Parashat Vayechi

PARENTING / Champion of Chinuch

“בך‭ ‬יברך‭ …‬ישראל‭ ‬ישמך‭ ‬אלקים‭ ‬כאפרים‭ ‬וכמנשה‭…‬”‭ ‬By you shall‭ (‬the Children of‭) ‬Israel bless saying‭: “‬May Hashem make you as Efraim and Menashe‮…‬”‭ ‬Our parsha introduces the most utilized Brakha that Jewish fathers bestow upon their children‭.‬

The Ramban points out that the pronoun‭ ‬“By you”‭ ‬is written in the singular‭, ‬although addressed to Yosef’s two sons‭. ‬The expression‭ ‬“By you”‭ ‬actually refers to Yosef meaning because of you‭, ‬Yosef‭, ‬Am Yisroel will be able to bless their children to be like Efraim and Menashe‭.‬

‭ ‬The Torah commentaries explain that this refers to the astounding feat of Yosef in raising his children according to Torah values and practices in the face of such an adverse conditions in galut Mitzraim‭.‬

‭ ‬What made Yosef Hatzadik a model figure of chinuch banim(Raising his children in a proper manner‭)? ‬Let’s first define chinuch(Education‭). ‬Rashi‭ (‬Breshis 14:14‭) ‬explains chinuch to mean‭ ‬“the introduction of a person or instrument into the work which he‭ (‬or it‭) ‬is destined to remain‭.‬”‭ ‬The Chovot Hatalmidim‭ (‬introduction‭) ‬expounds Rashi’s definition to mean developing the potential contained in person or object and bringing it to fruition‭.‬

‭ ‬Chinuch banim refers to parents who are model figures and involve themselves in behavior‭, ‬actions and techniques that will help‭ ‬actualize their children’s potential and cause their neshamot to blossom‭.‬

Rav Yisroel Salanter compares chinuch to a bird in hand‭; ‬if you hold it too hard‭, ‬you will crush it‭. ‬If open your hands‭, ‬it will‭ ‬fly away‭.‬

If we demand that young Moshe should get up and say the entire tefillah with Abba‭, ‬we may‭ ‬“crush”‭ ‬his desire to pray‭. ‬Explaining‭, ‬encouraging and praising‭, ‬instead‭, ‬will increase his appreciation of tefillah and will eventually arouse his own desire to participate in praying as much as possible‭. ‬This applies to all Mitzvot‭. ‬Harshness and criticism can‭ ‬bring our diamonds to feel rejected‭. ‬Screaming and madness may crush their self-esteem‭.‬

On the other hand some parents feel that permissiveness is the proper bringing up method‭. ‬Perhaps they feel this is the way to express love to their children‭. ‬As a result‭, ‬the child will internalize the belief that anything they do is acceptable‭, ‬leading to a false sense of security‭. ‬They will feel frustrated when things don’t go their way‭. ‬Disobedience of authority is prone to occur‭. ‬When faced with challenges‭, ‬such children may lack the ability to cope‭. ‬They may feel the responsibilities of Judaism are too demanding‭. ‬We may lose them spiritually and emotionally‭.‬

Yosef Hatzadik educated Menashe and Eprayim that they should not follow the ways of their dangerous environment‭. ‬He must have been firm‭, ‬yet not demanding‭. ‬It was important to understand their mindsets‭, ‬to be patient‭, ‬and provide them with companionship for they didn’t have proper friends‭ . ‬It was required that he convey love‭, ‬warmth‭, ‬yet consistency and discipline‭.‬

‭ ‬Furthermore‭, ‬Yosef Hatzadik had to instill into Efraim and Menashe a love of Torah and its lifestyle while explaining the boundaries and limits that were necessary for them to hold onto their identity‭. ‬It appeared that Yosef had achieved the middle of the‭ ‬road of Rav Yisroel’s mashal‭. ‬In general‭, ‬a parent can convey a message if done so in a calm‭, ‬consistent and positive manner‭. ‬Furthermore‭, ‬through his own example‭, ‬Yosef Hatzadik inspired Efraim and Menashe to adapt his lifestyle so that Egyptian culture would not make any inroads into their minds and hearts‭. ‬Yosef Hatzadik’s incredible moral strength and unflinching emunah‭, ‬undoubtedly‭, ‬imbued them with kedusha(holiness‭) ‬and Yirat Shamayim(Fear of G‭-‬d‭) ‬that also helped to withstand the influences of the most corrupt society of that period‭.‬

We have similar challenges today‭. ‬May the Al-lmighty grant us strength and success‭.‬

By Rabbi Yechezkel Spanglet‭ ‬


facts of life: take this serious

fishy blessings 

Realizing that his death was not far off, Jacob gave his grandchildren, the sons of Yosef, the following blessing:

“May [God] bless the lads, and let them carry my name, along with the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac. May they increase like fish in the land.” (Gen. 48:16)

Yes, fish have astonishingly large families. But so do frogs and many other animals. Why were Yosef’s children blessed to be like fish?

Furthermore, the phrase “increase like fish in the land” sounds like a very mixed-up metaphor. Fish do not thrive on land; they certainly do not increase there! What kind of blessing is this?

Immunity from the Evil Eye

The Talmud (Berachot 55b) explains that Yosef shared a special quality with fish:

“The fish in the waters are concealed by the water, and thus not susceptible to the Evil Eye. So too, the descendants of Yosef are not susceptible to the Evil Eye.”

What does it mean that Yosef was immune to the Evil Eye like the fish?

Evil Eye is an example of hidden influences that exist between souls. An environment of jealousy and hatred can poison not only the atmosphere but also the soul against whom they are directed. This, however, is only true for weaker souls that are easily influenced. The Evil Eye can only harm those whose sense of self-worth is not fully developed, people who need to live their lives in a way that meets the approval of foreign ‘eyes.’ But if we are secure within ourselves, and our life is focused on our inner truths, then we will not be susceptible to the Evil Eye of those around us. The Evil Eye has no power over those whose robust sense of self-esteem does not let others dictate what is important and worthwhile.

Why are fish immune to the Evil Eye?

Fish are not concerned with envious eyes above the water. They live in their own world below the surface, a secluded realm that determines the direction of their lives. Like the fish, Yosef remained faithful to his inner convictions, despite the external pressures and influences of his roller-coaster life. Family estrangement, a foreign land, a foreign culture, temptations, slavery and imprisonment — none of these succeeded in leading Yosef astray. Even when he needed to contend with the hardest test of all — the incredible success, wealth, and power as Egyptian viceroy — Yosef was steadfast in his beliefs and inner convictions. Yosef remained true to his own inner world, despite his active participation in a vastly different outer world. Just like a “fish in the land.”

By Rav Kook 


something to think about

The first words of our parsha inform us how long Yaakov lived in Mitzraim, ויחי‭ ‬יעקב‭ ‬בארץ‭ ‬מצרים‭ ‬שבע‭ ‬עשרה‭ ‬שנה , Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. Now this Parsha unlike all the others, is‭ ‬סתומה‭ ,‬closed, which means the Torah leaves no space between the end of Vayigash and the beginning of Vayechi, whereas the Torah normally leaves a space between Parshios. Rashi presents us with two reasons for this uniqueness. First, once Yaakov passed away, the eyes and heart of the Jewish people were closed because of their suffering, for the Egyptians began to enslave them. Second, because Yaakov wanted to reveal the ultimate end of all the exiles to his sons, but it was closed off from him.

Rav Tzadok Hakohen questions the first reason: how could it be that the Parsha is closed because the enslavement of the Jewish people when we know that the enslavement didn’t start until after all of the brothers died, too, over seventy-five years later? He answers that, after Yaakov died, the Jewish people began getting caught up in the culture of Egypt. The eyes refer to the wisdom and the heart to the understanding. They lost their spiritual intellect and started getting caught up in the Egyptian culture.

Now if the spiritual descent started then and seems to worsen with each generation, how can we ever expect to get out of this exile? The Malbim, in his explanation on sefer Daniel, expounds on when the end of the exile should be. Based on hints from the pesukim at the end of Daniel, he even pinpoints a specific time when he thought the Moshiach would come. When his explanations became public, he received criticism from other rabbis of the generation saying how could he try to reveal the end of time when Rabbis say that anyone who reveals the end, will be the victim of very bad things. Why, then, was he giving dates for the end?

The Malbim answered with a parable. A Jewish merchant took his small son with him and went from Polin to Liftzig on a wagon which, in those days, was a very long trip. It took weeks to get there. They got into the wagon and headed out. After an hour or so, the son asks, “Dad are we almost there yet?” The father doesn’t even answer; he just gives him a look and the son knew that he asked a foolish question. So, for the remainder of the journey he didn’t ask again.

Then, after weeks of traveling from town to town, city to city, from one hotel to another, they are still traveling when the father asks the wagon driver, “Are we far from Liftzig?” The boy, hearing that, looks at his father and asks, “why, when I asked that question, you looked at me like I was crazy. Now, you’re asking the same question? The father explained, “my son, you’re right. We both asked the same question; however, when you asked it, it was at the beginning of the trip, so it was a foolish question. I’m asking it at the end of the journey, so it makes sense to ask.”

The Malbim explains that the same rationale applies to our question. When we went into exile, Chazal saw that the road was very long, full of trials and tribulations, with many pitfalls on a journey lasting thousands of years. Therefore, had they revealed the end of time, the people, knowing that the end was so far away, would give up hope of ever getting out, so they said terrible things would happen to whoever would reveal the end and cause the people to give up hope. However, now when all the signs say that the end is near and we are coming to the end of the journey, it’s ok to figure out how far we are from Moshiach.

How, then, do we not lose hope because of our spiritual decay; what do we have that shows us the we can still get out? Says the Otzer Hatorah, if one looks at all the spiritual treasures we were granted in exile, the Torah itself in the desert, the Talmud in Bavel, Rashi in France, the Rif in North Africa, etc., one sees that the greatest Torah revelations were given in exile. As Reb Simcha Bunim of P’shis’cha said, even though the spiritual dimension of the soul lessens with each generation, the truth in the hearts of the Jewish people become purer and more refined as time goes on. Perhaps, because we have more challenges and manage to keep the Jewish people alive through even greater obstacles, it gives us the strength to carry on, knowing that any day, we will arrive in Luftzik!

By Yitzy Adlin


simcha corner

A mother mouse and a baby mouse are walking along when, all of a sudden, a cat attacks them. The mother mouse goes, “BARK!!” and the cat runs away.

“See?” says the mother mouse to her baby, “how important it is for you to learn a foreign language?”

—————————————————————————————————-Avi Spitz was tense because his mother was planning a visit and she would always needle him about his smoking habit. A couple of hours into their visit, Mrs. Spitz noticed he hadn’t once lit up a cigarette. “So Avi, are you trying to kick the habit?” she asked.

“Not really Ma,” Avi replied nonchalantly. “I have a cold, and I don’t smoke when I’m not feeling well.”

“Oy,” Mrs. Spitz sighed, “you know, you’d probably live longer if you were sick more often.”


Parsha Summary 

1st Aliya: 1st Aliya: In the year 2255, Yaakov was 147 years old and Yosef was 56. Yaakov had been living in Mitzrayim for 17 years. (Note that Yosef was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery and that the numerical value of the word “Vayichi” is 34.) Yaakov summoned Yosef to his bed-side. Yosef came with his 2 sons. Yaakov greeted them and appointed Menashe and Efraim to the status of “Tribe”. Yaakov then insisted that Yosef “swear” that he would bury him in Canaan, and not in the land of Mitzrayim.

2nd Aliya: The parsha relates the famous scene of Yaakov crossing his arms in order to place his right hand on the head of Efraim (who was standing to Yaakov’s left) and his left hand on the head of Menashe. Yaakov blessed his grandchildren with the renown blessing of Hamalach Hagoel. (48:16)

3rd Aliya: Yosef attempted to straighten Yaakov’s hands. Yaakov resisted and told Yosef that, although Menashe was destined for greatness, Efraim would be even greater. The classic blessing of a father to his son is stated. (48:20)

4th/5th Aliyot: Yaakov summoned his twelve sons and blessed each one.

6th Aliya: Yaakov instructed all of his sons to bury him in Canaan, next to his wife Leah, and then passed away. Mitzrayim mourned Yaakov for 70 days. Yosef arranged with Pharaoh to bury Yaakov in Canaan. After sitting Shiva (50:10) and the burial, the 12 sons returned to Egypt. Following Yaakov’s death, the brothers expressed their concern to Yosef that he would now take revenge against them for having sold him into slavery. Yosef cried as he heard their concerns and assured them that he bore no grudges against them.

7th Aliya: Yosef ruled over Egypt for another 54 years. He made his brothers promise that at the time of their exodus from Egypt his bones would be transported for re-burial in Canaan. Yosef died in the year 2309 at the age of 110.