THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
VAYECHI-- (YAAKOV) LIVED
THE END OF A BOOK, THE BEGINNING OF A NATION
THIS STUDY IS SPONSORED, IN HIS MEMORY, BY THE GRANDCHILDREN OF RABBI BERNARD M. CASPER, WHO WAS CHIEF RABBI OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND AUTHOR OF "TALKS ON JEWISH PRAYER"; HE DISCUSSES THE PAST AND FUTURE OF SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY IN ONE OF TOP'S FIRST VIDEO LECTURES
A REMARKABLE CONFAB: H.U., T.U. and other Israeli academic institutions must integrate Torah insights and values with all academic fields; a wonderful Diaspora model for them is The 8th Annual International Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics, sponsored by the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco (645 14th Ave., S.F., CA 94118, 1-800-258-4427), February 14-17, 1997; the conference is accredited by Stanford University School of Medicine. The many Conference topics include Physician-Assisted Suicide, Medical Futility in ICU, The Patient as "Voluntary Victim", Neurogenetics, and "Women, Medicine, and Judaism". When I attended the 6th Conference, I was awed by the quality of both the secular presentations, including Nobel Prize winners, and by the interface with sophisticated Torah study, led by Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler, Dr. Fred Rosner, and the Dean of the Institute, dynamic Rabbi Pinchas Lipner, founder of the Conference and architect of its conception. The Conference faculty includes microbiologist Dr. Velvel Greene of Ben Gurion, who is also a leader of the returnee movement (besides being Jeff Seidel's father-in-law!), Minister of Education Zevulun Hammer, Rabbi & Lord I. Jacobovits, Rabbi Maurice Lamm, Dr. Yaakov Neeman, and Dr. Avraham Steinberg. While primarily intended for the medical profession, I found the Conference to be one of the most stimulating and inspiring such events that I have attended. While some non-Jews and many non-observant Jews participate, the Conferences non-coercive Torah ambiance includes shiurim, a shabbaton, daily services and only kosher food. There was a beginner's minyan for neophytes. It can be a highlight of an intellectual Israeli's trip to the states, even if he/she is not in the medical profession.
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A. WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Call things by their right names. ...Glass of brandy and water! That is the current, but not the appropriate, name; ask for a glass of liquid fire and distilled damnation. (Gregory's Life of Hall; cf. rote prayer; Rav Reuven Kimmelman of Brandeis devised exercises, e.g. jumping in place, to make the words of the morning blessings more vivid).
DR. DAVID GREENBERG is a prominant Jerusalem psychiatrist and Shlomo fan; he sees the progressive lifestages of Everyman reflected in the names of those Torah portions which portray the development of God's ideal model man-- Yaakov-Yisrael:
1) TOLDOS (meaning CHILDREN or THOSE BORN; Gen. 25:19ff) hints at the formative secure period of growing up within one's home and family circle, based on clear traditions of child rearing. Even Rambam, who advocates and adores sophisticated abstract intellectual development, at least for males, stresses that teaching must be simple, cogent and down-to-earth for little kids; one must not confuse and frustrate their attempts to obtain a clear view of themselves and the world, howbeit temporarily simplistic. ALL LIVING THINGS INSTINCTIVELY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR YOUNG-- EXCEPT TODAY'S PARENTS! Rambam gives rules and regulations for elementary education in M. T., T.T. 2.
"Parents and teachers must build a new tradition of consensus in the modern world; only then can they and their students peacefully coexist" (DISCIPLINE WITHOUT TEARS, R. Drekurs, P. Cassel).
2) VAYATZE (28:10ff; "Yaakov WENT OUT...") portrays man's departure from home; he goes out on his own, critically examining and testing all he's been taught about reality, to forge his own identity, to pursue his own interests, to develop and apply his own innate talents; he plunges into the world of action & achievement (e.g. Tzahal; see Robert Kotlowitz's account of Mendel, the modern Polish Wandering Jew, a man who needs to be homeless, who is only at peace Somewhere Else); he marries, procreates and builds his own world, trying to overcome all limits. So seasoned returnees to religion, whose critical analysis has brought them to yeshivot, may eventually question what they were taught there too; at some point, they (or their kids) may recognize fine things in their old world, lacking in their new-- e.g. men learning good professions to support their families well; so returnee Resh Lakish eventually questioned the superiority of his new leadership role in rabbinic society over his former role as a crime chief (B.M. 84a; see M. Herbert Danzger's comprehensive and stimulating "Returning to Tradition-- The Contemporary Revival of Orthodox Judaism", Yale, 1989).
3) VAYISHLACH (32:4ff; "Yaakov SENT FORTH...") represents a later, more mature, stage. Every sane man, at some point, realizes his limits-- he may lose what he's achieved, even his family (e.g. divorce). He may have to foresake much, to save what what he can*; Yaakov's ready to divide his camp, family and possessions; he knows Esav may destroy half, also strongly affecting the survivors (cf. the Shoah). His dreams of world redemption from Israel, confirmation of Yitzchak's blessings, may have to be postponed indefinitely (cf. PLO "peace" treaties). Finally, that most precious to him, Rachel and Yosef, will indeed be lost.
4) VAYESHEV (37:1ff; "Yaakov SETTLED OR RESTED...") denotes a still more mature stage-- harmony and acceptance of life as it is, while keenly aware of, and still fighting, all its horrors and limitations. A last great battle awaits every man--
5) MIKETZ (41:1ff; "It was, AT THE END"). All must confront death, the end of their earthly sojourn (prison?), earth's final victory over man's body, created from its dust. Man's only salvation is--
6) VAYIGASH (44:18ff; "he-- Yehuda-- DREW NEAR to him-- Yosef...")-- to draw near to his own inner Divine Image soul, and to God Himself. Then he can experience eternal life, even while crossing life's narrow bridge between eternities--
7) VAYICHI (47:28ff; "Yaakov LIVED...".
Before Yaakov's saga, a model for the Edenic Adamic development of Everyman, the Torah teaches basic universal truths and values; it opens with B'reshit (1:1; "IN THE BEGINNING OF God's Creation..."), God's Creation of a perfectly good world, gradually ruined by Man (but finally to be restored under the leadership of Yaakov & Co.).
Noach (6:9ff; "And these are the consequences of NOACH") shows one man's ability to save and redeem even the most corrupt world. Every child born is another link in God's grand chain of history, streching from Adam to Messiah. He's to contribute his share to continue Grandpa Noach's grand effort to rebuild Eden on earth, returning Everyman to God and himself. Infants aren't tabula rasa, blank pages for life's messages. Every foetus is given a pre-set and preview of God's Masterplan-- Torah, His Universe (which reflects Torah), his own life pattern, and its opportunities to actualize and develop his/her Divine Image Potential; this may include the life experience of all his relatives from Adam on, an alternative explanation to reincarnation for one's apparant knowledge of the lives of others long gone, tho he's never heard of them; something may arouse the recollection of that particular life lesson in the wonderful world of the womb; it might also reflect communication with a soul long departed (see Nida 30b and our Vayishlach study).
In LECH LCHA (12:1ff; "God said to Avram: `Get you going...'") we learn that every truly great man needs both a son to carry on his mission (15:2), and a proper environment in which to raise him.
VAYERA (18:1ff; "and He appeared...") connects God-awareness to truly successful parenting-- we must also view children as God's Creation and property, subject to His Will; the Akeda teaches us that Yitzchak, as every child, is to be brought near, "SACRIFICED", to God. All of us are responsible for all of us, God's children, and must teach our children likewise (e.g. Avraham's plea for Sdom).
HAYE SARA (23:1ff; "SARA'S LIFE was...") teaches a prerequisite to total commitment to our mission, even when it's mission seemingly impossible-- Sara's separate burial teaches that life doesn't end with death, that those who followed a certain faith are to remain together after death too. Thus many Chassidim, overflowing with faith, sang and danced on their way to "civilized" Germany's gas chambers.
This exposition assumes that our entire religious tradition, even the names of Torah portions, bears a message, a basic belief of holistic Hassidut, especially Chabad.
* So I, another Yaakov, may soon have to devote less time to these studies, to tend to other, often neglected, realms. About 13-14 years ago, I began these studies with Parshat Miketz, at the Falk NCSY Israel Center-- does anyone remember the exact date? It and Shabat B'Shabato in Hebrew, both religious Zionist, began the current generation of parsha sheets, joined by many others over the last few years; for many, such sheets are their primary weekly Torah study. This series of 8 page weekly studies will be complete and available in both loose-leaf and enlarged spiral bound books soon, God Willing. It started as a mere "tidbit", but is now a giant banquet of facts, cites, and ideas, in both Hebrew and English. For many, it's now too much-- I suggest that they just read the background and overview; if the print is too small for you, just blow it up 150-160% on a copying machine. Get the studies on disks or e-mail-- print out as much as you want, as big as you want! Newer versions will be primarily offered on E-Mail and disks. I hope to resume my monthly general studies soon, while experimenting with new, more popular, types of study sheets.
Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it should be spent (Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, p. 325; so Heschel, a spiritual academic, became a civil rights activist, as the prophets, later in life).
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B. THE BACKGROUND, & AN OVERVIEW, OF VAYECHI
A DELIGHTFUL EXILE?
Last week we left the Jews peacefully settled in Egypt, both rich and pious; yet the Torah hints of a pending Peyton Place-- "vayauchazu bah" (47:27) is usually translated "They POSSESSED (things) in it (Egypt)"; but a literal translation is: "They WERE POSSESSED in it"-- their money, success and possessions possessed them, enslaved them. So they remained "in it (Egypt)", rather than following their inner selves back to Israel after the famine. Their Jewish environment may indeed have remained vital and intense for a few generations, still inspired by Yaakov's aura, as they became more and more acclimated to Egypt (compare the East Sides of London and NYC).
But al thing which that shyneth as the gold-- Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told (Geoffrey Chaucer, 1340-1400, The Canterbury Tales, The Chanouns Yemmanes Tale, line 962); ALL THAT GLISTERS IS NOT GOLD (Shakespeare, 1564-1616, The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene 7, line 65); ALL, AS THEY SAY, THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD (John Dryden, 1631-1700, The Hind and the Panther, Part II, line 215)
Rav N. L. Cardozo (To Be or Not To Be, a TOP tape) contrasts possession-oriented acquisitive man with spiritual sharing man. The former seeks to possess, use and manipulate everything and everyone, never satisfied with his lot; the latter strives to make the world a better place for all, to give it meaning thru God and Torah.
Rav Mattis Weinberg posits a prerequisite to truly relate to things and people (including oneself)-- to see them as they really are and to allow them to be such, rather than projecting oneself and HIS needs or image of them upon them (cf. Miriam Adahan's Living With Difficult People-- Including Yourself). Yosef doesn't want to just get his brothers to be decent to Rachel's sons and Yaakov, but also to recognize that Yaakov's essence includes a relationship with Rachel and her sons, to whom they too must relate in order to relate to Yaakov. So he doesn't tax and move the Egyptians just for political and economic considerations, but to forge their identification with the land and nation of Egypt, regardless of their personal prosperity from it.
Rav D. Silber portrays Yosef's evolution from egotism to higher egotism, when he attributes his talents to God; at his father's death, he's reaches a still higher level-- he realizes that he's not God to judge his brothers, whose unique tasks, accompanied by Yaakov's blessings, are equally necessary for Israel's mission.
Yaakov's death, departure of the last and greatest Patriach, signals Jewish spiritual decay, beneath surface glitter. This passage is closed, i.e. w/o the usual 9 space break between Torah passages-- the message may be that his death prompted the subtle beginning of Egyptian bondage, a "closed passage" in Jewish history-- "the eyes and hearts of Israel were closed from their agony" (Rashi). Servitude (as the peace process) begins with subtle changes of attitude on both sides. Initial enthusiasm for Yosef and his capable brothers slowly turns into envy and disdain, long before Kristalnacht. Fearing rejection, Israel "closes up", represses, Jewish insight (eyes) and feelings (heart) and tables Zionism, to better fit into Egyptian society (see P. Roth's great tale Eli The Fanatic, where suburban assimilated Jews go beserk when a hardei Yeshiva arrives in town; the lawyer who is to get rid of them slowly and reluctantly identifies with them).
It's not clear up to what point Jews could still leave Egypt; in any event, they shouldn't be happy with their exile. "Captain of the ship" Yaakov can't abandon his sons in Egypt (cf. the late Lubavitcher Rebbe). Indeed, per Abarbanel, God told Yaakov to stay there: FOR I WILL SET YOU UP AS A GREAT NATION THERE. I WILL GO DOWN WITH YOU AND I WILL SURELY BRING YOU UP (for Zionist burial-- Rashi, 46:4). Perhaps just when Israel became a powerful sub-nation, BEFORE envy led to catastrophe, they should have returned home with whatever they could take (cf. Western Jewry today, Iranian 20 years ago, German 60 years ago). There was a period when Jews could have come here during the 20's, settled the West Bank, and realized our dreams of a Greater Israel.
Anne Roiphe depicts her owns family's painful self-destructive flight from their East European Jewish roots; tho they tried to become more American than other Americans, they were somehow never completely at home in its secularized Christian culture. She explores her own conflcits between humanism and Judaism, between universalism and Jewish identity, in Generation Without Memory-- A Jewish Journey in Christian America; her book is a sensitive overview of 20th century Jewish life, as experienced by one highly analyzed, highly sophisticated and rebellious 2nd generation American Jewess, from an unhappy family. She compares her Jewish secular religion, psychoanalysis, with the traditional talmudic process-- cf. David Bakan's Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition (Beacon, 1975), Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's Freud's Moses (Yale, 1991), and Jewish Origins of the Psychoanalytic Movement by Dennis B. Klein (U. of Chicago, 1985).
Our reading opens: YAAKOV WAS ALIVE IN THE LAND OF EGYPT l7 YEARS (47:28). "(Yaakov) was alive (vayechi)" implies something other than "(Yisroel) dwelt (vayeshev) or lived in the land of Egypt" 47:27). We know he lived there 17 years-- he arrived at l3O and died at l47 (l5O6 BCE)! Thus expositors found deeper messages in his "being alive" 17 years. These are the only years in which he lived undisturbed-- no Esav, no Lavan; his sons stopped fighting. They all lived with his heritage, led by his beloved son, the PM. Such a father is really alive with joy; conversely, a poor man is compared to a dead one, lacking mobility and freedom for creativity (Ned. 7b, 64b; Gen. Raba 71:9, Eicha Raba 3:6; Psikta Zutrati Vayetze 30:1; Zohar 2:119a, Truma 158b, Tzav 33b, B'haaloscha 153a, Pinchas 219a).
REAL RICHES: True, as Rav Zelig Pliskin stresses, "Chazal" equate wealth with rejoicing in one's lot, tho trying to improve it; but only one scholar makes that statement, in Avot 4:1, based on Ps. 128:2 and Ecc. 3:22, 5:17-- way-out 2nd (per Otzar Yisroel) or 3rd (per The Ency. of Sages of the Talmud) generation Tanna Shimon Ben Zoma, who went off the deep end and died, when he penetrated the "Pardes", exploring ultimate mystical secrets (Chag. 14b, 15a; Tosefta Chag. 2:5); he also noted that all craftsmen and workers served him, the scholar (see Ber. 58a; Tosefta Ber. 7:2; end, Rambam's Introd. to the Mishna); but even he does not define a "poor man".
But Rav Meir identifies a TRULY wealthy man as one who enjoys HIS WEALTH; Rashi tries to equate "wealth" here with "one's lot" in Ben Zoma's statement, a difficult position; Maharsha prefers to take wealth literally; he claims that Rav Meir reflects Ecc. 5:18 and 6:2; the latter speaks of the tragic rich man who doesn't get to enjoy his wealth. Rav Tarfon's man of wealth is he who possesses 100 vineyards, 100 fields and 100 slaves working in them. Rebbe Akiva said: "He who has a wife comely in deeds" (his first wife, Rachel, was such); Rav Yose said: "he who has a privy near his table" (Shabbat 25b). Maharsha claims that these three views are directed against erroneous excuses for the unlimited pursuit of wealth-- some want honor; so Rav Tarfon notes that no matter how much you have, you'll feel that your prestige requires still more wealth; you're still not Rockefeller or Rothchild. Others may want to lavish jewelry and clothes on their wives and daughters-- here too there is no limit to the vain wife's ambitions (cf. Mrs. Korach and Mrs. Haman)-- the only true wealth is to have a wife of good character, who doesn't care about such nonsense (did the former Mrs. Turnus Rufus, later Mrs. Rachel Akiva's co-wife, give up her jetset life style upn marrying Rebbe Akiva?).
Some pile up wealth lest they be ill and have to rely on others-- Rav Yose notes that this too has no limit, but true wealth is to be able to afford preventative medicine, e.g. having a bathroom nearby (cf. B.M., end 107a, where Rav Yochanan posits that this is a blessing; but one should not live near a shul, so that he be rewarded for walking to it! See Sota 22a). Rashi (ibid, citing Shabbat 41a) explains that one must use a lavatory both before and after eating, if possible.
These good years were a bit of reward for Yaakov's years of struggle and sacrifice; yet he's NOT called struggling and conquering Yisroel in this verse-- during these 17 anticlimactic years, he accomplished little in his great mission (Hirsch). A great Torah scholar, who suffered in Europe, might truly enjoy life with his healthy, cheerful and prosperous children in Beverly Hills or Great Neck; while no longer active and creative, he's a link to Jewry of yore and sets the tone for his grandchildren; once he goes, his survivors face the Megama challenge-- WHO WILL BE MY CHILDREN'S ZAIDE IF NOT ME? (see, rent or buy their Jerusalem Jam Video at TOP).
Yet, per Rashi (37:2), the righteous have only trials on earth-- their sole reward is Upstairs (he doesn't comment on "Yaakov LIVED"). But he only condemns their SEEKING or EXPECTING a life of ease-- if God sends it, fine! A great man doesn't waste time and $$ to find the perfect steak-- but if God presents it, thank Him and enjoy (Jer. Kid., end Ch. IV, vs. the ascetic's creed: "God's happy if I'm not!"). Perhaps only a saint can feel the pain of exile amidst the very joy of being so alive (cf. Yaakov fearfully going DOWNHILL to Egypt "compelled by God's Word", "not to settle there"-- Hagada). U.S. Olim's kids often wonder why they too can't enjoy comfortable pious diaspora life, spend several weeks a year at the Laromme, Central, or Plaza, and contribute generously to Israel, like their U.S. kin-- but they and their descendants are far less likely to intermarry.
SOUL LINKS: Another exposition of YAAKOV WAS ALIVE: God's spirit, the source of true human vitality, had departed from Yaakov with Yosef's departure; she also returned to him with Yosef's return-- AND THE SPIRIT OF YAAKOV THEIR FATHER REVIVED (45:27). In God's presence, man transcends his body, constantly dying from the moment of birth. God's spirit also enters the sanctum sanctorum of man's most intimate interpersonal relationships of integrity. Yaakov's spirit joined Rachel's the moment they met; her son Yosef had a double soul-link to him-- he reflected her beautiful form and countenance (39:6, 29:l7); Yosef was also Yaakov's only son of kindred spirit (THESE ARE THE SONS OF YAAKOV-- YOSEF; 37:2). While virtually enslaved by Lavan, tho he had Rachel, he didn't really live; with Yosef's birth, he began to build his own fortune and felt really alive-- until Yosef was presumed dead at 17; so Yaakov's revival lasted the remaining 17 years of his life, again with Yosef. This total of "real life", l7 + l7, 34 years, may be hinted at in YAAKOV WAS ALIVE-- Vayichi = 34 (Vov-- 6 + Yod-- lO + Ches-- 8 + Yod-- lO). Yaakov lives "47 + lOO" years, rather than l47, a hint of 47 years of real living with Rachel &/or Yosef!! The same idea is implied in 23:l-- AND THE DAYS OF SARA WERE-- vayiyu, = 37, the years Sarah lived with her son Yitzchak: Vov-- 6 + Yod-- lO + He-- 5 + Yod-- lO + Vov-- 6.
Perhaps EVEN A PATRIARCH must have deep bonds of love and sharing with another to be really "alive", infused with God's spirit-- e.g. Yaakov w/Yosef, Sara w/Yitzchak, who was only comforted for Sara when he married Rivka (24:67; is a wife her husband's mother too?); so Solomon advises: SEE (experience and share) LIFE WITH A (only 1?) WOMAN WHOM YOU LOVE (Ecc. 9:9-- if she's withdrawn, should he seek another?). But Rav Shlomo Riskin claims that Yaakov's inconsolable mourning was for his Divine mission, to bring the whole world back to Eden via Zion-- he felt that Yosef was indispensible to carry on his great task (JP 12/29/95). Satre said: "hell is other people"; loners prefer loneliness. But Avraham's descendant, Barbara Streisand, sings: "People who need people are the luckiest people..."! Chava's created as: "it's not good for man to be alone" (2:l8).
Per Hertz, only he who's been a force for human goodness and abides in hearts and souls made better by his presence, during his pilgrimage on earth, has truly LIVED; only such inherit immortality. Per R. Bachye, charity always pays, and prolongs life; for supporting Yosef l7 years, Yaakov's supported by him for l7 years!
THE END OF THE BEGINNING: After Yaakov's death, the Jews got more and more "into it"; they abandoned Goshen Green Ghetto for more appealing suburbs. Jewish traditions gradually eroded; as nature abhors a vacuum, Egyptian cultural influences seeped in (if your child lacks clear Jewish values, you may be appalled by his alternatives; man seeks and needs guidance, not just information-- Rav Sh. Sarbarnik). Avraham's great mission of world redemption from Zion fades into oblivion for the moment-- his descendants are busy "making it" in Cairo's West Side & Monsey-on-the-Nile (Hirsch, who assumes that they COULD still leave Egypt). The MIT degree turns into a few years of work experience, all to lead a better life back home in Israel; but it often culminates in a LA ranch house, with daily delivery of a Hebrew paper, Hayored. Genesis, the tale of Creation and the unfolding of human history-- destruction and Re-creation-- ends with Yosef's death; he's the last remnant & continuation of Yaakov, the model man, Adam II, who links heaven and earth; a parent may not be really "dead" to his children, as long as that child who's most like him is still alive. Despite his life of hardship, Yaakov's the only patriarch to keep his entire family dedicated to his Divine Mission. With all their faults and catastrophies, the family emerges united. Thus ends Genesis, the book of natural creation; the next stage-- founding of God's model nation-- is the theme of Exodus, the book of sociological creation.
It is impossible to reach the level of moral perfection without the wholehearted love of one's nation (Kook, Azkara, 1937, i. 90).
C. A SYNOPSIS OF VAYECHI
It is pleasant ot find rest among one's ancestors (Jer. Talmud, Moed Katan 2:4).
Yisrael, about to die, called Yosef; he asked Yosef to put his hand under Yisrael's thigh and swear to perform kindness and truth with him-- "Don't bury me in Egypt" (cf. 24:9-- Eliezer similarly swears to Avraham that he will seek a proper wife for Yitzchak in Aram, so that Yitzchak not leave Israel; both old patriarchs take religious Zionist responsibility to put their affairs in order before they die-- Rav Gafni). A great Egyptian funeral might be kindness, but not truth, per Yaakov's Zionist beliefs (Hirsch). His grave might become another Egyptian idol; his descendants, visiting his grave, would be exposed to Egypt's den of iniquity. His Israeli grave, however, will expose them to the holiness of their true home (Baruch Walters)-- so some choose burial in Israel today, to link their offspring to God's land. Should we transfer great rabbis' bodies to Israel?-- their visitors would then experience God's Presence, as found in the holy land, especially important for Rosh Hashana; they'd also be spending their vacation money in Israel, rather than in Russia, Poland and the USA.
Yosef, who brought Yaakov downhill to Egypt, swore to bury him with his fathers; Yisrael bowed to the "head of the bed" (47:31)-- this may refer to: 1) Yosef, the "head" of state (Ibn Ezra)-- cf. his dream, 37:10. 2) God's Presence, hovering over an invalid's pillow (Rashi)-- one's inner divinity is aroused when sharing another's pain; some visit the sick during their greatest discomfort, to increase empathy-- but how does the sick man feel about this? Visitors should sit on the floor, before God's presence (& causation?-- see Ps. 41:4, Ned. 40a, Shab. 12b). 3) Leah, "head" of Yaakov's bed (she bore and/or raised most of his progeny). Tho he once wanted to divorce Leah, he now admits that she, not charming Rachel, was his true #1 wife (Gen. Raba 71:2, end 106)! Lavan's trickery, as Yosef's sale, was a blessing in disguise. Women in Leah's situation may eventually be appreciated-- at least after their death! The husband of the hardworking, devoted, but perhaps "heavy" & non-romantic, Woman of Valor delivers a beautiful eulogy for her in Prov. 31 (Hirsch); Solomon or his mother, Bat Sheva, wrote the poem, after she bawled him out for enjoying life with jetset Ms. Pharoh-- San. 70b; see our 12/93 and 2/94 Aishet Chayil study sheets.
Later, hearing that Yaakov was ill, Yosef came with his 2 sons, Menashe (#1) and Ephrayim (#2). Yisrael strengthened himself and sat up in bed. Yaakov told him (48:4) that Almighty God appeared to him in Luz, Canaan (35:ll-l2), blessing him-- he would again multiply (prei urvei), to become a community (2 or more) of nations; his descendants would inherit Israel eternally. God thus implies that Yaakov will have at least 2 more tribes, besides yet unborn Benyamin, the 12th and last tribe; this must refer to 2 of his grandchildren. So Yaakov tells Yosef that his #1 and #2 sons will have the status of Yaakov's sons, tribal nations (Pesikta); later children of Yosef will only share their inheritance. Yaakov recounts Rachel's death and burial on Old Efrat Road, near Bethlehem (her grandsons' double portion confirms her Matriarchal superiority, tho she's not buried in the Cave-- Hirsch).
Yisrael then saw Yosef's kids & asked who they (really) were! Yosef: "my children, whom God gave me in this". Yaakov: "Please bring them to me (spiritually?) and I'll bless them"; old Yaakov couldn't see (their true nature?), but kissed and hugged Efrayim (#1) & M'nashe (#2; he's physically expressive-- more a chassidic rebbe than a Lithuanian rosh yeshiva?). He's so grateful to God for showing him not just Yosef, but even Yosef's kids. Yosef arranged M'nashe (#1) & Efrayim (#2), so that Yaakov's right hand would bless the elder, Manashe, and his left the younger, Efrayim; Yaakov reversed his hands (he didn't ask them to exchange places, perhaps not to embarrass M'nashe); he blessed Yosef-- the God who took care of Yaakov, before Whom his fathers walked, the angel who saved him from all evil, should bless the lads; his name and his fathers'names should be proclaimed thru them; they should multiply, like fish, (but) in the midst of the earth (hidden and apart, as fish, yet fully participating in the world-- cf. Avraham: I AM A STRANGER AND SETTLER WITH YOU-- 23:4). Yosef's upset, when Yaakov reverses his hands; Yaakov replies that the younger's the greater, and further blesses them-- Jews will bless their sons to be like Efrayim (#1) & M'nashe (#2-- but not their daughters; Jewish girls are to emulate our great matriarchs).
The lO tribes, led by Efrayim, are eventually lost in Babylonian exile; they and the wilderness generation even lose eternal life (R. Akiva, San. 11Ob). R. Shimon b. Judah disagrees; Rabbah b. Bar Chana concludes: "Rebbe Akiva abandoned his usual love for the Jews here". The 10 tribes felt that Babylonia (cf. Boro Park) was just as good as Israel, so they were all exiled to one land (San. 94a-- Africa or the mountains of Salug; cf. Miami). But Judah and Benyamin were scattered all over (never truly attached anywhere) for eventual redemption. Ezekiel 48 predicts restoration of the l2 tribes (their descendants?) in the Messianic era! Yisrael assures Yosef that God will be with them after he dies, and that they'll return to their father's land-- Yosef will get an extra portion (or THE CITY OF SHCHEM) of that which Yaakov took from the Amorite with his sword & bow. No such war's recorded! He may refer to Shchem's capture by his sons (lbn Ezra), or to a subsequent unreported war with the Amorites, his dire prediction (Targ. Yon., Gen. Raba 97). Onkelos: sword and bow is a metaphor for prayer; Rashi:-- for wisdom and prayer. Per lbn Ezra, all Canaanites are called Amorites; per Rashi, Esav's a de facto Amorite.
Yaakov then calls all his sons together for a deathbed parting, to reveal their ultimate future. Our closed Torah portion suggests that he was prevented from so "opening up" (Rashi; thus slavery, without clear visions of Israel's great future, was extra painful-- Rav M. Weinberg). Yet all his words are filled with future, even Messianic, predictions. Perhaps he wanted them to be more detailed and usable. Tho Yaakov stresses the leadership roles of Yehuda and Yosef, Levi will lead Israel's escape from Egypt and their desert trek, via Moshe and Aharon, with only supporting roles for Yosef and Yehuda. Even to "hear", to know, Jewish destiny, all Jews must gather together, each perhaps better comprehending a particular aspect (cf. Israel's unity governments). Yaakov's blessings' poetic esoteric metaphors are beyond our precise definition and application (Zohar), perhaps closed to those on a lower faith level, e.g. his sons (Rav M. Miller). Both great personal development and tremendous study may be needed to open up this closed book. Traditional translations and interpretations reflect widely varied possibilities, summarized in Aryeh Kaplan's extraordinary Pentateuch, THE LIVING TORAH. Yaakov begins with a survey of his older sons' leadership potential, noting their merits and flaws.
He first praises #1 son, mighty majestic Reuven, the origin of Yaakov's greatness and strength; but impulsive instability, e.g. moving Yaakov's bed to his mother Leah's tent or sleeping with Bilhah, renders him unfit for leadership. One must treat those above him with proper respect to command the respect of those below him. Shimon and Levi are brothers who work together, but deal in violence (cf. the Mafia, l'havdil squared). Yaakov prophetically prays that his soul not enter their conspiracy (Shimon's degradation with Midianite floozies-- Rashi), and that his honor not be united with their community (Levite Korach & Co., where his name isn't mentioned-- Rashi). He curses their fierce anger, with which they slew a man (Shchem, ready to marry Dina, after abducting her), while they crippled an ox (Yosef) with cold-blooded free will. He'll divide them in Yaakov and scatter them in Israel, as pepper in soup. Yet many medieval commentators, helpless against Christian and Moslem persecution, try to justify Shimon & Levi's aggression-- was this vicarious identification with Jews who could and did fight back? Israeli secular Jews are usually far more impressed with those who resisted the Nazis, who fought to their death, than with those who meekly died, accepting their fate, sanctifying God's Name.
Yaakov next praises Yehuda, a praiseworthy leader, accepted by his brethren, who fights his enemies; he's compared to a lion at various life stages, who springs back after defeat (via repentance and self-conquest). All shall gather to him, for he'll bear rulers and lawgivers (or SCRIBES-- Ber. Rab. 98) until Shilo. He'll be rich-- overflowing with milk and wine. A Jewish leader must be talmudic-- able to view issues (e.g. Oslo) dispassionately, from EVERY angle. Reuven, Shimon, and Levi are unfit-- they act on behalf of their mother and sister with burning HOLY emotion, but without calmly weighing the effects (cf. most demonstrators). So Rav Riskin claims that Chana's greatness lies in "speaking TO her heart", her mind directing her heart or feelings (as did Avigayil, whose husband, Naval, goes after the blind and wild impulses of his heart, getting drunk and denying David provisions, for which he might have been killed).
Trader Zevulun's sea ports will reach Sidon; Yissaschar's called "a strong donkey, who rests with his saddlebags" (or-- "along the wall"). Another translation: "Yissaschar is caused by a donkey!"-- when Leah gave up the mandrakes to sleep with Yaakov, God programed Yaakov's donkey on a beeline to her tent-- Yissaschar, conceived that eve, was to be Jewry's main codifer of law and calendar (Nida 3la-- He's with U when you're sleeping, He's with U when you're awake...). Yissaschar saw that rest was good (he needed lots of time to learn and pray, not to party-- cf. pagan New Year's Eve and the Xmas tree at Heretical University Law School) and the (work of the) land pleasant; he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant for tribute, i.e. a farmer, who experiences the Lord of Nature. He also apprehends God's essence in studying His Revealed Torah-- Hirsch, who rejects the midrash, brought by Rashi, that Yissachar just studied Torah, supported by Zevulun; Hirsch believed in combining Torah and trade, that the combo of farming and Torah produces ideal man, and that trader tribe Zevulun just helped Yissaschar's tribe market their produce abroad, a non-inspiring task; Zevulunites also brought their high-level gentile trading partners to meet, and be inspired by, Yissaschar's folk, to better the world. YF: better that outsiders meet articulate and worldly Yitz Greenberg, Norman Lamm, Emannuel Rackman or Jonathan Sachs, than unworldly alleged "gdolim"; Yissaschar and Zvulun aren't even connected to each other in Yaakov's blessing.
DAN will judge his people; he's a snake who topples horse and rider, a horned viper, which attacks unseen (cf. Shin Bet). Yaakov now prays: "FOR YOUR SALVATION I'VE HOPED, GOD!"-- he foresees the trials of Dan's descendant, Shimshon. Gad will be overcome by troops, whom he shall (then) overcome. Asher will be the source of prosperity and luxury; Naftali, a hind let loose, gives beautiful words-- the poet of Israel; cf. Naftali Herz Imber's Hatikva; the refrain of a new improved version stresses our ultimate hope of 4OOO years-- TO BE (also) A HOLY PEOPLE IN OUR LAND (not just a free people-- get TOP's sticker, English or Hebrew, $1). Spread this religious Zionist message!
Yosef, A FRUITFUL SON, is "a fruitful branch near a well, overruning the wall" (49:22) OR "one who surpasses the eye"-- conquering visually stimulated sexuality and cupidity (cf. "Then you won't stray after your heart and after your eyes, which lead you to immorality"-- Num. 15:39) OR "one whom women appreciate". Rashi also interprets "surpasses the eye" as "above the (effects of) The Evil Eye"; so Yaakov compares Efrayim and Manasha to fish (48:16), on which the Eye has no effect; Rashi's belief in Evil Eye is found in the Babylonian Talmud, but not in the earlier Bible and Mishna-- see our study of Ki Sisa; one may not rely on Talmudic science per Rambam; see Avraham b. Maimon's introduction to the Agada, a preface to Ein Yaakov.
"Hate-filled men shot their arrows at him (23; Ms. i.e. Potiphar & Co., OR Yosef's brothers, IF we posit that Yaakov now knows of Yosef's sale), but Yaakov's God strengthened his hand and bow, from whence came the shepherd and stone of Israel" OR "(Yosef) restrained himself from sexual immorality, tho he spilled seed"-- Yer. Hor. 2:5, PRE 39, Rashi. His brothers' dislike righteous Yosef-- but, Yehuda, the ultimate leader, will be accepted by all, perhaps because he shares their shady past; cf. Avot 3:l3-- R. CHANINAH SAYS: ALL WHOM PEOPLE ENJOY, GOD ENJOYS (cf. the Rebbe, Shlomo), AND ANYONE WHO PEOPLE DISLIKE, GOD DISLIKES (cf. angry sages). Yaakov tells Yosef that God will help and bless him with prosperity and fecundity. Yaakov's blessings from God, broader than those of his fathers, will rest on Yosef's head, on the crown of "the separated brother".
"Benyamin is a wolf, who will ravage; in the morning, he devours the prey; in the evening, he divides the spoil" (49:27; this refers to his descendants-- Saul defeats Amalek, and Mordecai Haman-- OR to the 2 daily offerings in Benyamin's Temple).
"All of these are tribes of Israel-- 12-- and this is what their father declared to them, and he blessed them (as a group); each according to his blessing (unique role), he blessed THEM" (49:28)"-- each one's unique blessing is a blessing to all, as each element in a painting or symphony. No tribe can do its job properly, if another's not in shape-- Hirsch. A good tuba's a gift to the strings; all instruments together create a symphony. Unspecified blessings follow, rather than consist of, Yaakov's character sketches of his sons (Hirsch).
Yaakov urged his sons to bury him in the Cave of Machpelah with Avraham, Sarah, Yitzchak, Rivkah and Leah. Ariel Fogelman asked why he ignores Adam and Eve's burial there (per some Midrashim); perhaps he seeks the company of only those who restore, not those who abandon, Eden. Should the Chevron rabbinate object to such mixed burial? May "righteous Gentiles", Bnei Noach, be buried with Jews? Yaakov finished commanding his sons, gathered his feet into the bed, died, and WAS GATHERED UNTO HIS PEOPLE. Yosef fell upon his father's face, wept and kissed him; at Yosef's command, Yaakov was embalmed, a 4O day process. Jews don't embalm-- the body should disintegrate to earth quickly, freeing the soul heavenward; but Yaakov's saintly soul wasn't enmeshed in his body (Malbim; he also claims that the Host of Hosts, Avraham, created the calf served his guests, eaten with milk, magically)! Egypt mourned Yaakov 70 days. Yosef told Pharoh's household that his father made him swear to bury him in his do-it-yourself grave in Canaan-- Pharoh assented. ALL the servants of Pharoh, the elders of his house and of Egypt, all of Yosef's house, his brothers, and Yaakov's house went up to Canaan with an impressive escort; the public mourning was 7 days, in the Atad threshing floor (not ALL Egyptians welcomed Yosef's brothers; ALL mourn the Jew-- cf. pious Vatican mourning of the Holocaust with their WWII silence and long non-recognition of Israel). The Israelites returned to Egypt, to their children and possessions, after burying Yaakov, per his instructions.
Yosef's brothers now feared him; they told him that Yaakov commanded him (did he?) not to hurt them (implying that he knew of Yosef's sale), and offered to be his servants. He wept, as they begged forgiveness; he won't play God to punish them-- all turned out to be for the best (and if it hadn't?). Yosef promised them his continued support and comforted them.
In our study of Miketz, we explored why Yosef didn't spare his father great suffering, by informing Yaakov he was alive and well in Egypt. Gafni suggests that Yosef wondered why Yaakov didn't contact HIM!! As a Palestinean Potentate, Yaakov surely could have tracked down the caravans that transported Yosef to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar-- apparently Yaakov either died or didn't care, after sending Yosef to his cruel brethren. His brothers suddenly arrive and tell him that Yaakov's alive in 42:13; he still wants nothing to do with Yaakov or them, but craves Benyamin's company and makes them return with him; In his plea in 44:20, Judah adds that Yosef is dead, Yaakov convinced that a wild beast consumed him (44:28); Judah offers himself up, to be imprisoned instead of Benyamin, from love of his father. Then Yosef (ch. 45) couldn't contain himself and recanted, now knowing that Yaakov hadn't abandoned him, and that his Leahite brothers were now prepared to recognize and respect Yaakov's preference for his children of Rachel.
Rav Gafni thus rejects my view (in our Miketz study), that Yosef already longed for Yaakov & Co. at Ephraim's birth-- tho he named his firstborn Menasha (The Lord's let me forget all my travail and all my father's house), he felt alien in Egypt by the time that his honorable #2 son Efrayim was born; Efrayim's name proclaims: "The Lord's made me fruitful in the land of my affliction" (41:51-2). Rav Gafni, however, assumes that Yosef just celebrates his expansive success at that point, despite his EARLIER affliction, enslaved, in Egypt. He notes that Yosef never uses Hashem, the higher transcendental, yet relational, name of God, perhaps indicating temporary abandonment of Yaakov's mission. He, as Noachide Noah, the good Vermonter, uses only "Elokim", denoting God as master of the impersonal laws of nature (Elokim = 86 = Hateva, nature). Ruth Fogelman suggests that impersonal Elokim is the only Divine name to which non-spiritual Egyptians could relate, but Yosef also uses it in naming his sons and addressing his brothers, relating to Providential matters.
Yosef lived until llO and helped raise his great grandchildren. He told his brothers: "The Lord will surely keep account of you and bring you up from this land to the land sworn to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov". He made them promise to bring up his bones with them, but does not request burial in Machpala Cave-- it's reserved for Patriarchs & Matriarchs, who chose, and were thus chosen for, God's special Jewish Zionist mission, unlike their siblings; from Yaakov's children onward, none are rejected by God as Avraham's successors in his sacred mission. Yosef died, was emblamed, and put into a coffin in Egypt, per his earlier request. He shows his hidden Zionist motif (Yosef= l56 = Tziyon, Zion), after his eminent career in Egypt (cf. Brandeis). God had told Avraham to leave everything and make aliya to the only Chosen Land of the Chosen People-- now no Jew is left in Israel, as all sink deeper and deeper into Egyptian life. So, with God's help, we again end Genesis-- the tale of creation, universal mankind's failure, and its return to itself and God via Yaakov's model family, about to become a nation-- on to Exodus! Rav Gafni sees Genesis as the book of family relations-- husband & wife, parent & child, siblings; the final message is that's Yaakov's family, despite all its conflcits and unhappiness, must shape themselves and universal destiny together-- we embrace our defects too, the objects of our efforts at tikkun, self-improvement. Moom, imperfection, is one of God's names, per The Zohar, the lauching pad to reach Him, thru return.
D. THE HAFTARA, I KINGS 2:l-12-- CONTRASTS IN GREATNESS
David is close to death here. Prof. Y. Leibowitz compares his plot and intrigue ridden court with Yaakov's peaceful parting, his harmonious descendants clustered about him. David's also concerned with his successor in kingdom and covenant; he blesses and commands Shlomo to be truly Torah oriented, that his kingdom continue; he is also to settle scores, to bump off those who should be bumped off, and reward those who should be rewarded. AND YOU ALSO REALLY KNOW WHAT YOAV... DID TO ME, WHAT HE DID TO THE 2 ISRAELI GENERALS... (5). Yoav's a marked man for killing Saul's then peaceful generals, tho he did it for David! Meshach Chochmah says Shlomo can't build the Temple of peace until their blood is avenged; he and Ralbag suggest another reason for fingering Yoav-- DAVID'S PERSONAL ANGUISH, "what Yoav did TO ME"-- Yoav killed David's rebel son Avshalom (2 Sl8:l4-5), howbeit to save David's life; Avshalom himself had killed his brother Amnon for raping Tamar. Rav Gafni notes Avshalom's over-response to father David's lack of response-- cf. Dina's Leahite brothers' over-response to her rape, after Yaakov does nothing for his daughter of Leah, and then criticizes them for making waves; their retort, "Will HE make a zona of our sister?", may refer to their father, Yaakov); perhaps David felt that his problem kids were not to blame for their wrongs, the expectable outcome of his poor parenting and his Divine curse, after sinning with Batsheva-- "NOW THE SWORD WILL NOT DEPART FROM YOUR HOUSE... BEHOLD I SHALL RAISE UP EVIL TO YOU FROM YOUR HOUSE AND TAKE YOUR WIVES, WHILE YOU WATCH, AND GIVE THEM TO YOUR FRIEND, WHO WILL SLEEP WITH YOUR WIVES BEFORE THIS SUN (2S12:11).
As he took Uriah's wife, so beautiful Avshalom (cf. Yosef) PUBLICLY took David's women, on Achitofel's advice (2Sl6:22). Yoav also sided with Adoniyahu, vs. Solomon (lKl:7). David dies. His son and successor, Shlomo, then had his brother Adoniyahu killed-- Adoniyahu tried to take Avishag, King David's young old-age warmer; this rebellious pretense to royal succession could upset Shlomo's kingship. Per Abarbanel, kingship is inherently corrupting. Ruth Fogelman notes, in contrast, Yosef's great paternal success, DESPITE his busy prominent public role; Chaim Dovid prefers to blame Dovid's wives for his kid's vices; perhaps they felt neglected; could he have picked better (or fewer) ones? Is it very hard (or impossible?) for such expansive unfettered majestic universal personalities, past and present, whose songs and words of Torah turn on the whole world, to limit themselves to close interaction with one wife and kids? Are they bored? Would Dovid and Shlomo be proper family models for young Orthodox youth? Would today's yeshivot engage them as teachers? Is a woman wise if she gets involved with them? Is a night with Shlomo Hamelech, as one of his 1000 women, better than a lifetime with a dull, but committed and loving, commoner? Of course, its likely that that one night will produce a little Shlomo, the joy of his mother's life-- but his de facto psychological function, husband substitute, is likely to render him neurotic, tho brilliant. Such speculation is typically talmudic, but politically incorrect in the contemporary "balabatishe" (petit bourgeoisie) Orthodox world-- but see Yakar and Yedidya, who stress the "Y".
Rav Gafni notes that Yosef, the servant, the handyman, was also "in locus husbandus", a de facto husband to Mrs. Potiphar, in every respect but the sexual, before she tried to seduce him; when something broke, Yosef was there; if something was needed, Yosef was there; if she had to talk to someone, Yosef was there; but her de jure husband, Poitphar, was always at the office. Did he leave Yosef with her, hoping that they'd get involved, that he be rid of her? Did Yosef spoil his plan?
E. FOOD FOR THOUGHT-- SOME ??
Why did Yaakov make Yosef take an oath? Why bless our sons to be like Efrayim and M'nashe, rather than like the patriarchs?-- we bless our daughters to be like the matriarchs, not like their descendants, e.g. Miriam, Dina and Tamar. Why did Yaakov switch their order? Why did Yosef protest? "Yisroel saw Yosef's sons and said: `Who are they?' (48:8)"-- didn't he recognize his own grandchildren? Was he like elderly Jews in Florida, who disguise their impending death with red pants and yellow shirts and early-bird dinners out, living in a child-free world, except for very rare visits from their children and grandchildren?-- wouldn't they stay younger in Israel, e.g. Netanya, amidst young families and the exciting drama of the beginning of our Messianic redemption? Why does Yaakov's name constantly flit from Yaakov to Yisrael? How does Yaakov bless his sons? Why address only a few of them directly? Describe Levi and Shimon's ups & downs. Why be buried in Canaan? Why not bury Yosef there right away? Are "tribes" a good idea-- Jews are to be united as one people?-- cf. hassidim and misnagdim. Why should Yosef's brothers fear him, after 17 years of peace?
F. SOME RESPONSES
Yosef's oath to bury Yaakov in Israel helped persuade Pharoh to allow him to do so. A Jew is to be both universal and particular, fully in the world and fully out of it! Unlike their later siblings, Efrayim & M'nashe grew up without Yaakov & Co., upper-class Egyptian prepies; yet they retained the values and traditions of Yosef. We can't always control our children's environment (cf. Noah); they must eventually interact with the rest of humanity, for mutual benefit. May they, as Efrayim & M'nashe, survive! Anne Roiphe (above) beautifully describes such "as close as you can get to ideal" families, e.g. those of Samuel and Rhoda Soloman and Rabbi Yitz and Rabit-Rabanit Blu Greenberg; she voices regret that her own emotionally, spiritually and Judaically deprived background precludes their life style for her and her family. Rabbi Arye Spero and Mordechai Beck note the Efrayim and Manasha are the first Biblical set of siblings who exhibit complete peace & harmony! Tho his little brother becomes #l, M'nashe doesn't even protest. So may our contentious sons be, a reflection of our own family harmony! Chana Loecher: we can't expect average earthy boys to be patriarchs, great public leaders-- enough that they be observant successful harmonious Jews, as Efrayim & M'nashe; but EVERY girl is created KIRTZONO, like God's own Will or Personality-- she CAN be a matriarch, build a holy family sanctuary!
Finally, Efrayim and Menashe are our first forebearers to have a trauma-free life; Rambam (Daot 4:1) notes that any illness affects one's clarity of Divine knowledge; thus we might explain some of his own difficult statements via his irreparable childhood traumas-- see our Chanuka study. So our best guides for our wonderful modern world are those rabbis who led similar lives to our own, e.g. in Medieval Spain and Holland and in England and Western Europe, before WWII, rather than those of insular persecuted East European Jewry, themselves distorted and, as Yaakov, broken by their life experience-- see Eli Weisel, 4 Chassidic Rabbis, and Artscrolls-Targum's My Uncle the Netziv by Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein ($32; he also wrote Torah T'mima, the annotated Chumash, translated into English, 5 vol., $80); Epstein is JR's irreverant Calev Ben Yehuda's great-great-grandfather. Epstein's children all abandoned Orthdoxy, but some of his descendants have returned.
Younger Efrayim had more formative years of Yaakov's teaching; M'nashe was Yosef's understudy in managing Egypt. They had "different" fathers! M'nashe had Tzafnat-Panaath, nee Yosef, enthralled with his Egyptian success, wanting to forget his crippling family; Efrayim's dad, Yosef, may have named him after his subsequent deep soul afflication in that goldena medina! "Efrayim" denotes fruitfulness, as the verb "prei", which God uses at Luz (35:11) in blessing Yaakov with extra tribes; thus he knows Efrayim's his privileged grandchild (Abarbanel). Menasha's name has a negative connotation, possibly affecting him-- Yosef's forgetting a sad past, his malfunctional Jewish family. But Efrayim's name has a positive connotation. Yosef himself suffered from the effects of Yaakov's favoring talent over status; but Yaakov correctly assumes that M'nashe will take it OK, or senses that here too it will somehow work out well! Yaakov doubted the Jewish identity of his Egyptian grandsons, but was reassured by Yosef. "Yaakov" denotes his normal life, "Yisroel" his determination to prevail in his struggle with society and Divinity over all odds, at moments of trial. Yaakov bawls out his first 3 sons without even blessing them! But the Torah omits his words of general blessing, just noting that he blessed them (49:28, Hirsch). Perhaps the biggest blessing is to know oneself, including his/her faults, and to determine his destiny accordingly. Some rebbes do magic, others spiritual psychanalysis.
Levi and Shimon are over-aggressive, trigger-happy. Levi later uses his trait well, as a zealot for God and His Law; Shimon shapes up much later. Their "holy wrath" against infidel Shchem is a prelude to their later cold-blooded attempt to murder Yosef; just as hate has no limits, so Rav A. J. Kook proclaimed that his overwhelming love reached beyond Jews to embrace non-Jews too, indeed all of God's Creation. He rebuked Reb Arye Levine for needlessly tearing leaves off a tree (recounted in A Tzadik In Our Times). Dying Yaakov starts a Jewish tradition, the ethical will-- a review of his life and tradition, with insights and advice for his kids and followers (cf. Moshe's blessing; see Hebrew Ethical Wills, JPS). Expiring Yaakov describes and criticizes each son; he'd rather straighten them out than have a beautiful deathbed scene. Yosef and Yehuda both have periods and aspects of leadership. We don't know their respective Messianic roles (Hirsch). Egypt would ban Israeli burial of Yosef, their national savior; he didn't expect Divine miracles yet. Unique aspects of tribes, focused and defined life patterns, are lost in a uniform nation. Yaakov's plea not to be buried in Egypt is echoed by Yosef, who assures his brothers that they'll someday return; this reminds them that they don't belong in Egypt, no matter how successful (cf. USA Today).
RAV YEHUDA HENKIN cites a tradition that famine ceased upon Yaakov's arrival, but resumed after his death (Tosef. Sot. 10:3, Sifre Akev 38). Yosef's brothers feared that he'd at least leave them to die, as they tried to do to him, tho he never would overtly hurt them. They appeal to him to at least feed them as slaves, as he fed the Egyptians! Rav Gafni suggests that they may have suspected that Yosef was just waiting for Yaakov's death to kill them, as Esav planned to do to Yaakov (27:41).
Successful transition of leadership is a leitmotif of this week's readings-- both Yaakov and David, as Moshe and the Rebbe of Chabad, must ensure strong unchallanged successors. R. Hanina urges-- PRAY FOR THE WELFARE OF THE GOVERNMENT, FOR WITHOUT THE FEAR OF IT, EACH MAN WOULD CONSUME EVEN HIS NEIGHBOR ALIVE! (Avot 3:2- predatory animals don't consume their own kind, and wait until their prey dies to eat it!). Anarchy's worse than bad government. R. Hanina was executed by the Romans, after Jewish Zealots rebelled, ignoring his advice and that of R. Yochanan b. Zakai. Israel didn't merit Divine intervention then (today?). Reb Moshe of Sakochov delivered a grand address when Tzar Alexander II visited his shul, after escaping an assassin's bullet. He spoke of Divine approval of kings (vs. Abarbanel!), and the danger of wicked anarchists, probably alienating many Jewish youth in the process. Jews prayed for wicked rulers every Shabbat, often feeling that revolution was worse (cf. Paris Commune, Bolsheviks), or simply courting royal favor. Every truly religious shul and yeshiva today should, a fortiori, pray with gratitude for the State of Israel and Tzahal. Rav Riskin urges us to educate all Israel on the need not to evict anyone, Jew or Arab, from their homes; but he also stresses that we must obey the law if the majority disagrees, and even uproot settlements-- civil war was and is the end of the State of Israel, far worse than giving part, which we may not really control anyway, back to the Arabs.
So, in dealing with Arab unrest, WE MUST FIRST PRESERVE LAW AND ORDER-- safe open streets and highways-- not blocked by terrorists or demonstrators. Those who try to destroy Israel should be quickly expelled (12/92's 400 Hamas was a good start!). Israel should build another 500 housing units between Kiryat Arba and Hevron each time terrorists injure a Jew-- far more just, positive and effective than destroying terrorists' families' homes. Yet we must act decently toward any Arab who, apparently, has NOT tried to wreck Israel, that "stranger" who wants to be a peaceful member of our society (Ex. 22:20-23:9). In 2S2l, David could only end God's plague upon Israel by delivering Saul's 7 sons to the no-good Givonites-- they were abused by Saul, who didn't kill them, just deprived them of a decent livelihood (by killing their employers, the priests of Nov-- per Yevamot 78-9). This disgrace to God's Name even overrides laws against killing sons for fathers' sins and leaving bodies hanging (but some later commentators disagree, claiming that Saul's sons actually hurt the Givonites). Per Leon Uris (JERUSALEM - SONG OF SONGS), Yoav was afraid that Avner would replace him (see C), and David killed Saul's sons to stop future rebellions-- he ignores the bible, which stresses God's wrath at the Jews for abusing the Givonites. Many false facts (e.g. Mea Shearim being only hassidic, ignoring sefardim and misnagdim) mar his beautiful, powerful, but anti-religious, writing.
ISRAEL'S POLICY MUST COMBINE THE NEED FOR STRONG JEWISH SOVEREIGNTY AND ORDER, STRESSED BY TECHIYA, WITH THE CONCERN FOR THE HOLY JEWISH PEACE IMAGE OF OZ V'SHALOM.
Rav Riskin concludes that Yosef, who saved Israel, gets deposed firstborn Reuven's double portion in the land, Yehuda his spiritual leadership. But Efrayim's Northern prosperity, unlike Yehuda's Jerusalem spirituality, doesn't survive exile. Our Herzlian revival of the land, perhaps by Yosef's Meshiach, must be followed by spiritual revival, via Yehuda's Meshiach ben David. Rav Riskin's Rules of Revival should impel us to speedily transfrom profane Israel TV, perhaps the most salient shaper of Israeli souls today, into Torah TV! May H.U. soon become Holy U., not Heresy U.! May a modern Yeshiva soon replace its mostly heretical Bible Faculty-- 12/96.
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