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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayechi

Parshat Vayechi

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

TorahAnyTimes Parshas Vayechi 14th of Tevet, 5776 | December 26, 2015 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Benzion Klatzko Seeing the Bles


"The TorahanyTimes" Newsletter

Parshas Vayechi
14th of Tevet, 5776 | December 26, 2015

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko
Seeing the Blessing

ישמך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה

May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe (Bereishis 48:20)

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko tells the following personal story:

As my wife and I moved from Yerushalayim to Borough Park, my father-in-law gave us his old brown station wagon to drive. One day, tired of having a worn out car, I mentioned the idea of buying a nicer car to my wife. To my delight, I noticed that there was an ad announcing that a car auction would be taking place in Queens, New York. It was a Police and Bank Reclamation auction where very cheap cars were being sold for pennies on the dollar. In the ad, it mentioned that you must make a down payment of a quarter of the price of the car to secure the car of your choice and within the next seven days pay the remaining amount. At that time I was learning in Kollel and had saved up a total of one-thousand dollars, with which we headed off to the auction.

Arriving at the auction, we began to imagine how nearly all of the cars could perfectly suit our family’s needs. During the viewing time when everyone was allowed to look at the cars, my wife asked me where I had put the thousand dollars. I said that they were in my pocket. “Don’t leave it in your pocket! Someone might pickpocket you,” she said. “Don’t worry,” I replied, “I already thought of that and preempted the problem. I took the thousand dollars, crunched them up into a tight wad and put them into a deep pocket of mine. On top of the money, there are a bunch of paper towels. If anyone tries to reach into my pocket, by the time they get through all the paper towels I will feel it.” “I’m really not comfortable with that,” she said. “I think you should put the money in your shoe.” “My shoe? I can’t walk around with a thousand dollars in my shoe; that will be very uncomfortable!” After a little back and forth my wife relented and the money remained in my pocket beneath a bunch of paper towels.

Five minutes into the auction as I excitedly stood in the front row, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me sir,” a man said, “but I think someone just went into your pocket.” As I heard those words, my stomach dropped. I put my hand in my pocket and began to feel paper towels, paper towels, paper towels… paper towels. That was it. In five minutes, a thousand dollars was gone. Turning to my wife who had begged me to put the money in my shoe, I said, “I think we have to go home; I was just pickpocketed.”

Waiting for her to begin screaming and yelling, she didn’t say anything. As we headed back to our past and now future beat-up brown station wagon, I thought to myself, “Now I’m really going to get it.” She inhaled and said, “Don’t feel bad; it’s from Hashem.” “Huh?” I confusingly muttered. “Everybody can make a mistake. It’s okay,” she repeated. The entire way home my wife calmly tried to make me feel better. As we arrived home, I turned to my wife and said, “I will never forget what you did today. I will always stand by you, and you can count on me. You had every right in the world to yell and scream at me, but you didn’t. Thank you so much.”

For years I always wished to somehow repay my wife for the loving-kindness she had shown me. Finally, the moment arrived. As my younger sister was getting married in Cleveland, I mentioned to my wife the idea of getting a new suit. After she agreed to my idea, I began a quest to find the suit of my dreams. As I went from one store to the next, finally after a few days I found it. It not only was the exact kind of suit I had been looking for, but was even better than I had imagined. After getting it tailored and checked for shaatnez, the beautiful suit was ready to be worn.

The day before the wedding, my wife called me and said, “Please do me a favor. When you come home tonight, let’s start driving to Cleveland as soon as possible. I think we should leave before it gets too late. I have already packed your clothing, my clothing and the kids’ clothing.” “Sounds great,” I said. And so it was. A half an hour after returning home we were off driving to Cleveland.

The next day at noon, I received a phone call from my father. “All the kids and grandkids need to be in the wedding hall in an hour all dressed and ready for family pictures.” After hearing this, I jumped into the shower and began to get ready. I then asked my wife for my lovely suit. She began to look through the luggage. Looking, looking, looking, looking…looking. She then ran to the car and looked some more. Returning to me she said, “I don’t know how to say this…but I left your suit in New York.” As I started to think to myself how I spent a week searching for the suit and spending a fortune, it hit me. The auction moment had arrived. I immediately told my wife, “Listen, don’t feel bad. I actually drove here in another suit and it will be fine.”

Shortly thereafter, as I returned from washing up and getting ready, I was about to walk into the room my family was staying in. The door to the room was halfway open. Peeking in I saw my wife sitting on the bed with our children around her. She said to them, “I need to tell you something about Tatti (your father). This is his sister’s wedding and he bought a new suit. It was so important to him and he spent a lot of money and time to get it. But I made a mistake and I didn’t bring the suit. Do you know what most Tatti’s would do? They would be angry and would yell. But not your Tatti; he didn’t get angry or yell. He didn’t make me feel bad. Kinderlach, gather around me. I want to give each of you a blessing that you should grow up to be just like your father.”

And so, as our children stood in a row, she placed her hands on their heads and gave them each the blessing customarily given on Shabbos, “Yesimcha Elokim k’Efraim V’k’Menashe.”

Every person has blessing in their life. Sometimes however, we just have to open our eyes a little more and see it. If we want, we can choose to see the negative and begin to yell at our spouse, children and friends. But we would be much wiser and happier if we would positively look upon all that happens and see the blessing.

Mrs. Chani Juravel
Truest Blessings

In Parshas Vayechi, we read about the blessings Yaakov Avinu gave each of his children. Having reached old age and laying on his deathbed, it was the most propitious time for Yaakov to deliver his final words of blessing and instruction to his children.

After learning of his father’s illness, Yosef along with his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim, make their way over to Yaakov Avinu. As they near Yaakov, Yosef positions his eldest son, Menashe, to the right of Yaakov and his younger son, Ephraim, to the left in preparation for a blessing. This was done with the intent that Yaakov place his right and more significant hand on the head of Menashe and his left and less significant hand on Ephraim. However, as the Torah relates, Yaakov switches his hands. As Yosef attempts to correct what he perceives as his father’s error, Yaakov reassures Yosef that he is aware of his actions. Ephraim is destined to be greater than Menashe despite being the younger of the two, and as such deserves the greater blessing.

Perusing through this passage leaves one with unresolved questions. Firstly, what exactly compelled Yaakov to give the primary blessing to Ephraim? What did he see in Ephraim that especially stood out? Moreover, if Yaakov was correct that Ephraim was greater, what was Yosef’s line of reasoning for giving precedence to Menashe?

In our relationship with Hashem, there exist two aspects: sur mei’rah, eschewing negative behavior and aseh tov, doing good. A Jew is meant to avoid that which the Torah prohibits and embrace that which the Torah positively commands. Yosef and Yaakov respectively exemplified these two elements as seen throughout their lives. Yosef exhibited self-discipline and avoided negative conduct while living in the house of Potiphar and the spiritually polluted land of Egypt, whereas Yaakov positively infused the Torah’s commands and ideals into everything he did in love of Hashem.

Not coincidentally, these two paradigmatic attributes paralleled how Yosef and Yaakov felt about child-raising in exile. Yosef was of the opinion that the way to successfully raise children in exile and stave off the negative influences of society is by employing self-restraint. Man must learn what is right and wrong and ingrain within himself fear of G-d. With such fear of Hashem in place, one stands to spiritual survive and thrive no matter how hostile the environment he finds himself in is. Yaakov, on the other hand, while agreeing to Yosef that self-control is a necessary component, believed that there was yet another approach to raising healthy spiritual children. And that is living a life where one’s love of Hashem and dedication to Torah trumps all else. Torah will not only secure one from societal harms, but will provide the impetus to achieve spiritual greatness. It will insure spiritual productivity and life fulfillment. The allures of society stand no chance when compared to the sweet beauty of Torah.

It was due to this difference in philosophy, explains the Slonimer Rebbe (Sefer Nesivos Shalom), that Yaakov Avinu and Yosef differed as to who should receive the main blessing. As recorded in Parshas Mikeitz, Yosef named his eldest son Menashe for “Hashem helped me forget (נשני) all of my troubles and the travails of my father’s household.” Yosef’s second son, Ephraim, was named so in recognition that “Hashem made me fruitful (הפרני) in the land of my suffering.”

Yosef saw in Menashe the tools necessary for greatness because Menashe, as indicated by his name, personified the ability to push aside and suppress the troubles one faces. Yaakov, contrarily, saw greatness in Ephraim for it was he who embodied positive productivity and spiritual growth.

We can now fully understand the entire picture. Aligned with their perspective and philosophy, Yosef and Yaakov attributed precedence to Menashe and Ephraim, respectively. While Yosef wished for his father to ascribe greater significance to Menashe, Yaakov disagreed. “I know, my son, I know,” said Yaakov; “Menashe too will become great; yet his younger brother shall become greater” (Bereishis 48:19). While staying away from bad behavior and harmful surroundings is crucial, the greater and more effective way of combating the ills of exile, argued Yaakov, is through positive reinforcement of the Torah’s ideals and values. By focusing on the positive aspects of love of Hashem and the beauty of His Torah and mitzvos, one will find such meaning and contentment in life that all other temptations will fall to the wayside. They will simply be outmatched and replaced.

I remember once asking a young woman involved in a severe addiction, “What are you getting out of your addiction?” She proceeded to write out a list of sixteen different benefits she believed they were providing her with. After glancing through the list, I began to cry as she left. I thought to myself, “A Torah lifestyle could provide her with every one of these sixteen needs. If she would only replace Torah for this addiction, she would be infinitely happier and better off.”

If we would appreciate what Torah does not only for our souls, but for our entire spiritual, physical and emotional makeup, we would run for the nearest opportunity to learn its wisdom. In the words of the Ohr HaChaim (Devarim 26:11), “If people would realize what sweetness and happiness exists in learning and living Torah, they would passionately run after it.”

I once met a woman who came from an exceptional family and whose father was known to be an especially kind-hearted man. I asked her what it was like growing up with her father. She continued to tell me the following:

There was a period of time where my fifteen-year old sister was very bitter and had no interest in Judaism. She decided that she wanted to dress however she liked. And that is exactly what she did.

Whenever my father would see her, he would tell her, “It is such a shame. I am so sad to know that you will be losing out. I know how fortunate I am to live a life of Torah. Although I cannot force you to see matters the same way I do, I will be here to help you through this stage of life. However, I hope that one day we will see eye to eye and you will be as happy as I am.”

Three months later, my sister gave up everything on her own. She experienced a complete turnaround. She later explained that what gave her the encouragement and conviction to drop everything was our father’s attitude. Instead of trying to change her mind by showing disapproval of her behavior, he emphasized the happiness and fulfillment he personally had in leading a Torah life. His confidence in what Torah had to offer and its beauty was overwhelmingly convincing that it won her over.

When the Honda Civic car was first sold years ago, they advertised for it with a commercial. It pictured a blank page with a little car centered in the middle and a caption saying, “Honda. The car that sells itself.” The same is true of Torah. If we would appreciate the tremendous beauty and life-changing effect Torah has on our lives, we would immediately gravitate towards it. Holding onto its captivating beauty and idealistic values, not even the greatest winds of society will be able to knock us or our children down. Our children will indeed grow up to be like Ephraim and Menashe, who despite living in exile rose to extraordinary heights of spiritual greatness. And in doing so, we as parents will proudly be able to shower upon them every Friday night the blessing they so truly deserve, “May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe.”

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