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VaYechi Selections from Rabbi Baruch Epstein

VaYechi Selections from Rabbi Baruch Epstein

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selections from the works of Rabbi Epstein on the Parsha

selections from the works of Rabbi Epstein on the Parsha

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Published by: Rabbi Benyomin Hoffman on Jan 07, 2009
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From Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein


ָ ‫בראשית מח, כב ו ַאֲני נ ָתַתי ל ְך ָ שכם אחד על-אחיך‬ ֶ ַ ַ ֶ ְ ִ ִ

‫מסכת בבא בתרא דף קכג/א ת"ש והבכורה ליוסף וכי תימא יוסף גופיה‬ ‫ממאי דפי שנים כאחד הוה תא שמע ואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך‬ ‫א"ל רב פפא לאביי אימא דיקלא בעלמא א"ל עליך אמר קרא אפרים‬ ‫ומנשה כראובן ושמעון יהיו לי‬
Yosef received two portions similar to two of the portions of each of the other brothers (one for Efraim and one for Menashe.) It is understood that the first-born status was transferred from Reuven to Yosef as a result of the actions of Reuven in moving the “bed” of Yaacov. How is it possible to take away the rights of first-born, since that is against Halacha? It is possible to understand this from the Ramban. The verse says not to remove the rights of the first born from a son of a hated wife to the son of a beloved wife. Ramban says this is not possible ‫ ,על פני‬while the son is alive. But after death, the first-born rights can be removed from the inheritors. In our verse, it is also referring to the rights that occur after the death of Reuven (the future division of Eretz Israel); thus, it was permissible for Yaacov to remove the first-born status from Reuven (taking effect after death).


‫בראשית מט, י לא-יסור שבט מיהודה‬ ָ ִ ֶ ֵ ָ ֹ

.‫ירושלמי מסכת סוטה דף לז/א פרק ח הלכה ג אין מושחין כהנים מלכים‬ .‫אמר רבי יודן ענתונדריה על שם )בראשית מט( לא יסור שבט מיהודה‬
Optimally, a king is appointed from the House of Dovid. However, if no fitting candidate exists from the House of Dovid, or for other reasons, a King may be appointed from another tribe. However such a King does not cause to inherit the Kingship to his children and he is also not anointed with oil. The Gemara’s citing of the Cohanim teaches that one might have thought that the Cohanim are very spiritual and already have leadership qualities, nevertheless, if a Cohen becomes a king, not being from the House of Dovid, he would not be anointed.


‫בראשית נ, י ו ַי ָבאו עד-גרן האטד אֲשר בְעבר הַי ַר ְדן ו ַי ִספדו-שם‬ ָ ְ ְ ֵ ֶ ֵ ֶ ָ ָ ֶ ֹ ַ ֹ ‫מספד גדול ו ְכ ָבד מאד ו ַי ַעש לאביו אֵבל שבְעת י ָמים‬ ִ ַ ִ ֶ ִ ְ ַ ֹ ְ ֵ ָ ֵ ְ ִ
‫ירושלמי מסכת מועד קטן דף יג/ב פרק ג הלכה ה גמרא‬

‫מנין לאבילות שבעה מן התורה, שנאמר ויעש לאביו אבל שבעת‬ ‫ימים‬
How could we learn a law from prior to the giving of Torah? Thus, the Talmud Bavli derives from another verse (Amos 8)‫ , הפכתי חגיכם לאבל‬just like the standard holiday is a 7-day period, info@parshapages.com


From Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein
According to the consensus, these cited verses are only a ‫ ,אסמכתא‬and the 7-day mourning period is a rabbinical decree. According to the Torah the law of mourning applies only to the day of the burial. also mourning is a 7-day period. Perhaps, the difference between the two Talmuds would be reflected in regards to the status of ‫ מלאכה‬during Chol HaMoed, if compared to mourning or not.

‫בראשית מז, כח ו ַי ְחי י ַעקב‬ ֹ ֲ ִ
Rashi notes that this Parsha is a ‫( סתומה‬closed), contrary to all other Parsha openings (which are ‫ .)פתוחה‬He explains that when Yaacov was niftar, the Jews were “closed” due to the suffering of the slavery that soon began. If so, why not have Parshas Shmos begin as a ‫ ,סתומה‬and not Parshas VaYechi, where Yaacov is still alive at the beginning of the Parsha? One possible answer is that Shmos is the “beginning” of an entire Sefer, and it would not be proper for the head of an entire Sefer to not begin with an “open” setting. The second possible answer, until one dies you can not count the years of that person’s life, since more can follow. Here at the beginning of the Parsha, the verse does count the years of Yaacov’s life as if this is the sum total, and thus consider him at this point as if no longer living. And, with his “passing away” we begin to count the years of servitude and the Parsha begins “closed”.

‫בראשית מח, ז ו ַאֲני בְבאי מפַדן מתה עלי ר ָחל בְאֶרץ כ ְנ ַען בַדרך‬ ֶ ֶ ַ ֶ ֵ ַ ָ ָ ֵ ָ ִ ִ ֹ ִ
Why doesn’t the verse refer to Rochel as “your mother”, which would be the usual method when referring to the mother of one (Yosef) who is being addressed? It might be possible to understand as explained in the Tosefta (Eidios 3rd chapter), concerning the levels of honoring titles given to the Chachamim. Greater than the title of ‫ ,רב‬is the title ‫ .רבי‬Greater than the title ‫ ,רבי‬is the title ‫ .רבן‬And the highest honored title is to call the Chacham by his name without a title, indicating that the person is greater than any description. This is how we provide honor to Moshe, Aharon, the Avos, Shmuel, etc. Thus, regarding Rochel, the verse indicates that Yaacov considered her as so exalted and righteous, that it refers to her only by her name, without titles. Also, perhaps Yaacov was expresses the depth of his feeling for Rochel that he refers to her essence without any limitation of a particular description or title.

‫בראשית מח, טז הַמלאך ְ הַגאל אתי מכל-רע י ְבָר ֵך ְ את-הַנ ְערים‬ ִ ָ ֶ ָ ָ ִ ִ ֹ ֵ ֹ ְ ַ ‫ויקרא בָהם שמי ו ְשם אֲבתי אבְר ָהם ויצ ְחק וידגו ל ָרב בְקרב‬ ֶ ֶ ֹ ְ ְ ָ ְ ָ ַ ֹ ֵ ִ ְ ֶ ֵ ָ ְ :‫הארץ‬ ֶ ָ
The Talmud in many places relies on this verse ‫ ידגו לרב‬to infer that the ‫( עין הרע‬Evil Eye) does not affect the descendents of Yosef. And Berachos 55b states that anyone that is concerned regarding the Evil Eye, should offer a prayer that “I am from the descendents of Yosef, that the Evil Eye does not rule.” We have to understand that the name “children of Yosef” applies to all Jews, as found in many sources. Yosef was the salvation of the entire Jewish nation in Egypt. And Yaacov alludes to this later in this Parsha (49, 24) ‫ .רעה אבן ישראל‬The word ‫ אבן‬alludes to ‫ ,אב ובן‬that the two of them, Yaacov and Yosef (father and son), built the house of Yisrael. info@parshapages.com


From Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein ‫בראשית מט, ז אֲחל ְקם בְי ַעקב ו ַאֲפיצם בישר ָאל‬ ֵ ְ ְ ֵ ִ ֹ ֲ ֵ ַ
The blessing of Yehudah continues for five verses and contains every letter, except for the letter "‫."ז‬ Perhaps one can explain that the name Yehudah contains the four-letter Name of G-d. Yehudah fought all his wars using only this explicit (4-letter) Name. Thus, the tribe of Yehudah did not use weapons of war, which are called ‫ .כלי זין‬Thus, the blessing in this Parsha alludes to this lack of use of weapons of war by not using the letter "‫."ז‬



From Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein

‫אבינו מלכנו כתבנו בספר פרנסה וכלכלה‬
Once one has requested livelihood (‫ ,)פרנסה‬the request for sustenance (‫ )כלכלה‬seems to be superfluous. The indication of ‫ כלכלה‬is for sustenance of the body (food and drink), such as Yosef said to his brothers "‫( "אנכי אכלכל אתכם‬Bereshis 50, 21), or per Dovid HaMelech "‫"השלך על ה' יהבך והוא יכלכלך‬ (Tehilim 55, 23). When a person has a livelihood then one is able to provide one’s own sustenance. So why do we request ‫ פרנסה‬and then afterwards request ‫?כלכלה‬ Perhaps one can understand this by referring to the Gemara (Berchos 29b) that some people love their money more than their bodies. Such people are so stingy with their accumulated monies that they would rather go hungry rather than spend money on food. Therefore, we request from HaShem both items. We request livelihood as normally understood. Plus, we also request sustenance, the ability to control the benefit and sustain ourselves from the earnings of our livelihood (while not spending our livelihood on other things like medicine).

‫א-ל ארך אפים ורב חסד ואמת‬
It is known that the concepts of ‫ חסד‬and of ‫ אמת‬can be two differing (and perhaps opposite) concepts. Chesed can mean the setting aside of the power of judgment. Whereas, Truth is a concept of enforcement of the power of judgment, without external factors or favors. Thus, in this petition for mercy the inclusion of Truth ‫ אמת‬is not understood. It is possible to explain according to the Rashi in the beginning of Parshas VaYechi ) ‫ועשית עמדי חסד ואמת‬ 29 ,47) that these words should be understood as ‫ .חסד של אמת‬This means that when one requests Chesed from another where that other person can not possibly see any benefit, then the granting of the Chesed is a true manner of Chesed without any personal gain. So it is with HaShem. When HaShem grants Chesed no possible gain can be ascribed to HaShem from the recipient. Thus, when we request ‫ ,רב חסד ואמת‬we are seeking the great bounty of Chesed without seeking any reciprocity.

‫וירד מצרימה אנוס עפ"י הדיבור‬
We see at the end of the Parsha VeYechi that upon being told that Yosef was alive in Egypt, Yaacov wished to see him Yaacov. However, he was very concerned about going down to Egypt and having to be buried there. In the end, he only went to Egypt at the request of Hashem. However, how does one explain that the decree spoken to Avrohom (that his seed would be in exile for 400 years) was fulfilled by the children of Yaacov and not by the children of Avrohom or Yitzchak? We need to understand that the purpose of the Egyptian exile was for the subsequent Redemption and journey to Har Sinai to receive the Torah by the Jewish people. If Avrohom had been sent to exile then Yishmael’s children would also have been included in the Redemption. The same reason applies to Yitzchak (that the Redemption would have also included Eisav and his children). Thus, the decree was only fulfilled by the children of Yaacov, whom were entirely holy. info@parshapages.com


From Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein

In Shir HaShirim (7,14) states ‫ ,חדשים גם ישנים‬that the Gemara (Eiruvim 21a) learns “new ones” are easy Mitzvos, and “old ones” are difficult mitzovs. For an explanation see Maharsha. To understand this verse in a simple manner, one should understand the nature of a person that upon receipt of a new item, one feels an affinity to that item. Bereshis 48, 16 “May they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Avrohom and Yitzchak and may they increase in the land like fish.” Medrash Rabbah asks why like fish? And the medrash answers that fish live in the water, yet when it rains, they drink it with thirst. So it should be with the Jews, even thought they grow up with Torah, when they hear a Chiddush in Torah, they should receive it with thirst. This is an understanding of the known phrase “always the words of Torah should be as if new to a person.” This means that a person should always feel a positive affinity every time they hear the words of Torah and not like an old matter (even if already hear previously).


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