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The Blessing of the Children Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 December 2023

Yaakov blessed Efraim and Menashe, Yosef’s sons, with the bracha of HaMalach HaGoel (Breisheet 48:16):

The Angel who redeemed me from all evil, should bless the lads, and let my name be called on them, together with the name of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak. May they be like fish multiplying within the land (bikerev Ha’aretz).

The Vilna Gaon points out that the tribes of Efraim and Menashe were not significantly larger than the other tribes while B’nai Yisrael were in the wilderness as well as when they were in Arvot Moav before entering the Land of Israel.

Once B’nai Yisrael entered Israel, the prophecy came through- the tribes of Efraim and Menashe multiplied like fish.

After the land was conquered, even before it was distributed it says (Yehoshua 17:4): “The children of Yosef spoke to Yehoshua, saying, ‘Why have you given me an inheritance of only one lot and one portion, when I am a numerous people, for God has blessed me so much.’” In the short time that we have been in the Land of Israel, we have already become a big nation.

Yehoshua answered (17:15): “If you are such a numerous people, go up to the forest…”

We learn in Bava Batra 118a: Yehoshua said to them. “Go and hide in the forests, so that the Ayin HaRa, Evil Eye will not have control over you.” Yehoshua was afraid that such a quick and wondrous proliferation would provoke the Evil Eye to take action against them.

Why did their tribes increase at such a quick rate once they got to Israel? One reason is because of the blessing of “HaMalach HaGoel” from Yaakov, that they will be like fish multiplying within the Land.

In Israel we always have to worry about demographics. Although there are a lot of Olim, immigrants, there are also a lot of Yordim, people that leave. One way to make sure that the Jewish population continues to rise is by having children.  High birth rates are often found in the Haredi and Dati Leumi communities. In Israel in general, there is a focus on the centrality of the family.

May we continue to raise lots of children in the Modern State of Israel and may those who are trying to conceive be blessed with healthy babies.

Yosef’s loving kindness Print E-mail
Monday, 13 December 2021

Parshat Vayechi, Breisheet 50:7-9 lists everyone who went up to C’naan for Yaakov’s funeral:

Yosef went up to bury his father; and with him went up all of Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of this house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt. And all Yosef’s household, his brothers and his father’s household. Only their little ones, their sheep and their cattle did they leave behind in the land of Goshen. With him also went up chariots and horsemen. It was a very imposing camp.

Later, in Breisheet 50:14 we read:

Yosef returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all those who went with him, to bury his father, after he had buried his father.

In verses 7-9 and in verse 15, Yaakov’s burial is ascribed mainly to Yosef.

In the Talmud, Sotah 9b we read in the Mishna:

Yosef merited to bury his father and none of his brothers was greater than he. As it is stated (Breisheet 50:7-9): “Yosef went up to bury his father…and up with him went both chariots and horsemen.” Yosef was rewarded measure for measure for his good deed, for who was treated with as much honor as Yosef, that none other than Moshe attended to him?

The Talmud, Sotah 13a asks:

Why was Yosef the central figure in Yaakov’s burial? If Yosef would not have been involved would the brothers not have been involved with it? But we see that they were in fact involved as it says in Breisheet 50:13: “His sons carried him to the land of C’naan and buried him…”

The Talmud answers:

The other brothers said among themselves, “Let Yosef take the leading role in the burial. Our father Yaakov’s honor is better served by royalty than by commoners.”

Rashi points out that Yosef was royalty as he was second in command to Pharaoh.

Yosef later had the honor of having his bones brought over by Moshe, the “gadol,” the most important person at the time of the exodus.

The difference in the two stories is that Yaakov wanted to be buried immediately and therefore he said to Yosef (Breisheet 47:29) “...deal kindly and truthfully with me. Please don’t bury me in Egypt.” He did not want to be buried in Egypt, even for a small amount of time.

Yosef’s bones on the other hand were temporarily buried in Egypt until the exodus.

As Yosef was the second in command to Pharaoh, it made sense for him to be in charge of Yaakov’s funeral. Yosef was able to make sure that the burial would be taken care of immediately and therefore Yaakov left it in Yosef’s hands, rather than in the hands of his brothers.

Our Leaders in Battle Print E-mail
Friday, 01 January 2021

As we read through Yaakov’s blessings to his children, Gad’s bracha stands out as a tongue twister (Breisheet 49:19):

Gad gdud yegudenu vehu yagud akev.

Gad will recruit a regiment and it will retreat on its heel.

According to Rashi the words yegudenu” and “yagud” are all related to the word “gdud” meaning troops will troop out from him signifying that the tribe of Gad will cross the Jordan with their brothers to wage war, all being armed and they will remain with them until the land will be captured. All their troops will return in their own track to their territory which they took on the other side of the Jordan and not a single person will be missing.

Rashbam, Rashi’s grandson explains that the troops of the entire nation of Israel will follow Gad who is the vanguard in the wars of conquest as we know from Dvarim 3:18 where Moses charged them with this task: “Cross over in the forefront, ahead of your brothers, B’nai Yisrael, all that are fit for the war.” On the return from battle, this tribe, instead of being in the vanguard, will be the rearguard, again the most exposed to enemy action. They will thus form a buffer for the Jewish armies at all times.

At the end of Sefer Dvarim in Vezot HaBracha, Dvarim 33:20-21, Moshe blessed the tribe of Gad:

Blessed is the One who broadens Gad...He marched at the head of the people, he acted righteously before God and his laws with Yisrael.

Rashi teaches that the breadth of Gad’s border (which was bordered on the west by the Jordan River) ranged eastward. The tribe of Gad was at the head of the people since they marched at the front ranks of the armed forces when the land was conquered, since they were great warriors as it is said (Yehoshua 1:14) “You shall cross as the armed forces before your brothers.”

Rashi concludes that the tribe of Gad acted righteously before God as they were faithful to their word, and kept their promise to cross the Jordan until they conquered and distributed the land.

Throughout the Tanach, the word gdud refers to our battalions as well to the enemy battalions.

In the Israeli army today, the word gdud, battalion, meaning a group of fighters in a section made up of a few platoons is still used. Each gdud has its own name or number.

Our soldiers today are doing no less than what the tribe of Gad did while B’nai Yisrael were conquering the land. They are on the front lines on all of Israel’s borders as well as in Judea, Samaia and Gaza. May our soldiers be blessed with Gad’s bracha that they all return home safely and unharmed.

Chagall’s gift to the Jewish People Print E-mail
Monday, 06 January 2020

Marc Chagall spent two years preparing the stained glass windows which depict each of Yaakov’s twelve sons. He gave the windows as a gift to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem in 1962. At the installation he declared: “This is my gift to the Jewish people, who have always dreamt of Biblical love, friendship and peace among all people.”

Each window is dedicated to a different one of Yaakov’s sons. The windows are based on the blessings that Yaakov bestowed upon his sons right before his death in Parshat Vayechi (Breisheet 49). Every window is a masterpiece depicting each individual’s role in history.

The colors that are used in each window are all intentional and reflect different aspects of Yaakov’s blessings. Reuven is told that he is unstable as water, so the color of his window is blue. Shimon’s window has blue along with red, yellow and green to show Yaakov’s anger at his act of violence. Levi’s window is bright and shows the luchot habrit, tablets of the Ten Commandments. Yehuda’s window represents his kingdom which endured and is therefore a deep red.

Without exception, each window combines so many themes and ideas that you could look at them for hours and still not fully understand everything that Chagall had in mind. Just to give you a taste, one of the images that jumps out from Zevulun’s window is fish and a boat to fit with the blessing (Breisheet 49:13) “Zevulun will settle on seashores, he will harbor for ships; his border will reach to Sidon.” An image that is prominent in Dan’s window is the snake as it says (Breisheet 49:17) “Dan will be a serpent on the road, a viper on the path, that bites the horses heel so that the rider falls backward.”

While he worked on the windows Chagall said, “I felt my mother and father looking over my shoulder; and behind them were millions of Jews, millions of other vanished Jews, of yesterday and a thousand years ago.”

The windows were damaged by the Six Day War in 1967 and repaired by Chagall in 1968.

In 1973-1974, Israeli postage stamps were made illustrating each of the windows.

What a privilege it is to be living at a time when we can visit the stained glass windows in Jerusalem and reflect on the unique character and mission of each of Yaakov’s sons. The windows give us insights into the lives and legacies of Yaakov’s sons and make Parshat Vayechi come alive.

Yaakov & David: The final chapter Print E-mail
Saturday, 22 December 2018

In Parshat Vayechi (Breisheet 47:29) we read the words: “The days of Yisrael’s death drew near, and he called for his son Yosef…”

This verse sound very similar to the opening verse of the Haftara (Melachim 2:1) “David’s days drew near to die and he instructed his son Solomon saying…”

Maharam points out that what Yaakov (Yisrael) and David had in common was that they both had a son who ruled during their lifetime, Yosef (who ruled over Egypt) and Shlomo (who ruled over Israel).

The difference in the two stories is that finally, at the end of Yaakov’s life, all of his sons united and each received a blessing from their father. Each was destined to become a tribe. They will all be leaders. In David’s case, only one son, Shlomo was chosen to be the continuation of David’s dynasty.

While Yaakov was able to give his sons poetic blessings, David gave Shlomo the practical information of how to succeed as king. According to Seder Olam, Shlomo was twelve years old when he became king, Abarbanel believes that he was closer to twenty. In any case, Shlomo began to rule at a very young age. He had a lot of responsibility to take on and he needed as much guidance as possible. David had to lay down the facts of who Shlomo’s friends would be and who would turn out to be his enemies.

David’s most important advice that Shlomo unfortunately did not follow throughout his life was (Melachim 2:3-4) “Safeguard the charge of Hashem, your God, to walk in His ways, to observe his decrees, commandments, ordinances and testimonies as written in the Torah of Moshe, so that you will succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn; so that Hashem will uphold his word that He spoke to me saying, ‘If your children will safeguard their way, to walk before me sincerely, with all their heart and with all their soul,’ saying, ‘no man of yours will ever be cut off from upon the throne of Israel.’”

If only Shlomo had followed David’s advice, we would not have been stuck with the terrible kings that were to follow.

The significance of being buried in Israel Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 December 2017

In Parshat Vayigash we learn that seventy souls moved down to Egypt (Goshen) as immigrants. They acquired property, were fruitful and increased greatly.

It seems like B’nai Yisrael (Yaakov’s children) did very well in Egypt. They adjusted to their new surroundings and even became wealthy.

Despite what may have sounded like good news, in Parshat Vayechi Yaakov was worried about too much of a good thing. He was afraid that his descendents would become so prosperous in galut (the Diaspora) that they would lose their connection to the Land of Israel.

When Yaakov gave Yosef the blessing that God had blessed him with in Luz, he added two extra words: that the Land of Israel would be given for an “everlasting possession.”

Nehama Leibowitz points out that “Yaakov deliberately added those words as a significant antidote to his children’s acclimatization and acquiring holdings in the land of Egypt. This was as if to say that the foothold they had acquired in Egypt was illusory; their permanent holding was the land promised to them by God.”

In order to ensure that they would remain connected to the Land of Israel, immediately before his death, Yaakov imposed upon his children the importance of being buried in the Land of Israel.

According to Nechama Leibowitz, “Yaakov did not want to be buried in Egypt in order to preclude his children from (permanently) settling there.”

B’nai Yisrael honored their father’s wishes and buried Yaakov in the Land of Israel.

When Moshe and B’nei Yisrael left Egypt, they took Yosef’s bones and he was eventually buried in the Land of Israel as well.

What about Yaakov’s other children? Where were they buried?

Ramban (Breisheet 34:12) quotes the Mechilta (Shmot 13:19) which states that B’nai Yisrael brought up Dinah’s bones together with the bones of her brothers-  all of the tribes to be buried in the Land of Israel.

Throughout Jewish history there have been Jews from around the world who requested to be buried in Israel. Yet the ideal should be to connect with Israel while we are still alive and ensure that Israel remains the everlasting possession of the Jewish people.


Why is Esav’s Head Buried in Maarat HaMachpela? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Sponsored by Mel Halickman in memory of his late mother, Chaya Sara,

on the occasion of her yahrzeit

After Yaakov passed away, Yosef went to the Land of Cnaan in order to give him a proper burial. He was joined by Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his house, the elders of Egypt, Yosef’s household, his brothers and his father’s household. Chariots and horsemen were also with him.

In Parsha Vayechi, Breisheet 50:10-13 we read about Yaakov’s funeral: “They came to the threshing place of Atad, which is on the other side of the Jordan, and there they eulogized him and held a great and imposing funeral. Yosef made seven days of mourning for his father. The Cnaanites who lived in the land saw the mourning in the threshing place of Atad and they said ‘This is a heavy mourning for Egypt.’ It was therefore named Evel Mitzrayim (Egypt’s mourning) which is on the other side of the Jordan. His sons did for him as he commanded them. His sons carried him to the Land of Cnaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpela, which Avraham purchased along with the field for possession as a burial place from Ephron the Chhitie, facing Mamre.”

When studying Sefer HaAgada, the Talmud, Sotah 13a and Sefer HaYashar we learn what may have happened behind the scenes during the funeral.

Sefer HaAgadah 3:111 based on the Talmud, Sotah 13a explains: The sons of Esav, Yishmael and Keturah came to wage war against the sons of Yaakov. However, when they saw Yosef’s crown hung upon Yaakov’s coffin, they all took off their crowns and hung them upon the coffin as well out of respect. When they came to the cave of Machpela, Esav appeared and tried to prevent Yaakov’s burial in it saying, “This cave has room for only four couples (that is why the city is called Kiryat Arba). Since Yaakov buried Leah in his place, the plot that remains is mine.” Yaakov’s sons replied, “But you sold your portion to our father.” Esav retorted, “Even if I did sell my claim as firstborn, did I sell also the original single portion due me as an heir?” They said, “You sold that also.” Esav said, “Show me the bill of sale.” They said, “The bill of sale is in Egypt. Who will go and bring it from there? Let Naphtali go- he is swift as a hind.”

Hushim, the son of Dan, who was hard of hearing was standing there. When he asked why it was taking so long to bury Yaakov, he was told that they were waiting for Naphtali to return. Hushim asked, “And until Naphtali returns is my grandfather to lie shamefully unburied?” He seized a club and struck Esav on the head so hard that his eyes fell out. At that moment, Rivka’s prophecy (Breisheet 27:45) “Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?” was fulfilled.

How do we know that Yaakov actually bought his burial place in the cave?

In Breishhet 50:5 Yosef tells Pharaoh: “My father made me swear an oath saying, ‘Behold I am dying. In my grave that I prepared (kariti) for myself in the Land of Cnaan, there you shall bury me…’”

According to Rashi, Yaakov had taken silver and gold that he brought from Lavan’s house and made a piled heap of it and said to Esav: “Take this for your share in the cave.”

Sefer HaYashar (written in the 13th century, printed in the 16th century) adds that there was a full war that took place between the children of Esav and the children of Yaakov in Chevron while Esav was lying dead on the ground. Eighty of Esav’s descendents were killed. Zepho, Esav’s grandson and fifty of his men were taken captive. All who remained fled with Eliphaz, Esav’s son. They carried Esav’s body to Mt. Seir to be buried there but his head remained buried in Maarat HaMachpela where the battle took place. Not one of Yaakov’s descendents was killed.

Rabbi Aharon Kotler (1892-1962) said that although Esav was an evil person, his head was full of  the Torah that he was taught by his father, Yitzchak and his grandfather, Avraham, therefore his head merited to be buried in the cave. 

If Esav would have used his head and put his Torah knowledge into practice, imagine how much he could have accomplished.

The next time that you visit Maarat HaMachpela in Chevron, be sure to look for the chamber of the head of Esav, a reminder that a signed contract denotes a final sale. 

The Hidden Meaning of the Symbol of the Israel Postal Company Print E-mail
Wednesday, 31 December 2014

In Parshat Vayechi, right before Yaakov passes away he blesses each of his children.

The blessing for Naftali is found in Breisheet 49:21 “Naftali is a gazelle-like messenger (ayala shlucha), he delivers pleasant sayings.”

According to Ramban, it was a custom among the rulers of countries to send gazelles to one another. Gazelles which were born in the territory of the king of the north country would be raised in the palaces of the king of the south country. They would attach a written message to its horns and it would run speedily and return to its original habitat and in this way the king of the north country would be apprised of the news. This is the meaning of the phrase “he delivers pleasant sayings”, meaning that he is a dispatched gazelle sent to bear good tidings.

This practice is known and is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Shviit 9:2 “They said, ‘If they go they will return and if you wish to prove it, bring deer and send them to a land far away and in the end they will return.’ He brought deer and covered their horns with silver and sent them to Africa and at the end of thirteen years they returned to their place.”

Rashi explains that a gazelle-like messenger is a gazelle that is dispatched to run quickly. This refers to the Valley of Ginosar (a district around the Kinneret belonging to the tribe of Naftali) where fruits ripen quickly just like a gazelle runs quickly.

Chizkuni points out that gazelles were sent after the war to swiftly bring good news about the victory.

Breisheet Raba 98:17 states that when Yaakov gave Naftali this blessing he was referring to Barak’s victory that would take place in the war against Sisra in the Book of Shoftim (Judges 4:6) “She (Devora) sent and summoned Barak son of Avinoam of Kedesh Naftali and said to him: ‘Behold, HaShem the God of Israel commanded: Go and convince the people to go toward Mount Tavor and take with you 10,000 men from the children of Naftali…’”

Radak adds that Devora was like a gazelle (light on her feet) as she was instrumental in bringing about the victory and therefore it is written in the feminine (ayala) and not in the masculine (ayil).

What does all of this have to do with Israel’s Postal Company?

The symbol of Israel’s Postal Company is the gazelle based on the blessing that Yaakov gave to Naftali.

The logo was created by the Shamir Brothers who also designed Israel’s symbol of the menorah with the olive branches. The logo appeared on the stamp that was released in 1950 when Israel was accepted into the International Postal Union and is still used today.

The idea was that Israel’s Postal Company would deliver the mail as swiftly as the gazelle delivered pleasant sayings.

Let’s hope that all of our mail will arrive in a timely fashion and that good news will be inside each letter.



Looking for the Postive Print E-mail
Friday, 28 December 2012

In Parshat Vayechi, (Breisheet 48:10) we read: “Now the eyes of Yisrael were dim from old age, so that he could not see.”


Yaakov was 147 years old so it is not surprising that he could hardly see.


When are some of the other times in the Tanach that people had trouble with their eyes?


According to the Maharam, there are three psukim (sentences) in the Torah that start with the word “v’eynei”, “now the eyes of…” including the pasuk mentioned in our parsha.


The second pasuk that starts with “v’eynei” is earlier in Breisheet 29:17: “And Lea’s eyes were weak; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored.”


According to Breisheet Raba, Leah’s eyes were weak from crying all of the time since everyone would tell her that since Rivka had two sons and Lavan had two daughters, the older daughter would marry the older son, meaning that she would have to marry the wicked Esav and the younger daughter would marry the younger son, meaning that Rachel would marry Yaakov.


The third pasuk to start with “v’eynei” is in Eyov (Job) 11:20: “But the eyes of the wicked shall fail and they shall not escape and their hope shall turn to despair.”


The Rabbis taught in Breisheet Raba: Whoever raises an evil son or an evil student will have eyes that will become dim. The reason that God will make his eyes dim is actually a blessing, so that he will not be able to leave the house very often and that way he will not see the evil behavior that is taking place.


We see the concept of a parent losing their eyesight so that they will not have to see the bad behavior of their evil son in the case of Yitzchak and his wicked son, Esav. Yitzchak lost his eyesight, (Breisheet 27:1): “Yitzchak had grown old. His eyesight had faded and he could not see.”


We see the concept of a teacher losing their eyesight so that they will not have to see how wicked their student turned out from the story of Achiya HaShiloni, the Prophet and Yeravam the King, one of Achiya’s students. Achiya appointed Yeravam over Yisrael. Unfortunately, Yeravam ended up becoming a bad person who sinned and caused B’nai Yisrael to sin. When Achiya became older, we see that he lost his eyesight (Kings- Melachim I 14:4) “…But Achiya could not see, for his eyes were set by reason for his age.”


We can learn from here that God wants us to use our eyes to see the positive things in this world.



Yaakov Had No Tolerance for Violence! Print E-mail
Friday, 06 January 2012
In Parsha Vayechi, Yaakov bestows Brachot (blessings) upon his children right before he passes away.


Some of the Brachot that Yaakov bestows upon his sons don’t exactly sound like blessings.


Let’s take Shimon and Levi for example. Yaakov states in Breisheet 49:5-7: “Shimon and Levi are brothers. Instruments of violence are their wares. My soul will not enter their secret council. Let my honor not be identified with their assembly. For in their anger they killed a man, and through their willfulness they maimed an ox. Cursed be their anger for it is powerful, and their fury for it is cruel. I will disperse them throughout Yaakov and scatter them throughout the land of Israel.”


Rashi comments that Shimon and Levi were the two brothers (Breisheet 37:19-20) who said to each other “come now and let us kill Joseph.”


Rashi adds that when Yaakov says “My soul will not enter their secret council” he is referring to the fact that Zimri (a descendent of Shimon) would sin in the future with a Midianite woman but when it would be recorded in the Torah it would say (Bamidbar 25:14) “Zimri, son of Solu, a prince of a Shimonite household”. The Torah does not say, “Shimon the son of Yaakov”-Yaakov’s name would be left off.


Rashi continues: “Let my honor not be identified with their assembly” refers to Korach’s rebellion as it says (Bamidbar 16:1): “Korach, the son of Yitzhar, son of Kehat, son of Levi”. The Torah does not mention “the son of Yaakov”.


The words: “For in their anger they killed a man” refers to Chamor and the people of Shechem after Dena was raped.


Yaakov cursed their anger when he said “Cursed be their anger for it is powerful.” Rashi points out that Yaakov did not curse Shimon and Levi, he only cursed their anger.


The tribes of Shimon and Levi were dispersed so that they would no longer be able to gang up together.


What we see from here is that Yaakov had no tolerance for violence. He never forgot the desecration of God’s name that came about when Shimon and Levi killed the people of Shechem after Dena was raped. Yaakov understood that we don’t respond to violence with more violence.


Today, unfortunately we have Jews in Israel who are threatening other Jews (as Shimon and Levi did when they wanted to kill Joseph) as well as those who are threatening our non-Jewish neighbors as Shimon and Levi did in the city of Shechem. Neither type of behavior is acceptable and that is exactly why Yaakov did not want to be associated with them in his lifetime as well as in the future when their descendents desecrated God’s name and rebelled with Korach against Moshe.


We must follow Yaakov’s message and be very clear that we will not stand for violence and we must disassociate from people who are violent and who try to give us a bad name.

The Abundance of Olive Oil in the Land of Israel Print E-mail
Friday, 17 December 2010
 In Parshat Vayechi (Breisheet 49:20), Yaakov gives Asher the following bracha: “From Asher will come rich food. He will provide delicacies for the king.” 

According to Rashi: Food that will come from Asher’s territory will be rich, for there will be an abundance of olives in his region so that oil will flow like a fountain. In Devarim 33:24, Moshe blessed Asher with the blessing: “And he will dip his foot in oil”.


The Gemara in Menachot 85b tells the story about how the oil in the portion of Asher flows like a spring. One time the people of Ludkiya needed oil. They appointed for themselves an agent and said to him: “Go and bring us a million maneh’s (4 gold dinars) worth of oil.” The agent went to Jerusalem to purchase oil. The local residents told him: “Go to Tyre.” He went to Tyre and there the people told him: “Go to Gush Chalav (a place in Asher’s tribal territory where oil flows like a spring).” He then went to Gush Chalav. The people there told him: “Go to so and so, to that certain field.” The agent went and found a Jewish farmer digging and hoeing under his olive trees. The agent said to him: “Do you have a million maneh’s worth of oil which I need?” He replied to the agent: “Wait until I finish my work”…and he cleared stones on the way home. When the farmer reached the city, his maidservant brought out water and he washed his hands and feet and then she brought out a golden basin full of oil and he dipped his hands and feet in it to fulfill what is stated: “He dips his foot in oil.”


The Gemara continues: After he ate and drank, the farmer measured for the agent a million manehs’ worth of oil and asked if he needed more. The agent wanted more but he didn’t have any more money left so the farmer said that he would go back with him to collect payment (COD-Cash on Delivery!) so he measured out another one hundred and eighty thousand maneh’s worth of oil and they hired horses, mules, camels and donkeys to take it all back to Ludkiya.


We learn from this story that the bracha that Yaakov gave Asher did come true and that his territory became a kind of “olive oil country”. Today as well, we are witnessing the fulfillment of the bracha with the large amounts of olives and olive oil that are produced in Israel and exported throughout the world.

Do You Wash Your Clothing in Hot Water, Cold Water or Wine? Print E-mail
Friday, 01 January 2010

In Parshat Vayechi, at the end of Yaakov’s bracha to Yehuda he says (Breisheet 49:11-12) “He loads his young donkey with grapes of a vine (gefen iro), and his she-donkey’s foal with a vine branch. He washes his clothes in wine (kibes bayayin levusho), his cloak in the blood of grapes (u’vdam anavim suto). His eyes are red from wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk”.


What is Yaakov trying to allude to in this part of the Bracha which at first glance seems quite obscure?


According to Rashi, Yaakov prophesied about the Land of Yehuda that it would be extremely productive and would flow with wine like a fountain. The vine will produce as many grapes as a donkey can carry. The idea that one would have enough wine to “wash their clothing in” emphasizes the overabundance of wine.


Over the last few days I had the opportunity to experience part of this Nevua (prophecy) first hand. When traveling around Israel one can see many vineyards especially in the territory of Yehuda (in Gush Etzion) as well as throughout the country including in the Golan Heights. Not only do you see the vineyards, you also see the wineries as well as the abundance of every possible wine on the shelves of wine stores and supermarkets.


We actually had the opportunity to watch how good quality wine is produced in a winery as well as to sample the different types of wine. As the tour guide put it, Kosher wine used to be thought of as the very sweet tasting Manischevitz. We are here to bring high quality wine back to the Land of Israel.


Let’s hope and pray that Israel can continue to produce an abundance of Anavim (grapes), Tirosh (grape juice) and Yayin (wine) and fulfill Yaakov’s prophecy. As far as the laundry is concerned- I would like to keep my whites white- although purple clothing isn’t so bad- it was the color of royalty.

What Will Happen in the “End of Days”? Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 January 2009

Dedicated by Robert, Debbie, Samantha, Brandon and Alex Hollander in Memory of Sam Aharonoff, a loving husband and father of four who recently lost a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer

In Parshat Vayechi, Breisheet 49:1, Yaakov called his sons over and said “Assemble yourselves (Heasfu) and I will tell you what will befall at the End of Days (B’Acharit HaYamim).


The question is asked in Breisheet Rabba 98:2: What is the most important event that Yaakov is hinting at that will happen to the Jewish people in the “End of Days”?


Rabbi Simon said: In the “End of Days” we will witness the fall of Gog and Magog (and other enemies of the Jewish people). In Yechezkel 38: 16 we read: “It shall be in the ‘End of Days’, I will bring you against my land that the nations shall know me, when I shall be sanctified by you, O Gog before their eyes”.


Rabbi Yehuda said: In the “End of Days” we will build the third Beit HaMikdash (Temple): As it says in Michah 4: “In the ‘End of Days’ it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of God shall be established on top of the mountains and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall stream towards it.”


According to the Noda B’Yehuda, we learn from this midrash the strength of the word “heasfu”, “assemble yourselves”. Rabbi Simon’s view is the if we are unified then we will be able to fight the enemy, while Rabbi Yehuda says that through unity the Beit HaMikdash will be built.


At this time in Jewish history when it seems that the world is against us, it is crucial that the Jewish people become unified. Only through unity can the end of the prophecies of Yechezkel and Michah be fulfilled:


Yechezkel 39:25: “Therefore says the Lord God; Now will I bring back the captivity of Yaakov and have mercy upon the whole house of Yisrael and will be zealous for my holy name; and they will be quit of their shame and of all of their faithlessness in which they have been faithless to me, when they dwell securely in on their land with none to make them afraid.”


Michah 4:2-4 “Many nations shall come and say : Come and let us come to the mountain of God and to the house of the God of Yaakov and He will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths; for Torah should go forth from Tzion and the word of God from Yerushalayim. And He shall judge between many peoples and decide concerning strong nations afar off. And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift a sword against nation nor shall they learn war anymore. But they shall sit every man under his fig tree and none shall make them afraid…”

Why Did Yosef Cry? Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 December 2007

Yosef’s brothers made him suffer (he was thrown into the pit, sold into slavery, thrown into prison etc.) yet through all of these hardships the Torah does not describe him crying. However, we do see Yosef cry several times when he is reunited with his brothers.

In Parshat Vayigash, Yosef cried when he revealed his identity to his brothers (Breisheet 45:2): “He cried in a loud voice. Egypt heard and Pharaoh’s household heard.” Rashi says that Yosef asked the Egyptians present to leave because he was worried about his brothers being embarrassed, not because he was self conscious about his own crying.

Yosef also cried when he hugged his brothers (45:15). Rabbi Saadya Gaon comments that his brothers also cried. Radak is of the opinion that his brothers did not cry because they were too embarrassed.

In Parshat Vayechi, after Yaakov’s death, Yosef’s brothers were afraid that Yosef would now take revenge against them. Yosef’s brothers altered the truth (lied) and said to Yosef (Breisheet  50:16-17): “Your father gave us orders before his death, saying ‘Thus shall you say to Yosef: “Please kindly forgive the spiteful deed of your brothers and their sin for they have done you evil”’ so now please forgive the spiteful deed of the servants of your father’s God.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

Breisheet Raba 100:8 states that Yosef cried because his brothers suspected him of wanting to take revenge.

Yosef was not embarrassed to show his feelings. Yosef’s brothers on the other hand felt guilty for selling him. Since they were at his mercy they felt that they had to suppress their emotions and put up a front which included lying. The only brother who is described by the Torah as crying along with Yosef was Binyamin. Binyamin was not carrying the emotional baggage that his brothers were carrying since he was not involved in selling Yosef (and may not have even known exactly what happened). Since Binyamin was totally innocent he was able to be himself and was comfortable showing his true feelings.

Barbara LaRaia of The San Mateo (California) Daily Journal writes: “Crying is the most inexpensive, natural and powerful mechanism for coping with pain, stress and sorrow. By stifling crying, legitimate emotions are not released and unproductive personality traits can result. We should encourage healthy crying. After all, weeping is probably a necessary contributing factor to human survival.

Yehuda the Young Lion Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 January 2007


Shortly before Yaakov passes away, he blesses each of his children. The blessing for his son, Yehuda (Breisheet 49:9) states: "Yehuda is a young lion. You have risen above plunder my son. He crouches, rests like a lion, like an awesome lion who will rouse him?"

The Rebbe of Kotsk explained that Yehuda did Tshuvah (repented) for selling Yosef. The pasuk says "you have risen above plunder". Since Yehuda did Tshuvah, he was actually on a higher level than the greatest tzadikim. As the saying goes, in the place that ba.alei tshuvah stand, even the greatest tzadikim can.t stand.

Rabbi Chanoch of Alexander explained that Yaakov is praising Yehuda here. Even after Yehuda sinned with Tamar, he became strengthened and overcame his wrongdoing like a lion.

The author of the Sfat Emet adds that because of Yehuda.s behavior, the Mashiach will be created. In the name Yehuda there are the same letters as God.s name- Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey. There is an additional letter, Dalet to hint that even when Yehuda is "dal", weak, God is still with him.

Radak.s view is that Yehudah is first compared to a young lion, since at first he does not have the kingship. However, in the end even though he is not the oldest brother, he will be the ruler. King David would later descend from Yehuda.

King David transgressed as well but he also admitted his wrongdoings and did Tshuvah. The Mashiach will descend from King David.

Even our greatest Biblical leaders had faults and transgressed. The true leaders were the ones that were able to admit their wrongdoings and move on.

Let.s try to emulate Yehuda and King David keeping in mind the words of the Sfat Emet, even when we are weak God is still with us and will accept our repentance.

The Younger Child Wins Again! Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 January 2006

The blessing that is given to Jewishchildren before they go to sleep each night as well as the blessing of the children at the Shabbat table are both found in Parshat Vayechi.

The first blessing is (Breisheet 48:16) "HaMalach HaGoel oti mikol ra yivarech et haniarim vikarey bahem shmi uvishem avotai Avraham v'Yitzchak viyidgu larov bekerev haaretz", "The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the children, let my name be named on them and the name of my fathers Avraham and Yitzchak and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."

The second blessing is (Breisheet 48:20) "Yesimcha Elokim k'Efraim u'ChiMinashe", God shall make you as Efraim and as Menashe"" (The girls are blessed with a variation on the theme, May God make you like Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah).

These blessings are such an integral part of our lives that we almost forget their origins. They were given by Yaakov shortly before his death to Menashe and Efraim (Yosef's sons). When Yaakov gave these blessings, he intended for Efraim (the younger son) to receive the firstborn blessing. This once again disproves the rule that the firstborn son becomes the primary inheritor. In the case of Yitzchak and Yishmael, Yitzchak was the inheritor, even though Yishmael was Avraham's firstborn. In the case of Yaakov and Esav, Yaakov was the inheritor, even though Esav was the firstborn. In the case of the twelve tribes, Yosef received one portion more than his brothers even though Reuven was the firstborn.

In the cases listed above, it is pretty clear why the firstborn was not the primary inheritor, they were clearly not worthy (ex: Esav) or not from the right mother (ex: Hagar, Leah).

The question is why would Yaakov feel that Efraim was more worthy than Menashe?

Rashi quotes the Midrash in Tanchuma which states: Yaakov saw that in the future Yehoshua would be a descendent of Efraim. Since Yehoshua would be the one to take possession of the Land of Israel and teach Torah to Israel, Efraim received the blessing "the younger brother will be greater than the older and the fame of his descendants will fill the nations (Breisheet 48:19)."

We can see from Yaakov's blessings that he put a strong emphasis on taking possession of the land of Israel as well as on teaching Torah.

May we all merit the opportunity to study Torah in the Land of Israel.