Points to Ponder

Vayechi 5775

And he asked him to swear and he swore (47:31) – Why would Yaakov trust a Shevua from Yosef, if, according to Ramban, the Avos only kept  the Mitzvos in Eretz Yisrael? Moreover, why did Yosef keep the oath he gave Pharaoh that he would not reveal that the king did not speak Hebrew? The Chida explains that the Avos did not keep the Mitzvos in Chutz L’Aretz as long as they knew that they would return to Eretz Yisrael. Yosef knew that he was not going to go back and in order to guarantee Jewish continuity he obligated himself to keep the Mitzvos even outside of the land.  The Avnei Nezer suggests that one might also answer that logically one needs to keep oaths that s/he obligates himself to keep. The only time one would need a Possuk to obligate one to keep his oath is when the oath affects him alone. IN THAT CASE, there is a Mitzva oof K’Chol HaYotzai Mi”Piv Yaaseh. However here? The logic dictated that Yosef keep the Shevuah.

And I’ve given you an extra Shechem (48:22) – The word Shechem has two implications – either a portion or a shoulder. Rav Shalom Yosef Zevin ztl. notes that these interpretations are actually opposites. A portion indicates something owned personally and kept to one’s self. The shoulder is put to the grind and is used to bring things out – publically. Rav Zevin explains that when one only thinks about Chitzoniyus it brings on trouble (like the city of Shechem). Instead one needs the internal Shechem – the personal involvement and connection to internal spirit – to withstand and even integrate the world at large into a greater inner world. Yosef was given Shechem Echad – the power to unite the internal and external Shechem.

The scepter shall not depart Yehuda (49:10) – The Ramban notes that thisi s the reason for the destruction of the family of the Chashmonaim who violated this rule of Yakov Aveinu. However, why didn’t the Chachamim of the original generation warn the Macabees of the danger in accepting the rule? Did they not know that the practice was forbidden? Rav Yaakov Kamenetszky ztl. explains that it was clear from the outset of Bayit Sheni that this Bayit was only to be temporary – and was established to help prepare for an elongated Galus. The Chachamim didn’t want to appoint a real king then as well. When the Chashmonaim saw the empty throne, they grabbed it. Originally, the Macabees intend only to be presidents and not kings – hence no need to enforce the rule. However when this changed and an attempt at establishing a dynasty occurred, they were wiped out.

I hope in your Salvation Hashem (49:18) – Of all places, why does this Possuk appear in the Berachos of Dan? Rav Benny Lau explains that unlike all the other Berachos which seem to speak about a future, this one speaks to a present. The Meforshim apply it to the descendant of Dan –Shimshon HaGibbor who will not be a silent defender of the Jewish people but rather an active one, who after losing the initial aspect of his campaign, will take vengeance on the Plishtim in his final act of heroism. However, Yaakov reminds us that even in that act, Shimshon is only acting with the salvation of Hashem and His will in mind, not for personal gain. And even after success is achieved, it is not complete until the salvation of Hashem and His will is complete.

Binyamin is a devouring wolf (49:27) – Rashi explains that Yaakov was referring to Shaul (a descendant of Binyamin) about whom he prophesized that Shaul would defeat the enemies that surrounded him. Yet, early in his career, Shaul is identified as the one who stole the Luchos from Goliath. How do we know this? Rav Meir Moshe Hillel of Bagdad ztl noted that it is hinted to, in our Possuk – Binyamin would grab Ze’av which in Gematria is 10 – a reference to the ten Dibbbros he would grab from the enemy.

Each child received his Beracha according to his need (49:28) – Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita decried parents who assume that children are supposed to be exactly the same. This is scandalous. Each child needs a different style of Chinuch. Rav Hirsch ztl. noted that Eisav turned out the way he did, because the parents didn’t raise him to be himself. Same is true in learning. Not everyone learns the same way and parents need to realize that each needs to be educated according to his abilities. The Gemara in Chagiga notes that if one can learn and doesn’t or cannot but does so Hashem sheds tears on him. Learning is not “all or nothing” and Jewish living is not all or nothing. Each person and each case needs to be explored on its own merits.

And the brothers saw that their father died and said “Lest Yosef hate us and take retribution” (50:15) – Rashi explains that the brothers were disinvited to Yosef’s table and this is what led them to worry. Why then did Yosef disinvite them? Rav Bernard Weinberger Shlita explains that Yosef was concerned about proper protocol: In truth, he was the viceroy and thus Melech. However, upon his father’s death, Reuven was the actual Bechor and based upon the Brachos of Yaakov, Yehudah was to be Melech. If so, should Yosef cater to them or they to him since he was still viceroy? Given the dilemma, Yosef chose to avoid the Shayla and stopped being with them in public in order to present Machlokes.

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.