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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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ועשית עמדי חסד ואמת אל נא תקברני במצרים

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

Rashi comments that the kindness we demonstrate to the deceased is the true kindness of truth – chesed shel emes, purely altruistic, because the beneficiary will never be able to return the favor. The Maggid, zl, m’Dubno explains that when one performs chesed, an act of lovingkindness, for his fellow men, he does not know for certain that his act of chesed is truly a favor for the intended. For some (for example), giving them material support could actually harm them in the long run. With regard to the deceased, however, we have no question that the chesed is undoubtedly…

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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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