Points to Ponder VaYechi 5774


And Yaakov lived (47:28) – Why does the Parsha begin by highlighting how long Yaakov lived in Mitzrayim? Is it not possible to deduce this from knowing how long he lived and how old he was when he left Eretz Yisroel? The Or HaChaim HaKadosh explains that Yaakov’s life was filled with peril and challenge. Only when he was in Egypt, with a complete and reunited family, did he really “Live?” Rav Mordechai Greenberg Shlita adds that Yaakov found Sheleimut in Mitzrayim when he experienced the unification of knowing he was following Hashem’s master plan. According to Rav Greenberg, the only place to find that kind of Sheleimut and’ live’ is when one chooses to live in Eretz Yisroel. Hence the Possuk Lulai He’emantee  L‘iros B”Tuv Hashem B’Eretz Chaim – a reference to Eretz Yisroel.


And they should multiply like fish (48:16) – The Midrash explains that like fish who although they live in water rush to the top of the surface when new water is added to their habitat, so too, the children of Yaakov will drink the new words of Torah with a thirst even though they are surrounded by Torah. Rav Aharon Kotler ztl. explains how this is possible. He notes that life is precious as a whole but each moment of life is uniquely special as well. When one looks at life’s moments independently, one wants to spend that moment learning Torah or doing Mitzvos and will run in order to do so.


Through you the Jewish people will bless their children (48:20)- Why is this written in the singular (Bicha) and not the multiple (Bachem)? Rav Refoel Sorotzkin ztl. explains that the Beracha was directed at their father – at Yosef. For when children are a part of a blessing, it is also a blessing to the parent.


And Yaakov called all of his sons (49:1) – The midrash notes that Yaakov began with the word Kara as it was the verb that Yitzchak completed HIS berachos to Yaakov. Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita notes that the authors of the Midrash understood that each generation needs its own words to formulate Berachos but the practices should be connected with those of the earlier generations. Rav Schachter adds that if this is true regarding Berachos it is even more so in regard to Torah and Mitzvos as well. As Rav Soloveitchik explains,  true Chiddush is allowed and encouraged in Torah but Shinui is not.


Because you moved your father’s bed (49:4) – For one action, Reuven’s children are doomed forever? Besides, didn’t Reuven have the purest of intentions in moving his father’s bed?  Rav Zaidel Epstein ztl. explains that when we are doing good deeds we need to consider that good intentions often make bad deeds appear to be good ones.


Their anger should be cursed (49:7) – If their anger is cursed, why would Yaakov want to spread it out in Yaakov? Moreover in Sefer Yehoshua (19:1) it sounds as if, Shimon received a portion in the portion of Yehudah to which the Gra explains, this was part of the fulfillment of Yaakov’s declaration. Rav Binyamin Eisenberger Shlita explains  that anger is a trait which finds its source in pride and haughtiness (Gaavah). However, when one is so selfless that he is divided among others, there is no self for self-aggrandizement and therefore no room for narcissistic injury and anger.


I am passing away (lit. Gathering to my nation) (49:29) – What nation was Yaakov referring to? There was no nation that had passed yet? Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. explains that Shem and his followers who had all accepted the fundamentals of the faith are included here as they too were not a part of this world but lived preparing for the next one.


Haftorah: “So that you will be Successful in all that you do (Melachim 2:3) – Why is the word “Taskil utilized here instead of the more common “Tatzliach”? The Malbim explains that Hatzlacha is dependent on outside forces totally. Taskil involves the person using his or her internal skills to recognize the right way to go. Rav Avraham Rivlin Shlita adds that Dovid HaMelech was telling Shlomo that if he uses his Seichel to follow the word of Hashem, he will not only be Maskil but he will be Matzliach materially as well.