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Hadrash Ve-Haiyun Archives
- Bereshis

Chanukah

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that after the Cashmonoyim were victorious over the Syrian-Greeks, the kohanim (priests) entered the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) and found only one flask of oil that was sealed with the signet of the kohen gadol (High-Priest). However, the flask did not contain enough oil for the menorah to burn even one day. The commentators note that the lighting of the menorah was not necessarily associated with the kohen gadol. Why then was this particular flask sealed with the signet of the kohen gadol. Secondly, if the oil was set aside for the lighting of the menorah, why was a sealed container not enough to last even one day? Didn't a sealed container of oil prepared for menorah contain at least one day's worth of oil? A third unrelated question is why specifically in connection to Chanukah do find so many laws relating to the different levels of beatification, something we don't find in connection to other holidays or at least not to such a degree.

The commentators answer by explaining that the oil found was not originally set aside for the menorah but specifically designated for the chaveatei kohen gadol. (daily offering brought by the High Priest).

Everyday the kohen gadol would offer a meal offering consisting of twelve loaves of bread. Six were offered in the morning and six in the afternoon. The ingredients of these breads include flour and oil. Chazal teach us the oil used for the meal offering of the kohen gadol may be ordinary oil unlike the oil used for the lighting of the menorah which must be pure olive oil. Pure olive oil is derived from the first drops of oil that ooze when pressing olives. Regular oil is derived from oil that is oozes after the olives are crushed. Furthermore, the volume of oil required for the meal offering of the kohen gadol is exactly three lugim, whereas, the menorah requires three and a half lugim. Each lamp requires a half a lug. When we multiply the seven lamps of the menorah by one-half lug the total is three and a half lugim. It emerges that the oil set aside by the kohen gadol for his daily meal offering was not fit for the menorah because it lacks both the quality and quantity of oil needed for the menorah.

At the time of the Chanukah miracle it was the custom of the kohen gadol to beautify his daily meal offering and use pure olive oil. This oil was fit even for the lighting of menorah.

With this idea the commentators answer all three questions. The reason the container of oil had the seal of the kohen gadol was because this oil belonged to kohen gadol and was originally intended for his daily meal offering. The second question as to why it was not enough for even one day is also answered. The oil used for the meal offering of the kohen gadol was a half a lug short of what was needed for the menorah. The third question as to why on Chanukah we beautify the mitzvah (commandment) in various degrees is answered as well. The only reason the oil of meal offering of the kohen gadol was fit for the menorah was because the kohen gadol beautified his mitzvah by bringing oil of better quality then was required. We commemorate this by also performing the mitzvah with various degrees of beautification.

We can now ask, what is the significance that the miracle of Chanukah came about specifically through the meal offering of the Kohen Gadol? Hashem has no limitations in how he brings about miracles. In bringing about the miracle specifically through oil used for the meal offering of the kohen gadol we derive that there is an important relationship between the miracle of Chanukah and the meal offering of the kohen gadol. What is this relationship?

Regarding the meal offering of the Kohen gadol there is a unique law. The basic offering consists of twelve loaves of bread. Six are offered in the morning and six in the afternoon. The total volume is one e'saron of flour and three logim of oil. The Gemara suggests that kohen gadol be permitted to bring in the morning a half e'saron of flour and one and a half lugim of oil and prepare the six breads of the morning offering. Later in the afternoon the kohen gadol would bring from his home the other half e'saron of flour and the other one and a half lugim of oil and prepare the other six breads for the meal offering of the afternoon. The Gemara ultimately rejects this notion by interpreting the related posukim (verses). The Gemara concludes that law requires that the complete measure of flour and oil must be brought to Beis Hamikdash in the morning and sanctified specifically for this offering. At that point all twelve loaves of bread are prepared and half are offered. The other six loaves are put away for later. It is noteworthy that no other offering is put away for later. Only the second set of meal offering breads offered by the kohen gadol are prepared and put away for later.

We may suggest that this is the nature of the Chanukah miracle. The miracle of Chanukah represents the story of Jewish survival. We say in our Chanukah prayers that although the Syrian-Greeks attempted to cause us to forget the Torah, Hashem (G-D) saved us. He delivered the mighty in the hands of weak, the many in the hands of the few, the impure in the hands of the pure, the wicked in the hands of the righteous, etc. The miracle was not a one time event that only occurred in the days of the Cashmonoyim. The miracle was like the meal offering of the kohen gadol. Some of the breads were offered immediately and the others were put away for later. Likewise, every year we re-experience the miracle again in another dimension. We survive against all odds. We draw from what was put away for us at the time of the Cashmonoyim.


Bereishis

Adam said the woman whom you gave to be with me gave me of the tree and I will eat. (Bereishis 3:12)

With regard to this posuk (verse) the Midrash comments: Rebbi Abbah bar Kahanah said: The posuk does not record that Adam said, "I have eaten," but rather "I will eat." This is interpreted as meaning I have eaten and I will continue to eat, i.e., I have sinned and I will continue to sin. Rebbi Shimon ben Lakish said, Adam Harrishon was not driven out of Gan Eden until he was guilty of blasphemy and cursing.

Let us ask two questions. First, what is the connection between the statements of Rebbi Shimon be Lakish and Rebbi Abbah bar Kahanah? Second, precisely how does Rebbi Shimon Ben Lakish derive the notion that Adam was guilty of blasphemy and cursing?

In order to answer these two questions, let us first focus on understanding the cause of sin. There are two different reasons why a person would be driven to sin. The first is due to an uncontrollable desire to have or do something that is forbidden. In this case, the sinner does not really wish to rebel against Hashem (G-D). Unfortunately, he cannot control his desires and is thus driven to sin. The second is when a person has premeditated intensions to rebel against Hashem. He sins solely to spite Hashem. It is obvious that the first type of sin is far less severe than the second.

Let us note that the way to determine the reason for a sin is to evaluate the feelings and attitude one experiences afterwards. If the individual is filled with remorse and regret then it is clear that he sinned because the evil inclination got the better of him and not because of any intension to rebel against Hashem. On the other hand, if the sin does not bother the individual then this is a sign that the real motive for sinning was to rebel against his Creator.

When we read and study the sin of Adam Harishon (The First) there is really no way for us to determine the true motive for his sin. We can suggest that Adam merely had an uncontrollable desire to partake of the forbidden fruit. Or, perhaps we may suggest that Adam desired to rebel against Hashem. In order to understand the rational for his sin we must look at his attitude after the sin. This is precisely what Rebbi Abbah and Rebbi Shimon are focusing on. Rebbi Abbah notes that the posuk does not record that Adam just admitted that he had eaten, rather it records that Adam said, "I have eaten and I will continue to eat." This statement conveys the fact that Adam had little or no regret for his sin. This attitude proves that the intent of the original sin was not due to an uncontrollable desire to partake of the forbidden fruit but rather to rebel against Hashem. Therefore Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish comments that from here we see that Adam was driven out of Gan Eden due to blasphemy and cursing, i.e., rebelling against Hashem.

This framework can be helpful to gauge our motives and actions. If heaven forbid one commits a sin he can immediately evaluate his reaction weather he feels guilty or just doesn't care. If one finds himself feeling badly then it is a good sign. He knows that he needs to exercise more self-control in order not to succumb to the evil inclination. However, if one merely doesn't care and his conscience remains oblivious to what has transpired then he should be aware that his soul is in great danger. He needs to make a serious reckoning with himself.


Adam knew his wife again, and she bore him a son and named him Sheis, because: "Hashem has provided me another child in place of Hevel, for Kayin had killed him." (Bereishis 4:25)

In the fourth blessing of the shemona esrei prayer we recite "You graciously endow Adam with da'as and teach Enosh, binah." In this phrase we encounter two different titles for man and two different terms for wisdom. The commentators explain the word Adam relative to Enosh connotes a positive reference to man whereas Enosh connotes the weakness, frailty and mortality of man.

Similarly, the word da'as generally refers to the basic building blocks of understanding whereas the word binah represents a higher level of understanding. Chazal explain this refers specifically to the insight that is gained when one compares one thing to another.

We may note that it would seem proper to match the weaker title for man with the simpler term for understanding and the stronger term for man with the deeper level of understanding. In other words, it would seem that the phrase should properly read "you graciously endow Enosh with da'as and teach Adam, binah? Why are the terms and titles reversed?

In order to answer this question we must understand the difference between the words Adam and Enosh. The most fundamental difference between the two is that Adam does not have a plural whereas the Enosh does, namely An'osh'im.

Rav Zadok HaKohen explains the word Adam comes from the word ad'am'eh which means "to be similar." Man is called Adam to convey "ad'am'eh la'el'yon," I will be similar to the most High, i.e., Hashem. Man's name reminds him that his goal in life is to emulate the characteristics and attributes of Hashem. This interpretation explains why the word Adam has no plural. Just as Hashem is One, likewise when man emulates Hashem he achieves a similar uniqueness of being one.

In contrast the word Enosh does have the plural An'osh'im. The singular word Enosh connotes an individual man's willingness and desire to join others and work together as a team. Indeed, this is man's weakness. An individual can accomplish very little, it is only through a group or community that magnificent things are achieved and accomplished.

We may now understand why Sheis named his son Enosh. Originally, Adam's two sons Kayin and Hevel were not willing to live with each other. From our perspective it is difficult to understand how Kayin could kill Hevel when they were the only people in the world besides their parents and twin sisters. Was the whole word not large enough for both of them to share? The answer is that both Kayin and Hevel strove to fulfill their mission of being created as an Adam. They strove to be similar to Hashem. Just as Hashem is One above likewise they considered themselves one below. However, two kings cannot share the same crown. Kayin and Hevel thus could not coexist. One had to go. After the death of Hevel, Chava gave birth to Sheis. The posuk tells us that he was to be the replacement of Hevel. What was the purpose of a replacement? Just as Kayin and Hevel could not coexist, it would just be a matter of time before Kayin and Sheis try to kill each other.

In answer to this question the posuk says: "And as for Sheis to him also a son was born and he named him Enosh" (Bereishis 4:26). Enosh connotes man's willingness and desire to coexist with others. An Enosh has the plural An'osh'im. Sheis acknowledged that to prevent the tragedy of Kayin and Hevel from reoccurring he was to abandon the focus of being an Adam. Man's new mission was to be an Enosh. Man needs to live in peace togehter with his brother.

This idea further explains why precisely now there was a proliferation of idolatry. The posuk goes on to say "Then, they began to call in the name of Hashem" (Bereishis 4:26). Rashi explains this posuk to mean that at the time of Enosh the proliferation of idolatry began. At this point the focus of man was on the need to work together and build the world. They abandoned the concept of Adam which represented the idea of being similar to Hashem. They acknowledged that on earth there are many men who could coexist peacefully. They began to think that perhaps in heaven there are also many gods that coexist.

We may return to our question as to why we match the term binah with Enosh. The commentators explain the da'as represents the basic building blocks of wisdom. Binah represents a deeper form of understanding. Binah requires one to combine multiple pieces of information and compare them one to another.

One important example of binah is what the Mishna (Avos 6:6) lists in its forty-eight ways with which the Torah is acquired as pilpul hatalmidim, sharp discussion with students. Here, one gains insight through debate and dialogue with another, similar to the understanding one gains by comparing one thing to another. We may now understand that binah, which can only be accomplished through engaging one's fellow man relates to the word Enosh which also connotes man's willingness to work together with his fellow man.


Noach

Hashem (G-D) to said to Noach(Noah), "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth. (Bereishis 6:13)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the mabul (flood).The posuk (verse) records Hashem telling Noach "I am about to destroy them from the earth." Rashi notes that the last two words of the posuk are "es haaretz," which are literally translated as "the earth." Rashi cites a few examples where the word "es" is interpreted as meaning "from." Thus, the posuk here can be translated "I will destroy them from the earth." In his second interpretation, Rashi explains that the word "es" may also be interpreted as it usually does, meaning "with." The posuk would then be translated "I will destroy man together with the earth." Rashi explains that during the mabul the top three handbreadths of soil dissolved and were washed away. In Rashi's description of the top three hundredths he notes that this is the depth in which the blade of the plow penetrates the earth. We may ask what is the significance of Rashi telling us this point.

At the end of parshas Bereishis we learn about the birth of Noach. The posuk says that Lemech called his son Noach saying, "this one will bring us ease from our work and from the toil of our hands, from the ground which Hashem had cursed" (Bereishis 5,29). Rashi explains that Lemech was a prophet and foresaw that Noach would invent the plow. This invention would give rest to mankind for they no longer need to work the land with there bare hands. The name Noach is related to the word rest and thus served as an appropriate description of his contribution to society.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108a) tells us that the reason why the generation of the mabul became corrupt was because of the great blessing that Hashem bestowed upon them. The people of this generation had all they could ever want and had no need for Hashem. They became corrupt and rebelled. Rav Avraham Pam zt"l asks where exactly do we find the great blessing bestowed upon this generation. Rav Pam zt"l answers that it was the invention of the plow. Until that time people were busy working in the field the entire day just to produce enough food to survive. They simply did not have time and energy to sin. With the invention of the plow they were able to work in the field with relative ease and produce an enormous crop that brought them great wealth. As a byproduct of this blessing, they had much leisure time on their hands. Instead of using their wealth and time for serving Hashem they indulged in mundane desires and pursuits. Eventually they became corrupt and the earth was filled with theft and violence (see "The Pleasant Way" by Rav Sholom Smith, parshas Noach).

We may now understand why Rashi adds that the depth of three handbreadths is the depth that the blade of the plow penetrates the earth. When Hashem brought the flood he destroyed the top three handbreadths to remind mankind that the invention of the plow was the root cause of the mabul and their destruction.

When we look back at history and focus on the invention of the plow we would simply say that it was a great blessing for mankind. However when we look deeper we realize that this was the cause of their destruction. It was the "depth of the plow" that brought about the downfall of mankind. Man failed to make use of the invention for the purpose of good.

We live in times where advances in science and new technology become part of our life on a daily basis. We must not forget the lessons of the mabul. We must make certain that new technology is used for the purpose of serving Hashem and not let it become the source of sin and corruption.


Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood, with compartments shall you make the ark and tar it with pitch within and without. (Bereishis 6:14)

In the era of Noach the world was destroyed by the destructive floodwaters. The only place of refuge was the ark. It can likewise be said that during our long gulus (exile) the world is flooded with the destructive anti-Torah influences of the secular world. In addition to our synagogues and places of study, the main place where the Jew can find refuge is in his home. However, just as the Torah lays out precise details for the construction of the ark so to, in order for the home to succeed in providing protection it must be constructed with precision. With this idea in mind let us attempt to explore the symbolic characteristics of the ark and apply them to the construction of the home.

"Make yourself an ark of gopher wood." - From the Gemara (Sanhedrin 108b) and Midrash (Midrash Rabba 30) it is clear that gopher wood is a type of cedar. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 3, Yalkut Tehilim 92) teaches that cedar has two distinct characteristics. First, it is the tallest of all trees and second, it has strong deep roots that prevent the tree from being swayed in any way. The conveyed message is that our home must also be built will the highest values and ideals. The values of the Jewish home must stand paramount to all influences and secular values of society. Likewise these ideals and values must be deeply rooted within the homes, in order to prevent us from being uprooted and swayed in any way whatsoever.

"Make the ark with compartments." - At times it is necessary to bring into the home a variety of secular materials and influences. However, the home must follow in the example of the ark where everything had its place. Within the ark the people, animals, food and garbage were not deposited together in one large room but rather everything was placed in separate compartments. There was order. Likewise, in the home each item should be placed in its proper compartment. One should not mix what is holy with what is not holy, what is pure with what is not pure, but rather everything must have its place and be set in its proper perspective.

"Tar it with pitch inside and out." - Just as the ark was protected with a covering of pitch within and without, likewise the values of the Jewish home should be true both inside and out. It is not enough for the Jewish home to promote itself as pure and righteous to the outside world. More importantly, it must live up to the ideals and standards within as well.

"A tzohar shall you make for the ark." - According to one interpretation the tzohar was a window which allowed light to enter the inside of the ark. The tzohar thus represents the ark's connection to the outside world. Likewise, a Jewish home should not completely isolate itself, but rather should have some form of media with which it connects itself to the outside world. Through this connection it can relate to the happenings of the world and to Jewish current events. In good times, this home can rejoice in the good fortune of the Jewish people and in hard and difficult times it can join in their pain and suffering.

"An entrance of the ark you shall put in its side." - The Jewish home should have an entrance that is readily accessible to the community. The community should know that this home is a place where guests are always welcome and is a place that is ready to be used to serve the community.

"Make it with bottom middle and upper floors." - We may suggest that these three floors represent the three pillars on which the world stands: Torah, Avodah, i.e., prayer and Gemilas Chasadim, i.e. acts of kindness. These three pillars shall be the ideals with the Jewish home represents and strives to perfect.

May it be that through the merit of constructing our homes in the image of the ark we merit to see the fulfillment of the posuk "and Hashem (G-D) caused a spirit to pass over the earth and the waters subsided," which we may interpret as: Hashem will bring a spirit of holiness and sanctification over the world and the destructive anti-Torah influences will no longer be.


The dove came back to him in the evening and behold an olive leaf it had plucked with its mouth. (Bereishis 8:12).

Rashi here quotes the Midrash that interprets the symbolic meaning of a bitter leaf in the mouth of the dove. The Midrash explains that the dove was in essence saying that it preferred that Hashem (G-D) provide its sustenance even if it is bitter as an olive rather than come from man and be as sweet as honey.

We may ask the following. We are aware that Noach labored 120 years to build the ark. Further, during the year of the flood Noah worked tirelessly day and night to serve food to all creatures in the ark. We may also note that each creature in the ark was extremely fortunate that it was chosen by Hashem to survive the flood. Every creature in the ark owed a great debt of gratitude to Noah for all he had done. How then can the dove, at the conclusion of this ordeal say to Noach that it preferred the bitter sustenance of Hashem rather than the sweet sustenance of man. The message of the dove may be true but it does not seem that this is the appropriate time and place to make such a statement. Instead of the dove saying thank you to Noach it is as if the dove said that it would have been better off with out him. How can the dove show such great disrespect to Noach?

This question forces us to take a deeper look at the message of the dove.

We are aware that the purpose of punishment is not to harm the sinner but to inspire him to repent from the evil that is the root cause of his punishment. It is perhaps for this reason the flood and its aftermath took an entire year. The survivors had one complete year to contemplate the root cause of the destruction and repent. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the final verdict of destruction for the generation of the flood was sealed on account of theft. Theft defines the attitude that one may freely consume from the labor of his fellow. Such an attitude is extremely dangerous. If this attitude is not restrained it may develop to the extreme that is expressed in the posuk (verse) "stolen waters are sweet."

We must now assume that the survivors of the flood would not be allowed to rebuild the world until they repented from the sin of theft, otherwise there would have been no purpose in destroying the world. Indeed, this is the message that Hashem sent Noach. The dove was not delivering a personal message. It was delivering a message from Hashem. Hashem was speaking to Noach through the dove. Hashem who knows what is in the heart of man was testifying that the survivors had sincerely repented and therefore may now leave the ark and rebuild the world. After a year of isolation the survivors have reflected on the root cause of the flood. They changed their sinful attitude with the understanding that it is better to be sustained with bitterness from Hashem rather than take from another with sweetness. The message of the dove was the antitheses of the sinful attitude which was responsible for the flood. The lesson of the flood was learned and they were now ready to rebuild.


Lech Lecha

He proceeded on his journeys from the south to Beis-el, to the place where his tent had been at first, between Beis-el and Ai to the site of the altar which he had made there at first; and there Avram invoked Hashem (G-D) by Name. (Bereishis 13:3, 4)

In this week's parsha (Torah Reading) we learn how Avram (Abraham) originally settled in the vicinity of Beis-el. Here he set up his tent and built an altar. Soon after, there was a famine forcing him to travel to Egypt. In Egypt Sarai was abducted and after a series of events was returned to Avram. At this point Pharaoh instructed them to leave Egypt. Avram returned to the vicinity of Beis-el to the location of his original tent and altar.

When the Torah mentions that Avram returned to the location where his tent was established before leaving for Egypt it uses the word teh'chi'lah (initially) whereas when the Torah mentions that he returned to the place where he set up an altar it uses the word ri'sho'nah (at first). In the context of the posukim (verses) both the word teh'chi'lah and ri'sho'nah seem to convey exactly the same thing, i.e., as was at first. Indeed, targum unkolus translates both words exactly the same, ba'kad'mei'sa. Why did the Torah use different words?

It is noteworthy that we find the same contrast in a posuk that describes the end of the days, "And I shall restore your Judges as in earliest times and your counselors as at first" (Isaiah 1:26). An adaptation of this posuk is found in our shemoneh esrei prayer. In the eleventh blessing we ask Hashem to restore our Judges as in earliest times and our counselors as at first. In connection to Judges the posuk and prayer use the word ri'sho'nah whereas in connection to counselors the posuk uses the word teh'chi'lah. Why the change?

The Malbim (Sefer Hakarmel) explains the difference between the word teh'chi'lah and ri'shon. Ri'shon is a word that represents the first member of a larger set of numbers. Rishon is followed by shei'ni, sh'li'shie, reh'vi'ie, etc. On the other hand teh'chi'lah represents the incipient stage of doing something without connecting it to what follows. Each of these words has a unique connotation. The word teh'chi'lah conveys the excitement and freshness of doing something for the very first time. Ri'shon conveys the first event in a sequence of events that have already been done or established. When one encounters the ri'shon, one has the foresight and knowledge of what comes next. In short, both words mean the beginning but teh'chi'lah means starting in the beginning for the very first time; whereas ri'shon means starting from the beginning with the experience of having done this before or knowing what is coming next.

Throughout our history we have always had Judges. However as we travel in time and move further away from the Matan Torah (the Giving Of The Torah) the stature of our judges are diminished. We pray that Hashem should return to us Judges as they were in the earliest times. We request Judges of the highest caliber. This does not take away from the fact that all the Judges in history were exceptionally holy and outstanding leaders. The posuk and prayer therefore use the word ka'va'ri'shon'ah. The first Judges were the first in a sequence of many that were to follow. However when we pray for counselors, we use the word teh'chi'lah. The commentators (Olas Tamid) tell us that counselors refer to the prophets. Chazal tell us that no two prophets prophesize with the same style. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) intimate with this statement that prophets are not people that you can group together in a set or sequence. Each prophet in completely unique in his manner of style, vision and message. Therefore, when we pray for the return of the prophets, we use the word teh'chi'lah for we cannot group together later prophets with earlier ones in a group or sequence as the word ri'shon would connote. Each prophet was like the first and last.

We find this theme in our parsha. When Avram left Egypt he retuned to the place of his original tent and altar in Beis-el. The tent is symbolic of Avram's physical and material welfare. The altar is symbolic of his spiritual welfare. With regard to his tent, i.e., his physical welfare the posuk says that he returned to the place where it was ba'teh'chi'lah. The choice of this word indicates that it was as if he never left. Although Avram suffered physically and emotionally in Egypt at the hands of Pharaoh and his people the experience had no lasting effect on him. When he returned it was as if he never left. However with regard to his altar, i.e., spiritual welfare, the posuk says that he returned to the place where his altar was ba'ri'shona. This choice of this word indicates that he did not forget the spiritual trials and lessons he experienced in Egypt. The altar to which he retuned was just the first of many altars. Each spiritual experience that occurred from the time he left until his return was another altar from which he grew spiritually.

These two posukim teach us the greatness of Avraham Avinu (Our father). Avraham left Beis-el for Egypt. Although he went through difficult times he was able to extract the spiritual aspect of his experiences, incorporate them into his spiritual being and not get distracted or sidetracked from the harmful mundane elements of his experiences.


Sarai said to Avram "See now, Hashem (G-D) has restrained me from bearing come now to my maidservant, perhaps I will be built up through her" (Bereishis 16:2).

The Torah tells us that after ten years of living in the land of Canaan, Sarai gave Hagar her maidservant to Avram as a wife. Sarai explained her actions by saying "perhaps I will be built up through her." Rashi explains that Sarai felt that allowing her rival to attain the status of a wife so that her husband may have children would serve a merit for her so that she too would bear a child. The commentators explain that this statement may also be interpreted homiletically to mean that Sarai planned to raise and guide the child of Hagar and become its spiritual mother. This would give Sarai a place as the Matriarch of the Jewish people in a spiritual sense.

It is noteworthy that Rachel after years of childlessness followed in the ways of Sarai. The posuk (verse) says "She said [to Yaakov] here is my maid Bilhah, come to her that she may bear upon my knees and I too will be built up through her" (Bereishis 30:3). Rashi notes that the words "I too" are a reference to Sarai. Rachel said that she too will follow in the ways of Sarai and offer her maidservant to her husband Yaakov so that he may have more children. This would then serve as a merit for her so that she would also have her own children. Alternatively she would raise these children and serve as their spiritual mother.

We may ask why did Rachel follow in the ways of Sarah. It is true that Sarai was successful in bearing her own child in merit of her actions but there was also an element of risk, the birth of Yishmael. The Torah describes Yishmael as a "wild man." Throughout history the descendents of Yishmael have brought great harm to the Jewish people. Perhaps Rachel should have sought a different merit.

It is noteworthy that we find a subtle difference between the words of Sarai and the words of Rachel. Sarai began her argument with the word "perhaps." The word "perhaps" connotes hope but not conviction. By using this word Sarai sent a signal to Hagar the she was not completely prepared to raise her child. This gave Hagar the idea that she would replace Sarai as Matriarch of the Jewish People. On the other hand Rachel said "I will" be built up through her. Rachel was determined to succeed. She signaled that she would be in control.

Sarai who performed this great kindness to her husband lacked full conviction that her plan would work. Rachel built upon the kindness of Sarai by additionally setting out with conviction and determination that she would succeed. Sarai who was hesitant only achieved part of her plan. She merited to have her own child but her plan to allow her husband to have another child that would be part of the Jewish people or serve as Yishmael's spiritual mother did not work. On the other hand Rachel who did set out with conviction, succeeded with both parts of her plan. She merited to have her own children gave Yaakov more children and served as the spiritual mother of Bilhah's children.

And Hashem (G-D) said to Avram (Abraham) go for yourself form your land, from your birthplace and from your fathers house to the land that I will show you. (Bereishis 12:1)


The simple interpretation of this posuk (verse) is that Hashem instructed Avram to depart from his immediate physical surroundings and travel to a land that was yet to be determined. However, if this is the correct interpretation we may ask two questions. First, when describing one's departure from a physical location it is logical to first mention the local surroundings and then mention the more general area. For example, one first leaves his home, then his street, then his city and finally his country. However, here in the posuk the order is reversed. First, Hashem instructs Avram to leave his land, which is the most general. Then Hashem instructs him to leave his birthplace and finally the most local of them all, his home. The second question is why did Hashem omit the precise destination and only describe it as "the land that I will show you."

Perhaps we may answer both questions by suggesting that Hashem did not instruct Avram to actually leave a physical location but rather commanded Avram to remove himself from the secular influences and values of his surroundings. In addition to this instruction, Hashem also gave Avram a plan on how to do so. The plan was to first focus on what was less difficult and eventually tackle what is more difficult. A person is under different degrees of influence from his surroundings. The most powerful influences are those found in the home. The next most powerful are those found in the community and finally the weakest but yet significant influences are those values found within the land. Here, Hashem instructs Avram to depart from these influences in stages. First separate from those of the land; next tackle the more difficult influences of the town, i.e., birthplace, and finally after having accomplishing this then you may concentrate on the most difficult of all, that of your family.

Now that we have explained that Hashem was not commanding Avram to take a physical journey but rather a spiritual one, we can understand why Hashem did not define a precise destination. The ultimate destination in spiritual matters is not defined. It depends on the degree of spirituality that one strives to attain. The posuk states, "to the land that I will show you." The more effort one exerts in the spiritual realm the further one will travel and the more he will merit to see, i.e., perceive an understanding of Hashem, the less effort one puts into spiritual matters, the shorter the trip and the less he will see. In addition, we may also translate the Hebrew word at the conclusion of the posuk "arechah" not as "that I will show you" but rather "I will show Myself to you." Hashem said to Avram that by removing himself from the false values and influences of society, he and his descendents will merit to have a land where Hashem will show Himself to his people, i.e. a land where the presence of Hashem will be strongly felt.


And Lot raised his eyes and saw the entire plain of the Jordan that is was all watered, before Hashem (G-D) destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah [it was] like the garden of Hashem, like the land of Egypt, reaching Zoar. (Bereishis 13:10)

We may ask, why is it necessary for the Torah to mention that the land was like the garden of Hashem and like the land of Egypt only before it was destroyed. Seemingly it would have sufficed for the Torah to describe the good qualities of the land without mentioning that this was true only before its destruction. Later in parshas (torah reading) Vayeira we are told that Sodom was utterly destroyed. From this we may intuitively derive that the good qualities of the land were only present before its destruction.

Furthermore, we may ask, why did Lot readily agree to depart from Avram rather than settling any quarrels. Avram was well known for his great generosity and kindness. Certainly all those who were fortunate to be in his company merited great blessing. Who would be happy to leave such a person? Lot should have protested Avram's suggestion that he depart.

The answer to both of these questions lies in fact that Lot failed to appreciate what he had. The Torah expresses this idea regarding the land of Sodom. At the time, the land of Sodom possessed the best agricultural qualities in the world. With regard to fruit it was compared to Gan Eden and with regard to vegetables it was compared to Egypt. However, the Torah makes it clear that Lot chose the land of Sodom not for its good qualities but rather because it served his purpose. The posuk (verse) says that Lot saw that it was completely watered. Rashi explains that this means it possessed streams of water. For lot this was enough. As far as its other amenities, the Torah hints that Lot only appreciated them in retrospect, after the land was destroyed. The posuk may homiletically be interpreted as saying that only after Sodom was destroyed, did Lot realize that the land he once occupied was like the Garden of Hashem and like the land of Egypt. However, at the moment, he failed to appreciate the good that he had. It should thus not surprise us that Lot was willing to depart form Avram. Here as well, Lot failed to appreciate the blessings he gained by being in the presence of Avram.

Later in parshas Vayeira when Hashem destroyed Sodom we learn that Lot was saved. As he escaped he was warned by the angel not to look back. Rashi explains that he was not permitted to witness the destruction of Sodom because he too was wicked and deserved to perish along with its inhabitants. It was only in the merit of Avraham that he was saved.

Perhaps we may suggest another insight. Lot was punished measure for measure. As Lot fled from Sodom, he suddenly began to appreciate its good qualities. He wanted to look back and get one more glimpse of the good land from which he had come. This would give him some sense of closure. However, he was denied this as a punishment for his lack of appreciation of what he had at the time.

This novel teaching reinforces the lesson that a person should always strive to appreciate what he has at the moment and not follow the example of Lot who appreciated what he had only in retrospect.


… Before Hashem destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah [it was] like the garden of Hashem, like the land of Egypt, reaching Zoar. (Bereishis 13:10) … And the people of Sedom were wicked and sinful to Hashem, very much. (Bereishis 13:13)

Rashi comments that they knew their Master and intended to rebel against Him. Where did Rashi derive this? Furthermore, the destruction of Sodom is consistently described as the "overturning of Sedom." Why was this expression chosen to describe its destruction?

The posuk compares the land of Sodom to the garden of Hashem and to land of Egypt. Rashi explains that this refers to its unique agricultural qualities. With regard to fruits it was compared to the exceptional quality of fruit found in the garden of Hashem, i.e. Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), and with regard to vegetables it was compared to the exceptional quality of vegetables found in land of Egypt.

Let us suggest a homiletic interpretation. Gan Eden is a place of ultimate spirituality. Indeed, after Hashem created the world He placed Adam and Chava in Gan Eden to enjoy the Divine splendor of Hashem. On the other hand, the land of Egypt represents the other extreme, a place of ultimate defilement, and contamination. Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) describe the land of Egypt as the ervas haaretz, i.e. the nakedness of the land.

When the posuk compares the land of Sedom to Gan Eden it may be interpreted as meaning that it was a place with great potential for spirituality. There was an unusual degree of holiness that made it easy for a people to develop a deep spiritual relationship with Hashem. The posuk goes on to say that is was also like the land of Egypt. This may be interpreted as meaning that although the people were aware of the great spiritual potential of the land they chose to defile the land and follow in the ways of Egypt.

The degree of defilement of Sodom was extremely severe because they knew better. One cannot compare the degree of corruption of one who defiles the mundane to one who defiles the holy. The people of Sodom had greater potential for holiness and spirituality than others yet they deliberately overturned this holiness in exchange for defilement.

This is perhaps the source of Rashi's statement that the people of Sodom knew Hashem but intended to rebel against him. Sodom was a land that was blessed with a natural leaning toward spirituality. The people thus recognized Hashem but willfully chose to reject Hashem and adopt the defiled lifestyle of Egypt.

We may now also understand why its destruction is described as "overturning." This represents a punishment that was measure for measure. Just as they overturned what was holy to the defiled, likewise Hashem punished them in this measure by overturning the land.


Bris Bain Habisarim - September 11, 2001

In this weeks parsha we learn about the bris bein habisarm (Covenant Between The Pieces). The parsha begins with Hashem instructing Avram to take "a calf mi'shuleshes, a goat mi'shuleshes, a ram mi'shuleshes, a turtle dove and a fledging."

Rashi translates the word mi'shuleshes as three. The words "a calf mi'shuleshes" are then translated as three calves and similarly for the goat and ram. This translation results in a total of 11 animals. The Ramban translates the word mi'shuleshes as tripled. The words "a calf mi'shuleshes" are then translated as "a three year old calf" and similarly for the goat and ram. The total number of animals according to this translation is 5. Thus we have a dispute as to how many animals were used in the bris bein habisarm. According to Rashi, 5 and according to the Ramban, 11. It is noteworthy that the act of terror committed on September 11, 2001 was targeted at two symbols of the United States that have a strong physical relation to the number 11 and 5. The physical appearance of the Twin Towers appeared to any observer a one giant number 11. In addition each building had exactly 110 stories. 110 have the mispar katan (a type of numeric computation) of 11. The other target was the Pentagon. By definition a pentagon has five sides and indeed the Pentagon as its name implies is build in the shape of a pentagon.

The bris bein habisarm was done in response to the Avram's question of how he is to know that he will bequeath Eretz Yisroel to his children. There is a debate if the acts of terror were related to the United States policy regarding Israel. If or not it is completely related may be debated, but there is truth in the fact that it is at least partially related.

During the bris bein habisarm a dread and great darkness came over Avraham. The act of terror has brought dread and darkness over the entire world.

What is the connection??? Feedback would be greatly appreciated!

And Hashem (G-D) said to Avram (Abraham) go for yourself form your land, from your birthplace and from your fathers house to the land that I will show you. (Bereishis 12:1)

The simple interpretation of this posuk (verse) is that Hashem instructed Avram to depart from his immediate physical surroundings and travel to a land that was yet to be determined. However, if this is the correct interpretation we may ask two questions. First, when describing one's departure from a physical location it is logical to first mention the local surroundings and then mention the more general area. For example, one first leaves his home, then his street, then his city and finally his country. However, here in the posuk the order is reversed. First, Hashem instructs Avram to leave his land, which is the most general. Then Hashem instructs him to leave his birthplace and finally the most local of them all, his home. The second question is why did Hashem omit the precise destination and only describe it as "the land that I will show you."

Perhaps we may answer both questions by suggesting that Hashem did not instruct Avram to actually leave a physical location but rather commanded Avram to remove himself from the secular influences and values of his surroundings. In addition to this instruction, Hashem also gave Avram a plan on how to do so. The plan was to first focus on what was less difficult and eventually tackle what is more difficult. A person is under different degrees of influence from his surroundings. The most powerful influences are those found in the home. The next most powerful are those found in the community and finally the weakest but yet significant influences are those values found within the land. Here, Hashem instructs Avram to depart from these influences in stages. First separate from those of the land; next tackle the more difficult influences of the town, i.e., birthplace, and finally after having accomplishing this then you may concentrate on the most difficult of all, that of your family.

Now that we have explained that Hashem was not commanding Avram to take a physical journey but rather a spiritual one, we can understand why Hashem did not define a precise destination. The ultimate destination in spiritual matters is not defined. It depends on the degree of spirituality that one strives to attain. The posuk states, "to the land that I will show you." The more effort one exerts in the spiritual realm the further one will travel and the more he will merit to see, i.e., perceive an understanding of Hashem, the less effort one puts into spiritual matters, the shorter the trip and the less he will see. In addition, we may also translate the Hebrew word at the conclusion of the posuk "arechah" not as "that I will show you" but rather "I will show Myself to you." Hashem said to Avram that by removing himself from the false values and influences of society, he and his descendents will merit to have a land where Hashem will show Himself to his people, i.e. a land where the presence of Hashem will be strongly felt.


Vayeira

Avram (Abraham) said to the king of Sedom: I have raised up my hand to Hashem, G-d the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth. If so much as a thread or a shoe strap; or if I shall take from anything that is your so you shall not say "It is I who made Avram rich" (Bereishis 14:22, 23).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn how Avram rescued Lot and the king of Sedom. In the aftermath of this event, the king of Sedom offered Avram the spoils of war. Avram refused to accept anything so that no one say it was the king of Sedom who made Avram wealthy and not Hashem (G-D). The words Avram used to express his determination not to accept anything were a "thread" and a "shoe strap."

The Midrash tells us that in reward for this statement Avram's descendents were given seven mitzvos (commandments) that relate to threads and shoe straps. In reward for the mention of a "thread" the Midrash lists: 1) the thread of techeiles that is attached to the tzizis. 2) The covering of the mishkan that was made from threads of techeiles and argaman. 3) The thread-thin line that was painted in the center of the altar to divide it into two parts so that blood that is supposed to be applied to the upper half not mistakenly be applied to the lower half and vice versa.

In reward for the mention of a "shoe strap" the Midrash lists: 4) the shoe that the yevamah removes from the foot of her brother-in-law when chalitzah is performed. 5) The hides of the tachash that were used to cover mishkan (sanctuary). Parenthetically we note that the relation between the hides of the tachash and the "shoe strap" comes from a posuk (Yechezkel 16:10) that tells us that the leftover hides of tachash were used by the Jewish people in the desert to make shoes. 6) The mitzvah of going up to Yerushalayim on the three festivals which is described in the posuk (verse) with the word shoe, "How beautiful are your steps in shoes, daughter of nobility" (Shir Hashirim 6:2). There is another Midrash that adds 7) the strap of the tefillin. Here the connection is from the word strap that connects the strap of the shoe to the strap of teffilin.

What is the significance of the Midrash listing specifically these seven items?

We may suggest that the common denominator of all items listed is that they require a specific color. 1) The techeiles thread of the tzizis is blue. 2) The color of the threads that covered the mishkan were blue and purple. 3) The thread-thin line that divided the altar was red. 4) The shoe that was used in the chalitzah ceremony should be black with white straps as recorded in Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha'ezer 169:18). 5) The hides of the tachash were multicolored. Indeed, the multiplicity of color is what gave this creature its unique beauty. 6) With regard to traveling to Yerushalayim for the festivals in shoes, we note that the custom of the Jewish people in ancient times was to wear black shoes with white straps. Tosofos (Bava Kama 49b) explains that the way one can tell the difference between a Jew and gentile was by the color of one's shoes and shoe straps. 7) Finally, we have a tradition dating back to the time that Moshe received the Torah on Har Sinai that the strap of the tefillin must be completely black.

The reason why different items appear to have different colors is because of the varying degree of light they absorb. An object that appears black absorbs all the rays of light. An item that appears white does not absorb anything. Instead, it reflects all rays of light. This phenomenon can be proven by observing that dark items left in the sun are considerably warmer than their lighter-color counterparts, due to the greater degree of absorption.

Thus different colors represent varying degrees of absorption. With regard to mitzvos that require color it can be homiletically explained that color symbolizes the absorption of a unique degree of Hashem's light when performing that specific Mitzvah.

We may now understand why the Midrash lists these seven items. In reward for Avram's refusal to accept anything from the king of Sedom so that no one mistake the source of his wealth, Hashem gave his descendents mitzvos that require color. This symbolizes that his descendents would absorb, receive and accept varying degrees of Hashem's spiritual rays of light.


For I have cherished him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem (G-D), doing charity and justice in order that Hashem might bring upon Avraham (Abraham) that which He had spoken of him. (Bereishis 18:19).

The simple interpretation of the posuk (verse) conveys that the reason Avraham commanded his children and household to follow in the ways of charity and justice is so that he be rewarded and receive the good fortune that Hashem promised him. The difficulty is that this interpretation stands in contradiction to a well-known Mishna in Pirkei Avos. The Mishna (1:3) states that one should not serve Hashem as a servant who serves his master solely for the purpose of receiving reward but rather should serve Hashem as servant who serves his master not for the purpose of receiving reward. In our posuk it appears that Avraham was serving Hashem for the sake of receiving reward. How can we reconcile the Mishna with the behavior of Avraham based on our interpretation of this posuk?

Perhaps we may suggest that the word "yitzaveh" which we have simply translated as command can alternatively be interpreted as "command what not to do." We find two precedents for such an interpretation. In Parshas Va'es'chanan (Devarim 4:23) the posuk reads "and you will make for yourself a molten image in the likeness of anything which Hashem your G-d has commanded you." Rashi there comments that the word "commanded" should be interpreted as "commanded not to do." The posuk in its entirety now reads "and you will make for yourself a molten image in the likeness of anything which Hashem your G-d has commanded you not to do. Likewise at every Jewish wedding we recite a blessing "… who has sanctified us with his commandments and has commanded us with regard to forbidden unions..." The Avudraham interprets the word "commanded" in this blessing as "commanded not to do." The blessing is thus interpreted as meaning that Hashem has commanded us not to engage in forbidden unions.

With these two precedents we may suggest that here too the posuk and the Mishna are in sync. The posuk may now be interpreted as a testimony by Hashem that His love for Avraham stems from the fact that Avraham has commanded his children and household to observe the path of Torah not for the purpose of receiving reward but rather only to serve Hashem for its own sake without any other motive.


The child grew and he was weaned. Avraham made a great feast on the day Yitzchak was weaned. (Bereishis 21:8)

The simple understanding of this posuk (verse) is that Avraham made a feast on the day that Yitzchak was weaned, which occurred at the age of two. This is the time when a child attains a level of physical independence, where it does not need to be fed by its mother.

The Midrash offers another interpretation. Avraham made a feast on the day that Yitzchak had the bris mila (circumcision). This is derived from the end of the word hi'ga"male." Male is translated as circumcision. The mefarshim (commentaries) add that the first two letters of the word higamale are hey and gimal which have the numerical value of eight. Taken together, this word tells us that on the eighth day he was circumcised.

How can the Midrash interpret that the feast was on the day of mila (circumcision) when the simple interpretation of the posuk is that the feast took place on the day of weaning?

The answer is that the Midrash interprets the posuk as follows: Avraham made a big party on the day of weaning "just like" the party he made on the day of mila. The posuk concludes with the words "bi'yom hi'gamel es Yitzchak," which are translated literally as "the day he circumcised Yitzchak." We must interpret the posuk, however, as if there was an added chaf, Ki'Biyom higamal es Yitzchak. Now the posuk in its entirety reads: "Yitzchak grew and was weaned. Avraham now at this point made a feast, just like the feast he made almost two years earlier when his son Yitzchak had his bris mila." There are other examples in tanach (scriptures) were we find a posuk interpreted as if there was an extra chaf added. See, e.g., Jeremiah 2:3 ("kodosh Yisrael LeHashem, raishis tevuaso" is interpreted as if the posuk read kraishis tevuaso).

This posuk is often quoted as a source for the obligation to celebrate a bris mila with a lavish feast. It is surprising that according to our interpretation we only know this indirectly. The posuk informs us that the feast of weaning was like the feast of mila. If the Torah wanted to give us a source to celebrate a bris mila with a lavish feast, why did it not do so directly by recording the actual feast that took place at the time of mila?

Perhaps the answer is that by connecting the feast of mila to the feast of weaning the Torah is not only giving us a source for this celebration, but is also giving us the reason for the celebration of mila.

To explain this, we need to introduce three points. First, it is common for the Torah to describe spiritual attainments or accomplishments in physical terms. Second, when a child is weaned we understand the reason for celebration. The child has gained a level of physical independence. It is now able to eat on its own. It is no longer completely dependent upon its mother for survival. Attainment of physical independence is a great milestone for a human being and certainly a good reason to celebrate. Third, the mefarshim explain that one of the reasons Hashem commands us to perform bris mila is that he desires that we should "free" ourselves from our base desires. The foreskin represents the barrier that prevents a person from overcoming his base physical desires. By removing the foreskin, we remove this barrier and achieve mastery over ourselves. Mila gives us a message and goal for life: achieve moral freedom to do Hashem's will.

Putting these three points together, we can now understand why the Torah linked the feast of circumcision with the feast of weaning. The Torah is teaching us that just as we understand in physical terms the reason for celebrating when a child is weaned, we should also understand the reason for feasting at a circumcision. This is also a celebration of independence, albeit a spiritual one.


Let a small amount of water be brought, please, and wash your feet and recline under the tree. I will retrieve some bread so that you may nourish your heart…. (Bereishis 18:4,5)

The posuk (verse) records that Avraham (Abraham) provided his guests with water and bread. Rashi comments that the precise words of the posuk indicate that this water was provided indirectly through an agent. Indeed Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) tell us that this was Eliezer whom Avraham recruited in order to train to do this Mitzvah. Rashi goes further to note that the posuk also indicates that in contrast to the water, the bread was provided directly by Avraham. Rashi quotes Chazal who note that Hashem (G-D) rewarded Avraham measure for measure. With regard to the water that was provided through and agent, Hashem similarly provided water for Jewish people in the desert through an agent. This refers to the time when Moshe was instructed to speak to the rock in order that it give forth water. Regarding the bread that Avraham himself provided, Hashem rewarded him in a like measure by directly providing man for the Jewish people during their forty-year stay in the desert.

We may note that with regard to the water, Avraham asked only that "a small amount" be provided. Yet when his descendents were rewarded, the posuk says that Moshe hit the rock twice and a "great amount" of water came forth (Bamidbar 20:11). On the other hand with regard to the bread, Avraham gave no indication that he would only provide a small amount, yet his descendents were rewarded with only minimal portions of man. This is seen in the fact that no person was permitted to take a drop more then needed for a single day and that anything left over would immediately rot. We would have expected that the principle of being rewarded measure for measure, be extended here as well. Regarding the water that was given in a small quantity, we would have expected Hashem to repay the Jewish people with only minimal quantities of water and with regard to the bread that was not given in a small quantity, we would have expected a similar large and generous quantity of man?

The commentators explain that there is a great difference between the defiled land of Egypt, where the Jewish people spent two hundred and ten years and the holy land of Eretz Yisroel. Egypt was a land that was watered by the Nile. One did not have to worry or be concerned if there would be water to irrigate the corps. There was always a steady flow of water in the Nile. In contrast Eretz Yisroel is a land that is watered by rainfall. In Eretz Yisroel there is constant concern that there be rain in the proper time and in the right amount. Chazal consider this to be the great spiritual advantage of Eretz Yisroel. When living in Eretz Yisroel one is always forced to pray for rain. In addition one is forced to reflect on his deeds and merits as to determine if he is worthy of receiving the much-needed rain. This constant need brings a person closer to Hashem and prevents him from sinning. In contrast, Egypt is a land whose people feel that they can survive 'fine and well' without Hashem.

The primeval snake illustrates this same idea. The snake's punishment was that its primary source of food would be the dust of the earth. One might ask, is this not a great blessing because it is now guaranteed an unlimited supply of food? The commentators however explain that this is the greatest evil. The snake will now never feel the need to seek assistance from Hashem and is thus spiritually dead.

Likewise, Avraham asked that only a small amount of water be provided. Although the Jewish people were repaid with great quantities of physical water yet their spiritual attainments from this experience were small. This was because the great supply of water did not cause the Jewish people to pray or reflect on their deeds as to determine if they deserved the water. Likewise just as Avraham provided a large amount of bread for his guests, so to Hashem provided great amounts of spiritual sustenance through the man. Although the portions of man may have been minimal, these portions caused the Jewish people to constantly perfect themselves spiritually so that they would be deserving of receiving it.

In conclusion what Hashem repays in great and small quantities is not measured in physical terms but in spiritual ones.


Chayei Sara

And she said to the slave, "Who is that man walking in the field toward us?" And the slave said, "He is my master." She then took the veil and covered herself. (Bereishis 24:65)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn how Eliezer traveled to Charan to find a wife for Yitzchak. The Torah repeats this episode twice, once as it unfolded and again as Eliezer repeated it to Besual and Lavan. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) comment that we learn from here how precious the ordinary talk of our forefathers' servants is to Hashem (G-D), more so than the actual laws of the Torah. Whereas this story was repeated twice, many laws of the Torah are only known through complex exegesis.

The novelty of this story is not just its repetition but also the long list of differences as to exactly what happened in each account of the story.

The marriage of Yitzhak and Rivkah (Isaac and Rebecca) begot two very different children, Yaakov and Aisav (Jacob and Esau). The Torah describes Yaakov as "a wholesome man who studies in tents" and Aisav as "a man of the field." We may suggest that the Torah here in our parsha is revealing the roots of these children.

Why did Eliezar not tell the story exactly the way it happened? The simple answer may be that Eliezar understood that had he told Besual and Lavan the truth, they would not have been willing to give Rivkah in marriage to Yitzchak. It was necessary for Eliezer to lie in order for his plan to succeed. For example, had Besual and Lavan known that Eliezer gave Rivkah the jewelry before he asked her which family she was from, they would dismiss Avraham's (Abraham's) family as one who is extremely irresponsible. The truth however was that Eliezar acted with great faith in Hashem, a trait that they would not understand and appreciate.

Thus there were two different approaches to this marriage. One from the perspective of Avraham and Eliezer, and the other from the perspective of Besual and Lavan.

Avraham wished to build a new home for his son based on the principles of faith and idealism. This manifested itself in Yaakov. Besual and Lavan had different values and goals. Theirs were manifested in Aisav.

The differences in details between the accounts as recorded in the Torah as it actually unfolded and as Eliezar repeated it to Besual and Lavan are the differences between Yaakov and Aisav. The Torah is not just repeating a simple story. Between the lines, it teaches us the differences between Yaakov and Aisav.

For example, in the Torah's first account, we learn how Eliezer first gave the jewelry to Rivkah and then asked her about her family. Eliezer had complete faith that Hashem would guide him to a proper girl that would serve as wife for Yitzchak. When Eliezer repeated this part of the story he said that he first asked her family and then gave her jewelry. He knew they were not at this level of faith and would not understand.

This contrast of faith between Eliezer and Rivka's family is echoed by the descendents of Yaakov and Aisav many years later. The Gemarah (Shabbos 88a) relates how a heretic mocked the Jewish people for accepting the Torah before knowing what is written in it. He said to Rava you first should have listened to what is written in the Torah before accepting it. Rava replied, we have complete faith in Hashem. We trust that Hashem would not give us a Torah that we could not abide by.

Another difference can be seen when Avraham said to Eliezer, "He (Hashem) will send his angel before you" (Bereishis 24:7). In the second account, the posuk says "He will send his angel together with you" (24:40). The first expression connotes a greater degree of faith, the faith of Yaakov. Even when one cannot sense that Hashem is with him, he has faith that Hashem is before him. The second expression represents a lower level of faith, the faith of Aisav. Only when one senses that Hashem is together with him does he trust Hashem, otherwise not.

Perhaps we may allude to this idea later in the parsha when the Yitzchak and Rivkah meet for the first time. The posuk says "and she said to the slave, who is that man walking in the 'field' toward us. The slave said, "He is my master." She then took the veil and she 'covered' herself" (24:65). Rivkah mentioned the concept of "field" in her vision of seeing Yitzchak for the first time. This alluded to the fact that her family sent her to marry Yitzchak in order to produce an Aisav, "a man of the field." After Eliezer clarified exactly who Yitzchak was and what he represented, she covered herself. This act is symbolic of entering a tent to take shelter. She realized that Yitzchak's approach to marriage was to produce Yaakov, "a man who sits in tents."

The union of Yitzchak and Rivkah was not just an ordinary marriage. It produced none other than Yaakov. Chazal tell us that he was the chosen of the forefathers. The image of Yaakov is etched on Hashem's throne of glory. Every nuance and seemingly minor event or thought had major ramifications for what would come.


The man was astonished at her, reflecting silently to know whether Hashem (G-D) had made his journey successful or not. (Bereishis 24:21)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about shidduchim (match-making). The Torah tells us how Avraham (Abraham) sent his loyal servant Eliezer back to his birthplace to seek out a mate for his son Yitzchak (Isaac).

When Eliezer arrived at his destination he stood by a well and prayed that Hashem arrange an appropriate match for Yitzchak by sending a girl to offer him and his camels a drink from the well. Before he had a chance to conclude his prayers, Rivkah appeared and offered him and his camels a drink from the well. At this point the posuk (verse) tells us that Eliezer was in a state of shock. The Hebrew word the posuk uses is mish'ta'ei. Rashi explains that Eliezer was in shock that his mission was just about complete.

We may note that shock can occur as a result of two very different events. A person may be shocked over good news or over bad news. Usually when one is shocked over good news his spirits are lifted and he is filled with happiness and strength. On the other hand when one is shocked over bad news or witnesses something horrible he is overtaken with a feeling of despair, helplessness and weakness.

In the context of our parsha we would assume that the shock Eliezer experienced was due to the good news that his mission was just about complete. However, when Rashi elaborates on this precise meaning of the word mish'ta'ei, he cites an example from a posuk in sefer Yih'sha'yah. There Hashem tells Yih'sha'yah the prophet that the Jewish people will not repent for their sins "until cities will be desolate without inhabitants and houses without people and the ground lies waste as desolate" (Isaiah 6:11). Rashi explains here that the word for shock contains the same root as the word used in Isaiah for desolation. When one gazes upon the site of utter desolation he is overcome with a feeling of shock.

It seems from Rashi that the precise use of this word here in our parsha indicates a shock over the receiving of bad news or witnessing something horrible. This seems difficult, for the simple context of the posukim seems to indicate that it was a happy moment when Eliezer so quickly found a mate for Yitzchak.

We may answer this question by suggesting two ideas. Later in the parsha Rashi tells us that Eliezer himself had a daughter and wanted her to marry Yitzchak. Avraham let him know that under no circumstance would this come to be. As long as Eliezer had not yet found a mate for Yitzchak he entertained the possibility that perhaps Avraham would one day change his mind. Now that he saw Rivkah and realized that it would truly never happen the feeling of disappointment fully set in.

On a deeper level we may suggest that Eliezer realized from the start that he would not merit to have Yitzchak as a son-in-law. However, he was satisfied with the fact that he would be the one who would decide whom Yitzchak would marry. Eliezer realized that history would record him as the one who found an appropriate mate for Eliezer. His exceptional persuasive capabilities and his charismatic persona would be instrumental in convincing the prospective girl to marry Yitzchak. To this effect the he prepared ten fully loaded camels for what he believed was a long and difficult mission.

However, shortly thereafter he discovered that he had miraculously accomplished his goal in only a few hours. Before he even concluded his prayers Rivkah was standing in his presence. Eliezer realized that he and his great talents were not needed. It was too easy. The entire matter was a done deal. The shidduch had a life of its own.

There is great satisfaction in the feeling of accomplishment that comes through hard work. Eliezer was greatly disappointed for the matter was achieved without any effort whatsoever. "From Hashem the matter has gone forth" (Bereishis 24:50). The posuk therefore expresses his shock with a word that connotes a shock that brings with it a feeling of despair, disappointment and weakness.

It is customary to break an earthenware utensil at the time when the ta'nayim document is signed. The word ta'nayim literally means "conditions." The ta'nayim is a document that states that two people, the future bride and groom, agree to marry. They or their families pledge to provide for the forthcoming marriage certain basic necessities. Originally the ta'nayim document was signed at the time of the engagement much before the wedding day. Today many sign it on the wedding day itself. The commentators give various reasons as to why we break an earthenware utensil at the signing of this document. One of the reasons given is that just as a shattered earthenware utensil can never be restored, likewise once an engagement is finalized it may not be broken. Indeed the commentators tell us that it is better to get married and then divorced than to break an engagement. Another reason for breaking an earthenware utensil is to remind us not to get to get too carried away with the fe! stivities of the celebration. We rejoice with trepidation.

It should be noted that the custom to break an earthenware utensil at the signing of the ta'nayim is not to be confused with the custom to break a glass goblet at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony. After the wedding ceremony, it is specifically a glass goblet and not an earthenware utensil that is broken. The commentators tell us that the main reason for this custom is to remember the destruction of Yerushalayim and pray and yearn for its restoration. Just as broken glass may be restored by melting it into a new goblet likewise Yerushalayim will one day be fully rebuilt.

We may also suggest that we break an earthenware utensil at the signing of the ta'nayim as a symbolic reenactment of Eliezer's reaction in meeting Rivkah for the first time. Eliezer was shocked. It was not a shock of happiness but rather a shock of disappointment and helplessness as if he witnessed desolation. Similarly, the signing of the ta'nayim marks the finalization of the engagement. This moment corresponds to the moment when Eliezer realized that he had met the girl who would marry Yitzchak. He realized that his grand plans of seeking "the one and only" for Yitzchak were all for nothing. He was not needed in this search. He was expendable. The shidduch was already arranged.

When we permanently destroy an earthenware utensil at the conclusion of the engagement, we likewise evoke the shocking feeling of desolation and helplessness. An expensive utensil has been destroyed and will never be restored. We acknowledge the fact that although seemingly much effort may have been expended into the making of this shidduch the truth is that we are not instrumental in its outcome. "From Hashem the matter gone forth."


Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, and twenty years and seven years; the years of Sarah's life (Bereishis 23:1).

The posuk (verse) tells us that Sara lived for 127 years. Rashi comments that they were all equal for goodness. Rashi further explains the significance of the Torah breaking up her years into three parts. When Sarah was one hundred she was like twenty with regard to sin. Just as a twenty year old is considered free from sin because he is not liable for punishment, likewise Sarah was free from sin at the age of 100. Furthermore, at the age of twenty she was beautiful as if she were seven years old.

It is noteworthy that the number 127 is found in beginning of the Megillah. The posuk there says that Achashuerosh ruled from Hodu to Cush over 127 provinces (Esther 1:1). Indeed chazal (our sages of blessed memory) link the two. The Gemara records that when Rebbi Akivah attempted to awake his students during his lecture he explained that Esther merited to become the Queen of 127 provinces only due to the fact that Sarah lived a full life of 127 years. We may ask, what is the symbolic significance of the number 127 both in regard to the life of Sarah and the number of provinces that were ruled by Achashuerosh and Esther?

To answer this question let us briefly discuss some elementary mathematics. In the decimal system there are exactly ten symbols. They are 0 through 9. There is no single symbol that represent the number that comes after 9. In practice we start again by returning to 0 and carry a 1 to the left of the 0. This produces two symbols, '10.' We refer to this as 'ten.'

In the binary system there are only two symbols, they are 1 and 0. If we wish to represent the number two we also return to 0 and carry a 1 to the left. Thus, '10' represent the value two in binary just as '10' represents the value ten in decimal. As the value increases we keep adding digits to the left. For example if we wish to represent the number sixty-six in binary we would write the following: 1000010. Here the '1' in the second position from the right represents the value two and the '1' in the leftmost position represents the value sixty-four. 64 + 2 = 66. The leftmost one represents sixty four in binary just as it would represent one million in decimal.

If we would wish to represent the number 127 in binary we would write seven consecutive 1's. i.e., 1111111. It is noteworthy that all computers use the binary system. The smallest element in a computer is a "bit" which can either be a 0 or a 1. If we combine seven bits there are a total of 127 combinations. They range form 0000000 to 1111111. Indeed every character has a mathematical representation called an ASCI code. The ASCI code has 127 possible values due to the fact that every character is stored in seven bits. (In truth it is stored in a "byte" which have eight bits but the eighth bit is used for the sign, i.e., + or -.)

In summary, if we have seven digits that are arranged in order and can only be 0 or 1, then there are a total of 127 possible combinations.

The Torah tells us that this world was created in seven day. Had Hashem wished He could have created it in one day, yet Hashem chose to divide creation in seven distinct parts. Every aspect of this physical world is rooted in one of the seven parts of creation. The number seven throughout chazal consistently represents the physical world that was created in seven parts. One example in the menorah that has seven branches. Some of the commentators explain that this alluded to the seven parts of creation.

In the physical world we live in we find that different people are blessed with different combinations of blessings. For example some may be blessed with wisdom but not wealth, some the opposite. Some may be blessed with wonderful children but lack perfect health, and so on. We find many combinations of blessings but rarely do we find a person who is blessed with everything. Assuming every physical blessing is rooted in one of the seven parts of creation we may suggest that in general there are 127 combinations of blessing in this physical world. They range from nothing to everything. Although the binary system is a relatively modern invention the concept it represents is ancient.

The Torah tells us that Sarah lived for 127 years. Rashi comments that they were all equally good. Perhaps the significance of 127 is that Sarah was blessed with the full combination of what life has to offer. All seven element of creation were positive for her. This stands in contrast to the other 126 general combinations of blessing that are found among people in the world. The significance of living a life of 127 years is symbolic of being granted the totality of blessing.

Likewise we may now understand the symbolic significance of the 127 provinces that were ruled by Achashuerosh. The Megillah introduces this fact by first telling us that Achashuerosh ruled from Hodu to Cush which is interpreted by the commentaries to mean the entire world. The posuk continues to emphasis that this included 127 provinces. This symbolic number indicates that his sovereignty over the physical world was as complete as possible.


He will send His angel before you and you will take a wife for my son from there (Bereishis 24:7). He said to me, Hashem (G-D) before whom I have walked will send his angel with you and make your journey successful and you will take a wife for my son from my family and my father's house (Bereishis 24:40).

Parshas (Torah portion) Chayei Sarah is well known for hosting the "parsha of shidduchim (matchmaking)." The Torah elaborates on many of the minute details of Yitzchak's match to Rivkah not once but twice. Chazal make note of this by stating that the simple talk of the servants of our forefathers is more beloved before Hashem then the actual laws of the Torah. The mission of Eliezer the servant of Avraham is repeated in great detail twice, whereas many of the basic rules of Jewish law are only hinted to us through complicated exegesis. We may ask, what significance lay in the fact that the Torah repeated this event twice.

It is noteworthy that there are discrepancies between the details of this story as they actually occurred and what Eliezer reported after the fact. One significant discrepancy is where Avraham reassured Eliezer that Hashem would assist his mission by sending an angel before him. This statement with the emphasis of the word "before" has the connotation that Eliezer would not be involved in choosing a wife for Yitzchak. Rather, the match would develop and unfold before his eyes without his involvement. Yet, later after Eliezer met Rivkah and reviewed with her family the details of what had occurred, he said that Avraham told him that Hashem would send an angel "together with him." This statement with the emphasis on the words "with him" has the connotation that Eliezer would be an active partner in the deciding who Yitzchak's wife would be. How do we explain this discrepancy?

Conventionally, "Shidduchim" relates to the events leading up to the making of a match. The lifelong relationship that continues to develop after the match is made tends not to be associated with the "parsha of shidduchim."

Perhaps we may suggest that the Torah by repeating this episode twice indicates that in truth there are two parts to "shidduchim." The first part is the initial meeting of man and woman and the second is the lifelong relationship that continues to develop after they are married. Each part requires a unique dosage of Divine Providence.

Before Eliezer met Rivkah, the angel was describes as one that goes in front. This represents the first stage of shidduchim, the initial bringing together of man and woman. At this point the two parties do not yet know each other, thus the Divine Providence is described as the angel going in front, without their involvement. Hashem guides events and happenings of the world so that man and woman meet and marry. The buildup of events that lead to the meeting of man and woman are unknown to them but only to Hashem. Thus, it may correctly be said that the angel is going in front without their involvement. However, after the match has been made the next stage of shidduchim begins. This represents the deepening of the relationship between husband and wife. This continues for the rest of their lives. After Eliezer discovered Rivkah he repeated the entire story. Homiletically, this may be interpreted as meaning that now even after the marriage has been put into place there will still be a need for Divine Providence to guide the relationship of the husband and wife throughout the remainder of their lives. This divine assistance is describes as the "angel going together with you." Now that the man and the woman know of each other they are active partners with Hashem in this ongoing relationship.

This idea is further hinted to in this posuk (verse). When Avraham informs Eliezer that Hashem will send an angel he immediately concluded with the words "and you will take a wife for my son." This implies that the main purpose of the angel will be to bring the man and the woman together." However, when Eliezer discusses the angel after Rivkah had been chosen he immediately concluded with the words "so that Hashem will make your way successful." This immediate reference to success may homiletically be interpreted as meaning that the main purpose of the angel now is to assist man and wife of a successful marriage.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that when there is peace between man and wife the Divine Presence rests between them. After a marriage has been entered into and there is peace this prove that not only has Hashem sent his angel before them to create the match but has also sent his angel together with them to insure its success.


And Avraham was old, well on in his days and Hashem (G-D) blessed Avraham (Abraham) with everything. (Bereishis 24:1)

With this posuk (verse) the Torah introduces us to the parsha (portion) of shidduchim i.e., matchmaking. Commenting on the concluding words of this posuk, Rashi notes that the numerical value of the word "bakol," i.e., all, is equivalent to "ben," i.e. son. The implied message is that because Avraham was blessed with a son it was necessary for him to marry him off. With this short introduction the episode begins. We may note that Rashi only addresses the second half of the posuk but does not comment on the first half. We may thus ask, what is the significance of the first half of the posuk? More specifically, why did the Torah introduce the Parsha of shidduchim by stating that "Avraham was old and well on in his days?"

Before we attempt to answer this question, let us try to imagine what we would have expected of Avraham had the Torah not recorded the minute details of Yitzchak's (Isaacs') shidduch. We must understand that Yitzchak was a precious child that was born to Avraham in his old age. He was a holy child that was offered as a human sacrifice and was only miraculously spared. He was the child that Hashem promised Avraham would be the progenitor of a great nation that would guide the world towards its destiny. In Yitzchak lay the destiny and purpose of the Jewish people, the world, and Creation. With this picture in mind, we would assume that Avraham would have taken a very active, hands-on approach to the matter to make sure that his son would marry the girl that was destined for him.

Yet, to our surprise the Torah records how Avraham entrusted his slave Eliezer with the mission. If this was not strange enough, let us also note that Eliezer was biased. He himself had a daughter whom he felt was appropriate for Yitzchak. In addition, it is not correct to suggest that Avraham was too old and frail to be involved. After all, we do find that after Yitzchak's marriage, Avraham himself remarried and had more children. If Avraham had the strength and ability to remarry and start a new family then certainly he must have had the ability to be involved in Yitzchak's shidduch.

In an attempt to grasp an understanding of Avraham's behavior, we would perhaps be forced to suggest that Hashem put this plan into his mind in the form of prophecy; otherwise, G-d forbid, we would be forced to suggest that Avraham was momentarily seized by a fit of foolishness.

However, let us propose that it is precisely this difficulty that the obscure introduction comes to address. The parsha begins with the words "and Avraham was zokain." The word zokain is commonly translated as old. However, throughout chazal (our Sages) this word is also interpreted as meaning wise. The explanation for this is that the word zokain is an acronym for "zeh shekana chachma," i.e., this one, who has acquired wisdom. Let us note that there are two types of wisdom. The first type is keen intellect. The second type is the wisdom that comes with age, or in other words, the wisdom of life experience. Many times the latter form of wisdom proves to be far more reaching and profound then the former. The posuk states two things; first, "Avraham was wise" and second "he was well into his years." We may now interpret this as meaning that for Avraham, in addition to possessing an exceptional intellect, Avraham also possessed the wisdom of his days, that being, the wisdom of life experience. To summarize, Avraham possessed the totality of wisdom. Considering this we can now understand the message of the introduction. The posuk introduces the parsha of Shidduchim by informing us that although to the simple observer the behavior of Avraham seems foolish, bizarre and irresponsible, the Torah immediately sets the record straight by testifying that Avraham approached this matter with the perfect wisdom and sagacity. With his exalted spiritual understanding of Hashem, he realized that shidduchim are governed by an entirely unique type of Divine providence. He knew clearly that the only one who could properly direct the match of his son was none other then Hashem alone. He decided to "let the chips fall where they may" in a manner where he would be totally removed. Indeed, at the conclusion of the match, even Lavan declared, "Hashem has brought this matter to be and we can not protest, neither bad or good."

There is a very powerful message in the words of the posuk's introduction. We are certainly not on the exalted level of Avraham where we may sit back and let things happen by themselves. On the contrary, we are required by halacha (Jewish law) to be personally involved to the best of our ability to direct things in a manner that seems proper and fitting with regard to all shiduchim that fall within the domain of our responsibility. However, at the very least we should keep in mind the attitude and mindset of our wise Patriarch, who with his all-encompassing wisdom approached this matter knowing good and well that it is Hashem who makes Shidduchim!


And Avraham (Abraham) was old well on into his years, and Hashem (G-d) blessed Avraham with everything. (Genesis 24:1)

The Gemara in Bava Metzia (87a) teaches us that until the time of Avraham, there was no such thing as old age. With Avraham came the phenomenon of old age.

TheMaharsha teaches us that theGemarah is not to be understood literally, that Avraham was the first man to live a long life and thus be called old. Many men lived much longer than Avraham and old age was certainly a common phenomenon. Rather, Avraham was the first todisplay signs of old age such as white hairs, wrinkles, and other physical conditions. Until the time of Avraham, it was difficult to differentiate between father and son; they both looked alike. Avraham was the first to show signs of old age and thus make it obvious to all that he was the father and Yitzchak was the son.

Perhaps we can suggest an alternative explanation.

A human being is made up of two parts, the physical and the spiritual. These two components react differently to age. The physical body is in its prime only during its youth. As a person grows old, his physical body weakens. Old age is regarded as a liability to the physical component of the human being. The reverse is true with regard to the spiritual aspect of the human being. When one is young, he lacks a profound senseyiras shamayim(fear of heaven). Only with age and life experience does one truly acquire deep insight into the ways of Hashem. Only with time does one truly witness the incrediblehashgacha(providence)and mida k'negedmida (measure for measure) of Hashem. With regard to this spiritual component of the human being, old age is an asset.

Until the time of Avraham, the world was void of spirituality. Man was slave to his base physical desires and worshiped false and strange idols. The greatest idol was none other than physical prowess. Theposukim (verses) are replete with references to this ideology. For example: "They were the mighty, who from days of old were men of great name." (Genesis 6:4). Here theposuk informs us that great name depended on physical strength. It is precisely because the world was geared to the physical that no value was attributed to old age, i.e., when the physical body is at its all time low. Along came Avraham who introduced the world to spirituality. Spirituality is an ongoing process that gets better with time. Spirituality is like wine; the older it gets, the better it is. Thus, as a byproduct of spirituality, old age received value.

Let us now review theGemarah. Until the time of Avraham, there was no old age. This means that, until Avraham's time, old age had no value, but when Avraham introduced spirituality to the world, old age acquired its well-deserved and long awaited value.

~ ~ ~

Then the servant took ten camels of his master's camels and set out with all the good of his master in his hand and made his way to Aram Naharaim to the city of Nachor. (Genesis 24:10)

What does it mean that Eliezer took all the good of his master in his hand?

Rashi provides us with the simple explanation. Avraham gave Eliezer a deed that stated that he owned all of Avraham’s material possessions. The purpose of the deed was to help convince the worthy girl and her family that it would be a great benefit to marry Yitzchak.

Perhaps we may suggest an alternative explanation.

Avraham devoted his entire being to avodas Hashem(the service of G-d). He fought the world to teach them that there was a Creator who continues to guide and control the world. He withstood ten difficult tests that culminated with the akeida (the near-sacrifice of Isaac) As a reward for his life's work, Hashem blessed him and promised him unlimited blessing. The blessing however would only come to fruition through his children. Avraham was now old; the time had come to pass on his merits to the next generation. The big question was through whom would the blessing be channeled. Whom would be Yitzchak's partner in bringing to fruition this unlimited reward. If Eliezer would fail in his mission by choosing the wrong mate for Yitzchak then Avraham's life work would be in danger of being lost. The responsibility of Eliezer was thoroughly awesome. In his hands lay the destiny of Klal Yisroel (the Jewish people). In his hands lay the life work of Avraham.

Let us now go back and reinterpret the posuk. The posuk says that Eliezer took all the good in his hands. We can interpret "all the good" as referring to the blessing, merits and destiny of Avrahma Avinu. We can further interpret "in his hands" as in his power or in his responsibility. The posuk in its entirety now informs us that in his mission to find a mate for Yitzchak, Eliezer was now responsible for the destiny of Klal Yisroel.

From this posuk we may learn of the awesome responsibility of a shadchan (match-maker). When a person takes it upon himself to propose a shidduch (match), he must realize that he is taking all the good in his hands. Every person has spent their life thus far working to make something of themselves. Every parent has devoted a chunk of their being to mold and shape the character and nature of their child. When one proposes a shidduch, it is vital that the shadchan be conscious of exactly what he is taking in his hands. If the match is inappropriate and the shadchan is motivated by ulterior motives, all the good is in grave danger. It is obviously a great mitzvah to be involved in shidduchim, but one cannot ignore the awesome responsibility that accompanies it.


 Ve-hi-nai A-yil A-cher

We daven (pray) everyday in the shmonah esrei "lift the banner to gather in our exiles from all four corners of the earth." It is interesting that the word for banner is in the singular. How is it possible to lift one single banner that will be seen in all four corners of the earth?

Today we live bi'ikvisah dimishichah (the pre-Messianic Era) and many words of chazal (our sages) have taken on new meanings.

Living in the world of the Internet, perhaps we may understand this prayer in a new light.

One of the most powerful uses of the Internet is marketing. The buzzword in Internet advertisement is "Banner." When Moshiach (the Messiah) arrives, all he needs to do is launch one authentic banner. This banner will be posted on one web page and hosted by a single server.

It is true! All we need is one banner and every person from all four corners of the earth can access and see it.

It is likely that the page is already posted with its authentic banner. We need only do a search. The search engine however is not Altavista, Excite or Yahoo, but is called Yiras Shamayim.


Toldos

And Yitzchak was forty years old when he took Rivkah the daughter of Besuel the Arami from Padam Aram sister of Lavan the Arami as a wife for himself. (Bereishis 25:20)

Previously in parshas (Torah reading)Chayei Sara the Torah described in unusual great length the details of Yitzchak's match to Rivkah. Most of the information presented by the above posuk (verse) was already taught there. We may therefore ask, why did the Torah repeat this information here as an introduction to this parsha. Seemingly, this parsha should have begun by relating that Rivkah was barren. Even if we were to answer that this posuk was needed in order to teach us the age of Yitzchak, we may still ask why wasn't this information taught in parshas Chayei Sara together with the other minute details of Yitzchak's match to Rivkah?

Perhaps we may suggest that the marriage of Yitzchak is written twice because it is presented from two different perspectives. In parshas Chayei Sara, the story is told from the perspective of Avraham and Eliezer, whereas here it is told from the perspective of Yitzchak himself.

The Torah describes the event twice in order to teach us that although from the perspective of an outsider it was clear that the match of Yitzchak to Rivkah was accomplished through Divine Providence yet to Yitzchak himself it appeared to be his own doing. In parshas Chayei Sara the Torah goes to great length to describe the unusual Divine Providence which was so overwhelming that even the evil Lavan and Besuel were forced to admit, "form Hashem the matter has come about" (Bereishis 24:50). Yet here when the posuk describes Yitzchak's marriage to Rivkah the posuk says "And Yitzchak … took Rivkah …as a wife for himself." Seemingly the words "as a wife for himself" are extra. We may suggest that these words may homiletically be interpreted as saying that from Yitzchaks point of view, his choice of Rivkah as a wife did not necessitate any unusual Divine intervention.

This indeed is a phenomenon of shidduchim (matchmaking). Despite all the obvious Divine Providence that goes into the making of a shidduch, Hashem deludes the couple into believing that it was their decision. Indeed, this is an additional blessing. Adam Harishon did not choose a wife. Hashem gave him a wife against his will. The posuk says "And He brought her to Adam" (Bereishis 2:22). Later after sinning by eating from the eitz hadaas, (Tree of Knowledge) Adam immediately blamed his wife. He said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me gave me from of the tree and I ate" (Bereishis 3:12). This statement is surprising for most husbands would be careful not to shift the blame to their wives even if they were guilty. Why then did Adam blame his wife? Perhaps the answer is that Adam did not appreciate her because it was not his decision to marry her.

We see from our Parsha that Hashem in his kindness hides the Divine Providence from the couple and allows them to believe that it is they who make the decision to marry. This decision carries a heavy responsibility and thus greatly strengthens the marriage.


And her days grew full to give birth, and behold, twins were in her womb. (Bereishis 25:24)

In describing the birth of Yaakov and Esav the posuk uses the word "ve-hiynai", which is translated as "and behold." This word connotes surprise and the unexpected. For example, we find the same word being used when Yaakov discovered that the woman he married was Leah and not Rachel. The posuk (verse) (Bereishis 29:25) there states that "in the morning ve-hiynai it was Leah." In the context of those posukim it is clear that there was an unexpected turn of events. Yaakov thought that he had married Rachel and then was surprised to discover that he had been fooled into marrying Leah. Likewise here, the posuk appears to indicate that it was a surprise for both Rivkah and Yitzchak that twins were born. They were only expecting one child not two. After all, let us not forget that Rivkah was an akarah and only conceived through the grace of Hashem (G-D). They were thus very surprised that Hashem had performed a double miracle on their behalf.

However, this interpretation is very difficult because we read above that Shem told Rivkah that two nations would emerge from her womb where one would be greater than the other and the older would serve the younger. With this prophecy in mind it should have been very clear to her and Yitzchak that they were destined to have twins. What then was the great surprise?

Let us suggest that Rivkah and Yitzchak misinterpreted the prophecy of Shem. They believed that they would have only a single child. They thought that this single child at some later time would develop into two nations. They believed that it was this single child who had expressed the desire to emerge from the womb to a place of Torah study and to a place of idol worship. The complex, contradictory nature of this child would one day produce two different nations. Even with the Shem's prophecy in mind, they still believed that that they would have a single child and were thus surprised that twins were born.

With this idea let us attempt to suggest a new approach to the blessings given by Yitzchak later in the parsha. More specifically, let us try to understand the intent of Yitzchak and Rivkah in their respective desires to bless the child they felt was worthy of the blessings. Let us ask a basic question. Yitzchak and Rivkah had two children. Shem informed them that two great nation were destined to emerge from her womb. Why then didn't both Rivkah and Yitzchak agree to divide the blessing in two and give each child the element of blessing that was appropriate for that child? Why did they wish to grant one child everything and the other nothing?

The answer is that although it was a surprise to Yitzchak and Rivkah that they had twins they never abandoned their original interpretation of Shem's prophecy. They still believed that only one of their two children would be the progenitor of two nations and not the other. The difficulty they now faced was which of the two would be the progenitor of these two nations. Would it be Yaakov or Esav? Yitzchak believed that it was Esav. He had a multifaceted character. On one hand Esav had the ability to engage his father in profound halachik (Jewish legal) discussion, yet also excelled in the mundane art of hunting. This dual character led Yitzchak to believe that Esav was destined to produce two great and different nations. Indeed, Yitzchak justified this belief immediately before granting the blessings. When Yitzchak kissed Esav he declared, "The voice is the voice of Yaakov but hands are the hands of Esav." This statement reflects an awareness that this child possessed the dual character needed to produce two great but different nations. However, Rivkah saw through the wickedness of Esav believed that it was Yaakov who would be the progenitor of the two great nations. The truth was that both Yitzchak and Rivkah were mistaken. They misinterpreted the prophecy of Shem. The two nations had already come to be. One was the nation that Esav would build and lead, and the other was the nation that Yaakov would build and lead. In truth, it was originally destined for them to share the berachos (blessings) and work together in bringing the world towards its purpose. Each one was supposed to contribute his unique talents towards this purpose, and each would enhance the other.

However, Hashem allowed this confusion to persist because Hashem foresaw that Esav would not be a faithful partner to Yaakov. Hashem thus changed the plan and decreed that Yaakov should receive everything. The nation of Yaakov alone would guide the world towards its destiny and was thus entitled to receive the complete blessing. Had Yitzchak and Rivkah properly understood the true nature of the prophecy they both would have had agreed to divide the blessing in two, and none of this would ever have come to be. Hashem orchestrated the misinterpretation of Rivkah and Yitzchak to effect His own design and purpose.

With this understanding we may suggest that when the posuk relates, "Yitzchak trembled a very great trembling," it was not simply a fear of having given the blessing to the wrong child. Rather, when Esav entered Yitzchak's chambers with the same presentation as Yaakov, Yitzchak was struck with the realization that he had misinterpreted the prophecy. He realized that in truth both nations had already emerged, one from Yaakov and the other from Esav. He understood that he should have instructed both of them to prepare for the blessings just as they had both done without his command. He trembled because he misinterpreted the prophecy and thus caused a single child to receive a double portion without leaving anything to the other.

There is a very powerful message here. Both Rivkah and Yitzchak strongly believed that the child they had chosen was the truly deserving recipient of blessing. The commentators tell us that Yitzchak and Esav were suspicious that Yaakov might attempt to steal the blessings. However, after granting the blessing, Yitzchak was confident that he had accomplished his intent by giving the blessing to Esav and that no one succeeded in outsmarting him. On the other hand, Rivkah believed that she outsmarted Yitzchak and Esav by successfully redirecting the blessings to Yaakov. However ultimately the will and design of Hashem was realized.


Rivka then took the chosen garments of her older son that were with her in the house and dressed Yaakov her younger son. Bereishis (27:15)

The Reisha Rav, Rav Aron Levine, writes that when he was a young man he remembers hearing from his grandfather, HaGoan Rav Yitzchak Yehudah Shmelkis, a homiletic interpretation of this posuk.

The word begadim in our posuk, translated as clothing, can serve as a symbol for the character traits of a human being. For example, a posuk in Iyov reads: "I pursued righteousness until I was garbed in it" (Iyov 29:14). We see here that the trait of righteousness is compared to a garment that is now being worn. Similarly, in Koheles we read "At all times your begadim should be white" (Koheles 9:8). This is interpreted to mean that, at all times your character should sparkle like a clean white garment. Using this idea let us reinterpret the posuk.

We know that the character of Yaakov was perfect. He represented the epitome of honesty, sincerity and purity. He did not embody one iota of falsehood. The character of Eisav, on the other hand, was the diametric opposite. He was a murderer, thief and deceiver. Rivka perceived that the only way that Yaakov would receive the berachos would be through deception. But Yaakov, on his own, was not capable of being deceptive. Deception was Eisav's specialty. Rivka was thus forced to dress Yaakov with Esav's trait of deception in order to succeed in directing the berachos to their deserving recipient. This is then the meaning of the posuk; Rivka dressed Yaakov in Eisav's character.

After hearing this, the Reisha Rav questioned his grandfather. If this is indeed the correct interpretation why the does the posuk say that Rivka dressed Yaakov in Eisav chosen clothing? If the word begadim here truly refers to his character then in no way could the Torah call Eisav's character "chosen." The Hebrew word here for "chosen" is chamudos, which has the connotation of honorable and worthy.

Based on the foundation his grandfather had laid, the Reisha Rav suggested an alternative interpretation. We do find that Esav had one redeeming quality, i.e., the mitzva of kibud av. Kibud av is a mitzva that develops good character. The gemara records that Raban Shimon ben Gamliel said that all his life he served his father, but the quality of his service didn't reach even one hundredth of the quality of service with which Eisav served his father. Rivka realized that in this character trait, Eisav was in danger of surpassing Yaakov. Rivka thus took this chosen trait of kibud av and dressed Yaakov, i.e., she influenced Yaakov to follow the example of Eisav and serve his father delicacies in a similar fashion and thus merit to attain his deserved berachos. This then is the meaning of the posuk; Rivka dressed Yaakov in the chosen trait of Eisav, the character trait of kibud av.

With great satisfaction, Rav Yitzchak Shmelkis agreed with his grandson.


Vayeitzei

And he dreamt and behold! A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward, and behold angels of G-D were ascending and descending on it. (Bereishis 28:12).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the dream of Yaakov. In his dream, he saw a ladder. Rashi explains that its feet stood in Beer-shevah, its upper end in Beis-el and the middle of its incline was opposite Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). The fact that the center of the ladder was directly opposite Yerushalayim indicates that the image of ladder has a symbolic relationship with Yerushalayim. What does this mean?

The Talmud (Eruvin 59b) discusses the legal status of a ladder. It is forbidden to carry on Shabbos from one courtyard to another unless the residents of the two join together in an eruvei chatzaros. An eruv is only effective if there is a legal opening between the two courtyards and at times an eruv may be required if there is a legal opening. For example, if the residents of one courtyard would like to transfer an object to an adjacent courtyard through a crack in the wall or by throwing the object over the wall, the transfer would be forbidden even if the two courtyards join together in a single eruv because there is no legal opening between the two. On the other hand if two courtyards are open to each other and the residents commonly walk between the two through this opening, they may not even carry in their own courtyard unless they all join together in a single eruv. Here the opening prevents the residents of each individual courtyard from carrying even within their own courtyard.

The issue at hand is where the only connection between the two courtyards is a ladder. Is a ladder considered a full fledge opening or merely an extension of the wall? The Gemarah concludes that a ladder can be both. At times is can be considered a connection and at times an extension of the wall. It all depends on the needs and desire of the residents. If they wish to remain separate, the ladder is a like a wall and they need not join together in a single eruv. On the other hand, if they wish to join, the ladder serves as an opening. The halacha (ruling) here recognizes the dual nature of a ladder. See the Gemarah there for another application of this unique principle.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that Yerushalayim is a composite of two words, yeru and shalem. Yeru is short for yirah, which means fear, and shaleim is short for shalom, which means peace. Peace is synonymous with love. Without love there can never be complete unity. Chazal explain that Yerushalayim represents the perfect balance between the attributes of fear and love.

Too much love can lead to promiscuity, and too much fear can lead to cruelty. Avraham, who excelled in the attribute of love, begot Yishmael. Yishmael represents a perversion of love. Yitzchak, the epitome of fear, begot Esav. Esav represents the corruption of fear. Yaakov synthesized the two attributes and was complete. All his children had the proper balance.

Love by nature represents the concept of coming close and joining together. Fear, on the hand, represents the concept of distance. We distance ourselves from what we are afraid of. For example, we cover our heads to create a barrier between ourselves and Hashem (G-D) as an expression of fear.

We may suggest that this is why the ladder serves as a perfect symbol of Yerushalayim. Just as Halacha recognizes the dual nature of a ladder, sometimes serving as a separation and at other times a bridge, similarly Yerushalayim is the perfect balance between our fear of Hashem and our yearning to come close to Him.


He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took from the stones of place and he put them around his head and lay down in that place. (Bereishis 28:11)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn how Yaakov (Jacob) laid down to rest in the place where the beis hamikdash (temple) would eventually be built. Rashi tells us that Yaakov arranged stones around his head like a gutter pipe to protect it against dangerous animals. A simple understanding of this statement is that a gutter pipe is closed on three sides and open on the forth. Yaakov arranged the stones in such a way and inserted his head in the open side. His head was thus protected on three sides.

We may ask why was it necessary for Rashi to tell us that the shape of the stones was like that of gutter pipe. Seemingly it would have sufficed to say that he put stones around his head for protection. Furthermore, what about his body? Why was Yaakov not concerned for its protection? We may therefore suggest that there is an additional symbolic teaching hidden in the mention of the gutter pipe surrounding the head of Yaakov.

The posuk (verse) says that he lay down in "that" place. Rashi comments that the word "that" serves as an exclusion. It was only in that place where he laid down to rest but during the fourteen years he spent in the academy of A'ver he did not lay down because he was occupied with Torah study. We learn from this that there is a relationship between the sleep mentioned here and lack of sleep alluded to at the academy of A'ver. What is this relationship?

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that Torah is compared to water as it says "all that are thirsty go to water." The Gemara explains that just as water gravitates to low places so does Torah find its way to the humble.

A gutter pipe is an object that collects water. It prevents dripping water from haphazardly falling off the roof and going to waste. The gutter pipe collects the water and directs it to specific location. During the waking hours of the day a person has many thoughts and ideas. As a person sleeps the mind collects these thoughts and ideas, organizes them and stores them. When a person awakes he feels that the ideas and thoughts of yesterday are firm and secure.

All the ideas and thoughts of Torah that Yaakov experienced over his fourteen years of study may be compared to drops of rain water that fall on the roof. As Yaakov laid down to sleep his mind collected these Torah thought and ideas, organized them and stored them within his mind. Chazal chose to mention a gutter pipe surrounding the head of Yaakov to illustrate that the purpose of Yaakov going to sleep was to collect and preserve his Torah accomplishments of the past fourteen years.

The posukim (authorities) go on to tell us Yaakov arose early in the morning, took the stone that he had placed around his head, set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. He then took a vow saying that if Hashem (G-D) would be with him he would establish that stone as the house of Hashem. The commentators explain this to mean that Yaakov vowed to establish the stone as the foundation of the Beis Hamikdash, the place where man would serve Hashem by offering sacrifices and prayer.

Why did Yaakov designate the stone as the house of Hashem and not the earth as the location of the house of Hashem?

Yaakov was teaching us an important principle in serving Hashem. Prayer and Torah study are interdependent. The stone was the gutter pipe mentioned above. The gutter pipe was symbolic of Yaakov's fourteen years of Torah accomplishments. Is was specifically this stone that Yaakov wished to use as the foundation of the Beis Hamikdash. Success in prayer is dependent on a foundation of Torah accomplishment. Likewise, success in Torah study is dependent on a foundation of prayer. Yaakov taught us this principle when he combined the two.

Indeed we find this theme throughout the Torah and Chazal. For example, on Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) enters the holy of holies to pray for the atonement of the Jewish People. It is in this place where the Holy Ark containing the Torah is found. Furthermore, the Beis Hamikdash is not only a central location of prayer it is also home to the Great Sanhedrin of seventy one elders who embody the authority of Torah law.

In our times, although we do not have a Beis Hamikdash the Gemara tells us about Abayei who said that he only wanted to pray in the place were he studied Torah. The Gemara explains that after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem said that all He has in this world is the four cubics of Torah. It is here in this place of Torah that Abayei felt he could find Hashem receptive to answer his prayers.

To conclude we note the very end of our Shemonah Esrei prayer, "May it be Your will Hashem that You rebuild the Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days and grant us our portion in your Torah." We learn from this prayer that these two concepts, Torah and prayer are related and dependent on each other.


He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took form the stones of the place and put them around his head and lay down in that place. (Bereishis 28:11)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn how Yaakov (Jacob) traveled from Be'er Sheva to Charan. Rashi explains that after Yaakov arrived at Charan he was concerned that he passed over Har Hamoriah (Mount Moriah), the place where the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) will be built and did not pray there as his father and grandfather did. Immediately, he set out to return to Har Hamoriah. At that point, Hashem (G-D) performed a miracle and brought Har Hamoriah to Yaakov thereby obviating the journey.

The commentators ask an obvious question. Why did Yaakov originally not plan to pray at Har Hamoriah, the place where his forefathers prayed? What changed so that he regretted not visiting Har Hamoriah in the first place?

In the Sefer Shemen Hatov (Vol. 4) Rav Bernard Weinberger presents two answers to this question. The Sefas Emes explains that Yaakov did not want to approach the place of the Beis Hamikdash without proper preparation. His main destination was Charan. He considered it disrespectful to stop off at Har Hamoria on the way to Charan. It would have had the appearance that it was not worthy of a trip in its own right. It was only after he arrived at his planned destination that he decided to make a special trip to Har Hamoriah.

HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Yaakov believed that Har Hamoria had become defiled due to idolatry and was thus no longer a proper place to pray to Hashem. After Yaakov arrived in Charan and reflected upon this, Hashem performed a miracle by uprooting the mountain from its defiled surroundings and brought it to Yaakov so that he could go and pray on the mountain.

Perhaps we can suggest another answer. Yaakov was raised in the illustrious homes of Yitzchak and Avraham (Isaac and Abraham) and had just finished studying for fourteen years at the academy of Shem and Evar. After developing for so many years under their guidance, perhaps he now felt that he had a sufficient foundation upon which to go out into the world and make a name or himself. As he left for Charan he did not feel that it was necessary to stop and pray at Har Hamoria, the place where his father and grandfather had prayed. Har Hamoria was their legacy, not his. His spiritual foundation was secure and he was to go forward on his own. However, upon reaching his destination he realized the necessity of reinforcing the spiritual foundation of his father and grandfather. Thus, he returned to his the places where his forefathers prayed.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that what happened to our forefathers is a sign for us. This sequence of events is indeed a natural process in the development of an individual, and on a larger scale, a new generation. Sometimes we think that we could accomplish more than our parents, grandparents and predecessors or at least do things better and more efficiently. However we soon realize that we were foolish to think that we can succeed without building on their legacy and it is in their merit that we are blessed in our endeavors.


He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took form the stones of the place which he arranged around his head and lay down in that place (Bereishis 28:11).

In its description of Yaakov's (Jacob's) visit to Beis-el the posuk (verse) employs the unusual word vayifgah. This word has been translated to mean encountered. The connotation of this word implies a sudden unexpected meeting. Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) explain that after Yaakov arrived in Charan he said to himself perhaps I have passed Mount Moriah, the place where my father and grandfather prayed and I had failed to stop and pray. Yaakov then decided to return. Immediately thereafter the land miraculously contracted and Yaakov found himself at Mount Moriah. It was thus a sudden meeting with the place.

Chazal also explain that the word vayifgah is related to prayer. Indeed this posuk teaches us that Yaakov instituted the evening prayer. The commentaries explain that the evening is symbolic of the darkness of exile. Yaakov's evening prayer is thus symbolic of the power of prayer in times of galus. Yaakov's institution of the evening prayer is indeed very meaningful and practical for us now living in galus.

It is no coincidence that chazal derive these seemingly two distinct concepts from the same word. The homiletic message is that just as the travel time for Yaakov was miraculously shortened likewise the objects of our desires although they may seem distant can be miraculously attained through prayer.

Chazal further note that the shortening of the road that occurred with respect to Yaakov was qualitatively different than the shortening of the road the occurred with others, specifically Eliezer. With regard to Eliezer chazal note that the road became shorter. The location of his destination remained in place. It was only that Hashem (G-D) miraculously reduced his travel time. However, here chazal derive the Yaakov did not travel at all, instead the place of his destination came to him. (Chulin 91b)

When we combine this observation with the above idea we may derive an insight into the power of prayer. One would be inclined to believe that through prayer we receive Divine assistance to achieve our goals. However even with prayer we must take the necessary steps needed to achieve our objectives. Our prayer helps only to protect us from obstacles that stand in the way or to prevent any deviation of the necessary steps that are required. However, from the above observation we may learn that prayer is so powerful that it may even cause the objects of our desire to come directly to us. Sincere prayer has the power to completely eliminate the necessary steps needed to achieve our objectives.


Then Lavan said to him (Yaakov), nevertheless, you are my bone and my flesh and he stayed with him for one month (Bereishis 29:14).

Prashas (Torah portio) Vayeitzei elaborates the evil deeds and plans of Lavan. In the Hagadah Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) clearly identify Lavan as an extremely evil man. We read there that Lavan wished to completely uproot the Jewish People. Chazal base this on the posuk "arami oved avi" (Devarim 26:5), which is loosely translated as, an arami attempted to destroy our forefather. Chazal identify the "arami" as none other than Lavan.

Chazal teach us that there are two types of sinners. The first type is one who sins because of uncontrollable desires. He is overwhelmed by his passions and stumbles in sin. The second type of sinner is one who sins deliberately. The first type of sinner is not nearly as bad as the second one. The first only sins due to a lack of discipline whereas the second sins in spite. If we look at the actions of Lavan they do not clearly indicate as to what type of sinner he was. Perhaps, one can make a case that Lavan only acted sinfully due to his uncontrollable desires. Lavan had a great desire for wealth and perhaps that is what guided his actions. Even the evil act of switching Leah for Rachel can be attributed to his acting in his own best interest. He simply wished to marry off his older daughter before the younger. Where then do we see the extreme evil of Lavan for which he deserved the description of one who wished to annihilate the Jewish people?

After meeting Yaakov for the first time Lavan secretly inspected Yaakov's materiel goods. After realizing that Yaakov had not a penny to his name Lavan said, "Nevertheless, you are my bone and flesh." The word the Torah uses for "nevertheless" is "ach" The commentators explain this word literally means "but" and are perplexed as to why the Torah chose this word to convey the implied meaning of "nevertheless."

In parshas Noach the posuk says "Only Noach survived and those that were him in the ark" (Bereishis 7:23). The word the Torah uses for "only" is the same "ach" found here. There, Chazal teach us that the word "ach" may homiletically be interpreted as meaning "to cough." The commentators explain that this interpretation is derived from the fact the word "ach" phonetically has the actual sound of one coughing and spitting up. The posuk (verse) is thus interpreted as saying that Noach coughed and spit up blood due to the difficulties and pain he incurred while caring for the animals.

Perhaps we may homiletically interpret the words of Lavan in this fashion as well. The first type of sinner mentioned above would be proud to be related to a great holy man like Yaakov regardless of his financial status. Although he himself may have stumbled in sin this does not reflect his true essence. Deep down this sinner also wishes to be righteous. It is only due to his personal weakness that he fails to overcome his evil inclination. However, here the very first thing Lavan said to Yaakov was "ach." This may homiletically be interpreted as meaning that Lavan was deeply disturbed with the fact that he was related to a "poor talmud chacham (Torah scholar)." He moaned, coughed and spit up blood over his tragic fate. The only thing that Lavan valued was wealth. Righteousness and spiritual accomplishments were not only worthless but a severe liability.

It is noteworthy that in addition to the above posuk of Lavan described Yaakov as a relative of bone and flesh we also find a similar expression regarding Adam and Chava. The posuk says "and Adam said (concerning Chava), this time it is a bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Bereishis 2:23). Indeed, here it was true in its literal sense in that Chava was created from Adam's actual bone and flesh. We may ask why did Adam preface his words with the expression "this time," what other time was he alluding to that was different.

Perhaps we may suggest that Adam foresaw that one day there would be a Lavan who would embrace Yaakov with this similar expression. Adam realized that for Lavan it was a great tragedy to have a religious relative like Yaakov. Adam wish to disassociate himself from that position by stating that it is only "this time" that he has met a true relative. The posuk goes on to say that Adam cleaved to his wife unlike Lavan who wished to distance himself. Thus Adam was implying that although Lavan said he was of the same bone and flesh as Yaakov his words and actions indicated otherwise.


Leah's eyes were soft while Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance. (Bereishis 29:17)

Commenting on the word "rachos"(soft) Rashi explains that Leah feared that she would be forced to marry Eisav. This was because it was well known that Rivkah had two sons and her brother Lavan had two daughters. Everyone assumed that these two sets of cousins were ideal for each other. It was further assumed that the older brother would marry the older sister and the younger brother would marry the younger sister. Leah the older daughter who was entirely righteous was greatly distressed with her perspective wicked groom, the older brother Eisav and therefore cried. The posuk (verse) alludes to this by describing Rivkah as one who had soft eyes.

Interestingly, the Targum has an entirely different interpretation. The Targum translates the word "rachos" as "ya'ay'yan" which means beautiful. The posuk thus compliments Leah as having beautiful eyes. However, this leaves us to infer that the only thing that was beautiful about Leah were her eyes. This is in sharp contrast to Rachel whom the posuk describes as completely beautiful.

However, if we take a closer look at the Torah's description of Rachel we will notice that with regard to her as well the Torah is not completely complimentary. The posuk specifies that Rachel "hayisah" beautiful, which is translated as, "Rachel was beautiful." There is an emphasis on the past. This stands in contrast to the Torah's description of Leah's beautiful eyes where this emphasis is omitted. Furthermore, if we examine the Torah's description of Sarah's and Rivkah's beauty, there too, the Torah does not emphasize that it was something that 'was.' The emphasis of Rachel's beauty as something that was, intimates that it was temporary and did not endure. On the other hand Leah remained with permanently beautiful eyes. Indeed, the phenomenon of ephemeral physical beauty vs. the permanent beauty of the eyes is common even today.

In summery, we see that the Torah in a single posuk compliments both Rachel and Leah. Each compliment has a downside. Leah is complimented as having permanently beautiful eyes. The downside is that this implies that nothing else about her was beautiful. On the other hand, Rachel is complimented as being entirely beautiful. The downside is that the wording of the posuk hints that that it was only temporary.

Using this interpretation let us take a new look at a well-known Gemara. The Gemara (Kesubos 16b) relates a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai concerning the proper method of praising a newlywed bride. Beis Hillel's opinion is that one should praise the bride as beautiful and graceful. Beis Shamai disagrees and opines that one should praise her for what she is. From the ensuing give-and-take of the Gemara, it appears that we are discussing a bride that is not truly beautiful. The simple interpretation of Beis Hillel is that 'for the sake of peace' we bend the truth a bit and praise her as completely beautiful. Beis Shamai disagrees and opines that we must adhere to the absolute truth; therefore, we must be careful not to lie even slightly. As for praising the bride, we do the best we can without exaggerating.

This interpretation of Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai is difficult. If it is true that we are dealing with a bride that is not beautiful, what justification can Beis Hillel give for allowing us to lie? In addition to being unethical with such praise, whom are we fooling? If the bride is clearly not beautiful, it would be a mockery to praise her as beautiful. Likewise, according to Beis Shamai if we will praise only a single quality of the bride doesn't that imply that there is nothing else good to say about her? Does this praise not qualify as an insult?

In attempt to answer these difficulties let us suggest that the Gemara is really discussing a bride who is beautiful according to all the standards of the word. It goes without saying that if the bride were not beautiful then both Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai would take into consideration the sensitivity of the bride and the ethics for speaking falsely. Yet, even here where the bride is truly beautiful they also disagree. The question here is what should we emphasize when praising the bride. Should we praise her beauty, which is only ephemeral, or focus on a permanent quality that will endure for the rest of her life. By focusing on a single quality we need not be concerned that there might be an insulting implication because all can clearly see that she excels on all levels. Beis Hillel opines that we follow in the Torah's example of Rachel. Although her beauty was described as only something that was temporary, nevertheless this is how the Torah chose to praise her. On the other hand, Beis Shamai disagrees and feels that we should follow the example of Leah. The Torah praises her with a permanent single quality.

Perhaps the dispute between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel revolves around the exact purpose of praising the bride at her wedding. Beis Hillel believes that the primary purpose of giving praise is to provide enjoyment and satisfaction to the groom and bride now. Thus, even though the qualities that we praise her are fleeting, it does not matter. Because they exist now, we may praise her with these qualities now. Beis Shamai disagrees and believes that the primary purpose of praising the bride is so that the groom and bride can for the rest of their lives reflect on this moment and derive satisfaction. This can only be truly accomplished if the praise given is something that will always remain true.

We are familiar that in all disputes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai we generally follow the opinion of Beis Hillel as Halacha. The commentators explain this is because Beis Hillel is generally lenient whereas Beis Shamai is strict. We, who are presently spiritually weak, are not yet ready to adhere to the strict rulings of the Beis Shamai and therefore settle for the more lenient rulings of Beis Hillel. The commentators inform us that 'in the end of the days' when Moshiach comes, and we are elevated to a higher spiritual realm, we will be ready for the strict rulings of Beis Shamai and we will follow those opinions exclusively. It can be suggested that in a homiletic sense our dispute here between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel with regard to the method of praising a bride precisely illustrates this idea.

When the groom is young and immature he tends to seek what is enjoyable for the moment without taking into account the consequences. When a young immature man finds his bride he likes to hear that she is like Rachel who is described as completely beautiful but pretends not to hear the word 'was.' The young immature groom is satisfied to follow the opinion of Beis Hillel and settle for what is beautiful now. However, as he matures, grows old and approaches 'the end of his days' he is forced to accept the opinion of Beis Shamai, which emphasizes the truly permanent qualities of the bride.

In conclusion let us note that that the dispute here concerns only the proper method of giving praise. However, in seeking qualities of a perspective spouse, there is an undisputed Gemara. The Gemara says that one should check the eyes of his perspective spouse. If they are beautiful then one not need worry about anything else. We may ask why does the Gemara focus specifically on the eyes? Perhaps the Gemara is referring symbolically to the permanent nature of the eyes. The Gemara is telling us to look for qualities that will endure forever, like intellect, righteous lineage, and education. We are warned not to seek shallow and ephemeral qualities such as wealth and beauty.


And he dreamt and behold there was a ladder stationed on earth with its top reaching heaven. And behold angels of Hashem were ascending and descending upon it. (Bereishis 28:12)

Commenting on this posuk, the Medrash Rabbah informs us that the ladder is a symbol of Mount Sinai. A source for this is the fact that the numerical value of both sulam (ladder) and Sinai (Mount Sinai) are the same. The Medrash continues to explain that the angels of Hashem mentioned in the posuk refer to Moshe and Aharon.

Taken at face value, the Medrash could simply be telling us that both Moshe and Aharon were involved in going up Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. This interpretation is difficult, however, because Aharon was not actually fully involved; only Moshe was. Why then does the posuk, according to the Medrash, include Aharon?

Let us suggest a homiletic interpretation of this Medrash. But first we must introduce a few concepts.

Sinai is a symbol of humility. The Gemara (Megilah 29) tells us that Hashem chose to give the Torah on Mount Sinai because it was the lowest of all mountains, i.e., the most humble of all. Going a step further, we are aware that the main characteristic of a ladder is that it has rungs, i.e., levels. By connecting a ladder with humility, we are informed that within humility there are many levels. There is extreme humility that corresponds to the lowest rung and there is less extreme humility, which corresponds to the higher rungs.

With regard to Torah, we must strive for the extreme level of humility. The Gemarah (Taanis 7a) equates Torah with water as written in the posuk: "He who is ever thirsty go to water." (Yeshayah 55:1) The posuk is interpreted as meaning that whoever is thirsty for Hashem should delve into the Torah." The Gemarah goes further to explains that just as water descends to the lowest level, so too Torah can be found only in the humble. We must also, however, understand that although extreme humility is a most honorable trait, it is not always appropriate for every situation. For example, it is not desirable for a king to display extreme signs of humility. A king is not even allowed to be forgiving with his honor. A king, by definition, is higher and thus elevated from his people. The same holds true for Kohanim. By definition, they are elevated above the rest of Klal Yisroel and it is only they who may serve in the Bais Hamikdash.

The posuk (Bamidbar 12:3) informs us that Moshe was the most humble man on the face of the earth. He occupied a lower rung on the ladder of humility than did Aharon his brother. As explained above, Torah demands extreme humility. Therefore, it was precisely because Moshe was the most humble of all that he was the ideal candidate to receive and transmit the Torah. But he was not ideal to lead the Kohanim. As explained above, kehuna requires a level of humility that does exhibit small signs of pride. For this, Aharon was the ideal candidate.

What emerges from the ideas explained above is that both Moshe and Aharon served the leadership position that fit each of them best. Moshe, who embodied the epitome of humility, was chosen to receive and transmit the Torah, whereas Aharon, who embodied the humility of a higher rung, i.e., had a bit of pride, was chosen to lead the Kohanim. Their respective character and positions were thus mutually exclusive.

Now let us return to reinterpret the Medrash.

Yaakov dreamt and he saw a ladder. The Medrash tells us this was Mount Sinai, which we now interpret as symbol of humility. The posuk continues: "it was stationed in the earth but its head reached heaven." This can be interpreted based on a Gemara.(Eruvin 13b) "Whoever lowers himself will be raised by Hashem." The posuk tells us that the character of humility is such that if it "is positioned in the earth," i.e., one humbles himself, eventually "its head reached the heaven," i.e., Hashem will elevate him to greatness. The posuk continues: "Behold he saw that angels of Hashem were ascending and descending upon it." The Medrash tells us that the angels refer to Moshe and Aharon. This can now be interpreted as the reason why Moshe and Aharon's life missions were mutually exclusive. Moshe, who possessed the extreme trait of humility, served as the recipient of Torah. He was thus oleh (rose), i.e., rose to greatness in being the individual chosen to receive the Torah but at the same time he was yoraid descended), i.e., rejected to serve as the leader of the Kohanim. Conversely, as a result of his station on the ladder of humility, Aharon was oleh (raised) to the position is serving as the leader of the Kohanim but this rung also caused him to be yoraid in his ability to serve as the recipient of the Torah on behalf of the Jewish people.

We learn from this that we must also position ourselves on the ladder of humility. When learning Torah, we must descend to the lowest rung and strive for the extreme level of humility. When acting in the capacity of leader, in whatever form it might be, we must rise a rung or two and display small signs of pride. However, we must never forget to remain positioned on the ladder regardless of the circumstance. Only then will we merit the continuation of the next posuk: "And behold Hashem was standing above him."


Vayishlach

When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the ball of his thighbone; and the ball of Yaakov's (Jacob's) thighbone become dislocated as he wrestled with him (Bereishis 32:26).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn how the guardian angel of Eisav (Esau) wrestled with Yaakov. After the angel perceived that he was unable to defeat Yaakov he dislocated his thighbone.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign for us. The wound that the guardian of Eisav inflicted on Yaakov has major significance for us today. Chazal offer many interpretations. One approach is that this act symbolically represents the damage done to the supporters of Torah. Just as the thighbone that supported Yaakov was damaged, likewise historically the support of Torah would be weakened and achieved only with great difficulty and hardship.

In a similar fashion The Ramban explain that this refers to the generation of shmad, the turbulent time in Jewish history were many were Jews were forced to abandon their heritage due to severe persecution by the descendants of Eisav.

By drawing from the major commentaries let us attempt now to offer another homiletic interpretation into the significance of the harm inflicted by the guardian angle of Eisav on Yaakov.

The Sh'lah Ha'Kodosh notes that the Hebrew word yerech (thigh) has three letters. They are, yud, reish and chaf. They stand for yam (sea), rakiah (heaven) and kisei (throne). He continues to explain that the word yerech alludes to the techeiles, wool dyed with an extract of the chilazon that produces a royal blue color. The Gemarah teaches us that the color of the techeiles is similar to the color of the sea and the color of the sea is similar to the color of the heaven and the color of the heaven is similar to the color of the throne of Hashem. We learn from here that with regard to the techeiles, the sea, heaven and throne play important roles. Being that the word yerech has the first letters of these three words, we derive that there is a relationship between the two. The Sh'lah HaKodosh continues to develop this idea in his own way. We will borrow from him just this basic concept that there is a relationship between the word yerech and techeiles.

The posuk says that the guardian angel struck the "kaf ha'yareich." Rashi translates the word kaf as the socket of the hip. However other commentators (Marpei Lashon) translate the word as "corner." In this context it means that the guardian angel struck at the corner or edge of the thighbone. The proof comes from the targum who translates this word similar to the way he translates the word "pa'as" in the expression "pa'as zik'un'chah" which simply means the corner of the face or beard.

It emerges that the word yerech is related to techeiles and the word kaf is related to the corner. Although the techeiles was used in the construction of the mishkan (tabernacle) and as part of the special clothing of the kohanim, (priests) the only place where we find the techeiles in connection to a corner is the mitzvah (commandment) of tzizis. The Torah says "and they shall place upon the tzizis of each corner a thread of techeiles" (Bamidbar 15:38).

We may now suggest a new homiletic interpretation of the posuk. When the posuk says that the guardian angel struck at the kaf ha'yareich it may be interpreted as meaning that he dislodged the thread of techeiles that was tied to the corner of Yaakov's garment. Chazal tell us that our forefathers observed the entire torah before it was given. Certainly, Yaakov wore a four cornered garment with tzitzis and techeiles. Yaakov's techeiles was the casualty of his encounter with the guardian angel of Eisav. What we now need to know is why did the guardian angel of Eisav dislodge specifically his techeiles? What is the significance of this? What is the relevance to us?

In our times of galus (exile) we do not have a Beis Hamikdash (Temple). Due to its absence there are many mitzvos that we are unable to perform. However all other mitzvos that are not dependent on the Beis Hamikdash are observed in their entirety. There is however one exception, the mitzvah of techeiles. The reason we do not practice this mitzvah has nothing to do the absence of the Beis Hamikdash; it is due solely to fact that we no longer can identify with certainty the chilazon from which the techeiles is produced. The identity of the chilazon was lost due to severe persecution the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the descendents of Eisav over one thousand years ago.

Indeed, the commentators teach us that the absence of the techeiles in our time is hinted in the Torah. The mitzvah of tzitzis has two parts, the white threads and the techeiles. With regard to the white threads the Torah says "Speak to the children of Israel and say to them that they shall make for themselves tzitzis on the corners of their garments throughout their generations" (Bamidbar 15:38). The Torah emphasizes that the mitzvah of tzitzis will be observed throughout all their generations. However, in connection to the techeiles the Torah says "and they shall place upon the tzitzis of each corner a thread of techeiles" (Bamidbar 15:38). Here the posuk omits mention of "throughout their generations," intimating that in our history we will not merit to have techeiles in all generations. It may be noted that although many observant Jews today wear techeiles derived from the cuttlefish (Radzyner), Janthina snail (Rav Herzog) or the Murex Trunculus, the consensus of the Halachik authorities is that it is only used out doubt not out of certainty for they lack the verification of tradition.

In order to further understand the relationship between the "kaf ha'yareich" and the techeiles we need to explore another approach to the encounter of the guardian angel of Eisav and Yaakov.

We simply translate the words "kaf ha'yareich" as the socket of the thighbone. However some of the commentators understand this to refer to the bris milah, the reproductive organ of man. The commentators further explain that the word yerech (thigh) when translated as the bris milah is a euphemism for the sanctity of Jewish marriage and the abhorrence of the severe sin of forbidden relationships and all immoral extensions of these laws.

When the guardian angel of Eisav attempted to harm Yaakov, he was only permitted to physically harm him if he found a spiritual flaw. After a whole night of inspection the only sin the angel could find was that Yaakov married two sisters, a law the Torah prohibits. Although this was not considered a real sin because the laws of the Torah had not gone into effect before matan (the giving of the) Torah and in addition, Yaakov married them while living outside Eretz Yisroel, nevertheless, the angel was able to use this as reason to inflict harm upon Yaakov. The physical harm caused by the guardian angel of Eisav corresponded to this spiritual sin. Yaakov sinned in marriage thus he was harmed in the "yareich," i.e., matters pertaining to forbidden relationships. Indeed Chazal find this hinted in the words "gid ha'nashe," which is another expression the Torah uses to describe the wound inflicted by guardian of Eisav. The word "nashe" is related to the word "nasah," which is translated as marriage.

Using these ideas we may interpret the posuk as meaning that due to the fact the angel found a microscopic flaw in Yaakov in that he married two sisters, he was able to weaken his descendents resolve to adhere to the strict laws of forbidden relationships.

We now ask how did the angel actually create a breach in this matter? Where exactly in our history can we identify the limp in the descendents of Yaakov in connection to forbidden relationships?

The answer is that due to the persecution the suffered at the hands of the descendents of Eisav, the Jewish people completely forgot the identity of the chilazon, the source of the techeiles.

In connection to the mitzvah of tzizis and techeiles the Torah says "you shall see it and you shall remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them and you shall not spy after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray. (Bamidbar 15:39) The Torah here reveals that the techeiles is a tool that Hashem gave us to help overcome the evil inclination in connection to forbidden relationships. The descendents of Eisav have succeeded in taking away this tool from us. For over one thousand years the Jewish people travel through history with a limp. The absence of techeiles.

After Yaakov's encounter with the guardian angel the posuk says that he arrived in Shechem complete. Chazal tell us that he was healed from his limping. Likewise, this is a sign for his descendents that in the proper time before the return of the Beis Hamikdash the limp will be healed. The identity of the chilazon will become known with certainty and the techeiles will be restored. We will have at our disposal all the tools we need to effectively guard ourselves from the evil inclination once again.


And Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn (Bereishis 32:25).

Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) note that generally the Hebrew word "ad" which is translated as "until," can sometimes be interpreted to mean, "until but not including" and sometimes be interpreted to mean "until and including." The posuk (verse) here says here that a man, who chazal identify as Esav's guardian angel, wrestled with Yaakov until the break of dawn. We may ask, how do we interpret the posuk? Does the word "ad" here mean that they wrestled only until the break of dawn but not a moment after or perhaps it conveys that they wrestled until the break of dawn and after as well, as the word "ad" is sometimes interpreted?

It is noteworthy that Rashi here gives two interpretations for the word "va'yay'avaik," which has been translated above as wrestled. Rashi's first interpretation is that va'yay'avaik is derived from the word "avak," i.e. dust. In our context this is interpreted to mean that the wrestling between that sar shel (angel of) Esav and Yaakov was so intense that it brought up dust. Rashi's second interpretation is that va'yay'avaik is related to an Aramaic word that means to be bound up in an embrace. In our context this is interpreted as meaning that to an observer it appeared as if the sar shel Esav and Yaakov embraced each other. Indeed, the nature of wrestling involves embrace.

Based on these two interpretations the Chasam Sofer offers a homiletic insight. We know that the enemies of the Jewish people have two strategies in their attempt to eliminate us. One approach is to openly destroy and thus reduce us to nothing. This approach is hinted to in Rashi's first interpretation when he says that the word va'yay'avaik is rooted in the word dust. At times our enemies attempt to reduce us to dust. The other approach of our enemies is to eliminate us through assimilation. They embrace us and bring us near only so that we learn from their evil ways and defile our holiness. This approach is alluded to in Rashi's second interpretation when he says that the word va'yay'avaik is related to the word embrace.

Perhaps we may use the homiletic interpretation of the Chasam Sofer to answer our question. Chazal teach us that whatever event happened for our forefathers is a sign for us. The posuk says that the battle of the sar shel Esuv and Yaakov extended until the break of dawn. This is a sign that the struggle of survival for the Jewish people will continue until the dawn of redemption. Now, if we interpret the word "ad" to mean, "until but not including" then we may suggest that the word va'yay'avaik is derived from the word dust. This indicates that in our struggle for survival throughout galus (exile) it is the wish of our enemies that we be reduced to dust. However when we interpret the word "ad" to mean "until and including" then this alludes to Rashi's other interpretation where the word va'yay'avaik is related to the word embrace. This may then be interpreted as meaning that when the dawn of redemption arrives the nations of the world will recognize our superiority and not only will they cease from wishing to eliminate us but will even embrace us with sincerity.


And Yaakov sent malachim (angels) before him to his brother Eisav. (Bereishis 32:4)

Commenting on the word malachim, Rashi notes that Yaakov sent real spiritual angels to greet Eisav. The commentators inform us that with the performance of a mitzvah (commandment) an angel is created that serves as an advocate for the person who preformed that mitzvah. The Bal Shem Tov notes that the first letters of the first four words in this posuk (verse) spell 'vyamal' which is translated as 'he circumcised.' This idea together with the aforementioned Rashi intimates that the angels Yaakov sent were those that were created through the performance of the mitzvah of circumcision. (See 'On the Eight Day' by Rabbi Eliezer Ginsburg, Artscroll, for an elaboration.) We may ask, what significance lay in angels created from circumcision that Yaakov decided to choose them as his representatives in greeting his brother Eisav?

Before we attempt to answer this question we must lay out some background.

First, a basic principle of Judaism is the notion that the Jewish people humble themselves to their elders and forefathers. Indeed, three times a day, we begin the critical section of our prayer by declaring that Hashem is the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. It is noteworthy that we have three commandments in which we are obligated to perform actions that express this concept. The commandments are: (1) to honor one's parents, (2) circumcision and (3) to live in Eretz Yisroel (the Land Of Israel). Honoring one's parents is self-understood. Circumcision is unique in that the primary commandment of the performance of circumcision is upon no one other than the father. Only where the father is unable or unavailable to carry out his obligation is this responsibility redirected to another. Circumcision thus forges a bond between the father and son because the son is aware for the remainder of his life that it was his father who was responsible for his circumcision. The third commandment mentioned above was to live in Eretz Yisroel. When we live in Eretz Yisroel we are not living in the land that Hashem gave directly to us. We are living in the land that Hashem gave us through our forefathers, as stated clearly in the Torah (Bereishis 12:7, 26:3-4, 28:13.) Thus, every moment of life in Eretz Yisroel expresses a connection to our forefathers who earned the land that Hashem gave to them and who have in turn bequeathed it to us.

Second, with regard to these three mitzvos, although it is true that at times they are fulfilled only through suffering and hardship, however, only with regard to one is the actual nature of the mitzvah one of suffering. This is the commandment of circumcision. It addition to the obvious pain of the child, the father is apprehensive of subjecting his child to this operation.

Third, the commentators tell us that Yaakov was afraid of Eisav because he realized that Eisav possessed the merit of two great mitzvos that he lacked. They were the mitzvos of honoring one's parents and living in Eretz Yisroel. Yaakov was away from his parents and Eretz Yisroel for twenty-two years and thus lost out on both of these mitzvos for a significant period of time.

Finally, the Midrash tells us that Eisav never had a circumcision. He was born with a severely reddish complexion causing his parent to be concerned that the performance of a circumcision would be life threatening. As he grew older and was proven to be healthy, he skillfully delayed his circumcision until he got away without having one at all.

Now, with all this in mind let us return to our question. Why did Yaakov send angels that were created through the performance of circumcision? The answer is that Yaakov delivered a sharp warning to Eisav with the presence of these particular angels. Yaakov realized that in addition to feeling secure with his physical prowess, Eisav also felt confident that he prevailed over Yaakov on a spiritual level. In contrast to Yaakov, Eisav did after all succeed in fulfilling two of the aforementioned fundamental mitzvos during the last twenty-two years, the mitzvos of honoring one's parents and living in Eretz Yisroel. With these angels Yaakov reminded Esav that he still lacked the third mitzvah of circumcision that he possessed. Although it was only a single mitzvah and thus the minority of the three, its quality is greater. Circumcision forges a bond between the child and parent through pain and suffering. The two mitzvos Esav fulfilled came to him with relative ease. Yaakov was stating that his fundamental connection to his roots even without Eretz Yisroel and kibud av (honoring a father) was stronger because it was one that came through pain and suffering. Therefore, the merits of Yaakov would outweigh the merits of Esav.

The message is simple. What counts is quality, not quantity. If a person performs only a few mitzvos with diligence, fervor, perseverance and sacrifice, as Yaakov did, they can truly outweigh many mitzvos that one performs lacking this quality of service as in the case of Eisav.


Rescue me, please, from the hand of my brother, form the hand of Esav, for I fear him lest he come and strike me, mother and children. (Bereishis 32:12)

The posuk (verse) (parshas mishpatim 21:19) reads v'rapo yirape (and he, i.e., a doctor, shall heal). The Gemara (Bava Kamma 85) writes that from this posuk we learn that a doctor has permission to heal. The Torah teaches us that we shall not think that it is forbidden for a doctor to heal because the doctor would be interfering with the will of Hashem. But rather Hashem desires that a doctor come to the aid of a suffering patient. The Ramban (Parshas Bechukosai) goes further. He writes that this permission to seek a doctor's aid is only for those who do not posses complete faith. It is they who need and must seek the aid of doctors. It is they who must make every effort possible to alleviate their suffering. Those who have complete faith, by contrast, need only pray to Hashem and place their complete trust in Him for their healing.

This Ramban presents us with a difficulty. Why in our parsha (Torah portion) did Yaakov prepare presents and divide his camps into two parts. Why did Yaakov make all these physical preparations for his encounter with his brother? It is true that we are far removed from the level of faith needed to follow the advice of the Ramban in abandoning the doctors and placing our complete faith in Hashem, but would not Yaakov Avinu (Our Father) the "chosen of the Avos" be at such a level of faith. If the Ramban is at least not referring to Yaakov, then to whom is he referring? It is interesting that we do find Yaakov acting with complete faith during this episode. In the middle of the night, Yaakov returned to his residence to retrieve small utensils. Travelling back in the middle of the night is obviously very dangerous. How then could Yaakov do this? It must be that he did possess a very strong level of faith. If he possessed this faith when traveling in the middle of the night why didn't he likewise demonstrate the same level of faith when preparing to meet up with his brother? How do we explain Yaakov's seemingly contradictory behavior?

The answer is that when it comes to faith, one cannot impose his beliefs and convictions on others. Yaakov was obviously at a very high level of faith but here it was not only he whose life was in danger but also the lives of his whole family. Yaakov did not expect the same level of faith from them. Since the responsibility for their welfare lay on his shoulders he made sure to do everything in his power to protect them as their level of faith warranted. On the other hand, when he himself ventured out to retrieve the small utensils, he was acting alone; no one was in danger but he himself. Here he demonstrated his faith by putting his life in danger. With this insight we can understand the posuk: Yaakov prayed "For I fear him lest he (i.e., Esuv) come and strike me, mother and children. The fear and need for preparations were justified because it was for a mother and children as well.

The message we learn form Yaakov is that, with regard to faith, if there is a price to pay, one cannot impose his religious convictions on others.


Vayeshev

She was being taken out, and she sent word to her father-in-law, saying, "By the man to whom these belong I am pregnant." And she said "Recognize if you please, whom are this signet, this garment and this staff" (Bereishis 38:25).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the story of Yehudah and Tamar. Yehudah had three sons, Er, Onan and Shei'lah. Yehudah married off his oldest son Er to Tamar. After Er died without children Yehudah gave Tamar to his second son Onan as the law of yibum requires. After Onan also died without children Yehudah did not allow Tamar to marry his third son Shei'lah because he feared that he too would die. He sent Tamar away with the excuse that later when Shei'lah would mature he would allow her to marry him.

The Commentators explain that before the giving of the Torah any relative including a father-in-law was permitted to marry the widow of his deceased son to fulfill the mitzvah of yibum. Thus, Yehudah himself was eligible to marry his daughter-in-law Tamar in order to fulfill this mitzvah. Tamar, upon realizing that Yehudah had no intent to let her marry his youngest son Shei'lah disguised herself as harlot and became pregnant from him. Yehudah promised to send her an animal as payment. However, in the meantime she demanded a pledge and took his signet ring, garment and staff.

Later when Yehudah failed to locate her and redeem his pledge he gave up hope of retrieving his signet ring, cloak and staff. Soon after he was told that his daughter-in-law Tamar was pregnant. It was decided that Tamar was to be executed for two reasons. First, she was the granddaughter of Shem, a kohen. The law was that a daughter of a kohen who committed such an act was put to death. Second, she was awaiting yibum, a period of time when a woman may not marry another man who is not the relative of her husband. As she was taken to her death, she sent a message to her father-in-law saying that the father of the twin children that she is carrying is the one who owns the signet ring, cloak and staff.

Tamar could have easily revealed the secret, however this would have caused her father-in-law great embarrassment. She decided that she would not embarrass him directly and give him the option of admitting that he was the father thereby fulfilling the mitzvah (commandment) of yibum. She begged him to recognize the owner of these items, admit the truth and not cause the death of three people, herself and the twins. The commentators tell us that Tamar was not just pregnant with ordinary children. One of her son's, Peretz, would be the progenitor of the Kingdom of the Jewish People and Moshiach.

Being that this week is Chanukah, perhaps we may find a hint to the holiday of Chanukah here. The lighting of the Chanukah lamps includes three basic components; the oil, the wick and the menorah. Each one of these three entails many complex laws.

We may suggest that the three items Yehudah gave Tamar as a pledge hint to these three Chanukah components. The first item is the chosam, the signet ring. The Gemara tells us that after the Chashmonoyim conquered the Syrian-Greeks the Kohanim entered the Beis Hamikdash and found only one container of oil that was marked with the seal of the Kohen Gadol. Part of the Chanukah miracle was finding one container of oil that was not contaminated. The chosam of Yehudah alludes to the container of oil that was sealed with the chosam of the kohen gadol (High Priest).

The second item in the pledge was the peh'sil. Rashi explains this as a cloak. Other commentators explain this to mean a belt or cords of thread that were used to tie up animals. However, the Hebrew word for peh'sil may also be translated as wick. Thus, the second item in Yehudah's pledge hints to the wick of the Chanukah Lamps.

The third item in the pledge was the mateh which we have translated as staff. Chazal tell us that after the Chashmonoyim conquered the Syrian-Greeks the kohanim entered the Beis Hamikdash (temple) and found that the Menorah was defiled and thus unusable. They improvised with a makeshift menorah by tying together their spears. A spear is similar to a staff in that it is held in the hand and used in a similar fashion as a staff. Thus, the third item of the pledge hints to the makeshift menorah that the Kohanim used after taking back control of the Beis Hamikdash.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that at the time of creation Hashem (G-D) saw that the light he created was too good for the wicked people of this world to enjoy and hid it for the righteous people that will live at the time of the coming of Moshiach and in the World to Come. The number of hours the light shone before it was hidden was exactly thirty-six. Over the eight days of Chanukuh we light exactly thirty six candles that correspond to these thirty six hours of light. The holiday of Chanukah brings with it the pure rays of the light of creation that will reappear with the coming of Moshiach.

As Chanukah approaches we come face to face with the Menorah. If the Chanukah Menorah could speak it would say the words of Tamar "Please, recognize to whom the chos'am, peh'sil, and mateh belong." The Menorah is asking us to take note of the deep meaning of the miracle of Chanukah. The light of the Chanukah lamp is no ordinary light it contains the rays of Moshiach, symbolic of the hope and calling of the Jewish people. The menorah begs of us not to let the holiday pass with without drawing from its rays.


She was being taken out, and she sent word to her father-in-law, saying, "By the man to whom these belong I am pregnant." And she said "Recognize if you please, whom are this signet, this garment and this staff" (Bereishis 38:25).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the story of Yehudah (Judah) and Tamar. Yehudah had three sons, Er, Onan and Shei'lah. Yehudah married off his oldest son Er to Tamar. After Er died without children Yehudah gave Tamar to his second son Onan as the law of yibum requires. After Onan also died without children Yehudah did not allow Tamar to marry his third son Shei'lah because he feared that he too would die. He sent Tamar away with the excuse that later when Shei'lah would mature he would allow her to marry him.

The Commentators explain that before the giving of the Torah any relative including a father-in-law was permitted to marry the widow of his deceased son to fulfill the mitzvah of yibum. Thus, Yehudah himself was eligible to marry his daughter-in-law Tamar in order to fulfill this mitzvah (commandment). Tamar, upon realizing that Yehudah had no intent to let her marry his youngest son Shei'lah disguised herself as harlot and became pregnant from him. Yehudah promised to send her an animal as payment. However, in the meantime she demanded a pledge and took his signet ring, garment and staff.

Later when Yehudah failed to locate her and redeem his pledge he gave up hope of retrieving his signet ring, cloak and staff. Soon after he was told that his daughter-in-law Tamar was pregnant. It was decided that Tamar was to be executed for two reasons. First, she was the granddaughter of Shem, a kohen. The law was that a daughter of a kohen who committed such an act was put to death. Second, she was awaiting yibum, a period of time when a woman may not marry another man who is not the relative of her husband. As she was taken to her death, she sent a message to her father-in-law saying that the father of the twin children that she is carrying is the one who owns the signet ring, cloak and staff.

Tamar could have easily revealed the secret, however this would have caused her father-in-law great embarrassment. She decided that she would not embarrass him directly and give him the option of admitting that he was the father thereby fulfilling the mitzvah of yibum. She begged him to recognize the owner of these items, admit the truth and not cause the death of three people, herself and the twins. The commentators tell us that Tamar was not just pregnant with ordinary children. One of her son's, Peretz, would be the progenitor of the Kingdom of the Jewish People and Moshiach.

Being that this week is Chanukah, perhaps we may find a hint to the holiday of Chanukah here. The lighting of the Chanukah lamps includes three basic components; the oil, the wick and the menorah. Each one of these three entails many complex laws.

We may suggest that the three items Yehudah gave Tamar as a pledge hint to these three Chanukah components. The first item is the chosam, the signet ring. The Gemara tells us that after the Chashmonoyim (Hasmoneans) conquered the Syrian-Greeks the Kohanim entered the Beis Hamikdash and found only one container of oil that was marked with the seal of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). Part of the Chanukah miracle was finding one container of oil that was not contaminated. The chosam of Yehudah alludes to the container of oil that was sealed with the chosam of the kohen gadol.

The second item in the pledge was the peh'sil. Rashi explains this as a cloak. Other commentators explain this to mean a belt or cords of thread that were used to tie up animals. However, the Hebrew word for peh'sil may also be translated as wick. Thus, the second item in Yehudah's pledge hints to the wick of the Chanukah Lamps.

The third item in the pledge was the mateh which we have translated as staff. Chazal tell us that after the Chashmonoyim conquered the Syrian-Greeks the kohanim entered the Beis Hamikdash and found that the Menorah was defiled and thus unusable. They improvised with a makeshift menorah by tying together their spears. A spear is similar to a staff in that it is held in the hand and used in a similar fashion as a staff. Thus, the third item of the pledge hints to the makeshift menorah that the Kohanim used after taking back control of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple).

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that at the time of creation Hashem (G-D) saw that the light he created was too good for the wicked people of this world to enjoy and hid it for the righteous people that will live at the time of the coming of Moshiach and in the World to Come. The number of hours the light shone before it was hidden was exactly thirty-six. Over the eight days of Chanukuh we light exactly thirty six candles that correspond to these thirty six hours of light. The holiday of Chanukah brings with it the pure rays of the light of creation that will reappear with the coming of Moshiach.

As Chanukah approaches we come face to face with the Menorah. If the Chanukah Menorah could speak it would say the words of Tamar "Please, recognize to whom the chos'am, peh'sil, and mateh belong." The Menorah is asking us to take note of the deep meaning of the miracle of Chanukah. The light of the Chanukah lamp is no ordinary light it contains the rays of Moshiach, symbolic of the hope and calling of the Jewish people. The menorah begs of us not to let the holiday pass with without drawing from its rays.


And it was on that day that he entered the house to do his work. And not one of the men of the household was there in the house. And she caught hold of him by his garment saying "Lie with me!" but he left his garment in her hand and fled and went outside (Bereishis 39:11,12).

In this week's parsha we learn about Yosef's (Joseph's) great trial. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that Yosef was seriously considering committing this grave sin when suddenly the image of his father appeared in the window and said "Yosef, your brothers are destined to be inscribed on the stones of the Kohen Gadal's (High Priest) breastplate and you are also destined to be among them. However, if you defile yourself, your name will be erased" (Sotah 36a). It was this vision that gave Yosef the moral strength to resist and flee.

It is noteworthy that the posuk (verse) introduces this event with the words "and it was on that day." This expression connotes that it was a unique day. Indeed, Rashi explains that it was an Egyptian pagan holiday. On this holiday it was the custom for all to go to the pagan temple. The wife of Potiphar pretended to be ill so that she could be alone with Yosef.

Rav Moshe Wolfson in his sefer (book) Emunas Eatechah suggests that this event took place on the first day of Chanukah. (See there for a fascinating elaboration.) He explains that this is hinted to in the Hebrew word the Torah chose for the expression "that day," i.e., "KiHayom" This word may be broken into two parts "chafh hei yom," i.e., "the twenty fifth day." Throughout Chazal, Chanukah is known as "the twenty fifth day," namely, the twenty fifth day of Kislev.

We may ask what significance is there in this specific that Yosef nearly committed this grave sin? Why this day more than any other?

The commentators tell us that Yaakov died on the first day of Succos. It is significant that Yaakov died on Succos for the Holiday of Succos is closely associated with Yaakov. The posuk also tells us that the Egyptians mourned for Yosef exactly seventy days (Bereishis 50:3). The commentators note that there are exactly seventy days between the first day of Succos and Chanukah. Considering this we may suggest that just as the Egyptians stopped mourning for Yaakov on Chanukah likewise the spiritual influence of Yaakov begins to wear off on Chanukah.

Yosef was the spiritual product of Yaakov. However on the twenty fifth day of Kislev the spiritual influence of Yaakov began to wear off and thus it was a time that Yosef was spiritually weak.

It is noteworthy that Chazal mention that the image of Yaakov appeared to Yosef in the window. On Chanukah we also find significance in a window. The Shulcahn Aruch tells us that ideally we should place the Menorah on the left side of the door. However the Mishnah Berurah in name of the Magen Avraham writes that when it is difficult to place the menorah at the left side of the door we may place it in the window (Orach Chaim 771:7:38). Indeed, this is the prevalent custom.

Perhaps we may suggest that our observance of Chaukah represents a reenactment of the trial of Yosef. On the twenty fifth day of Kislev we experience the same weakness Yosef experienced. This is especially so because the twenty fifth day of Kislev is exactly seventy days since Succos. Succos is the holiday of Yaakov. Just as the mourning period of Yaakov ended on the twenty fifth day of Kislev, likewise our connection to Yaakov is weakened on this day. The pressures and contamination of our secular environment are so prevalent and we may G-d forbid lose our sensitivity to the severity of sin.

However, suddenly we look up and the image of Yaakov appears to us in the window. The image of Yaakov is nothing other then the light of the Chanukah candles that are placed in the window. The Chanukah candles symbolically represents the likeness of Yaakov. Yaakov suffered much throughout his life, but through the suffering he achieved purity. The same is true with regard to olive oil, the fuel for our Chanukah candles. The olives must be crushed in order to produce the pure oil that will produce the holy light.

When we look at the menorah in the window we recharge the spiritual inspiration of Succos which is the holiday of Yaakov.

The commentators note that Yaakov prevented Yosef from sinning by mentioning what he has to lose if he sins. We would have thought that Yaakov would simply remind Yosef that this act is forbidden. Yet we see that this would not have been enough to prevent Yosef from sinning. Yaakov needed to mention a future event to inspire Yosef not to sin.

If we are correct in suggesting that the light of the menorah is symbolic of the Yaakov's image, then we may derive that the spiritual inspiration of Chanukah stems from our inspiration of the future just as Yaakov inspired Yosef with the future. Most of our holidays focus on fulfilling the commandments of the Torah or focusing on past events. Chaukah is different. Although we certainly commemorate the miracle of Chanukah our focus is to seek inspiration from the spiritual good that awaits us in the future.


Yehudah (Judah) recognized (the signet and the staff) and he said "she is correct, it is from me (that she has conceived) for I did not give her to Shelah my son" (Bereishis 38:26).

The Torah tells us that Yehudah married off his eldest son Er to Tamar. After Er died without children, in fulfillment of the mitzvah of yibum, Tamar was married to Yehudah's second son Onan. After Onan also died without children, Yehudah refrained from giving Tamar to his third son Shelah. Later, Tamar disguised herself as a harlot and became pregnant from Yehudah. The commentators ask why did Yehudah not give Tamar to Shelah as a wife in order to fulfill the now double mitzvah (commandment) of yibum. Further, the commentators ask, how could Hashem (G-D) allow the righteous Yehudah to stumble in sin with his daughter-in-law? Such a union is nothing less than incest.

Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt"l, explains that in time of the Torah the mitzvah of yibum could have been performed by any relative unlike today where it is only performed by a brother. Indeed some commentators are of the opinion that in the time of Torah the mitzvah of yibum primarily fell upon the father of the deceased and not the brother. It was only when the father was unable to perform the mitzvah that it was passed down to the brother.

Rav Kaminetsky continues to explain after the death of Er, Yehudah himself should have married Tamar to fulfill the mitzvah of yibum. However at this time Yehudah was married to Bas Shuah and it was thus impractical for him to take another wife. Therefore he passed down the mitzvah to his son Onan. Approximately at the same time that Onan died Yehudah's own wife Bas Shuah died. Now it was possible for Yehudah himself to marry Tamar in order to fulfill what had now become a double mitzvah of yibum. However, the Halachah (Jewish law) is that one whose wife dies is required to wait the time span of three festivals before remarrying. Yehudah thus prevented Shelah from marring Tamar because he wished to do so himself. However, he was forced to delay marrying her in order to fulfill the halachah that one may not remarry immediately after the passing of one's wife. Tamar was not aware of this plan and assumed that Yehudah was not willing to marry her or allow Shelah to marry her. She therefore disguised herself as a harlot and became pregnant from Yehudah.

Both of the above questions are now answered. Yehudah indeed did wish to fulfill the mitzvah of yibum himself and therefore prevented Shelah from marrying Tamar. Furthermore, there was no incest violation between Yehudah and Tamar in this case. The mitzvah of yibum overrides the incest relationship between father in law and daughter-in-law as it does with regard to a brother-in-law and sister in law.

The commentators ask what prompted Tamar to disguise herself as a harlot? They answer that Tamar was aware that from her union with Yehudah she would produce Peretz the forerunner of moshiach (the Messiah). She felt that it was her duty to bring forth moshiach in any way possible. It is noteworthy that this plan nearly backfired. When it was later discovered that she was pregnant it was decided by the beis din (Jewish court) that as a punishment for her harlotry she be put to death. It was only due to the extreme integrity of Yehudah that she and the twins she was carrying were spared. This occurred when Yehudah admitted, "she is correct, it is from me (that she conceived)."

It is noteworthy that it was also Yehudah's intent to marry Tamar and bring forth moshiach. Had matters run their natural course, Yehudah would have married her in due time and the ancestor of moshiach would have been born without all the fanfare of our parshah (Torah reading). It was only due to a lack of communication between Yehudah and Tamar that caused Tamar to act as she did and bring forth Peretz "before his due time."

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that there are two possible times for the coming of moshiach. The first is the preordained time that will occur in the end of the days. In the terminology of chazal this is called "bi'itah" i.e., in its time. However, it is also possible for moshiach to arrive before the preordained time. In the terminology of chazal this is called "achisenah" i.e. I (Hashem) will make it come swiftly.

Many ask, exactly what is required of us to merit the arrival of moshiach before his preordained time? Perhaps we may take a hint from the birth of the ancestor of moshiach, i.e. Peretz. In the case of Peretz there were also two possible times for his birth. The first time was the preordained time. Had Yehudah finished waiting the required time that one must wait before remarrying then Peretz would have been born in the preordained time. The second time was the early time when he actually was born. It was Tamar's actions that brought Peretz the forerunner of moshiach into the world before his preordained time. However, in that case there was a great danger that moshiach would indeed survive. It was only due to the extreme integrity of Yehudah that he did survive.

Likewise in our time the prerequisite for the coming of moshiach before his preordained time is integrity. If moshiach were to arrive before his preordained time and find us lacking in integrity the era of moshiach will be delayed. It is only when we achieve the stellar integrity of Yehudah that we too will be worthy of ushering in moshiach speedily in our days.


And Yosef (Joseph) had a dream and told it to his brothers… Behold we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field; and behold my sheaf rose and stood up erect; and behold your sheaves surrounded it and bowed to my sheaf… And he had another dream… Behold the sun; the moon and eleven stars were bowing to me. (Bereishis 37:5-9)

The parsha (reading) begins with the two dreams of Yosef. Due to their similarity it appears that the interpretation of the dreams were the same. The simple interpretation as indirectly suggest by Yaakov (Jacob) was that Yosef would rule over his brothers. It appears that it took twenty-two years for this to be fulfilled. This happened when the brothers descended to Mitzrayim (Egypt) to buy grain and found themselves bowing before their brother Yosef. It is interesting that in parshas mekeits we learn that Pharaoh also had two dreams. Yosef there was asked to provide an interpretation. After succeeding in providing an interpretation that was satisfactory to Pharaoh, Yosef added that the significance of a double dream was that their fulfillment was imminent. With this rule in mind we may ask, why did it take twenty-two years for Yosef's own dreams to be fulfilled? Does not the same rule of interpretation apply to the dreams of the interpreter himself?

Let us make another observation. It is noteworthy that this parsha concludes with the dreams of the chief butler and chief baker. Here, Yosef serves as the interpreter. Looking at the parsha in its totality it is interesting to note that that it begins with Yosef as the 'great dreamer' and concludes with Yosef as the 'great interpreter.' Can there perhaps be some significance in this observation?

Before we attempt to answer these questions we must lay out some background.

First let us note that it is impossible for a person to be truly objective with regard to himself. For example, in the realm of Halacha (Jewish Law) we are aware that a potential judge or witness that has something to gain or lose by the outcome of a case is disqualified from participating in that case. This is true no matter how pious and disciplined the individual may be. The reason being is that Halacha recognizes that the depth of the subconscious is beyond our grasp and it is truly impossible for a person to be impartial with regard to himself. However, there is an exception. This is where an individual expresses his opinion with regard to someone other than himself not realizing that he himself fits into the exact same category. Here we may assert that the same standard that he used with regard to another can be justly applied to himself.

This idea is clearly illustrated in sefer Shmuel (the Book Of Samuel) (Shmuel II 11,12). In the aftermath of the incident involving Dovid Hamelech and Bas Sheva, (King David, and Bathsheba) Nosson Hanavei (Nathan the Prophet) appeared and asked Dovid to issue judgment on a rather simple case of theft. After Dovid issued his guilty verdict, Nosson responded that the guilty party was none other than Dovid himself. The hypothetical case conjured by Nosson was an exact parallel to Dovid's wrongdoing and Dovid had thus objectively declared himself guilty. We derive from this that when one judges another; in truth he is judging himself.

Second, at the conclusion of the parsha Yosef 'the great interpreter' was presented with the two dreams of the chief butler and chief baker. Despite there similarity Yosef interpreted their dreams entirely differently. The difference was literally as great as life and death. We may ask, what fine point in their seemingly similar dreams inspired Yosef to offer entirely different interpretations. The commentators explain that the difference lay in the activity or inactivity of the chief butler and chief baker. The chief butler in his dream was active. He was actively involved in serving the king. To Yosef this intimated that the chief butler would be reinstated to his original position. On the other hand the chief baker in his dream was inactive. The chief baker stood motionless as the activity of the dream took place around him. This subtle detail was the underlying element in the dream that led Yosef to interpret that the chief baker would be put to death and indeed remain inactive for good.

Now with this background in mind let us return to our questions as to why it took so long for Yosef's dreams to be fulfilled and what significance lay in the parsha beginning and concluding with Yosef as the 'great interpreter' and 'great dreamer.' Let us note that towards the conclusion of the parsha Yosef finds himself in prison. This event was the culmination of sequence of tragedies that befell Yosef. He first narrowly escaped for his life from his brothers. He was then sold as a slave and was now a prisoner only due to false slander. At this trying moment in his life surely we may suggest that Yosef reflected back on the glorious days of youth when he enjoyed the extra special attention and affection of his father. He certainly recalled his great double dream that promised him nothing less then imminent grandeur and was perplexed at how all this could have had happened to him after his dreams indicated quite to the contrary. Surely Yosef realized that there must have been a misinterpretation of his dreams. Perhaps he was prejudiced in interpreting his own dreams no matter how obvious the interpretation may have seemed to be. The only solution to reconcile his dreams with reality would be to present them to a world-renowned dream interpreter for reinterpretation. However, now imprisoned, he was surely unlikely to receive such assistance.

Unbeknown to Yosef, Hashem (G-D) in his great wisdom saw to it that Yosef presently in prison be provided with the greatest dream interpreter of all time, none other then Yosef himself. The reinterpretation of his dreams would be completely objective because Yosef would only reinterpret his dreams indirectly by first interpreting the dreams of others, namely the chief butler and chief baker, and then realize that in their interpretation lay the key to interpreting his own dreams.

The difference between the two dreams of the chief butler and chief baker was that one was active and the other was inactive. Yosef must have contemplated that the same subtle point was found in his own dreams. In the first dream of Yosef the posuk records that Yosef was also active. The posuk states "Behold we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field." Yosef participated in the activity as well. Next, the posuk goes on to states "And behold my sheaf rose and stood up erect." Here again the sheaf that represents Yosef was active not passive. However in the second dream the posuk states simply "Behold the sun; the moon and eleven stars were bowing to me," which implies that Yosef was inactive as the sun, moon and stars bowed to him. Thus, using the same rule of interpretation for the two dreams of the baker and butler Yosef came to realize that he also did not have two dreams that were exactly the same but two completely different dreams.

Perhaps we may suggest that the first dream that involved activity, the symbol of life, may be interpreted that in Yosef's lifetime the brothers would be subservient to him. This was fulfilled when the brothers came down to Egypt and Yosef sustained them all. The second dream of inactivity, the symbol of death represented a prophecy that even in Yosef's death the entire nation will be subservient to him. This was also fulfilled at the time of the splitting of the sea where chazal (our sages) teach us that the sea only split when it saw the bones of Yosef.

Regardless of the exact interpretation one thing remains obvious. There were two separate dreams not one. Therefore, there was no repetition that would indicate that fulfillment was imminent.

We have thus answered our two questions. Contrary to our original understanding, Yosef in truth had two separate dreams not one; therefore, there was nothing unusual in the fact that the dream had not yet been fulfilled. In fact, realizing that the dreams had not yet been fulfilled offered Yosef hope that they will one day be fulfilled. We have also answered our second question as to why the parsha begins with Yosef in the role of the 'great dreamer' and concludes with Yosef as the 'great interpreter.' The parsha begins with Yosef having dreams and concludes with Yosef interpreting his own dreams.

The powerful message we derive is twofold. Form Dovid and Nosson we learn that a person is instrumental in his own judgment. The same standard one uses in dealing with others is the standard that will be applied for himself. From Yosef we see in a symbolic sense that one can discover his own true self when attempting to discover someone else. By participating in the social welfare of another, one is in truth clarifying his own identity.


Now Yisroel loved Yosef more than all his sons since he was a child of his old age, and he made him a fine woolen tunic. His bothers saw that it was he whom their father loved most of all his brothers so they hated him; and they were not able to speak to him peaceably. (Bereishis 37:3-4)

There are two types of love. The first type is where one loves another because he recognizes the person's true self worth. The second type is where one loves somebody only because by comparison to others that individual stands out as best. The former type is strong and well rooted whereas the latter is weak and shallow; the person is only loved because he represents the lesser of the evils.

We find a similar concept with regard to Noach. The posuk states "Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations." (Bereishis 6:9) Rashi there commenting on the words "in his generations" write that some expound this as a praise. Had Noach been in a generation of righteous people he would have been even more righteous. But some expound this as a depreciation. Only in his generations was he considered a righteous individual but had he been in the generation of Avraham he would have been considered as nothing. The dispute can be interpreted as how we view the righteousness of Noach. Do we view it as he was a tzaddik in his own right. Or was he righteous only in comparison to the rest of his generation. The first opinion attributes his righteousness to his own self worth. Therefore, had he lived in a generation of righteous individuals, certainly the caliber of his righteousness would have been concomitantly greater. The second opinion views his righteousness only relative to the rest of his generations. He was just the lesser of the evils. Had he been in the generation of Avraham, he would have been considered as nothing in comparison to Avraham.

Returning to love, let us go a step further. When the love is of the first type, i.e., the self worth, then there is no reason for others to hate the loved individual. After all, he does possess unique qualities that justify his being loved more then they. The second type, i.e., the lesser of the evils, however, can engender hate, for the love only feeds off the deficiencies of the others. The more love showered on one individual, the more the others witness the magnification of their own deficiencies.

With this idea let us take a new look at he posuk. Why did Yaakov show such love to Yosef? Why did he make for Yosef a beautiful tunic? Perhaps Yaakov recognized Yosef's unique qualities. Or maybe Yosef posses no unique qualities but was simply the best of Yaakov children. We need not speculate for the posuk explicitly tells us the reason. "Yaakov loved Yosef more than all his sons since he was a child of his old age." The Targum interprets the words "child of old age old age" as "a wise son." The love stemmed from the unique qualities of Yosef, specifically his wisdom. This being the case, the other brothers had no reason to hate him. Yaakov only loved him because he recognized his unique self worth. The love did not reflect the deficiencies of the other brothers. But why then did the brothers hate Yosef? The posuk goes on to explain that the brothers did not look deeply enough into the real reason for their fathers special love. All they saw was "that it was he (Yosef) whom their father loved most of all his brothers." Here the Posuk does not state the reason as before. Here it just says that he loved him most of all the brothers. Yosef's brothers mistakenly assumed that Yosef related slanderous reports thus degrading their status in their fathers eyes and resulted in Yaakov loving Yosef solely because he was the best of his children, i.e., the lesser of the evils.

The message we can take form this is that when we choose to love something, we must ask ourselves what is the true reason for the love. Does the object of our love really possess true self worth or is it just the lesser of the evils. The difference is significant. Likewise, when we witness love expressed to others, how should we react? If love is attributable to true self worth then we should also rejoice. But if the love is due to being the lesser of the evils, we should take this expression of love as a mussur statement driving us to self-improvement.


Miketz

(& Chanukah)

It is noteworthy that parshas (Torah reading) Mikeitz always falls out on Chanukah. We may ask what is the connection between parshas Mikeitz and Chanukah?

In this weeks parsha we learn about Pharaoh's two dreams. In his first dream he saw seven fat healthy cows and seven emaciated cows. The seven emaciated cows swallowed the seven fat cows and remained thin as before. In his second dream he saw seven healthy stalks of grain and seven thin withered stalks of grain. The withered stalks swallowed the thick healthy ones but remained thin and withered as before. The parsha goes on to tell us that none of Pharaoh's wise dream interpreters were able to provide an interpretation that was to his liking. It was only Yosef (Joseph) who succeeded in correctly interpreting his dreams.

Rabeinu Bachya asks why was it so difficult for Pharaoh's dream interpreters to correctly interpret the dream? They were known to be the greatest experts in these matters. The dreams do not appear to be all that difficult to interpret. Rabbeinu Bachya answers that Hashem (G-D) purposely denied them the wisdom of interpreting the dream. All wisdom comes from Hashem. The ability to understand even what seems to be a trivial simple concept is also a gift from Hashem. Here, Hashem chose to deny them the gift of wisdom so that Yosef would come forward and provide the correct interpretation.

In the sefer (book) Davshah Shel Torah the author suggests a novel answer. The culture of Egypt was one of paganism. The Egyptians denied the existence of Hashem. However they were no fools. The Egyptians excelled in the study of logic and natural law. Indeed we see that Pharaoh had at his disposal the wisest of men. According to the rules of logic and reasoning it is impossible for the weak to overpower the strong or for the few to overpower the many. The wise men of Egypt were thus baffled by Pharaoh's dream. In his dream the weak, thin, emaciated cows overpowered the fat healthy cows even to the degree that there was no remembrance of the powerful fat healthy cows. The same is true with regard to the second dream. The expert dream interpreters were forced to come up with a poor interpretation to make sense of this bizarre phenomenon.

Yosef, on the other hand, introduced his interpretation by asserting that the interpretation of dreams was beyond him. Instead it is Hashem who will provide the interpretation for Pharaoh. Yosef hinted that his rules of logic and reasoning drastically differ from that of the Egyptians. Yosef explained that it is only impossible for the weak and few to overpower the strong and the many when one relies on pure logic and reasoning that does not include belief in Hashem. However, when one believes in Hashem then one's approach to wisdom dramatically changes. The actions of Hashem are not bound by the reasoning of man. As it says in the posuk "My thoughts are not like your thoughts and my ways are not like your ways" (Yeshayah 55:8).

Yosef explained that Hashem has showed Pharaoh what He plans to do. However when Hashem acts, the weak and few may overcome the strong and many. In this light Yosef went on to explain the obvious interpretation of Pharaoh's dream. Hashem plans to bring years of plenty and them swallow up the good of those years with a devastating famine. Yosef did not only interpret the dreams of Pharaoh but more importantly he introduced Pharaoh to a whole new way of thinking.

Pharaoh admitted that Yosef was correct and thus praised him not only for his interpretation but for his new approach to logic and reasoning. Pharaoh declared "There is no one so discerning and wise as you" (Bereishis 41:39).

We may note that this idea is precisely the theme of Chanukah. During the difficult era that preceded the miracle of Chanukah, the world was subjected to the influence of the Syrian Greeks. The Syrian Greeks introduced what Chazal call Chacmas Yivanins. i.e., Greek wisdom. The commentators offer different interpretations as to the exact nature of this great wisdom, however, all agree that it was an extremely sophisticated understanding of the world which denied the existence of Hashem. They followed in the ways of the Egyptians who relied on their perfect logic and reasoning and also denied the existence of Hashem. The miracle of Chanukah was a revelation to the world that they were wrong. As we say in al haneisim "The mighty fell to the weak, the many to the few."

In conclusion we may suggest that the miracle of Chanukah is a reenactment of what Pharaoh told Yosef, "There is no one that is so discerning and wise like you." Yosef's interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams and the miracle of Chanukah showed the world that true wisdom lies with the Jews who understand that "the foundation of wisdom is fear of Hashem."


In the sefer (book) Birchas Av, the author, Harav Avraham Piksler Zt"l, notes that in rabbinic literature we encounter seven great people, namely the seven spiritual guests that we invite to our Succah on the seven days of Succos. They are: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aaron, Dovid and Yosef. (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David, and Joseph) We also have eight major holidays. They are: Pesach, Shavuos, Succos, Shminie Atzeres, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Hakipurim, Chanukah and Purim. Rav Piksler suggests that these seven spiritual giants correspond to the eight holidays. Based on posukim, Rav Piksler first goes on to show, how all the holidays with the exception of Chanukah and Purim correspond to all of the great personas with the exception of Yosef.

By process of elimination we are left with one great person and two holidays, namely Yosef, Chanukah and Purim. This implies that Yosef corresponds to the two holidays Chanukah and Purim. We may ask, is this not disproportionate for one person to correspond to two holidays? Rav Piksler answers that in truth Yosef had two sons, Efraim and Menashe, and it is they who specifically correspond to the two holidays.

Let us expand on this idea. We know from chazal (our sages) that Efraim would spend his day toiling in Torah study. Efraim thus fits perfectly with Chanukah where the miracle occurred through the Menorah, which is a symbol of Torah. We also know from chazal that Menashe in addition to being a talmud chacham, (Torah scholar) assisted his father with government affairs. Menashe, thus fits perfectly with Purim where the miracle occurred through Mordechai who was also an active participant in government.

It is interesting to note that Efraim and Menashe were the first Jewish children to grow up in galus (exile). Likewise, the holiday of Chanukah and Purim are the only holidays that took place in a galus setting. Purim took place during the galus between the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash and the rebuilding of the second. Although Chanukah took place during the era of the second Beis Hamikdash (Temple), it was at a time when the Beis Hamikdash was thoroughly contaminated and used as a house of idol worship and was thus in a symbolic sense was a true setting of galus.

Going a step further, let us note that Menasha was older than Efraim. Likewise in the timeline of history, Purim, the Yom Tov (holiday) that correspond to Menashe came before Chanukah, the yom tov that corresponds to Efraim. The miracle of Purim occurred before the construction of the second Beis Hamikdash whereas the miracle of Chanukah occurred during the era of the second Beis Hamikdash. In addition, the posuk (verse) also records Yosef's statement "However his younger brother (Efraim) will be greater then he (Menashe)." This is true in respect to the two holidays as well. Chanukah, Efraim's holiday, although younger in that it occurred later in time, was a greater miracle in that it was above the laws of nature, whereas the miracle of Purim took place within the framework of nature. We thus see that Chanukah is the holiday of Efraim. It is interesting that in the Torah there is no explicit mention of Efraim's actions or deeds. The Torah merely describes his birth and the fact that he received blessings from his grandfather Yaakov. Efraim appears to be nondescript. However, chazal do uncover a statement that Efraim made. In parshas Vayechi when Yaakov became ill the posuk states (Bereishis 48:1) "He said to Yosef, behold your father is ill." Here, Rashi asks who was this mysterious person who told Yosef that his father was sick. The midrashim offer many opinions as to exactly who the informer was. Certainly, the most popular opinion is that of the tanchuma as it is the only opinion quoted by Rashi. The tanchuma writes that it was Efraim who studied Torah by the side of his grandfather who brought the bad new to his father Yosef.

Thus the words "Behold, your father is sick" is in truth according to the tanchuma a quote from Efraim. It is interesting to note that another fascinating Midrash elucidates these same words. The Midrash (Pirkei Di'Rebbi' Elazer) says that until the time of Yaakov no one ever sensed that they were approaching death. Death was sudden. Although people did age and look old they never got sick before their death. Indeed, Yitzchak, Yaakov's father expressed this phenomenon with the statement (Bereishis 27: 2) "Behold I am now old and do not know the day of my death." Yaakov contemplated this reality and realized that it was not an ideal. If a person would first get sick and sense that his end is near, he would have an opportunity to make final preparations for himself and his family before leaving this world. Yaakov prayed to Hashem regarding this matter and Hashem was pleased with his request. Hashem responded to Yaakov by saying that you have requested a good thing and I will start with you. Therefore the posuk says here "and behold Yaakov was sick." The word "behold" connotes novelty. Indeed it was, for Yaakov was the first to get sick.

The underlying message of the words "behold your father is ill" is an acute awareness that time is short or that time is running out. No matter how old a person is, as long as he is healthy, he cannot truly sense the reality that time is running out. Only when one is sick and feels that death is near does a person clearly perceive the reality that indeed time is truly running out. Let us now underscore that based on the aforementioned tanchuma it was Efraim who publicized this novelty to his father Yosef and the world. Thus Efraim also has a strong connection with this message.

By combining all of the above we can focus in on a powerful theme and message hidden in Chanukah. Chanukah is the holiday of Efraim. Efraim is a symbol for the notion that time is short. Indeed, the miracle of Chanukah expresses this same idea. When the chashmonoyim (Hasmoneans) entered the Beis Hamikdash they found only enough oil to burn for a single day. They had an acute awareness that with the limited resources they had, time would run out. The chashmonoyim truly identified with Efraim who likewise brought about an awareness that time was running out for Yaakov. Yet the miracle of Chanukah shows us that when we do bring ourselves to the awareness that life is short and time is running out but nevertheless attempt to do the best we can with what we have then Hashem (G-D) will respond by suspending time and grant us the opportunity to accomplish far more then we ever thought possible.

May we merit to identify with this yom tov of Chanukah and one day look back at our accomplishments in our limited time on this world and say that they were nothing less than miraculous.


And he (Yosef / Joseph) passed portions before them (Yosef's brothers) … and they drank much with him. (Bereishis 43:34)

Commenting on this posuk, Rashi notes that from the time Yosef was sold as a slave he did not drink wine. However, on that day when he was reunited with all his brothers he did drink wine for the first time in twenty-two years. Rashi's emphasis on Yosef's custom of not drinking wine for a long period of time and then suddenly drinking with his brothers reminds us of a nazir. A nazir is also forbidden to drink wine for a period of time and then suddenly at the conclusion of his term, is commanded to drink wine, as stated in the posuk (verse) (Bamidbar 6:20) "And after the nazir shall drink wine." Can there perhaps be some connection between Yosef and the laws of nazir? Indeed, in parshas (Torah reading) Vayechei (Bereishis 49:26), in the section of Yaakov's (Jacob's) blessings we find Yosef being described as "the nazir of his brothers." What is the meaning of this?

Let us review the three basic laws of nazir. One, a nazir may not come into any contact with the dead. Two, A nazir may not drink wine or any grape product and three; a nazir may not cut his locks of hair. We may ask, what is the reason the Torah specifically chose these three rules. What is the special message therein?

Second, when reviewing the tragic ordeal of Yosef, let us suggest that his trying experiences can be can be divided into three periods. The first period is the conspiracy of Yosef's brothers. The posuk states (Bereishis 37:20) that Yosef's brothers originally planned to kill him. Later, due to the influence of Yehudah (Judah) they settled on selling him as a slave (Bereishis 37:26). Upon the end of the first period, we find Yosef as the slave of Poteifar. Although he was a successful individual, nevertheless he was a slave. The second period is the sequence of events that culminate with Yosef's appointment to Egyptian leadership. This begins with the attempted seduction of Poteifar's wife. The result was Yosef's imprisonment where he interpreted dreams and as a result was chosen to assist Pharaoh as ruler of Egypt two years later. The third period are the events that culminate with the reunion of Yosef and his brothers.

If we take a closer look at the three periods, we may note that each period contains one of the aspects of nazirus. In the first period we encounter the rule that a nazir is not permitted to come into contact with the dead. Yosef narrowly escaped his own death. In the second period we encounter the law of growing locks of hair. At the beginning of the second period, Poteifar's wife tries to seduce Yosef. Rashi (Bereishis 39:6) notes that Hashem (G-D) was critical of Yosef for beautifying himself and growing long beautiful hair while his father was busy mourning over him. Hashem brought upon him the attempted seduction and the ensuing false slander as a punishment for this behavior. In addition, the commentators explain that the reason why Poteifar's wife was inclined to seduce Yosef was because of his irresistible beauty, specifically, his beauty that was enhanced by his beautiful hair. Thus, Yosef's long beautiful hair was the cause of the events of the second period of the narrative. Finally, in the third period we encounter the last rule, the prohibition of drinking wine. As explained above, when Yosef was reunited with his brothers the posuk informs us that he now drank wine, implying that until this time he did not drink wine. Let us also note that Yosef certainly personifies a nazir in its simplest connotation as one who is apart and separated. Yosef was indeed apart and separated from his family for twenty-two years.

Taking all this into consideration we may suggest the following novel idea. When a person accepts upon himself a term of nezirus, he is in truth reenacting the ordeal of Yosef. More specifically, he is identifying with Yosef, who was separated from his brothers and father for a significant period of time. However, we may ask, what message lay in connecting the concept of nezirus and the personal experiences of Yosef.

The commentators are troubled at to why Yosef failed to inform his father that he was alive and well. If in truth he was unable to do this when he was sold into slavery, certainly things changed when he was appointed to a position of leadership. Why then did he fail to inform his family of his whereabouts for twenty-two years? The commentators answer that Yosef realized that his brothers were the foundation of the Jewish people. Their sins would have catastrophic consequences on their descendents. Yosef's brothers certainly committed an enormous sin by selling him as slave. Yosef wished to give his brothers an opportunity to seek him out and thus atone for their sin. Had Yosef revealed that he was alive and well, they would never had had this opportunity and their sin would not have been forgiven. Indeed, the commentators go so far to say that had Yosef held out a little longer in not revealing himself to his brothers, and thus let his brothers feel their guilt a bit more, then their sin would have been completely forgiven. This forgiveness would have prevented tragedies like 'the ten martyrs of the kingdom.' Thus, in Yosef's opinion, his own sin of not informing his father that he was alive was necessary to effect repentance. This was achieved when ultimately his brothers declared (Bereishis 42:21) "Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother."

We are accustomed to think that the goal of nezirus is solely self-discipline. A nazir abstains from wine, a symbol of the pleasures and good things of life. He behaves like the kohanim (priests) who distance themselves from the contamination and defilement of dead. He grows beautiful hair only to shave it of and offer it to Hashem.

However from Yosef we learn something entirely different. Yosef only practiced Nezirus for twenty-two years for the purpose of allowing his brothers to admit their own guilt. The purpose of Yosef's nezirus was to have an effect on others. Thus, we may suggest that the main purpose of nezirus is not primarily self-discipline, but rather to follow in Yosef's example and serve as an inspiration to others. The nazir serves as a role model for others to emulate. When the nazir goes about his daily affairs, his beautiful hair certainty attracts attention. Others are immediately reminded of his exalted status. They will certainly take note of his beauty and be reminded of the true spiritual beauty that lay within and hopefully be motivated to emulate him.


And the cows of the poor appearance and thin flesh ate the seven healthy cows of beautiful appearance and Paroah awoke. (Bereishis 41:4)

And the seven thin ears swallowed up the seven healthy and full ears and Paroah awoke and behold it was a dream. (Bereishis 41:7)

Many commentators ask: Yosef was instructed to interpret Paroah's dreams, yet, Yosef, in addition to providing his interpretation also offered advice on how to deal with the oncoming famine. How could Yosef, who was just a prisoner, authorize himself to give advice, something usually reserved only for the elite members of the cabinet. Perhaps the answer is that the advice was also part of the interpretation.

Let us explain.

When analyzing Paroah's dreams it emerges that there are four key parts. 1) The seven robust cows; 2) the seven poor cows; 3) the seven full ears of grain; and 4) the seven poor ears of grain. A simple reading of the posukim (verses) indicates that Yosef told Paroah that both the seven good cows and seven good ears of grain represent the same seven years of plenty. Likewise, the seven poor cows and seven poor ears of grain represent the seven years of famine that would consume all the good of the seven years of plenty. If we take a closer look however, it is not so simple. With regard to the seven poor cows the posuk states that they "ate" the seven good cows. With regard to the seven lean stalks the posuk states that they "swallowed" the seven full stalks. Why the difference?

First, we must explain the difference between eating and consuming. Eating connotes gradual consumption whereas swallowing connotes a sudden devouring. When dealing with oncoming problems, it is a great advantage if the problem arrives gradually. The affected person can see the problem in stages and is given a chance to deal with it little by little. Even if the problem is to eventually overcome the individual he at least has time to adjust. However, if the problem would overtake him suddenly, the impact would be overwhelming and the suddenness might be too difficult to bear.

With regard the seven good cows and the seven good ears of grain Yosef explicitly stated that they represent the same seven good years. The posuk (verse) reads "the dream of Paroah, it is one." But with regard to the seven poor cows and the seven poor ears of grain, Yosef does not state that they are the same. Yosef says that the seven poor cows represent "seven years" whereas the seven poor ears of grain represent "seven years of famine." From where did Yosef derive this distinction? The answer lies in the difference between eating and swallowing. When the years will be similar to the poor cows eating the good cows it will be considered just seven years. True, the years will be poor and emaciated like the cows, but the word "famine" is omitted. Since the famine will come like "eating" i.e., gradually, the population will be able to deal with it in stages and have time to adjust. However, in contrast, when the posuk says that the seven poor stalks will consume the seven good ears, there it refers to them as "seven years of famine." Since it will come like "swallowing," i.e., suddenly, the problem will be too difficult to deal with and the effects will be severe. This genre of years will indeed be "seven years of famine."

It emerges that Paroah dreamed two conflicting dreams with regard to the famine: the sudden famine, and the gradual famine. But, which one is the correct version? Yosef concluded that by default the sudden famine would come however Hashem is informing Paroah now in order to give him an opportunity to prepare and thus reduce the effect from sudden to gradual.

This answers our original question of why Yosef advised Paroah what to do. The advice was not his own, but part of the interpretation of the dream.

This interpretation comports well with the Torah's report of what actually happened. When the famine arrived, the posuk differentiates between the land in general which included other lands outside mitzrayim (Egypt) and mitzrayim itself. The posuk states "The seven years of famine began approaching just as Yosef had said; and there was famine in all the lands, but in the land of mitzrayim there was bread." Only later did the famine begin to affect Egypt as it says in the next posuk "all the land of mitzrayim hungered, and the people cried to Paroah for bread." Mitzrayim prepared all the good years by storing grain. When the famine begun, the citizens knew that food was available, the question was only what they would have to do to get it. Mitzrayim had plans on how to deal with the famine and thus the crisis was under control to some extent. However, the other lands were not prepared at all and for them the effect of the famine was devastating. Therefore the posuk distinguishes between mitzrayim and all the other lands.

We see here an example of Hashem preparing the medicine before inflicting the wound. Although Hashem informed Paroah that there would be a devastating famine, He also informed him that he now has a chance to prepare and thus reduce its effects. A second message we derive is that even with real problems, if we are able to deal with them, they are not called problems. Here we have two dreams referring to the same difficult seven years. Only when the crisis is sudden and we are likely to be prevented from having the ability to cope with it is it called "seven years of famine." But when they are gradual and we are able to adjust and deal with it they are called only "seven years."


Vayigash

And tell my father of all my glory in Egypt and all that you saw and hurry and bring my father down here. (Bereishis 45:13)

Just a few posukim (verses) above Yosef (Joseph) instructed his brothers to tell his father that Hashem (G-D) has appointed him as a Master in the land of Egypt. Certainly, achieving a position of prominence in the upper echelons of government, in the most powerful world power of the day includes great glory. We may therefore ask, what did Yosef add by requesting of his brothers to tell their father about his glory? Further, it appears rather odd that Yosef would wish to boast to his father about achieving great glory. Seeking honor and taking pride in its achievement is not a praiseworthy character trait among the children of Yaakov (Jacob).

Back in parshas (Torah reading) Vayeirah we learned that Yaakov achieved great success in the home of Lavan. This evoked envy from the children of the Lavan. The posuk there records "He (Yaakov) heard that the words of Lavan sons saying, Yaakov has taken all that belongs to our father (Lavan), and from that which belongs to our father he amassed all this glory." The Hebrew word for glory is "kavod." The commentators take note that here the word is spelled without the letter vav between the beis and the daled. The omission of the letter vav indicates that there was something lacking.

The commentators explain this omission by noting that there are two types of glory. One type of glory is that which comes to a person due to wealth and other earthy possessions and accomplishments. The other type of glory is that which comes to a person due to spiritual accomplishments. True glory is only that which comes due to spiritual accomplishments. This glory is not necessarily apparent in this world but it is hidden in the soul and will accompany a person into the next world. Glory that comes to a person due to wealth and earthly possessions cannot be termed true glory. Wealth is transient and does not reflect the inner accomplishments of the soul.

When the Torah records the description of Yaakov's wealth in the eyes of Lavan's children the word is spelled without a vav. The Torah is teaching us that the wealth and material possessions of Yaakov cannot be termed Yaakov's true glory. Indeed when the word "kavod" is spelled without a vav it can also be read "kaveid," which means "a burden." Wealth and material goods when not used properly can become a great burden on an individual. However, when the posuk discusses the glory that will come to Torah scholars the posuk reads, "The wise will inherit glory." Here, the Hebrew word for glory is spelled with a vav, indicating the true glory of spiritual accomplishments.

Now we may take a closer look at our posuk. The posuk says that Yosef asked his brothers to relate to their father all his glory. The word for glory here is the same "kavod" as in the above quoted posukim. Also, here "kavod" it is spelled with a vav. Yosef first instructed his brothers that they tell their father about his being appointed a Master in Egypt. He then added that they should also tell their father about his spiritual accomplishments. Yosef realized that Yaakov's first concern for him was with regard to his spiritual development. He told them to tell his father that despite the great temptations of Egyptian culture, he was able to remain righteous and achieve true glory.


And he (Yosef - Joseph) appeared to him (Yaakov - Jacob), fell on his neck and wept on his neck very much. (Bereishis 46:29)

Commenting on this posuk (verse), Rashi notes that Yaakov did not cry when he was reunited with his son because he was busy reciting the 'shemah' (prayer).

The commentators are troubled as to why Yaakov decided to busy himself at this particular moment with the recital of the shemah. Certainly he could have done so before or after and thus given his full attention to his son Yosef, the child whom he had not seen for twenty-two years.

In answer to this question Harav Nissan Alpert zt"l in his sefer Limudei Nissan offers a novel explanation. Rav Alpert writes that Yaakov's shemah was not the familiar verse "Hear Yisroel, Hashem (G-D) is our Hashem, Hashem is one" (Devarim 6:4). Rather, Yaakov's Shemah was the very next verse in our parsha "Then Yisroel said to Yosef, I can now die after I have seen your face that you are still alive" (Bereishis 46:30). Yaakov was not reciting the exact words of shemah as we know it. Rather, Rashi means that Yaakov's words encapsulated the theme of shemah. Therefore, Yaakov was not ignoring Yosef at the time of their reunion but instead of embracing Yosef with tears, Yaakov embraced Yosef with powerful words which chazal (our sages of blessed memory) tell us were also an expression of 'accepting upon oneself the yoke of heaven', which we refer to as shemah.

Let us explain and expand upon Harav Nissan Alpert z"tl thesis.

The simple translation of the first verse in shemah, which we are obligated to have in mind upon its recital is, "Hashem (G-D), who at the present time is only our G-D, will one day be the G-D over the entire world." A simple explanation of this translation is that in the present galus (exile), although there are many non-Jews who do believe in G-D they all still lack a true and profound understanding of Him. The only people who truly relate to Hashem as their G-D are the Jewish people. This is due to the fact that Hashem has given us the Torah through which we are able to relate and connect to Him. The non-Jews who do not have the Torah lack this all-important tool needed to truly connect with Hashem. However, in the end of the days when moshiach (the Messiah) will come and it will be revealed to all the special relationship Hashem has with the Jewish people, the nations of the world will wish to emulate us in their desire to understand Hashem. We will guide them in their pursuit, and ultimately Hashem will be the G-D over the entire world. Thus, there are two themes in the shemah. The first is the fact that at the present, Hashem is our G-D and second, ultimately Hashem will be the G-D of the entire world.

Yaakov Avinu (our Father) the third and chosen of the patriarchs, was as microcosm of the Jewish people. All the events that occurred in his lifetime will occur to the Jewish people as a whole throughout their history. In the beginning of parshas vayigash Yaakov finds himself towards the end of life and still mourning his son Yosef. Yaakov knew that each of his children were irreplaceable. The Jewish people could not survive and accomplish their destiny without the combined unique contributions all of all his children. Yaakov realized that if he would die without seeing all his children alive, that would symbolically mean that the Jewish people would expire in history without completing their destiny, namely, bringing the Divine Presence to the entire world. Thus, Yaakov was greatly distressed and was afraid to die without seeing completeness and perfection in all his children and their actions.

In this Parsha, when Yosef revealed himself to his brothers he instructed them to return home and tell his father of all the glory and honor that he received in Egypt. Surely Yosef was not interested that his father Yaakov be aware of his glory for its own sake. Rather, Yosef conveyed to his father that not only did he maintain his personal righteousness but also through his power he had enormous spiritual influence over the gentiles in the land of Egypt. He was able to influence the Egyptians to perform circumcision and take upon themselves other aspects of religious life. When Yaakov heard this his spirits were lifted not just because his son was alive but also because of his sons spiritual impact on the secular world. Yaakov realized that he had indeed lived to see the two aspects of the shemah. The first part of the shemah makes mention that Hashem is the G-D of the Jewish people. This can only be true if the Jewish people are complete. Yaakov was satisfied that all his children, the foundation of the Jewish people were indeed complete, righteous and Hashem was their G-D. The second part of the shemah makes mentions that the Jewish people will ultimately influence the non-Jewish world to accept upon themselves Hashem as their G-D as well. Yaakov was satisfied, for he had seen a token fulfillment in Yosef's role in Egypt. Therefore, Yaakov said, "I can die now, after seeing your face." This can be interpreted simply as, now I have comfort that the Jewish people will fulfill their destiny in history, for in my own lifetime I have seen a token fulfillment of this.

Let us note that there is a great difference between the shemah of Yaakov and our shemah. Our version of the shemah begins with the word hear. Yaakov, after hearing that Yosef was alive and being told of his great glory could have been satisfied that the two aspects of the shemah were fulfilled and not have found it necessary to make the difficult trip to Egypt to witness it first hand. However Yaakov was not satisfied with just hearing, he wanted to see. Yaakov said (Bereishis 45:28) "It is a great thing that my son is still alive, I shall go down and see him before I die." This moment was the beginning of Yaakov's symbolic shemah. It culminated when Yaakov saw Yosef and declared, "I may die now that I have seen your face." We may say that in a symbolic sense Yaakov version of shemah was "See Israel, Hashem Who is our G-d is the G-D of the entire world."

In parshas vayechei the posuk tells us that Yaakov wished to reveal to his children 'the end of days.' Suddenly the Divine presence departed from him and he was unable to do so. He asked his children, perhaps there is someone here who is unworthy. His children immediately responded with the recital of the shemah, "Hear Yisroel, Hashem is our G-D, Hashem is One." Yaakov was satisfied and replied. "Blessed be the Honored Name of His Kingdom forever and ever." We may ask, if Yaakov was satisfied with the response of his children, why did he not reveal to them the 'end of days?' If we look carefully at the words of chazal, we may note that it says, "Yaakov wished to reveal the end of days." It does not say that he wished to tell them about the end of days. Revealing goes together with seeing, whereas telling goes together with hearing. Yaakov thought that his children had attained a more advanced level of spiritual perfection where they accepted upon themselves the yoke of heaven as he had done with seeing. If they had indeed attained this superior level of seeing then they would be worthy that the 'end of days' be revealed to them. However, his children responded with, "Hear Yisroel." Without realizing, they informed Yaakov that they were on a lower level of only hearing and have not yet merited the level of seeing. The difference between the level of hearing and seeing is expressed by chazal in the well-known dictum "one cannot compare [the perception of understanding that lies in] seeing to [the perception of understanding that lies in] hearing." After hearing his children recite the shemah Yaakov was reassured that all his children were indeed righteous but he was still unable to reveal the 'end of days' which depended on their superior level of spirituality, that of seeing.

With this in mind, we may take a fresh homiletic look at some halachos (guidelines) of shemah. In Shulchan Aruch it is recorded that one should recite the shemah in a state of dread and fear. The commentators explain that one should feel that he is prepared to give up his life for the sake of Hashem. The simple source for this are the next words of the shemah "you shall love Hashem with all your heart and all your soul." (Devarim 6:5) This is interpreted as meaning that one should be willing to give his soul for Hashem. However, we may suggest that our shemah is really a reenactment of Yaakov's shemah. We try to recreate in our own words the moment when Yaakov was reunited with Yosef after twenty-two years and witnessed first hand the double theme of the shemah and declared, "I may die now that I have seen your face."

When reciting the shemah it is our custom that we cover our eyes. The simple reason given by the Shulchan Aruch is in order to remove distractions from our surroundings and attempt to fully concentrate on the words of shemah. However, we may suggest that our shemah of hearing stands in contrast to Yaakov's shemah of seeing. We make this contrast by covering our eyes at the moment we say hear, as a way of conveying that unfortunately we have not yet seen in our history the actual fulfillment of the double theme of shemah as Yaakov had seen the token fulfillment in Yosef.

May we merit witnessing the day when perhaps our version of the shemah will be revised to read, "See Yisroel, Hashem who is our G-d, is the G-D of the entire world."


All the persons who are coming with Yaakov to mitzrayim (Jacob)-- his own descendants, aside from the wives of Yaakov's sons were 66 persons in all.

And Yosef's (Joseph) sons who were born to him in mitzrayim numbered two persons. All the people of Yaakov household who are coming to mitzrayim were seventy. (Bereishis 45:26-27)

Rashi here notes the obvious difficulty with the calculation. First the posuk (verse) tells us that the family who left mitzrayim totaled 66. We are then informed of another three in mitzrayim, i.e., Yosef and his two sons. Finally we are told that the total equals 70. But 66 + 3 = 69 not 70? Rashi quoting the Gemara answers that Yocheved was born between the walls. She was number 70.

The Tosfos Yom Tov (Nazir 5) writes that one is allowed to offer an alternative answer to a Gemara's question as long as one does not draw practical halachic conclusions based on his interpretation. With this permit, let us suggest an alternative approach.

First, let us note that the Gemara's calculation does not include Yaakov and his three wives (Rachel died years before). However, Yosef and his sons are listed even though they were already in mitzrayim and were not descending to mitzrayim now. In addition, the Gemara introduces a new person of whom there is no mention, i.e., Yocheved.

Perhaps there is a simpler explanation. There were 66 members of Yaakov's family plus Yaakov and his three wives for a total of 70. The posuk is not counting Yosef and his sons because they were already in mitzrayim and it cannot be said of them "who are coming," i.e., in the present tense. This fits well into the simple translation of the posuk. The posuk, when recording the sum of 66, refers to all the persons as Yaakov's "descendents." The word "descendents" implies to the exclusion of himself and his wives. Later, when the posuk records the total of 70, it does not mention this word. It simply says "all the people of Yaakov's household," which can be interpreted as including Yaakov and his wives. The posuk in between informs us that, in addition, Yaakov had a son and two grandchildren. But they are not included in the calculation since they already settled in mitzrayim. The calculation includes only the new arrivals as the posuk reads "who are coming" i.e., in the present tense to the exclusion of those who have already come, i.e., Yosef and his sons.

Let us now analyze the difference between the Gemara's calculation and ours. According to the Gemara, Yosef and his sons are listed but not Yaakov and his wives. In addition, we do list Yocheved. According to our explanation we omit Yosef and his sons but do include Yaakov and his wives and most importantly we make no mention of Yocheved. The key difference here is Yocheved. The Gemara is forced to invent Yocheved but according to us this is unnecessary.

Why didn't the Gemara choose our approach? Does it not seem simpler? Does it not fit well into the posuk?

At first glance, we are tempted to suggest that according to the Gemara, Yocheved was only included as an afterthought. Because the calculation was one short, we were forced to introduce her in order to fill the gap. By stating she was born between the walls, it reconciles the discrepancy between the two numbers. However, we can no longer suggest that Yocheved was just an afterthought because we easily could have made the other calculation without her. Obviously chazal felt that it was necessary to include her. Chazal's calculation started with her in mind and from there they worked backwards. But why was Yocheved so important?

Let us explain. First, a mother is symbol of a beginning or the source of something. Second, Yocheved was the mother of Moshe who was the redeemer of Klal Yisroel (the Jewish people). Putting these two together, Yocheved is a symbol for the source for our redemption.

In the next posuk we find that Yaakov sent Yehuda to mitzrayim to prepare a proper Torah environment to receive Klal Yisroel. Why was this necessary? Why couldn't Yaakov's sons establish a Torah environment when they arrived? The answer is that it would be too late. When entering a danger zone, the protection must already be in place. Only then is it possible to overcome the difficulties.

Taking all these ideas together we can suggest the following. When Klal Yisroel entered mitzrayim they were entering into Galus (exile). For them to survive, it was necessary that they enter with their source of redemption. Yocheved symbolized that source. Chazal were thus compelled to find her. They found her hidden in the discrepancy between 69 and 70.

If we go a step further, we may suggest that the birth of Yocheved between the walls foreshadows the actual geulah (redemption) 210 years later. Yocheved, the symbol of our source of redemption, was born as Klal Yisroel entered into Galus. We mentioned that it is vital to enter a danger zone prepared. The birth of Yocheved symbolizes that Klal Yisroel entered galus prepared with geulah. But let us note that this preparation came at the very last possible moment, just as they entered the walls of mitzrayim. This foreshadowed the actual geulah where chazal tell us that had it been delayed one more moment it would have been too late; we would have sunk to the fiftieth level of defilement where it would have been impossible for us to be redeemed.

In conclusion, we have two possible calculations for the number 70. By contrasting the two we learn that chazal's starting point was to include Yocheved and then work backwards. Yocheved symbolized our source of geulah and her birth between the walls, i.e., at the last possible moment, foreshadowed our actual redemption that also took place at the last possible moment.

Vayechi

So he blessed them that day saying, "By you shall Israel bless saying, 'May Hashem (G-D) make you like Ephraim and like Menasheh' and he put Ephraim before Menasheh (Bereishis 48:20).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn that Yaakov (Jacob) blessed Yosef (Joseph) and his two children Ephraim and Menasheh. Furthermore, Yaakov blessed Yosef that his children serve as models for all future Jewish children. Every parent will bless their children that they will also be like Ephraim and Menasheh. The commentators ask why specifically Ephraim and Menasheh?

A popular answer given is that Ephraim and Menasheh were the first children to grow up in galus (the Diaspora) and yet develop into true yarei shamayim G-D fearing people). Living in galus we are similarly surrounded by secular influences that are at odds with Torah values. We wish that our children emulate Ephraim and Menasheh and not be enticed by the trappings of the galus environment.

The author of the sefer Beis Ephraim poses a number of difficulties with this answer. We are aware that this blessing was recited even during the era of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) when there was no danger of a galus environment. Furthermore, when Moshiach will come, we will continue to recite this blessing even though there will no longer exist the danger of a galus environment.

Let us suggest a new answer. First, let us understand the deeper meaning behind the names Efraim and Menasheh. The Torah tells us the reason why Yosef named his first child Menasheh. "G-d has made me forget all my hardship and all my fathers household." (Bereishis 41:51) The simple understanding is that when Yosef was elevated to a position of authority in Egypt he forgot his past. He named his some Menasheh, a name related to the word "forget" in order to celebrate his new life in Egypt. However, it is very difficult to suggest that the righteous Yosef would want to forget his father, family and heritage. Rather, he realized that the conditions were such that it would be very easy for him to forget his past. In order to prevent this from happening he named his son Menasheh as a constant reminder not to forget his father and family.

With regard to the name Ephraim the posuk (verse) says "And the name of the second he called Ephraim, for G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Bereishis 41:52). The name Ephraim is related to the word piruh which means fruitful.

The Da'as Zekainim explains that Yosef specifically chose the name Ephraim to connote fruitfulness, rather than other words because this name also refers to Avraham (Abraham) and Yitzchak (Isaac). The first three letters of the name Ephraim are aleph pei and reish which spell the Hebrew word eifer, translated, "ash." The last two letters of the name Ephraim are yud and mem. These two letters are commonly added to a singular noun to convert it to plural. Thus, Ephraim may be translated as "a double portion of ash." This alludes to Avraham and Yitzchak who were both described as ash. When Avraham pleaded on behalf of Sedom he said to Hashem, "I am but dust and ash" (Bereishis 41:52). Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) explain that the reference of ash refers to the time when Nimrod threw him into the furnace as punishment for refusing to bow down to an idol. Avraham mentioned that if not for Hashem's mercy he would have been burned to ash. Similarly after Yitzchak was removed from the altar at the akeidah (Binding) he was replaced with a ram. The ram was completely burned to ash. Chazal tell us that this pile of ash serves as a constant reminder for Hashem of the selflessness of Yitzchak who was willing to allow himself to be sacrificed to Hashem.

Thus the name Menasheh was given as a reminder not to forget Yaakov and the name Ephraim was given in memory of both Avraham and Yitzchak. We now understand why every Jewish male child is blessed to be like Ephraim and Menasheh. Ephraim and Menasheh were the first Jewish children named after our forefathers. The traditional blessing for every Jewish child is that they too succeed in emulating the ways of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as did Ephraim and Menasheh.

We note that the parallel blessing for every Jewish female child is to emulate our Matriarchs, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. Indeed, when we define the nature of the blessing of Ephraim and Menasheh as relating to the Patriarchs the natural parallel blessing with regard to daughters would be one relating to the Matriarchs.


And Yaakov (Jacob) lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years. (Bereishis 47:28)

Commenting on this posuk(verse), Rashi notes that this parsha (portion) is stumah. (That is,) normally in the Torah there is a blank space of nine letters between the different sections of the Torah but here there is none. Rashi proceeds to give two separate homiletic reasons as to why this parsha is stumah. The first reason is because with Yaakov's death the galus (exile) commenced and due to the hardships of the galus, the eyes and hearts of the Jewish people closed. The second reason is because Yaakov wished to reveal the time when moshiach (the Messiah) would arrive but was prevented from doing so with the sudden departure of the Divine Presence.

Upon analyzing Rashi's first explanation that the hearts and eyes of the Jewish people were closed due to the onset of the galus, we may ask, exactly how is this reflected in the lack of blank space between the two sections? In answer to this question the commentators (Or Gedalyaho) explain that generally the reason there is space between the different sections of the Torah is to teach us that one should not attempt to learn the entire Torah without interruption. One must stop between the sections in order to absorb and reflect upon its teachings and messages. In the words of chazal (our sages of blessed memory) this is called "revach l'hisbonain bain inyan l'inyan," which is loosely translated as, open space [is provided in order to give one a chance] to contemplate between one topic and the next. A tragic aspect of galus is that due to our troubles and hardships we lack the presence of mind that would enable us to contemplate on our purpose in life and the significance of the events that occur around us. We lack "revach l'hisbonen" In parshas vayechi the galus commenced and in order to highlight this, the opening posuk lacks "revach l'hisbonen."

With this in mind, let us suggest that Rashi's two different explanations are really linked. They are two sides of the same coin.

The redemption of the Jewish people from the exile of Egypt it was not a sudden occurrence. The redemption occurred in two stages. Chazal tell us that on Rosh Hashanah we were freed from the hard labor, but it was not until six and a half months later, on the fifteenth of Nissan, that we actually left Egypt. We may ask, what is the significance of these two stages? Why didn't Hashem just orchestrate the redemption so that we would leave Egypt suddenly? The answer is that redemption is not just the attainment of freedom. In order for us to understand the significance of the event, Hashem provided us with a six and a half month grace period in which we were free to focus on what was about to occur. This period is what we refer to as "revach l'hisbonen."

Rashi's first reason was explained above. Now we may understand how the second reason immediately follows. A prerequisite for any redemption is the revach l'hisbonen period, as we have seen in our redemption from Egypt. Therefore, because the hearts and eyes of Yaakov's children were closed with the onset of galus they lacked the revach l'hisbonain that was necessary for an appreciation of geulah. Thus, Yaakov's children could not appreciate the significance of the ultimate redemption, and therefore Yaakov was prevented from revealing to them the details of the geulah. The two explanations of Rashi are closely related. In galus there is no loss of "revach l'hisbonen." Without revach l'hisbonen we cannot appreciate the significance of the 'end of days' and are therefore prevented from knowing in advance when moshiach will come.

Let us bring a proof to the relationship of these two ideas from megillas (the scroll of) Esther. When Mordechai attempted to persuade Esther to be instrumental in saving the Jewish people he warned her that if she did not help, the Jewish people would be saved without her and only she would be the one to suffer. A simple translation of his words are, "Revach, and help, will come for the Jews from another source." We may ask, what did Mordechai add with the word "revach." Why didn't Mordechai simply say that, "help would come from another source?" The answer is that an integral aspect of redemption is the grace period that comes before the actual redemption. This grace period allows time for introspection. Therefore, Mordechai first said revach and then "help." We see here that the two ideas of Rashi are linked. The theme of Mordochai's instructions is redemption. This is similar to the second reason given by Rashi, a reference to the ultimate redemption. Yet, the posuk refers to redemption with the word "revach" which is the word and concept that was used to explain Rashi's first reason. The message is that without revach l'hisbonain there can be no redemption.

In this vein, let us explain a prayer that we recite every Monday and Thursday in ta'cha'nun. We ask Hashem (G-D) "to show us a sign for good." We may ask, what exactly are we praying for. Most of our prayers are filled with explicit requests for salvation and redemption. However, this prayer implies that we are asking for something that comes before the actual salvation. We seek a sign that salvation is on the way even though it has not yet arrived. What exactly is the nature of this request?

The letter tes in the Hebrew alphabet literally represents the number nine. However, it is also a symbol for the word good. This is because the first time the letter tes appears in the Torah, it is found in the first letter of the word tov, which is translated as good. The amount of space that is missing in the beginning of our parsha is the blank space of nine, i.e., tes letters. As explained, this blank space symbolizes our lack of "revach lishbonain." Further, the Hebrew word for sign or omen is oas which also can be translated as a "letter of the alphabet." If we now take this prayer more literally, it may be translated as a request that Hashem "show us a letter for tov." As mentioned above, tov also represents the number nine. Now we may revise the translation as "show us a letter for nine." Were do we find the concept of a hidden letter that also is related to the number nine that we now yearn to see? The answer is the nine blank spaces that are missing in between vayigash and vayechi. We ask Hashem to widen the gap between the two sections and show us the revach. We ask Hashem to fulfill the words of Mordechai "Revach and help will come." We ask Hashem to grant us "revach l'hisbonain," "a sign for good," the revach which is the precursor to the actual salvation.

May we merit to see the revach between the sections and the ultimate geulah.


Dan will be a snake upon the road, a serpent on the path, that bites a horse's heels and its rider falls backwards. (Bereishis 49:17)

Rashi writes that this posuk (verse) prophesizes how Shimshon will avenge the Philishtim.

The posuk thus indirectly informs us that the character of the snake is revenge. Likewise, the Gemara (Yoma 23a) states in the name of Rav Yochanan that any talmud chacham (Torah scholar) who does not take revenge like a snake is not a talmud chacham. What does a snake have to do with revenge? How is it that, in order to be classified as a true talmud chacham, one must take revenge? Is it not forbidden to take revenge, even for an ordinary Jew?

The simple answer to the second question is that we are referring to wicked people or those who desecrate the Torah. To such people, it is indeed permitted and required to practice vengeance. However, this practice is reserved for talmidei chachamim who can be trusted to act for the honor of Hashem and not ulterior motives.

Let us attempt to offer an alternative interpretation.

There are two types of revenge. The simple type is where one inflicts harms on another in response to a wrongdoing. The second type is where one repays a wrongdoing with kindness. Here, when the aggressor sees how his victim is not shaken by his cruelty and even responds by bestowing kindness, the aggressor is filled with shame, embarrassment, and remorse. He is pained at how he could have harmed such a kind and good individual.

The pain from shame and embarrassment is far more profound then a mere physical pain or punishment. Likewise, this latter form of revenge is permitted and advised whereas the former is forbidden. This concept is found in the posuk (Mishlei 25) "If your enemy is hungry feed him bread. If he is thirsty, provide him with water, for by doing so you are stirring coals on his head."

It is important to note that this type of revenge is not appropriate in all instances. In extreme cases, the Torah does require the harmful type of revenge, e.g., Amalek.

But how does this relate to the snake?

Let us look back at the primeval snake, otherwise known as the nachash hakadmoni.

The Gemara (Yoma 75) relates the following: Come and see: The character of Hashem is not like the character of man. When one man wrongs his fellow, the victim takes revenge, even by attempting to take the life of his aggressor. This type of response is not found by Hashem. When the primeval snake sinned against Hashem when it influenced Chavah to eat from the eitz hadaas (Tree of knowledge), Hashem responded by "rewarding" the snake with an unlimited food supply, i.e., the dust of the earth. If the snake climbs to the roof, its food is there. If the snake comes down to the earth, its food is also found there. Wherever it travels, its food is by its side.

How do we understand this? A simple interpretation is that the ultimate punishment is not to need Hashem. We humans constantly find ourselves lacking and it is precisely our deficiencies that cause us to seek Hashem and ask Him to fill our needs. The ultimate punishment for the snake is that it always has what it needs and never needs to seek Hashem. Hashem, so to speak, told the nachash: "here take what you need and leave. I don't ever want to know from you!"

Based on the above, let us suggest an alternative explanation for Hashem's method of punishing the snake. Hashem took revenge against the snake with the "revenge of kindness." Hashem responded to the wickedness of the snake with the ultimate kindness by granting it everything it will ever need. This was for the snake the ultimate torture. When the snake realized how kind Hashem was to it, despite its sin, it was filled with shame, embarrassment, and remorse. It suffered from its realization of how tragic it was to rebel against Hashem.

With this we can suggest a new meaning to that which we started with. Chazal say "Any talmud chachum that does not take revenge like a snake is not a talmud chachum." We can now interpret this to mean any talmud chachum that does not take revenge like the revenge that Hashem took against the snake, i.e., revenge of kindness, is not a real talmud chachum. Talmidei chachamim have higher standards. They are expected to overlook wrongdoings and not directly avenge their enemies. They may, however, indirectly bring them suffering through kindness.


And Yisroel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; they took holding in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly. (Bereishis 47:27)

We are aware that that the Torah is divided into various sections. Some sections begin on a new line and some in the middle of line after a blank space equivalent to nine letters. These divisions are called by Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) pisuchah and stumah. These sections are part of the oral tradition given at Har (Mount) Sinai. In addition to these sections Chazal have also divided the Torah into portions that we read publicly each week. The goal of these divisions is so that we conclude the reading of the Torah annually. This is what we call "the week's parsha" or "sidrah." It is noteworthy that each week's sidrah (Torah reading) concludes with a parsha stumah or pisuchah. However there is one exception, that being, parshas vayigash. This sidrah mysteriously concludes in the middle of a section. From the perspective of the pisuchah or stumah it would appear that parshas vayigash and vayechi are one long unit. We may thus ask why do we not read them together. This is especially difficult considering that the theme of both relate to the Jewish people's descent to Egypt. Furthermore, according to our calendar, many years have more parshious than weeks. In these years we improvise by reading multiple parshious. Why not join vayigash and vayechi instead of joining other unrelated parshious?

Chazal teach us that the events that happened to our forefather are a sign for us. The Jewish people's descent to Egypt foreshadows our exile. By studying the Egyptian exile we may learn how to conduct ourselves in our current exile. It is noteworthy that the exile of Egypt may be divided into two parts. The first part relates to the good years of exile. This refers the period of time where Yaakov (Jacob) and his children were alive and guided the Jewish people according to the ways of Torah. During this era the Jewish people lived in peace, tranquility and prospered. This epoch is related in parshas vayigash. Indeed the last posuk (verse) of parsha summarizes this era with the words "and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly." In addition to its simple meaning it may also be interpreted homiletically as meaning spiritual growth.

However, beginning with parshas vayechi the harsh yeas of exile begin. Yaakov dies and suddenly the Jewish people were cast in darkness. Indeed, Chazal tell us that when Yaakov died the eyes of the Jewish people we closed. Soon thereafter they were enslaved and persecuted.

Chazal tell us that the there is a predestined time when our present exile will end. At this time Moshiach will come and usher in a new world order. However, if we wish we have the ability to hasten the redemption and bring the era of Moshiach before its time. This is only if we perform Hashem's Mitzvos and sincerely desire the coming of Moshiach.

We may suggest that Chazal purposely chose to cut short parshas vayigash and conclude with the posuk that summarizes the good years of exile. It is as if they are reminding us that it is within our power to end our exile here. If only we would perform good deeds, distance ourselves from sin and repent the exile would end here and there would be no need for the unpleasantness of parshas vayechi.


Vayechi

So he blessed them that day saying, "By you shall Israel bless saying, 'May Hashem (G-D) make you like Ephraim and like Menasheh' and he put Ephraim before Menasheh (Bereishis 48:20).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn that Yaakov (Jacob) blessed Yosef (Joseph) and his two children Ephraim and Menasheh. Furthermore, Yaakov blessed Yosef that his children serve as models for all future Jewish children. Every parent will bless their children that they too be like Ephraim and Menasheh. The commentators ask why specifically Ephraim and Menasheh?

A popular answer given is that Ephraim and Menasheh were the first children to grow up in galus (Diaspora) and yet develop into true yarei shamayim (G-D fearing people). Living in galus we are similarly surrounded by secular influences that are at odds with Torah values. We wish that our children emulate Ephraim and Menasheh and not be enticed by the trappings of the galus environment.

The author of the sefer Beis Ephraim poses a number of difficulties with this answer. We are aware that this blessing was recited even during the era of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) when there was no danger of a galus environment. Furthermore, when Moshiach will come, we will continue to recite this blessing even though there will no longer exist the danger of a galus environment.

Let us suggest a new answer. First, let us understand the deeper meaning behind the names Efraim and Menasheh. The Torah tells us the reason why Yosef named his first child Menasheh. "G-d has made me forget all my hardship and all my fathers household." (Bereishis 41:51) The simple understanding is that when Yosef was elevated to a position of authority in Egypt he forgot his past. He named his some Menasheh, a name related to the word "forget" in order to celebrate his new life in Egypt. However, it is very difficult to suggest that the righteous Yosef would want to forget his father, family and heritage. Rather, he realized that the conditions were such that it would be very easy for him to forget his past. In order to prevent this from happening he named his son Menasheh as a constant reminder not to forget his father and family.

With regard to the name Ephraim the posuk says "And the name of the second he called Ephraim, for G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Bereishis 41:52). The name Ephraim is related to the word piruh which means fruitful.

The Da'as Zekainim explains that Yosef specifically chose the name Ephraim to connote fruitfulness, rather than other words because this name also refers to Avraham and Yitzchak (Abraham and Isaac). The first three letters of the name Ephraim are aleph pei and reish which spell the Hebrew word eifer, translated, "ash." The last two letters of the name Ephraim are yud and mem. These two letters are commonly added to a singular noun to convert it to plural. Thus, Ephraim may be translated as "a double portion of ash." This alludes to Avraham and Yitzchak who were both described as ash. When Avraham pleaded on behalf of Sedom he said to Hashem, "I am but dust and ash" (Bereishis 41:52). Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) explain that the reference of ash refers to the time when Nimrod threw him into the furnace as punishment for refusing to bow down to an idol. Avraham mentioned that if not for Hashem's mercy he would have been burned to ash. Similarly after Yitzchak was removed from the altar at the akeidah he was replaced with a ram. The ram was completely burned to ash. Chazal tell us that this pile of ash serves as a constant reminder for Hashem of the selflessness of Yitzchak who was willing to allow himself to be sacrificed to Hashem.

Thus the name Menasheh was given as a reminder not to forget Yaakov and the name Ephraim was given in memory of both Avraham and Yitzchak. We now understand why every Jewish male child is blessed to be like Ephraim and Menasheh. Ephraim and Menasheh were the first Jewish children named after our forefathers. The traditional blessing for every Jewish child is that they too succeed in emulating the ways of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as did Ephraim and Menasheh.

We note that the parallel blessing for every Jewish female child is to emulate our Matriarchs, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. Indeed, when we define the nature of the blessing of Ephraim and Menasheh as relating to the Patriarchs the natural parallel blessing with regard to daughters would be one relating to the Matriarchs.


And I have given you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the land of Amorite with my sword and my bow (Bereishis 48:22).

The above posuk (verse) describes Yaakov's (Jacob's) conquest of a part of Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel). The literal reading of the posuk makes it clear that the weapons Yaakov used were a sword and bow. However, Targum Unkelos translates these words as "tzlosie" and "bausie," which in turn may be translated as "prayer" and "supplication." The Targum is teaching us not to translate sword and bow literally but figuratively. The true weapon of Yaakov is prayer. We may ask: why was it necessary for Yaakov to mention the exact weapons used in battle. Furthermore, if the Targum is correct in that there were no real weapons but only prayer why then is this not mentioned explicitly in the posuk.

It is noteworthy that the Torah describes the nations of Esav and Yishmael (Esau and Ishmael) as those who bear the sword and shoot arrows. In parshas (Torah reading) Toldos, Yitzchak (Isaac) blessed Esav by saying "By your sword you shall live" (Bereishis 27:40). Likewise in parshas Vayeira, the posuk says regarding Yishmael, "Hashem was with the young lad and he grew up; he dwelt in the desert and became one who shoots arrows with a bow" (Bereishis 21:20). From these two posukim we derive that the sword is a symbol of Esav and the bow and arrow are symbols of Yishmael.

We may suggest the following. The Amorites originally occupied the portion of land that Yaakov captured. Yaakov hinted to Yosef that even after removing the Amorites from the land he still had to fight with a sword and bow to counter those who bear the sword and bow. These enemies are none other then Esav and Yishmael. Even after Yaakov drove out the Amorites, the nations of Esav and Yishmael refused to allow Yaakov to occupy the land due to jealousy or outright hatred. Yaakov thus had to mention the sword and bow to allude to Esav and Yishmael. However the Targum explains that although these words were necessary we may not overlook the true weapon of prayer.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign for us. We also have conquered the land from the seven Canaanite nations, yet today we find ourselves contending with those who bear the sword and bow. They are none other then the descendents of Esav and Yishmael. The rules of war dictate that we engage the enemy with the same kind of weapons and tactics used against us. However the Targum reminds us that our most potent weapon is prayer.

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