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ברכת אביך גברו על ברכת הורי... תהיין לראש יוסף

The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my parents… Let them be upon Yosef’s head. (49:26)

When Yaakov Avinu blessed his sons, he gave an extra blessing to Yosef. Rashi translates Gavru al Bircas horai, “The blessing of your father gavru, surpassed, the blessings of my father.” This means that the blessings that Yaakov received from Hashem surpassed the blessings he received from his father. These should rest upon Yosef. Targum Onkelos translate gavru as “in addition.” This means that all the blessings – Yaakov’s father and those of Hashem, should all come to fruition in Yosef. This was the Patriarch’s way of saying that all the blessings will rest upon the head of he who…

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ועשית עמדי חסד ואמת אל נא תקבריני במצרים

And do kindness and truth with me – please do not bury me in Egypt. (47:29)

Chesed shel emes, true kindness, or kindness of truth, is a fundamental concept in Jewish life. It underscores the importance of performing acts of lovingkindness for others for the sake of “kindness,” for Heaven’s sake, and not for any form of remuneration. For the most part, it pertains to the compassion and respect inherent in preparing the deceased for burial. The Chevra Kaddisha, Jewish Sacred Society, is charged with seeing to it that every Jew is accorded a proper and dignified burial. Chesed shel emes highlights the selfless and unconditional love that one should exhibit towards others – at all…

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ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים שבע עשרה שנה

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

After (what seemed to be) a life of difficulty, Yaakov Avinu arrived in Egypt to spend the last seventeen years of his mortal existence. The tranquility, joy and harmony that he enjoyed in some way ameliorated what he had endured in the past. While there can be no tradeoff for the pain and sorrow that our Patriarch experienced, we do know that the last seventeen years of his life were reasonably calm and filled with nachas. Chazal (Talmud Yerushalmi, Kesubos 65b, Bereishis Rabbah 96:5) teach that Yaakov Avinu and Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi were intrinsically joined. This matter was not unknown…

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וירא מנוחה כי טוב... ויט שכמו לסבול

He saw tranquility that it was good… Yet he bent his shoulder to bear. (49:15)

We have before us a paradox concerning Yissachar, the symbol of the ben Torah, who devoted his life to Torah study and spiritual pursuits. If he sees that tranquility is good, why does he bend his shoulder to bear? Why should he toil if he has an easier way? Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, explains that the Torah is lauding Yissachar’s devotion in that he remains committed, despite the easy way out – tranquility. Torah is so valuable to him that he would rather toil in Torah than relax. All the worldly pleasures which avail themselves to him do not stand…

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ויברכם... בך יברך ישראל לאמר ישמך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה

So he blessed them… saying, “By you shall Yisrael bless saying, ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and like Menashe.’” (48:20)

Yaakov Avinu blessed his grandsons with what has become the standard of blessing. Horav Yechezkel, zl, m’Kuzmir, notes that the word becha, by you, is singular, as if the speaker is addressing one person, which is not the case. Both Menashe and Ephraim were present during this blessing; thus, bach refers to both of them. The Kuzmirer explains that bach alludes to complete unity in which two individuals – in this instance, Menashe and Ephraim – who are unified in complete harmony as one person. Only when perfect amity prevails can brachah, blessing, radiate to Klal Yisrael. When Yosef presented…

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וימאן אביו ויאמר ידעתי בני ידעתי

But his father refused, saying, “I Know, my son, I know.” (48:19)

Yosef made a move to show his father that Menashe was his older son; thus, he warranted the blessing on the right/stronger side. One would have expected Yaakov Avinu to simply inform him that Ephraim will ultimately be the greater of the two. Why does he preface his response with Yadaati, b’ni, yadaati? Horav Yisrael Aharon Kupshitz, Shlita (Torah Ohr, quoted by Horav Eliezer Turk, Shlita), comments that the Torah is teaching us an important principle with regard to our seeking advice from a gadol, Torah giant. We must never forget that the reason he is where he is, and…

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ויאמר קחם נא אלי ואברכם

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

Yosef brought his two sons to his father, Yaakov Avinu, for a blessing, as the Patriarch had instructed him. Is this not why Yosef brought them? He did not want a long-distance blessing. What was Yaakov intimating when he said, “Bring them to me”? Yaakov was alluding that not only was his blessing of great significance, but it was also important for his grandsons to see him up close, to sear into their minds his visage and bearing. When Yerushalayim was under siege by the Roman army, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai met with Vespasian, the Roman commander and chief. He…

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ואתם חשבתם עלי רעה אלקים חשבה לטובה... וינחם אותם וידבר על לבם

Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good … Thus he comforted them and spoke to their heart. (50:20,21)

Sefer Bereishis ends on a note of consolation, as Yosef intimates to his brothers that they had all been part of a larger Divine Plan. It began with the creation of the world, followed by: the sin of Adam HaRishon; the Great Flood; the Dispersal; Avraham Avinu and Akeidas Yitzchak, the birth of the prodigal twins, Yaakov and Eisav; the twelve Shevatim, tribes, and their role in the mechiras, sale, of Yosef. It concluded with Yosef, who was the subject of much suffering, forgiving and comforting his brothers. In this episode, the individuals were neither winners nor losers, just Shivtei…

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האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים

Assemble yourselves, and I will tell you what will happen in the end of days. (49:1)

The Midrash explains that Yaakov Avinu wished to tell his children when Moshiach would come with the hope that the pre-knowledge of an end to the troubles of galus, exile, would, in and of itself, be a source of comfort. Hashem, however, prevented him from making this revelation. Klal Yisrael does not receive solace from deadlines, but rather, from faith and carrying out Hashem’s mitzvos. Veritably, by our actions, we extend the galus. If we would only wake up from our spiritual slumber and realize that Hashem wants to bring about the exile’s end, but we must deserve it. The…

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ויקרבו ימי ישראל למות

And the days of the death of Yisrael drew near. (47:29)

A well-known secular quote caught my attention. “When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure it is worth watching” (There are variations to this quote.) A life review, or experiencing a rapid image of one’s life history, is a phenomenon that can occur when one experiences a serious trauma, especially if it is life-threatening. The image, however, has merit – especially in light of the following exposition from Horav Shlomo Wolbe, zl (Alei Shur). The Torah describes Yaakov Avinu’s petirah, passing, in an unusual manner: “And the days of the death drew near.” A person dies on one specific…

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