Monthly Archives: 14 Tevet 5777

Parshas VaYechi

 

וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָמוּת וַיִּקְרָא לִבְנוֹ לְיוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ שִׂים נָא יָדְךָ תַּחַת יְרֵכִי וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל נָא תִקְבְּרֵנִי בְּמִצְרָיִם: (בראשית מז/כט)

On the possuk (Braishis 47/29), “And (Yaakov) called for his son for Yosef….” the Medrash comments, “Why didn’t he call either for Reuvan or for Yehuda. (After all,) Reuvan was the first born and Yehuda was the king? Rather (he called for Yosef because) it was in the hands of Yosef to execute (Yaakov’s request to be buried in Maaras HaMachpaila). Therefore (it is written), “And he called for his son for Yosef“.

Zera Shimshon asks that the wording in the Medrash seems repetitious. The Medrash opens with the possuk, “And (Yaakov) called for his son for Yosef….” and asks why did he call for Yosef instead of Reuvan or Yehudah. The Medrash answers that it was because he had the ability to carry out Yaakov’s request. Seemingly the Medrash should have finished there, since the Medrash asked a question and gave an answer. Why, then, did the Medrash continue and re-quote the opening possukTherefore (it is written), “And he called for his son for Yosef“?

He answers that there are two reasons why someone is appointed to an important position. One reason is that he can “get the job done”. There is nothing special about him, only that he can do the job better than anyone else. Sometimes, however, he obtains the position in order to honor him. Even if there was someone else as qualified for the position as he is or even more qualified, he still will get the position because for some reason he deserves the honor.

According to this idea Zera Shimshon explains that the initial question of the Medrash was, 
Why did Yaakov choose Yosef to supervise his burial? This seem to indicate that he was honoring him and making him the head of the family. The Medrash was bothered why did Yaakov want to make Yosef the head of the family over Reuvan, who was the first born, and Yehuda who was destined to be the king.

The Medrash answers that Yaakov didn’t appoint him for this task to honor him but merely because he was the only brother who had the ability to carry out his desire to be buried in Eretz Yisroel in Maaras HaMachpaila.

The Medrash re-quotes the possuk that they started with “And (Yaakov) called for his son for Yosef….” to prove this point. There seems to be a problem with the wording of this possuk. Why didn’t it just write, “And (Yaakov) called for Yosef….”, without the words “for his son” preceding “for Yosef“? We already know that Yosef was his son.

The answer is that it is teaching us that he didn’t call Yosef to honor him because there was something special in him. Rather he called for “his son” who was just like all of his sons. If there would have been a different son who would have been able to bring him to Eretz Yisroel then he would have called him. ax Yosef was chosen only because he was the only one who was able to make sure that Yaakov would not remain in Mitzrayim but be buried in Maaras HaMachpaila.

2

וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָמוּת וַיִּקְרָא לִבְנוֹ לְיוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ שִׂים נָא יָדְךָ תַּחַת יְרֵכִי וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל נָא תִקְבְּרֵנִי בְּמִצְרָיִם: (בראשית מז/כט)

On the possuk (Braishis 47/29), “The days of Yisroel grew close to die…” the Medrash comments, “Everyone (the Avos) knew and expressed with their mouth that they were about to die. Avraham said…. Yitzchak said…. and EVEN Yaakov said, ‘I am going to lie with my fathers…’. When did he say this (the Medrash asks)? When he was close to dying”.

Zera Shimshon asks two questions. Firstly, why does the Medrash stress that EVEN Yaakov knew that he was about to die? Why would we think that he was any different than the other Avos? Secondly, why does the Medrash mention that they mentioned their passing away at the time right before they died?

He explains in light of two Medrashim. The first one is the Yalkut Shemoni (Tehilim Remez 874/5) that says that tzaddikim are so precious to Hashem that it is, so to speak, difficult for H.m when they die. Therefore if they would not themselves ask to die then Hashem would not take their life away from them and that they would live forever. After they ask to die, though, Hashem says that it is good because this allows their children to also be leaders. If Avraham would not have died how could Yitzchok ever become a leader?

The second Medrash explains that since Hashem doesn’t simply take away tzaddikim’s life without their asking, when their time comes H. shows them the tremendous reward that waits for them in the World To Come in order that they will ask to die.

We can now understand, explains Zera Shimshon, why it is more difficult to understand Yaakov’s asking to die then the other Avos. In the case of Avraham and Yitzchok they asked to die for the good of their sons- in order that they will also be leaders. However this doesn’t apply to Yaakov since his son Yosef ruled even in Yaakov’s lifetime. Therefore the Medrash stresses that EVEN he asked to die.

But the question remains, why then did Yaakov ask to die? The answer is that he asked when he was “close to dying”. At that time Hashem showed him the magnificent reward awaiting for him in the World to Come in order to persuade and lure him to ask to die.

3

Look in a Sefer Torah and you will see that before every new parsha there are 9 blank spaces. In addition to these blank spaces most parshios also begin on a new line, but even the few parshios that don’t start on a new line they are proceeded by these spaces. There is, however, one exception: our parshaParshas Vayechi. There are no spaces that separate last week’s parsha, Vayigash and this week’s parsha Vayechi.

Rashi explains in the name of the Medrash the the reason for this is, “since Yaakov Ovinu passed away (in this parsha) the eyes and heart of (Clal) Yisroel closed from the pain of the bondage that (the Mitzrim) began to force on them.

Zera Shishmon asks that Rashi seemingly contradicts himself! In Parshas Vayairo (Shemos 6/15) he writes that the bondage didn’t start until all of the children of Yaakov passed away and not, like he writes here, when Yaakov himself passed away.

He asks another question that the words “eyes and hearts of (Clal) Yisroel closed” suggest that the bondage was extraordinarily difficult. However this is hard to understand since Clal Yisroel suffered only as the bondage carried on and not in the beginning (like Chazal teach us that they were “sweet talked” (pehrach) into the bondage).

He answers these questions according to a concept that he derives from a seeming contradiction between two explanations that Chazal give why a tzaddik dies.

One reason is that it is to attone for the sins of the generation and to protect the generation from, or at least to minimize, the punishment that they deserve.

A second seemingly contradictory reason is that Hashem takes the Tzaddik from the world in order to bring the punishment that they deserve! (As long as the Tzaddik lives his merits protect the generation.)

He answers that if a tzaddik’s death protects from punishment or hastens it depends on how the generation reacts to the death. When they mourn and eulogize him appropriately, his death prevents punishment. However, if they don’t mourn him appropriately, not only does his death not prevent punishment but it also adds to the punishment that they were previously meant to receive.

He points out something very interesting; we only find that Yosef mourned Yaakov passing away and not the rest of the brothers. To such a degree, that when the Torah describes the Canaanim’s reaction to Yaakov’s funeral procession, they exclaimed (Braishis 50,11) “this is an intense mourning for Mitzrayim“. They don’t even mention Yaakov’s children!

According to this Zera Shimshon answers his two questions.

The “real” intense suffering of the bondage actually started only with the passing away of all the children of Yaakov (like Rashi writes in Shemos). However in the beginning, at the time of the death of Yaakov, Hashem “closed their eyes and numbed their hearts” in order that they wouldn’t properly mourn and eulogize him.

H. did this in order to carry out the 400 years of bondage that H. promised. If they would have eulogized Yaakov then his death would atone for our sins and H. would not be able to start the years of bondage which was necessary to purify Clal Yisroel.

We were destined to be in bondage for 400 years. Therefore, Hashem “closed our eyes and heart” so they wouldn’t feel the pain of losing Yaakov and therefore they wouldn’t mourn him properly in order to bring on the exile! HaRav Shimshon Nachmaini, author of Zera Shimshon lived in Italy about 300 years ago in the time of the Or HaChaim HaKodesh.

The Chida writes that he was a great Mekubal and wrote many sefarim including sefarim about practical kabbolo but asked that all of his sefarim be buried after he passes away except for Zera Shimshon and Niflaos Shimshon on Avos.

He had one child who died in his lifetime (hence the name Zera Shimshon) and in the preface he promises for people who learn his sefarim after he dies ... And your eyes will see children and grandchildren like the offshoots of an olive tree around your tables, wise and understanding with houses filled with all manner of good things and wealth and honor

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