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Vayechi

January 4th, 2020

7th of Tevet 5780

PARSHA IN PDF Archives ARCHIVES

Accurate Soul Searching

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"And Yosef said to his brothers, "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him because they were left disconcerted before him" (Bereishit 45:3)

Our Sages tell us (Midrash Tanchuma) that when the brothers realized that it was Yosef who was standing in front of them, at that moment they wished to kill him but the angel Gavriel came and scattered them.

This seems to be most puzzling. How do we understand that they wished to kill him? Were they not the G-dly tribes who lived their entire lives with great righteousness? The holy brothers constantly searched their souls to consider if they were correct in selling Yosef or not. They would assess themselves at every opportunity and they came to the conclusion that their actions were justified. Therefore, even though they witnessed their father's great pain when he realized that Yosef had been taken from him, as it says "Then Ya'akov rent his garments and placed sackcloth on his loins; he mourned for his son for many days" (Bereishit 37:34), nevertheless they did not regret their actions. They were of the opinion that they had acted correctly and had judged Yosef with justice and righteousness.

However, they now understand that their reckoning was flawed since the truth was revealed in front of their eyes: Yosef reveals himself and they realize that the Creator of the World has raised him and elevated him above everyone. They see that he has been appointed as viceroy and placed in charge of the entire land of Egypt. The dreams that he told them about, have come to fruition yet he remained righteous and spoke with them using the Holy tongue. His children too were as righteous as their father. All this certainly brought them to understand that they had made a grave mistake. So why did the angel Gavriel have to disperse them to prevent them from killing him?

The answer is that even when a person searches his deeds and checks his ways to examine if they are correct or not, it can sometimes be that he makes a mistake in weighing up the matter and doesn’t do the soul-searching correctly. This is also common among business people who make a balance sheet and wish to reckon the profit or loss from any transaction. Sometimes, if their reckoning is mistaken, their calculation will be inaccurate.

This was true also with the holy brothers. Even if until now they felt a small amount of regret, but specifically when arriving at the moment of truth when Yosef revealed himself to them, they once again considered the matter, but came again to a mistaken conclusion and said: This is the person who we previously sentenced to death (as per the law of someone who pursues another person with the intention of murdering him), and he is now standing in front of us. If so, we will fulfill this law and kill him… This is why they wished to kill him and Gavriel had to come and scatter them. When Gavriel scattered them they once again understood that they had made a grave mistake and this time their regret was deep and they immediately fully repented. They could not answer him for they were disconcerted before him, but then made peace between them.

This is why, on their return to their father's house Yosef said to them, "Do not become agitated on the way," meaning Yosef requested that they should not blame each other for their mistaken decision to kill him, for it was enough that they had realized their mistake and had now repented.

The lesson that we can derive is that in order to make a correct self-assessment, one needs good judgment and special Divine assistance. Sometimes a person can be at war with his friend since he saw him following the incorrect path and doing something which is against the halacha. He weighs up the matter and convinces himself that his sole intention with this war is for the sake of Heaven. But in truth, it could be that this is not so and his decision is mistaken. Deep inside he really harbors hidden negative feelings of jealousy or hatred r"l, against this friend. Since the yetzer hara sketches a picture of his battle as being for the sake of Heaven, he must therefore know to evaluate his deeds with a spirit level and examine each deed with a discerning eye, to identify if it is correct or not. He must weigh up the matter well and imagine if Hashem, who examines thoughts and emotions, will be happy with this deed, or perhaps, chalila, He will be angry with him. If he does this he will know that he is on the correct path to constant spiritual growth, and he is promised that all his deeds will be for the sake of Heaven, Amen.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "The word of Hashem came to me…Now you, son of man" (Yechezkel 37)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah speaks about the kingdom of Yehuda and the kingdom of Yosef, which in the future will unite, as is written: "Now you, Son of Man, take for yourself one piece of wood and write upon it, 'For Yehuda and for the Children of Israel, his comrades; and take one piece of wood and write upon it, 'For Yosef…', and they will become united in your hand."

This is the subject of the Parsha: Yehuda fought to save his brother Binyomin and eventually all the brothers united with Yosef Hatzaddik who ruled over the entire land of Mitzrayim.

Walking in Their Ways

The Courage to Question

A yeshiva student came to ask me a question regarding a nuance of a mitzvah. As we were talking, he discovered that without realizing, he had been transgressing a serious prohibition. Of course, I explained the matter to him. I taught him how to correct his misdeeds, and told him how to behave correctly in the future.

This matter taught me how crucial it is to ask the advice of a Torah teacher.

In the merit of setting aside his embarrassment and approaching me to ask the Torah’s opinion in a specific matter, he merited touching on a completely different topic, which demanded correction. Had he not had the courage to ask about the original difficulty, he may never have corrected this unintentional sin.

Meriting Mitzvot

I was once presented with the opportunity of performing a certain mitzvah, but until I got around to doing it, it slipped away from me. I felt very bad that I had lost out on this mitzvah, which I felt I should have hurried to do.

Hashem must have seen my sorrow, for only a few minutes passed when the exact same mitzvah presented itself again. Baruch Hashem, this time around I did not procrastinate and merited doing it correctly and with pure joy.

This was a lesson for me that when a person regrets overlooking a mitzvah, Hashem helps him by presenting him with another opportunity to perform that same mitzvah. This proves how precious our mitzvot are in Hashem’s eyes.

Guard Your Tongue

A False Report

The following is a small feature which many people, unfortunately, stumble with: For example, there may be several townspeople who are known to be poor and are supported by charity. It can happen that someone spreads a false rumor that they are not really deserving, they simply make out that they are poor in order to deceive people. This false rumor stops many people from supporting them although they were accustomed to doing so until now.

Words of the Sages

Why Did the Balozhover Rebbe Hurry to Manhattan?

"And provide seed so that we may live and not die" (Bereishit 47:19)

In the Torah publication 'Tiv HaKehilla', Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz shlita brings a story about the Admor of Balozhov zt"l. Towards the end of his life, when he was already close to ninety years old, one of his acquaintances came to see him and complained that he was having a hard time with parnasa.

"How can I help you?" asked the Rebbe.

"I own a factory where we manufacture many different kinds of belts. I have a friend who owns a huge clothing store in Manhattan and he sells thousands of pairs of pants every month. If this store-owner will agree to buy belts from my factory, this will be a great salvation for me! So I would like to ask the Rebbe if he could please call him on the phone and ask him to buy his belts from my factory."

The holy Rebbe listened to his request and said: "Helping a Jewish person with his income is a definite Torah obligation and is included in the commandment of "You shall strengthen him"! This important mitzvah one doesn’t perform on the phone… Let's travel together to his store in Manhattan and I will speak to him face to face. This way he will also take my request more seriously!"

The man was astounded at the offer and immediately started apologizing. "I didn’t intend, G-d forbid, to trouble the elderly Rebbe. I am sure that a phone call from the Rebbe will also be helpful."

But the Rebbe would not be dissuaded and asked him: "Do you have a car?"

"Yes."

"If so, let's go!" the Rebbe declared.

Despite the tzaddik's advanced age and resulting weakness, he braced himself, stood up, took his stick in his hand and started slowly making his way to the car, step by step. He got in the car and they set out on the long journey.

They finally arrived at the large business boulevard in Manhattan. This elderly, dignified Rebbe showed his full splendor as he climbed his way with difficulty up to the fourth floor, to the large clothing store, arriving without any prior notice!

The Jewish owner was most astonished to suddenly see the elderly Rebbe himself standing at the entrance of his store. He joyfully ran over to him, welcomed him and brought him inside to his office, where he asked him with awe: "Why did the Rebbe trouble himself to come to the store? If the Rebbe requires clothing, I would certainly have happily come to the Rebbe's home and brought whatever the Rebbe requires!"

The Rebbe smiled and said: "I didn’t come here this time for clothing. I am well aware of your good-heartedness and know that you would certainly bring whatever I need to my home. But now I have a different request. You sell many pairs of pants and most pants are worn with a fine suitable belt that fastens well. There is an honorable Jew, in New York, who manufactures a wide range of beautifully designed belts. I ask that you buy your belts from this Jew! It is certainly preferable for us to support a fellow Jew than to purchase from the many non-Jewish factory owners!

"Certainly, I will be happy to do so!" he replied. "I will do as the Rebbe asked."

The Rebbe blessed him that his business should be successful, and returned home.

The holy blessing of the Rebbe indeed accompanied these two businessmen and for many years this belt manufacturer continued supplying belts for the clothing store. Both of them were blessed with great wealth, in the merit of the tzaddik!

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Serving Hashem Without Stress

The Parsha of Vayigash is read close to the festival of Chanukah and the connection is that we light the Chanukah menorah according to the opinion of Beit Hillel. Beit Hillel holds that on the first night one lights one light, on the second night, two, and so forth, until on the eighth day one lights all eight lights. The word 'שמנה' (eight) contains the same letters as the word 'נשמה' (soul), for it is only in this way that a person merits kindling the light within him of his soul. It is impossible to reach high levels in one leap, for this could cause a person to easily slip and fall. Spiritual work requires steady effort, stage by stage, layer by layer. Together with patience and forbearance, one should add a small measure of positive commitments daily. Today a little and tomorrow a little more and so forth, just like Yosef Hatzaddik whose name signifies and means 'continually adding'. In this way man merits strengthening his connection with Hashem, for with each additional effort he comes closer and closer to His Creator.

The main predicament of today's generation is the great pressure which people find themselves caught up in. They wish to achieve everything in an instant and they have little patience. When a person marries and sets up a home, he immediately wants to be blessed with children. Similarly, he hopes for abundant income in the quickest possible way. He wants to increase his possessions and he has many other demands too, but of course one cannot achieve everything at once. This causes a person to be under great stress, and from here the path to all kinds of problems is not far off.

We can apply the same idea to our avodat Hashem. If a person starts his day with the desire that his prayers should be pure without any foreign thoughts whatsoever, and that his Torah study should be perfect in its toil and effort, and he also wishes to immediately perform all the mitzvot in the best possible way, what will happen? He will suddenly collapse under the strain and will lose everything. This is a result of wanting to climb the mountain of Hashem quickly and arrive at the peak even before he sets out.

Chazal tell us (Chagiga 17b) "One who grabs hold of a lot has not grasped (anything)". Instead, the correct conduct is to be like 'Yosef', to keep adding a little more each day. This is the way to forge ahead and ascend in the levels of holiness. To what can this be compared? To one who places a bottle under the tap to fill it up with water. If the stream of water is reasonable, the process might take a bit of time, but in the end, the bottle will fill up. But if an impatient person wishes to fill up the bottle quickly, what does he do? He turns on the tap to its full strength and due to the force, the water splashes out of the bottle and nothing enters besides a few drops.

Pearls of the Parsha

The Gates of Parnassa

"And to his father he sent the following: ten he-donkeys laden with the best of Egypt" (Bereishit 45:23)

Rashi explains the word 'כזאת', (the following) as, 'like the following reckoning'.

The Sefer 'Irin Kadishin' brings a question that he asked the Rozhiner Rav zt"l: What has Rashi added with his explanation? The verse details exactly what Yosef sent so what does 'like the following reckoning' come to teach us?

He answers that it is known that Hashem's Name/name of the angel? that is appointed over parnassa is 'חת"ך' (Chatach). This word is made up of the last letters of 'פותח את ידך', 'You open Your hand', and has the same numerical value (428) as the word 'כזאת'.

Yosef was implying to Ya'akov, that since now is the time of famine, Ya'akov should have in mind the name 'Chatach', and then maybe the famine will disappear and he will find relief.

Rashi, in his beautiful way, is explaining that it must be that 'כזאת' is coming to teach us something since the verse details explicitly what he sent. What does this word add?

He answers 'like the following reckoning', which means like the reckoning of the word 'כזאת' which has the same numerical value as 'חת"ך', implying that Ya'akov should have this name in mind.

The Sign of the Osem Company

"And he saw the wagons that Yosef had sent to transport him, then the spirit of their father Ya'akov was revived" (Bereishit 45:27)

Sending these wagons, as Rashi explains, was a message from Yosef. The word 'עגלות', wagons, can also be translated as calves, alluding to the last topic that he had studied together with his father Ya'akov before they were separated. This was the topic of eglah arufah (the ritual of expiation of an unsolved murder).

Ya'akov rejoiced when seeing the wagons. It was proof for him that even after twenty-two years of not seeing his son, Yosef's thoughts had remained pure. His mind was occupied with the give and take of Abaya and Rava on the topic they had been studying together all these years ago.

"The spirit of their father Ya'akov was revived", this was the reason for his special joy.

How was Yosef sure that when Ya'akov would see the wagons he would connect it to their learning? Because Yosef knew that what occupied Ya'akov's mind was one thing only – Torah. Therefore, he knew without a doubt that when he would see the wagons he would immediately connect it to eglah arufah.

The following incident that took place with Rabbi Avrohom Genechovsky zt"l, demonstrates a living example of this kind of ideal.

At the entrance to Bnei Brak, there used to be an area that housed the large Osem factory. It was a conspicuous building, with a large sign hanging on the outside that depicted the company name, ‘OSEM’.

Rabbi Avrohom once traveled to Bnei Brak and when he noticed the sign he smiled and said, "This sign reminds me of a Gemara. In answer to the surprised look of those accompanying him, he explained with a smile, "It reminds me of the Gemara in Baba Kama that tells about a stone (אבנו), a knife (סכינו), or a bundle (משאו), that fall from a roof. The word 'אסם' (Osem) is an acronym for אבנו, סכינו, משאו!"…

The only thing that occupied his mind was the Torah! When we see an 'Osem' sign, what do we usually think of? Bissli or Bamba! This tzaddik saw Baba Kama…

When Hardships Affect One's External Appearance

"Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life" (Bereishit 47:9)

The Midrash tells us that Hashem punished Ya'akov and decreased his life span according to the number of words in the verses "Pharaoh said to Ya'akov, "How many are the days of the years of your life?" Ya'akov answered Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad…in the days of their sojourns". (ibid 47: 8-9) Hashem took off thirty-three years from his life for these thirty-three words in Hebrew.

The Maharal Diskin adds that those thirty-three years that were taken off also correspond to the number of letters in the words, "They have not reached the life spans of my forefathers in the days of their sojourns", part of verse 9, measure for measure. Since Ya'akov said that he has not reached the life spans of his fathers, his life span was decreased by the number of letters in that sentence.

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz zt"l poses the following question: We can understand that Ya'akov was punished for saying to Pharaoh "Few and bad…", but why was he punished for Pharaoh's words, "Pharaoh said to Ya'akov, "How many are the days of the years of your life?"?

He answers that Pharaoh posed his question of "How many are the days…of your life" since he noticed that Ya'akov looked extremely old and his hair and beard were white. Since Pharaoh thought that he was a very old man, he asked him how old he was, to which Ya'akov answered "Few and bad…", meaning, my years are only a few, but because of all my hardships, old age sprung on me.

So Pharaoh's question was really caused by Ya'akov's appearance. Since his hardships were visible externally, he was punished for Pharaoh's words too.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

"I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" (Bereishit 45:3)

"And Yosef said to his brothers, "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?" Surely Yosef knew that Ya'akov was alive? When they returned to Mitzrayim from Eretz Yisrael, Yosef asked them, "Is your aged father at peace? Is he still alive?" which is followed by, "They replied…he still lives". Now too, in his argument with Yehuda, Yehuda said, "For how can I go up to my father if the youth is not with me, lest I see the evil that will befall my father!" Throughout his words, Yehuda mentions that his father is alive, for example, "We have an old father". Yosef was certainly aware that his father was alive, so what is the meaning of his question, "I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?"?

The Beit Halevi explains that the answer can be found in the famous words of Abba Cohen Bardela, which the Midrash quotes:

"Abba Cohen Bardela said: Woe to us from the day of judgment, woe to us from the day of rebuke. Yosef was the youngest of the tribes and they could not stand up to his rebuke... When Hashem will come and rebuke each one according to what he is, as it says, 'I will rebuke you and lay it clearly before your eyes!' all the more so."

The obvious question is, what lies behind the repetition of 'day of judgment' and 'day of rebuke'? And what is the significance of 'according to what he is'?

The Beit Halevi answers these questions and starts by saying that even though many mefarshim have clarified this Midrash, he wishes to explain it according to his own understanding.

Yosef was not asking his brothers if their father was alive. He knew that he was alive. It was not a question, it was rebuke! You Yehuda said, "For how can I go up to my father if the youth is not with me, lest I see the evil that will befall my father?"  Therefore, I cannot leave Binyamin here. But do you know what? I am Yosef. Is my father still alive? What happened twenty-two years ago? Then you weren't concerned?! When you sold me, you weren't concerned for his health, for father's life?!

And for this, they had no answer. This is rebuke that leaves the person with nothing to say in his defense.

The Beit Halevi continues: It says that in the future when a person is judged, there will be both judgment and rebuke. He will be asked questions and he will have to supply answers. And sometimes, the excuse that he offers in his defense, will be accepted by the 'din' (judgment), even if with difficulty, but it is still accepted. However, on the other hand, 'rebuke' immediately invalidates his excuse.

He brings an example: A person arrives in the World of Truth and he is asked, why did you not give charity? You lived in the world for so many years, how come you never gave any charity? He answers: How could I give? He describes his financial situation, his large family, small income etc. Even though this is not an excuse, the Beit Halevi says, for it says in the Gemara (Gittin 7a) that even a poor person who is supported by charity must give charity and it is written that if a person sees that his sustenance is diminishing, on the contrary, this is the time to give charity. Just like when a sheep is sheared, the wool grows back in a larger measure, so too a person should give charity and his income will increase… Despite all this, there is still room to take his limited means into account. He will present his excuse and in terms of the 'din', he will more or less get away with it.

But suddenly they will ask him another question: How come when it came to other things you had money to squander? How did you suddenly have the means?

When it came to arguments he had money, when it came to matters of his honor he had money. And when it came to his children's education, he had money to send them to learn in unacceptable institutions like college or university, G-d forbid. From where did he suddenly have the means? This is the meaning of 'rebuke'! His very own actions contradict what he is saying! This rebuke renounces the excuse that he didn’t have money.

This is the explanation of the verse that the Midrash quotes, "I will rebuke you and lay it clearly before your eyes!". In the future, Hashem will rebuke each person, according to what he is. He gave an excuse that he wasn't able to do a certain thing and Hashem will rebuke him using his own excuse.

First to Arrive for a Trip

The most piercing rebuke is when a person is presented with a circumstance that contradicts what he is saying. How can you ask me to have pity on my father if you did not have pity on his sorrow?

A person does not give charity and excuses himself that he barely has enough to provide for his family. However, he has no problem being extravagant when it comes to certain luxuries!?

"He sits and chatters the whole day and does not grow tired. He gets up to pray and learn, and he is tired" (Esther Rabba 3:4)…

Rabbi Shalom Shwadron zt"l used to decry this inconsistency that we see in people's lives. He brought a practical example that we can all relate to: Children who constantly come late to school are the first ones to arrive on the day of a trip…

How much care must we take that our actions shouldn't contradict themselves!

Fortunate is the one who has no discrepancies in his ways and his path is paved with consistency!

 

 

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