Parashat Vayechi

Parashat vayechi

True peace of mind comes from being able to maintain it under all circumstances.

Yaakov gave the following Bracha to Yissacher: Yissacher is a strong-boned donkey, crouching between the boundaries. And he saw a resting place, that it was good [Va’yar menucha ki tov], and the land that it was pleasant [ve’et ha’aretz ki na’eimah], and he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured laborer [va’yeit shichmo lisbol, va’yehi le’mas oved].

The sefer Zayit Raanan explains every person is sent to this world to bring honor to Hashem’s Name, serve Him, and safeguard His Torah. However, this becomes an almost impossible task due to the many distractions which take away our peace of mind. Everyone is preoccupied with something, be it with livelihood or other personal issues, which makes it very difficult for one to have the proper state of mind needed to focus on what is really important. How often do we hear one say “When I finish supporting my family and have enough money in the bank, I will have the peace of mind to pursue Torah learning and spend time in the Bait Midrash?” But with that attitude, nothing will get done, for the preoccupations that beset us are continuous.

How, then, can a person attain true peace of mind? It begins with working on oneself. Many of our pre-occupations are self-inflicted. If we would have less wants and supposed needs, then we would have that much more peace of mind. Yissacher merited to learn and teach Torah. How did he attain that level? He saw on the one hand that menucha – peace of mind – is good – it is beneficial. But on the other hand, he saw the land that it was pleasant – there is so much that I can use, so many things that can become needs and steal my peace of mind. He understood that these are two opposing forces [peace of mind vs. all of a person’s “needs” that take away peace of mind]. He therefore bent his shoulder to bear – to be “sovel” – to be happy with what he has. Upon attaining happiness with what we have, a person has the menucha – the peace of mind – to focus and have the proper state of mind to attain his true goal.

There are things in this world that are good, though not pleasant, and things that are pleasant, though not necessarily good. For example, a medicine is good, although it may be bitter; certain foods may be pleasant, but not necessarily good for the person. Says, the Ho’il Moshe [on Rashi] in his Be’er HaTorah, Yissacher saw menucha – Torah and a Torah-way of life – that it is good – it may sometimes seem difficult, but it is “good.” On the other hand, he saw the land – this world [when used as an end onto itself] – that it is pleasant – but not necessarily good. Understanding these opposing forces, he lowered his shoulder to bear….

Generally, there are blank spaces between different passages in the Torah. We have a tradition from Ezra that Vayechi is not part of Vayigash – it is a new Parsha. Why then are there no spaces separating the two in the Torah? Because once Yaakov was passed away, the eyes and heart of the Jewish nation were closed due to the suffering of the enslavement etc. (Rashi, with Siftei Chachomim). The Parsha is closed, hinting at the fact that eyes and heart of the people were closed. Is this merely a play on words? The Be’er HaSadeh (on Rashi) explains that it is much deeper than that. Why are there breaks between the passages? Rashi [Vayikra] explains that it is to give space to think. If one keeps on going without stopping, he has no time to think what he has just learned; hence, the breaks. It is the same in life, contemplation – peace of mind – is of utmost importance. When a person is continuously preoccupied, he cannot stop and contemplate; he loses the precious commodity of peace of mind. The fact that there are no spaces here hints to the fact that the enslavement did not give them time to contemplate their situation. However, as we explained, sometimes this begins with ourselves; we are the cause of our own preoccupation. Here as well, why were the eyes – which we see and contemplate with – closed? Because once Yaakov was passed away, they removed their hearts somewhat from Torah. If we remove ourselves from Torah and find matters to be preoccupied with, then many more issues which steal our peace of mind will crop up. But if we work on removing all self-inflicted preoccupation, then Hashem will remove all obstacles to our peace of mind.

Sources; Rabbi zelig pliskin; Rabbi Avraham Greenwald

facts of life: take this serious

Knowing one’s shortcomings is truly a blessing

The blessings of Yaakov to his children were not simply “wishes,” nor were they always complimentary. Instead, Yaakov’s final words to his children were intended to guide them in how to live so as to become successful.

When Yaakov “blessed” Reuven, Shimon and Levi, he actually gave them criticism. This teaches us that knowing one’s shortcomings is truly a blessing because it enables him or her to improve and realize their potential.

Reuven was admonished to watch out for his natural impetuousness and the anger of Shimon and Levi was cursed. By controlling their natural inclinations, they would become successful. Others were praised for their good inclinations, and their actions praised and encouraged. Yissachar was praised for his willingness to toil in Torah even when material success was easily attainable. Asher was praised for his willingness to be of service to others. By highlighting these good traits, Yaakov encouraged them to continue. One blessing stands out not only for the son to whom it was given, but to all of us. Yehuda was blessed with “whiteness of teeth, from milk.” In the Gemara (Ketubot 111b) R’ Yochanan learns from this posuk that one who “whitens his teeth to his friend (i.e. smiles at him) is greater than giving him milk to drink (a nourishing, and at that time expensive, beverage.)” If we are looking for a secret to success in the blessings of Yaakov, we must all take this advice to heart. By being cheerful and friendly to others, we are making the best possible investment in not only their success, but our own.

Parsha Summary

First Aliyah: Yaakov lived his last seventeen years in Egypt. When Yaakov sensed that his days were numbered he summoned Yosef and asked him to promise that he would bury him in Israel. Yosef acceded to the request. When Yaakov then fell ill, Yosef visited him, accompanied by his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim. Yaakov conferred upon Ephraim and Menashe the status of tribal progenitors, a status previously enjoyed only by Yaakov’s sons. Yosef asked his father to bless Ephraim and Menashe.

Second Aliyah: Yosef presents his two sons, placing Menashe, the firstborn, to Yaakov’s right, and Ephraim to Yaakov’s left. Yaakov, who was nearly blind at this point, crossed his hands, placing his right – more prestigious – hand on Ephraim’s head. He blessed them: “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchok, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”

Third Aliyah: Yosef was disturbed that Yaakov placed his right hand on Ephraim, and he attempted to adjust his father’s hands. “I know, my son, I know,” Yaakov responded, explaining that the “younger brother will be greater, and his children[‘s fame] will fill the nations.” Yaakov blessed the two boys further, saying that all of Israel will bless each other by saying: “May G-D make you like Ephraim and Menashe.”

Fourth Aliyah: Yaakov summoned all his sons, and delivered to each a poetic, and sometimes cryptic, parting personal message. Reuven was chastised for his impetuousness and for “ascending upon his father’s bed.” Shimon and Levi were rebuked for their anger, which expressed itself in the killing of the Shechemites and the attempted execution of Yosef. Yeudah was blessed with monarchy, success in waging battle, and an abundance of wine and milk in his portion. Zebulon was blessed with success in his sea-trade endeavors. Yaakov likened Issachar to a thick-boned donkey who finds both rest and ample work. Dan was blessed with the tenacity of a serpent and the ability to judge.

Fifth Aliyah: Gad was blessed with bravery in battle. Asher’s blessing: an abundance of olive oil. Naphtali was blessed with the speed of a deer. Yosef was recognized for his charm, suffering, and righteousness, and was showered with a variety of blessings.

Sixth Aliyah: Benyamin was likened to a devouring wolf. Yaakov then repeated his request to be buried in Israel, in the Cave of Machpelah in CHevron, and he passed away at the age of 147. After an extended national mourning period, Yosef received Pharaoh’s permission to carry Yaakov’s body up to Israel. A huge funeral procession consisting of all the elders of Egypt as well as Yaakov’s family went and buried Yaakov. After returning to Egypt, Yosef’s brothers feared that now, after Yaakov had passed away, Yosef would exact revenge from them for selling him into slavery. Yosef reassured them that he harbored no ill feelings towards them.

Seventh Aliyah: Yosef lived until the age of 110. Before passing away he told his brothers that G‑d would eventually take them out of Egypt and return them to the Promised Land. Yosef asked his brothers to promise that when that time arrived they would carry his remains with them, and inter him in Israel.

simcha corner

On opening his new store, a man received a bouquet of flowers. He became dismayed on reading the enclosed card, that it expressed “Deepest Sympathy”. While puzzling over the message, his telephone rang. It was the florist, apologizing for having sent the wrong card. 

“Oh, it’s all right.” said the storekeeper. “I’m a businessman and I understand how these things can happen.” 

“But,” added the florist, “I accidentally sent your card to a funeral party.” 

“Well, what did it say?” ask the storekeeper. 

“Congratulations on your new location’.” was the reply. 


A few moments after the daughter announced her engagement, her Father asked, “Does this fellow have any money?” 

“Oh Daddy, you men are all alike,” sighing deeply, she replied, “That’s exactly what he asked me about you.”