pretend to be unaware of Avraham's passing until he finished eating.

The food that aroused Eisav's appetite was a porridge made of lentils; a dish traditionally prepared for mourners. Eisav referred to it as "that red stuff" as if he didn't realize what kind of food it was. He could thus feign ignorance about the cause for the family's mourning. At his first spoonful, however, he would be forced to acknowledge that he was eating a mourner's dish. To avoid being faced by unwelcome hints of Avraham's passing, he asked that the food be poured down his throat. He pretended that he was doing so because "I am weary " i.e. I don't have strength to feed myself.

(Rashi comments that throat-stuffing is the way camels are fed. By eating in such a manner, Eisav was able to close his eyes to the food and what it represented. He could then enjoy himself without a twinge of guilt. It is an important lesson to see how a man can lower himself to the level of animals in his quest for pleasure without guilt.)

I'VE SEEN THAT BEFORE

VaYe'ehav Yitzchok Ess Eisav Ki Tzayid B'feev V'Rivka Oheves Ess Ya'akov

"And Yitzchok (Isaac) loved Eisav (Esau) because he trapped in/with his mouth, and Rivka (Rebecca) loved Ya'akov (Jacob)"

Rashi interprets the phrase "because he trapped with his mouth" to mean that Eisav would deceive (trap) Yitzchok with his mouth by asking him questions about the observance of the commandments. Yitzchok believed that Eisav was pious, and therefore loved him. Rivka on the other hand, saw through Eisav and viewed him as he was - an evil hypocrite who was asking these question to project an appearance of piety. She therefore loved only Ya'akov - but not Eisav.

Why was Rivka able to see through Eisav whereas Yitzchok was not?

Rivka was well-versed in the ways of false people because she grew up among them. Her father Besuel and her brother Lovon (Laban) were both notorious masters of deception. She therefore was able to immediately recognized Eisav's corrupt ways.

Yitzchok, on the other hand, grew up in the sheltered environment of the righteous home of Avraham (Abraham) and Sarah. He had no experience whatsoever with dishonest people. It was beyond him to think that anyone would behave in this manner. He thus did not suspect Eisav of being anything other than what he appeared to be - a pious and observant person.

  • (R' Naftali of Ropshitz - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

EAT DRINK AND BE MERRY? TOMORROW WE DIE!

Hineh Anochi Holech Lomus V'Lomoh Zeh Li Bechorah

"Behold I (Eisav) am going to die; why do I need this birthright?"

Reflection upon one's own mortality usually prevents a person from sinning. Such thoughts are suggested as a preventative for sin (Tractate Avos 3:1).

In Eisav's case however, his thoughts of morality caused him to disdain the birthright, something that would have given him important spiritual privileges.

Eisav's reflection about his own eventual death caused him to reject spirituality even more. We see from here that a truly wicked person does not repent even when he thinks about death.

(Chofetz Chayim - Itturei Torah)

Compiler's note: The average person, although he may sometimes sin, truly wishes to grow spiritually. Any lapse is due to his occasionally yielding to temptation. When such a person thinks about death, he realizes that life is too short to allow fleeting pleasures of this world to become distractions. In these moments, his real priorities -spiritual pursuits - come into clear focus. Reflection upon death has no such effect upon a wicked person, though, because he has no desire for spiritual matters at all. He only desires material things. A reminder that his material existence will eventually end will only drive him to try to cram as much material pleasure as possible into his relatively short life span. In short, when a person is reminded that his time on Earth is limited, he focuses on that which is actually most important to him, deep down in his heart, be it spirituality or physicality.

IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE

"Vayaitzai Yaakov Mibeer Sheva Vayailech Charanah" "And Jacob (Yaakov) departed from Beer Sheva and he went to Choron" 

Rashi poses the following questions: Why is it necessary for the verse to state "Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva"? The fact that Yaakov left Beer Sheva is obvious from the statement, "he went to Choron". In order for Yaakov to have gone to his destination, Choron, he must have left his starting point, Beer Sheva.

The phrase "Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva" is explained by Rashi to mean that his departure was made an impression. This town had lost the splendor it had enjoyed as the dwelling place of a righteous man.

Rashi's explanation puts this verse into its proper perspective as, one takes note of a righteous man's (i.e.Yaakov's) departure. However, this now poses another question. When Avrohom left Choron (Gen. Chapter 12 vs. 4) the Torah makes no mention of Choron's diminished glory. Why?

Not withstanding the similarity between the episodes, a clear distinction may be made between them. In Avrohom's case, the people of Choron were not righteous and they were not sensitive to the spiritual vacuum left in the wake of his departure. Consequently, the Torah does not emphasize Avrohom's exit from Choron.

In contrast, Yaakov's departure did not go unnoticed by Yitzchak and Rivkah. Besides being his parents, they were sensitive to spiritual and moral issues and they were aware of this dimension of loss from Yaakov's departure.

(Chasam Sofer)

BONUS

Yaakov was told by Hashem to leave Lavan's house and return to Beer Sheva. Yaakov needed to convince his wives to come along.

To heed off any objection, he started by discussing with them how their father, Lavan, had deceived and mistreated him. He afterwards told them of Hashem's command.

Given the idealsm of Yaakov's wives, our Matriarchs, their trust of Hashem was implicit and unquestioning. It would therefore seem appropriate for Yaakov to come directly to the point. Why was it at all necessary to speak of material matters and, so to speak, prod the Matriarchs to comply with Hashem's directive.

The lesson we can learn is that notwithstanding a person's high spiritual level, it is always best to take into account the material benefits which will accrue due to the acceptance of Hashem's directives. Although our focus must always be to serve Hashem, it is wise to safeguard ourselves from temptations to do otherwise. Making ourselves aware of the material benefits will help a person overcome his impulses and will result in an enhanced observance of Hashem's will.

(R' Simcha Zissel of Kelm)

OCCUPATIONS AND TORAH

VaYaare V'Hineh Be'er BaSodeh ... Vayomer Hen Od Hayom Gadol Lo Eis Heiasef HaMikneh Hashku Ess HaTzon U'Lchu Reu ...

"And he [Yaakov] looked and behold , there was a well in the field ... And he said (to the shepherds), "Behold, there is (still) a lot (of time left to) day, it is not (yet) the time to gather in the livestock. Water the sheep and go pasture(them)."

Ya'akov arrived at the well of Chorona and he noticed some shepherds gathered around. It was in the middle of the day and it appeared that they were rounding up the sheep in order to go home early. He admonished them for stopping work too early.

They responded that they were not preparing to stop work. Rather, they needed to water the sheep and they were waiting for enough shepherds to come and help roll off a huge boulder that was on the opening of the well.The classic commentary Ba'al HaTurim states that this paragraph contains an allusion to the number of people who are to be called to read the Torah in the synagogue. (See Ba'al HaTurim or details of the allusion) It is noteworthy that the Torah makes this allusion in a passage that seems totally unrelated to Torah readings. The Torah does this to teach an important lesson.

The purpose of the world and of civilization is to provide an environment and opportunities for people to perform Hashem's will. The world and civilization in and of themselves are of no significance unless they are taken within the context of their purpose. This passage states that Ya'akov urged the shepherds to engage in tending sheep, which is a worldly pursuit. Such occupations are needed to establish civilization and settle the world.

The Torah purposely alludes to the laws of reading the Torah in a place that contains an admonition to engage in worldly pursuits. It is a link between worldly persuits with fulfilling Hashem's commandments.

This reminds us that the importance of worldly occupations lies in their potential to support the performance of Hashem's will.

(Darash Moshe)

 

COMING AND GOING - WITH A PURPOSE

VaYeitzei Ya'akov MiBe'er Sheva Vayelech Choronoh
"And Ya'akov (Jacob) went out of Be'er Sheva and he went to Choron."

Rashi asks "Why was it necessary for the Torah to mention that Ya'akov left Be'er Sheva? Why doesn't the Torah simply state "And Ya'akov went to Choron?"

Ya'akov had two reasons for going from Be'er Sheva to Choron. His mother told him to flee to escape from his evil brother Eisav (Esau). His father commanded him to take a wife from Choron.

Ya'akov wanted to obey both of his parents' directives. Thus, his journey had two aspects to it. He fled from Be'er Sheva, irrespective of the destination, in order to fulfill his mother's words. He also had to reach Choron in order to obey his father.

The two parts of this verse illustrate the two objectives.

The verse states "And Ya'akov left Be'er Sheva," indicating that leaving Be'er Sheva was a goal unto itself to fulfill his mother's directive. He also "went to Choron," obeying his father's command to take a wife from there.

(Bais HaLevy - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

COOPERATIVE CHILDREN

VaYomer Ya'akov L'Echav Liktu Avonim Vayikchu Avonim VaYa'asu Gal
"And Ya'akov said to his brothers (in this case, sons) "Gather stones." And they took stones and they made a pile."

The Torah's description of Ya'akov's sons as "brothers" teaches us an important lesson about training children to lead a Torah life.

A most effective way to get children to appreciate the beauty of living the Torah way is by letting them feel that they play an important role in fostering spirituality in the home and in society. When children feel that they have a share in their parents' quest for spirituality, they are more likely to want to continue to participate in a Torah-oriented lifestyle This is indicated by the Torah's calling Ya'akov's sons his "brothers." Ya'akov's sons were included in all of his spiritual endeavors.

(R' Eliyahu Mayer Bloch - Pninim Mishulchan Govoha)


DOUBLE TROUBLE

"Hatzileni Na Miyad Achi Miyad Eisav" "Save me please from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav (Eisau)"

Yaakov (Jacob) stood in mortal danger. His evil brother Eisav, jealous over the blessing Yaakov had received from their father, was preparing to attack him. Yaakov prayed to Hashem that he should be delivered from Eisav's hands.

In actuality, Yaakov faced a two-fold peril. On one hand, Eisav posed a serious physical threat. On the other hand, peace with Eisav could jeopardize Yaakov and his family in the spiritual sense. Fraternizing with the wicked Eisav would leave them open to be influenced by his morally decadent ways.

Yaakov therefore prayed to be spared from both dangers. "Save me please from the hand of my brother", alludes to Yaakov's wish that he be protected from the negative influence of Eisav in the event that he makes overtures of brotherly love. "From the hand of Eisav" refers to his request that he be spared from a man whose name has become synonymous with physical threat - Eisav.

(Bais Halevi)

Vayishlach Ya'akov Malochim L'fonov Ell Eisav Achiv

"And Ya'akov (Jacob) sent angels (messengers) before him to Eisav (Esau) his brother."

The term "malochim" can mean either angels or messengers. In the context of this verse, the simplest explanation is that Ya'akov set messengers. However, the Midrash interprets the verse to mean that Ya'akov sent angels to Eisav . Why did Ya'akov deem it necessary to send angel rather than people?

A human being, no matter how righteous, is vulnerable to the influences of a negative environment. Ya'akov feared that a person would be adversely influenced by coming into contact with the wicked Eisav . He therefore sent angels who were not susceptible to these influences.

(Chomas Aish - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

GOOD GOODNESS

V'Atoh Omarto Haitiv Aitiv Eemach

"And (Yaakov said to G-d,) You said Do good, I will do good with you."

When praying to G-d to be saved from Eisav, Ya'akov mentioned Hashem's promise to him - that he would be treated with goodness. 

The phrase, "Do good I will do good with you," appears to contain some redundancy. However, the request actually specifies a specific form of goodness.

It is known that everything that Hashem does is for the best. Even things that seem like calamities to mortal eyes are important parts of the Divine plan. Consequently, they are considered to be good. In this light, it is theoretically possible that treatment other than the salvation that Ya'akov prayed for would be considered goodness as well.

Ya'akov, therefore specified in his prayers that he was promised a different form of "goodness". "Do good, I will do good with you" This implies that which is good in two senses - good in both the absolute sense and good as it appears to us. Ya'akov prayed that in this situation, the goodness with which G-d will treat him will be the type of goodness that people can actually perceive as being good.

(R' Moshe Leib of Sassov - Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

PRAYER: ANTIDOTE TO FEAR

Vayira Ya'akov Me'od

"And Ya'akov was very afraid."

The Talmud (Berachos p.60) states that righteous people are never overcome by fear. They trust in Hashem's kindness and are not afraid. Why, then was Ya'akov afraid?

When the Talmud states that righteous people are not overcome by fear, it does not mean that they have no natural emotion of fear. Rather it means that after they pray to Hashem they feel secure that Hashem will help them. They feel connected to Hashem through their prayer and thus no longer feel afraid.

Indeed, the Torah only describes Ya'akov as being afraid before it states that he prayed. After the point where the Torah relates that Ya'akov prayed there is no longer any hint of fear in Ya'akov's behavior. He even wrestled with Eisav's archangel! Once he had prayed, fear no longer had a grip on him.

(Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeva)

AT RANDOM

Min HaBo Biyado

"From that which came to his hand"

This verse indicates that Ya'akov chose the animals which he sent as a gift to his evil brother, Eisav at random. He took whichever animals came to his hand. Why didn't he select the animals carefully to ensure that he got fine animals for his brother?

When an animal is used by a righteous person, it is elevated to a higher spiritual level. This is actually the best thing that can be done for the animal . Any animal that would be sent to Eisav would lose this privelege. Ya'akov was sensitive even to the needs of the animals and did not want to single out any animal for this disadvantage. Since it was necessary for him to take animals for Eisav, he did so, but he did not want to choose any particuular animal over the other for this dubious distinction. He therefore picked the animals at random.

(Chofetz Chayim - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

       PRAYER: ANTIDOTE TO FEAR

Vayira Ya'akov Me'od

"And Ya'akov was very afraid."

The Talmud (Berachos p.60) states that righteous people are never overcome by fear. They trust in Hashem's kindness and are not afraid. Why, then was Ya'akov afraid?

When the Talmud states that righteous people are not overcome by fear, it does not mean that they have no natural emotion of fear. Rather it means that after they pray to Hashem they feel secure that Hashem will help them. They feel connected to Hashem through their prayer and thus no longer feel afraid.

Indeed, the Torah only describes Ya'akov as being afraid before it states that he prayed. After the point where the Torah relates that Ya'akov prayed there is no longer any hint of fear in Ya'akov's behavior. He even wrestled with Eisav's archangel! Once he had prayed, fear no longer had a grip on him.

(Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeva)

AT RANDOM

Min HaBo Biyado

"From that which came to his hand"

This verse indicates that Ya'akov chose the animals which he sent as a gift to his evil brother, Eisav at random. He took whichever animals came to his hand. Why didn't he select the animals carefully to ensure that he got fine animals for his brother?

When an animal is used by a righteous person, it is elevated to a higher spiritual level. This is actually the best thing that can be done for the animal . Any animal that would be sent to Eisav would lose this privelege. Ya'akov was sensitive even to the needs of the animals and did not want to single out any animal for this disadvantage. Since it was necessary for him to take animals for Eisav, he did so, but he did not want to choose any particuular animal over the other for this dubious distinction. He therefore picked the animals at random.

(Chofetz Chayim - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

PRAYER: ANTIDOTE TO FEAR

Vayira Ya'akov Me'od

"And Ya'akov was very afraid."

The Talmud (Berachos p.60) states that righteous people are never overcome by fear. They trust in Hashem's kindness and are not afraid. Why, then was Ya'akov afraid?

When the Talmud states that righteous people are not overcome by fear, it does not mean that they have no natural emotion of fear. Rather it means that after they pray to Hashem they feel secure that Hashem will help them. They feel connected to Hashem through their prayer and thus no longer feel afraid.

Indeed, the Torah only describes Ya'akov as being afraid before it states that he prayed. After the point where the Torah relates that Ya'akov prayed there is no longer any hint of fear in Ya'akov's behavior. He even wrestled with Eisav's archangel! Once he had prayed, fear no longer had a grip on him.

(Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeva)

AT RANDOM

Min HaBo Biyado

"From that which came to his hand"

This verse indicates that Ya'akov chose the animals which he sent as a gift to his evil brother, Eisav at random. He took whichever animals came to his hand. Why didn't he select the animals carefully to ensure that he got fine animals for his brother?

When an animal is used by a righteous person, it is elevated to a higher spiritual level. This is actually the best thing that can be done for the animal . Any animal that would be sent to Eisav would lose this privelege. Ya'akov was sensitive even to the needs of the animals and did not want to single out any animal for this disadvantage. Since it was necessary for him to take animals for Eisav, he did so, but he did not want to choose any particular animal over the other for this dubious distinction. He therefore picked the animals at random.

(Chofetz Chayim - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

NOT A WHIFF MORE

"V'hinay Orchas Yishmelim Ba'ah MiGilad V'Gmaleyhem Nosim Nochos V'tzri Volot" "And behold; There was a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilad and their camels were carrying spices and balm and labdanum"

Rashi explains that when the verse relates that "their camels were carrying spices and balm and laudanum"

the Torah is not merely providing us with a bit of trivia. Hashem had caused this particular caravan of Ishmaelites to carry spices, although Ishmaelites usually deal exclusively in kerosene and oil. This was in order for Yosef (Joseph) to be spared the evil smell of kerosene during his trek to Egypt. Hashem wanted to protect the righteous Yosef from any additional suffering.

To appreciate the meaning of this insight try to imagine yourself in Yosef's position. Picture yourself as a seventeen-year-old boy sold as a slave to foreigners headed to a distant land. Would the kind of merchandise your captors carried matter to you? Would your suffering be noticeably affected by the smells of their cargo? Most likely someone in such a position would be too absorbed in his fate as a slave to care whether he is surrounded with spices or with kerosene. Why then, did Hashem deliberately orchestrate Yosef's journey to Egypt in a way that he was spared from the smell of petroleum in an exceptional fashion but was allowed to suffer as a slave in a strange land?

R' Dovid Soloveitchik Shlita explains that Hashem's judgment of a person's fate is extremely precise. If Hashem decrees a certain amount of suffering on a person for whatever reason, then not one extra iota of suffering will be visited upon that person. Hashem had decreed that Yosef would be sold into slavery, but any additional suffering would be prevented even by extraordinary means.

(Shai L'Torah)

JUST SAY NO

"Vayimoen, Vayomer Ell Eishas Adonav Hein Adoni Lo Yoda Iti Ma Babayis V'chol Asher Yesh Lo Nosan Biyadi. Ainenu Gadol Babyis Hazeh Mimeni V'lo Chosach Mimeni Meumah Ki Eem Osach Ba'asher At Ishto V'aich Eessah Horo'oh Hag'dola Hazos V"chatosi L'Elokim"

"And he refused, and he said to the wife of his master "Behold, my master does not know with me what is in the house, and all that is to him he has placed (entrusted) in my hands. There is none greater in this house than me and he has not withheld from me anything but you, being that you are his wife, And how can I do this tremendous bad deed and I would sin to G-d"

The first thing Yosef said to Potifar’s wife was no. Afterwards he gave her a compelling argument, saying in effect, "How can I betray a man who blindly trusts me and accords me respect as the head steward of his household? How can I commit such a heinous crime?

Yosef's technique in withstanding temptation is the most effective way. There are always enough excuses and rationalizations to counter even the strongest reasons for doing the right thing. One must first strengthen his resolve to act correctly before engaging in a dialogue with the Evil Inclination.

(S’fas Emes)

AGENT OF THE"MITZVA"

Lech Na Reaih Ess Sh'lom Achecha V'Ess Sh"lom HaTzon VaHashiveni Dovor

"Please go and see the peace (welfare) of your brothers and the peace (welfare) of the sheep and bring back to me a word."

Yaakov (Jacob) sent Yosef (Joseph) to see how the brothers were faring and he directed him to bring back a report.

It should have been obvious to Yosef that Yaakov sent him in order to report back. Why did Yaakov say extra words to explicitly instruct him to bring back a report?

Ya'akov knew that Yosef was not in good standing with his brothers and that his mission was dangerous.

We have a rule that people who are on a mission to do a mitzva are afforded divine protection. There is discussion in the Talmud as to whether a person is protected once he has completed his mission and he is returning home.

So, Yaakov gave Yosef an instruction to come back with a report do assign him so that he would be an assigned agent to do a mitzva on his return, too. Thus he would benefit from this protection according to every opinion in the Talmud.

(Ohr HaChayim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

INTENTION + CAUSE = ACTION

VaYaavru Anoshim Midianim Socharim VaYim'sh'chu VaYaalu Ess Yosef Min HaBor VaYimkeru Ess Yosef LaYishmaelim

"And men passed, Midianites, merchants, and they pulled and they brought up Yosef from the pit, and they sold Yosef to the Ishmaelites.

It seems from the verse that Yosef's brothers were not actually the ones who sold him into slavery. Rather, it was the Midianites who took him from the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites who in turn sold him to Egypt. Even so, we find that the brothers were held liable for the sale.

This is because they intended to sell him.

Hashem does not ordinarily punish someone for intending to do something wrong, as long as he did not actually do it. However, in this case, the brothers played a key role in the sale by placing Yosef in the pit in the first place. Their thoughts could no longer be dismissed because they contributed to the act of the sale.

They were thus considered to be the ones who in effect sold Yosef.

(Rashbam - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

SMELL THE COFFEE 

"V'atoh Yoreh Pharaoh Ish Navon V'Chochom"

"And now Pharaoh shall see (find) a man (who is) understanding and wise"

Upon interpreting Pharaoh's dream, Yosef told him that he should appoint a wise counselor to help plan for seven years of hunger.

Pharaoh just asked Yosef to interpret Why did Yosef offer Pharaoh advice? After all, Yosef was a prisoner and he was hoping for a pardon. Why did he take a great chance by giving the mighty monarch unsolicited advice?

The Torah relates that Pharaoh awoke between the two segments of the dream. Yosef interpreted this awakening as a message that Pharaoh should "awaken" to the situation at hand and do something about it.

Thus, the advice was a vital part of the interpretation of the dream which Yosef was asked to explain.

(Nachal K'dumim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

SWEET REVENGE, SWEETER RIGHTEOUSNESS

VaYavou Achei Yosef Vayishtachavu Lo Apayim Ortzah, Vayarre Yosef Ess Echav Vayakirem Vayisnaker Aleihem.

"And they came - the brothers of Yosef and they bowed to him - face to the ground; and Yosef saw his brothers and he recognized them, and he made himself as a stranger to them."

Yosef did not reveal his identity to his brothers at this time. Why?

Yosef’s dreams were mentioned in the previous Torah reading. They revealed to Yosef that the fulfillment of his destiny was dependent upon his brothers' bowing to him. He was therefore anxious to see his dream fulfilled. On the other hand, his brothers had scoffed at his dreams and said that they would never have to pay homage to him.

Yosef did not take this opportunity to gloat from his position. Rather, as the verse states, he concealed his identity. This spared his brothers the pain of defeat.

As they bowed, they thought that they were bowing to an unfamiliar ruler, not to the brother about whom they had always said that they would never pay homage to.

The righteous Yosef had sensitivity towards his brothers' feelings and this was one of the reasons that he concealed his identity from them.

(Kedushas Levi)

NIGHT VISION

VaYomer Elokim L'Yisroel B'Ma'aros HaLayla ... Al Tiru Meiredes Mitzraymoh

"And G-d said to Yisroel (Yaakov / Jacob) in visions of the night Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt"

It is noteworthy that of all of the prophecies that the Patriarchs received, this is the only one that is referenced by the term, "visions of the night."

The reason is because this prophecy provides reassurances to Yaakov for the imminent exile to Egypt.

The term "night" refers to the darkness of the exile.

Yaakov was reassured about "visions of the night," that G-d's presence would accompany and be obvious to his descendants throughout this exile and the future exiles.

There is an important aspect to prophecy that applies to this reassurance. Our sages teach that prophecy can occur to people in the Diaspora but only if they had already received prophecy in Eretz Yisroel, the Land of Israel.

As a group, the Jewish people experienced a closeness to G-d when they were in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, they can continue to maintain G-d's presence with them even their exile. However, this is true only as long as they maintain their identity and spirit as the Jews who were privileged to experience G-d's closeness in Eretz Yisroel. Jews who break the link to their tradition are in jeopardy of not realizing G-d’s special presence and relationship.

(Meshech Chochma - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

TRUE LEADERSHIP

"Vayakom Yaakov M'Beer Sheva Vayisu B'nei Yisroel Ess Yaakov"

"And Yaakov got up from Be'er Sheva, and the sons of Yisroel (Yaakov) carried Yaakov"

It is evident from this verse that Yaakov's physically carried him to Egypt. Nevertheless, the Torah states elsewhere that Yaakov brought his children to Egypt.

Although Yaakov was old and physically frail, he is considered to be the one who brought his children because he served as their spiritual guide.

Criteria for leadership must be scholarship and behavior, not physical strength or beauty. Despite their lack of physical strength and vigor, children must look to their elder generation for guidance.

(R'E.M. Bloch Pninim Mishulchan Govoha)

DAYS OF OUR LIVES

"And it was (Vayehi ) at the end of (two) years of days."

This verse can be understood to teach an important lesson about life.

Sometimes, a person accomplishes a great deal during a short period of time, causing a few days to have the importance of an entire year. On the other hand, some times a person can accomplish so little during an entire year that it has the significance of a few days.

It is also possible for a person to reach the end of his lifetime and realize the bitter truth that his entire lifetime can be considered as mere days.

This lesson can be seen by homiletic interpretation of this verse.

The verse begins with the word, "Vayehi," which means "and it was." In the Torah, this typically signals the introduction of an unfortunate event.

This verse can now be interpreted as follows: "And it was" - meaning that it is an unfortunate event - when "at the end" indicating the end of one's lifetime, one realizes that his "years" were but "of days." That is, in terms of what he has accomplished of lasting value, his years have only the importance of days.

(R' Meir Yechiel of Mogelnitza Sha'ar HaChasidus - Itturei Torah)

PROMISES AND THREATS

Yoseph (Joseph) interpreted Pharaoh's dream as a message from G-d that the coming seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of hunger. He advised Pharaoh to store grain during the seven years of plenty for the years of famine.

It is known that that repentance can annul a harsh decree. If so, why was Yoseph sure that the famine would come to the degree that he interpreted Pharaoh's dream and gave him advice based upon this assumption? Couldn’t the people have repented? Why did Yoseph ignore this possibility?

The answer is that the years of famine were actually a blessing to the land of Egypt.

Since all the nations were affected by the famine, they had to buy food from Egypt, which was the only country that stored food from the years of plenty. Egypt soon became the richest country in the world.

We have a rule that G-d never rescinds a beneficial decree.

Since the famine would be beneficial to Egypt, there was no chance that this decree would be rescinded, as Egypt had already been promised these benefits. Yoseph therefore did not hesitate to say that there would be a famine.

(Meshech Chochma - Itturei Torah)

DO-IT-YOURSELF-SERMON

""Vayomer Yosef Ell Echav Ani Yosef Ha'od Avi Chai V'lo Yochlu Echav La'anos Oso Ki Nivhalu Miponav" "And Yosef(Joseph) to his brothers "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" And his brothers could not answer him because they were flustered before him."

Yosef's brothers shrank back from him with shame over having sold him into slavery. Our sages remarked. Imagine! If Yosef's brothers could not withstand his rebuke, even though he was younger than any of them (Binyamin was not involved in Yosef's sale) how can anyone withstand the rebuke of Hashem on Judgement Day.

Where in Yosef's words is there a hint of reproach to his brothers?

Yehudah (Judah) had approached Yosef with an emotional appeal. Yehudah tried to arouse sympathy for Yaakov; a bereaved father who could not survive the loss of yet another son. Yehudah implored that on this basis Binyamin should be freed.

Yosef replied "I am Yosef" I am the brother whom you sold into slavery. "Is my father still alive?" As if to say hasn't my father suffered greatly because of your actions? Why weren't you sensitive to Yaakov's(Jacob) feelings then?" Yosef showed his brothers that the principles they now espoused were not consistent with their actions.

With self-contradiction the person realizes himself how he is wrong instead of merely hearing it from others. As a result, it is the strongest form of rebuke.

When a person's life comes under the scrutiny of Hashem's judgement, contradictions in the persons behavior come to light. A person may neglect Torah study, rationalizing that the subject matter is too difficult for him. Such an excuse would be exposed as flimsy when is observed how proficiently he has mastered the skills necessary for his profession. The inconsistencies in a persons own actions incriminate him the worst way.

This is a part of the parallel drawn between Yosef's rebuke and the judgement of Hashem. Hashem's judgement of our actions will leave nothing hidden and we must take care not to incriminate ourselves.

USEFUL EMOTIONS

"Vayesor Yosef Merkavto Vaya'al Likras Yisroel Aviv Goshnah Vayeira Eilav Vayipoel Al Tzavarav Vayevk Al Tzavarav Od"

"And Yosef (Joseph) hitched his chariot and he went up toward Yisroel(Jacob) his father to Goshen. And he appeared to him and he fell on his neck and he cried on his neck still"

In order to explain why only Yosef wept upon meeting his father while no mention is made of Yaakov's reaction, Rashi quotes our sages. They say that Yaakov was engrossed in the recital of Shema at this time. Yaakov, although overwhelmed with joy at seeing his long lost son, chose not to express his fatherly love in tears of joy. Rather, he channeled his overpowering emotions into the recital of Shema; the devotion of accepting Hashem's kingship. Yaakov, as a quintessential servant of Hashem, directed all of his energies to the service of Hashem. He felt that his ecstasy at being reunited with Yosef should be devoted to a greater feeling of Hashem's greatness. This is why Yaakov recited the Shema at the that moment. Reciting the Shema at that moment was Yaakov's way of using his profound joy to reach greater heights of appreciation of Hashem's ways.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

"Anochi Aired Eemcha Mitzraymah V’Anochi Aalcha Gam Uloh"

I will go down with you to Mitzrayim (Egypt) and I will bring you up also going up.

Hashem (G-d) promised Yaakov (Jacob) that He would - so to speak - accompany him into the exile of Mitzrayim (Egypt).

We are taught that Hashem accompanies the Jewish people throughout all of their exiles, not just the exile of Mitzrayim.

Now, people do not easily perceive Hashem’s greatness when His people are in trouble or are in exile.

The concept of Hashem accompanying the Jews in exile can be understood to mean that Hashem allows the reputation of His name and glory to be dependent upon the fortune of the Jewish people. When the Jewish people are suffering, it is Hashem’s will that His own greatness is to be concealed. This is called metaphorically that Hashem is joining us in exile.

This thought is very comforting. We know that Hashem has guaranteed our ultimate redemption by putting no less precious a commodity that His own glory at stake. This is a powerful guarantee.

(Bais HaLevy)

APPRECIATION

"Vayivku Oso Mitzrayim "

"And Egypt cried for him"

Rashi states that upon Yaakov’s (Jacob) arrival in Egypt, the famine in Egypt ceased because of his merit. This gave the people of Egypt good cause to mourn his passing.

Yoseph succeeded to feed the nation during the years of famine but Ya'akov totally averted the additional five years of hunger. He thus accomplished more for Egypt than Yoseph.

This teaches us an important lesson about appreciating our righteous people.

If a wealthy man were to donate an extra wing to a hospital that would house one hundred patients, he would be considered a great philanthropist. How much more should we appreciate the righteous man and the Torah scholar, whose merits prevent people from becoming sick in the first place?

(R' Moshe Rosenstein - Pininim M'shulchan Govoha)

FRUITFUL YEARS

"Vayechi Ya'akobv B'Eretz Mitzrayim Sheva Esrei Shonah Vayechi Yemei Shnei Chayov Sheva Shonim V'Arboim V'Mas Shanah"

"And Ya'akov (Jacob) lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years, and these were the days of his life: Seven years and a hundred and forty years"

In the previous portion, the Torah states that Ya'akov was 130 years old when he came to Egypt. In this verse, the Torah states that he lived in Egypt for 17 years. Why is it necessary for the torah to state explicitly that he lived 147 years?

Rashi states that the reason the Torah repeats that Ya'akov lived for 147 years is to indicate that all 147 of Ya'akov's years were equal in quality, equally good.

Now, Ya'akov endured many hardships during his lifetime. It is remarkable to say that all his years were equally good. Most people, if placed in Ya'akov's position, would not feel that the first 130 years, ridden with hardship, were equal to the final seventeen years of tranquillity in Egypt.

However, this was not Ya'akov's perspective. Although his early years were less enjoyable, he considered them to be equally good in comparison to the other years. They provided him with plenty of opportunity for spiritual growth, which was most important to him!

To someone whose main goal in life is spiritual advancement, trial filled years are as important as tranquil ones.

(R' Ya'akov Neiman Pininim Mishulchan Govoha)

BLESSING IN DISGUISE

"Arur Apam Ki Oz V'evroson Ki Koshoso" "Accursed be their anger because it is strong and their wrath because it is harsh"

At the end of his life, Yaakov (Jacob) gathered his sons to bless them. Three of his sons received what seems to be rebuke rather than a blessing. Reuven (Reuben) was chastised about his haste in removing Yaakov's cot from Bilhah's tent to Leah's. Shimon (Simon) and Levi were rebuked for acting out of anger towards the townspeople of Shechem and towards their brother Yosef (Joseph).

Yaakov's words to Shimon and Levi actually contained a blessing. Yaakov cursed the anger and their wrath, not Shimon and Levi themselves. He hoped that by cursing their anger he would weaken it. In essence he was saying "May their anger never come to fruition and be acted upon. Let them be spared the consequences of their own anger." (Chizkuni) 

SUBTLE PEACEKEEPER

"Vayitzavu Ell Yosef Laimor Ovicha Tzviva Lifnei Moso Laimor Ko Somru L'Yosef Sa Na Pesha Achecha V'Chatasam Ki Ra'ah G'molucha" "And they commanded to Yosef as to say 'your father commanded us to say 'So shall you say to Yosef carry (forgive) please the sins of your brothers and their misdeed for they wrought bad upon you. '"

After Yaakov's (Jacob) passing, his sons came to Yosef and told him that Yaakov commanded him to forgive them.

Where do we find any mention of Yaakov sending word to Yosef to reconcile with his brothers? If there actually was such a command, wouldn't the Torah have included this important exchange in its account of Yaakov's last instructions to his sons?

When Yaakov summoned his children to his deathbed, he requested that his sons should "Gather and I will tell that which will happen to you at the end of days" (Gen.). The word "gather" indicates that Yaakov wanted his children to gather together as one. He wanted them to achieve perfect harmony and unity. In order to achieve this unity, Yosef would have to forgive his brothers and mend the rift between them and himself. The brothers were thus actually drawing upon Yaakov's words.

(Sha'ar Bas Rabim)

CHOSEN MOTHER

Genesis 48, 7 : "Va’ani Be’voee Me’padan, Maysuh Uhlaay Rochel Baderech Shum"

And as far as myself (Yaakov), upon my arrival from Padon, Rochel died upon me on the way… And I buried her there (on the roadside)…

Rashi’s commentary states that Yaakov was told by Hashem (G-d) to bury Rochel by the roadside. It was foreseen that the Jewish people would be exiled to Babylon and that they will pass by her grave while being led into captivity. At the sight of her grave they would cry out to G-d and this would arouse her to beseech mercy for her children.

From among the four Matriarchs, why was Rochel chosen for this purpose?

The Medrash addresses this point.

Rochel said to Hashem, "What did my children do that they should suffer so much? If they lapsed into idolatry, which is likened to a co-wife, did I not love my husband Yaakov who worked seven years so that he could marry me? Yet my father Lavan substituted me for my sister Leah. In order to not embarrass my sister Leah, I gave her the signal which Yaakov and I had agreed to protect ourselves from something like this. In this way I accepted the role of a co-wife. "Furthermore," Rochel continued, "I am of flesh and blood, and I am subject to emotion. You, Hashem, are a Merciful King and certainly you should have mercy!" To this Hashem answered, "There is payment for your deeds. Your children will return to their borders."

Only Rochel was able to provide such a defense for her children. She was therefore chosen to be buried at this site so that she would pray to Hashem in her children’s time of need.

(Davek Tov)


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