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אל תיראו כי התחת אלקים אני ואתם חשבתם עלי רעה אלקים חשבה לטובה

“Fear not, for am I instead of G-d? Although you intended the harm, G-d intended it for good. (50:19,20)

In the last few parshiyos, we have been reading about Yaakov Avinu’s sons, the Shivtei Kah, Twelve Tribes of Klal Yisrael, the closest link to our Patriarchs from whom our Nation descends. We refer to them by name and relate their activities; their sale of Yosef, followed by their encounter with the viceroy of Egypt, aka, Yosef; their ensuing remorse over their lack of empathy with his pain; their being supported by Yosef in Egypt; and, finally, their apology and request for absolution for their misdeed. Reading all this, we might lose sight of the greatness of these individuals. They…

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בך יבורך ישראל לאמר ישימך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה

By you shall Yisrael bless saying, “May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe.” (48:20)

Yaakov Avinu assured Yosef that, throughout the ages, Jewish parents would bless their sons that they grow up to be like Ephraim and Menashe. Why should these two grandsons of Yaakov, children raised in the pagan, hedonistic society that Egypt epitomized, be the paradigms of Jewish parents’ hopes for their children? At first blush, the mere fact that they “made it” in Egypt speaks volumes about them and their upbringing. If so, Yaakov would be speaking only with regard to the galus Jew, who is challenged by the non-Jewish, assimilationist environment. This is obviously not the case. Yaakov spoke to…

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ויברך את יוסף ... יברך את הנערים ויקרא בהם שמי ... ויברכם ביום ההוא לאמר בך יבורך ישראל

He blessed Yosef … shall bless the lads and shall call them my name… And he blessed on that day, saying: “In you shall Yisrael (be) blessed.” (48:15,16,20)

Yaakov Avinu actually gave two blessings: one to Yosef, and one to Ephraim and Menashe. Upon reading the text of the blessings, however, we confront an anomaly: Yaakov actually directed the blessing meant for Yosef at his sons – Ephraim and Menashe. The blessing that Yaakov Avinu gave to Ephraim and Menashe was all about Yosef. Concerning Yosef’s blessing, the Torah writes, Yevareich es ha’naarim, “He (Hashem) should bless the lads,” while, concerning Ephraim and Menashe, the Patriarch said, “In you (singular), shall Yisrael be blessed,” which implies that the blessing was to him. Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, posits that…

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ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים

Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt. (47:28)

Rashi asks (based on a Midrash), “Why is this parsha setumah, closed?” Despite the fact that Vayechi begins a new parshah, it is “closed.” This means it is not set off by the usual number of spaces that would normally mark it as distinct from the previous parsha. (In other words, when there are no spaces it is difficult to discern the beginning of a new parsha.) Rashi offers his responses. I would like to focus on a meaningful explanation which Horav Nissan Alpert, zl, renders. Life (can be – and is) unpredictable and mysterious. Life is like a “closed…

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ויראו אחי יוסף כי מת אביהם

Yosef’s brothers perceived that their father was dead… (50:15)

Yosef’s brothers felt that now that their saintly father, Yaakov Avinu, was gone, their protection from what they felt would be Yosef’s wrath had also come to an end. It seemed to them that Yosef’s attitude toward them had abruptly changed. No longer were they the beloved family whom he invited to dine with him in the palace. They feared that it was all because their father had been alive. Now that he was gone, Yosef’s lingering animosity toward them was becoming apparent. (This was in their perception. It was not true.) Indeed, Yosef had a reason for everything he…

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ויעברו ימי בכיתו

When his bewailing period passed. (50:4)

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 100:4) distinguishes between the mourning /weeping for Yaakov Avinu and the mourning for Moshe Rabbeinu. Concerning Yaakov, the Torah writes: “When his bewailing period passed,” while, regarding Moshe, it writes: Vayitmu yemei bechi eival Moshe, “Then the days of the tearful mourning or Moshe ended” (Devarim 34:8). The Midrash comments: Yaakov had those who mourned and bewailed him; therefore, it says that the bewailing period passed (not ended, simply passed). Moshe did not leave a grief-stricken following; therefore, it says that his mourning period came to an end. Clearly, this statement requires elucidation. Moshe was the…

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בן פרת יוסף בן פרת עלי עין

A charming son is Yosef, a charming son to the eye. (49:22)

Chazal (Berachos 20a) teach that the progeny of Yosef, like Yosef HaTzaddik, were not affected by the power of ayin hora, evil eye. This is in connection with the above pasuk, “A charming son is Yosef, a charming son to the eye.” Yosef never sought to enjoy that which was not his (such as Potifar’s wife, who made every attempt to seduce him), thus, the evil eye affected neither him nor his descendants. Why should one suffer because another person is envious of what he possesses? Should one conceal himself and his good fortune from the public eye, just because…

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יששכר חמר גרם ... וירא מנוחה כי טוב ואת הארץ כי נעמה ויט שכמו לסבול

Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey… He saw tranquility that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant, yet he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured servant. (49:14,15)

Rashi interprets the metaphor of a strong-boned donkey and the reference to the land as alluding to Yissachar’s relationship with the Torah. Yaakov Avinu points out Yissachar’s spiritual role as bearer of the yoke of Torah and cultivator of the spiritual treasures of our people. Why does the blessing include “his seeing tranquility and it was good”? The significance of the blessing is Yissachar’s relentless commitment to bearing the yoke of Torah, even if it might be a challenging task at times. His ability to rest while standing up, without having to remove his parcels, demonstrates that regardless of the…

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קחם נא אלי ואברכם

Bring them to me, if you please, and I will bless them. (48:9)

Yaakov Avinu wanted to bless Yosef’s sons. We do not find him blessing any of his other grandchildren. Perhaps, since it was his plan to grant Menashe and Ephraim Shevet/Tribe status, it was necessary to meet in order to bless them. Chazal give many explanations for Yaakov’s decision to make Menashe and Ephraim the paradigms of Jewish blessing: “Yesimcha Elokim k’Ephraim v’k’Menashe. Something was special about these two young men and the manner in which they were raised, special enough that Yaakov wanted every Jewish father throughout the millennia to bless his children in a similar manner. Why? The continuity…

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קברו אתי אל אבתי אל המערה אשר בשדה עפרון... שמה קברו את אברהם ואת שרה אשתו שמה קברו את יצחק ואת רבקה אשתו ושמה קברתי את לאה

Bury me among my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron… there they buried Avraham and his wife, Sarah; there they buried Yitzchak and his wife Rivkah; and there I buried Leah. (49:29,31)

The Meoras HaMachpeilah (as explained by Rashi, Ibid 23:9) was called machpeilah, which means double. Chazal gave it this name either because it contained upper and lower chambers or due to the fact that zuggos, couples, that were buried there. It was the burial site of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, couples united in life and death. Thus, Yaakov Avinu concluded his request to be buried there next to his “wife,” Leah. If Yaakov’s only reason for burial in the cave was to be buried next to his wife, he could have been buried next to Rachel Imeinu on the road…

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