B PARASHAT HASHAVUA B
PARASHA : Vayechi
Date :16 Tevet 5770, 2/1/2010
“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)
Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori
Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l
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1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)
Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel; http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html
INSIGHTS FOR THE SHABBAT TABLE
by Bar-on Dasberg
Was it an Embarrassing Moment or the Result of Careful Planning?
When Yosef and his sons came to visit Yaacov, there were two embarrassing moments. The first one happened after Yaacov spoke about Menasheh and Efraim, and then afterwards, "Yisrael saw Yosef's sons, and said: Who are these two?" [Bereishit 48:8]. The second moment took place when Yosef brought them forward to receive a blessing but Yaacov only hugged and kissed them. Yosef was forced to take them away and then bring the two boys forward a second time. What was happening here? Could it be that Yaacov's mind was no longer sharp?
The answer is that the very opposite is true. Yaacov was in complete charge of what was going on. When Yosef came to visit his father, he brought with him not only Menasheh and Efraim but also his other children, who are called "your offspring who were born after them" [48:6]. Yaacov does not recognize the other children and asks about them. Later, Yosef brings all the children forward to receive a blessing, but Yaacov hugs them once again and maintains his position, that he will bless only Menasheh and Efraim.
Our Patriarch Yaacov did not Die!!?
The remarkable statement above appears in a discussion between Rabbi Nachman and Rabbi Yitzchak in the Talmud. We are told that Rabbi Yitzchak makes three startling statements: One should not talk during a meal lest he choke and be in danger. Our Patriarch Yaacov did not die. Anybody who says 'Rachav Rachav' immediately has an ejaculation."
The Torah Temima explains this as follows: Rabbi Yitzchak did not say that one should not talk during a meal but rather that one should not cause his listeners to react excitedly, all of a sudden. This might indeed cause a person to choke. After the meal is over he demonstrates how it is possible to cause a person to react to a provocative statement. For example, when he says that Yaacov did not die, Rabbi Nachman immediately cries out, "Didn't they eulogize him and embalm him?" And Rabbi Yitzchak explains, "Just as his offspring are alive so is he." Another example is, "Anybody who says 'Rachav Rachav' has an ejaculation," and Rav Nachman reacts: "But I said her name and it didn't happen to me." Rav Yitzchak explains that this refers to "one who knows her and recognizes her."
When you want to discuss this surprising explanation at the Shabbat table, please make sure that nobody has any food in his or her mouth.
When Yosef's brothers talk to him about his being sold, he tells them, "You thought to harm me but G-d planned it for the good, so that I would be able to act as today, to provide for a large number of people" [Bereishit 50:20]. The brothers are looking at the circumstances of the sale, while Yosef looks at the final result.
This represents two different ways of viewing life in general. Rav Kook differentiates between "cause-and-effect understanding" as opposed to "ethical understanding" (Orot, Yisrael and his Resurrection). Rav Kook adds: "The chain of cause-and-effect is related to general stress," while "when the world of ethics is revealed to us, it raises the entire cause-and-effect world and pulls it towards it, influencing it from its light. The result is that it drowns in a sea of the light of life, the laws of ethics."
POINT OF VIEW: Cooperation and not Insubordination
- by Zvulun Orlev, MK
Here is one of the wise sayings of the late Dr. Yosef Burg: When he was asked which is more important, the religious or the national, he replied, "The hyphen that joins them together." That is, the national religious approach is a single whole that cannot be separated into two parts. Rabbi Shmuel Chaim Landau (the author of "The Holy Revolt"), one of the founders of the Hapoel Hamizrachi, explained this in his own unique way. A religious Jew is nationalistic because of the essence of the way he observes the Torah and the mitzvot, and a nationalistic Jew is religious because of the essence of the way he believes in and fulfills Zionism. And it is indeed a basic tenet of religious Zionism that the two parts of the definition cannot be separated.
The authorities of our country often make decisions that are opposed to the foundations of our faith. The Knesset, the government, and the ministers do not run the State of Israel in accordance with the principles of religious Zionism, not from the point of view of Zionism and certainly not from the point of view of religion. This is how things have been from the earliest days of Zionism, through the time of the establishment of the state, and on to the present. We have constantly sharply disagreed with decisions that were opposed to our outlook. It will suffice to note some of the most recent examples: the expulsion from Gush Katif, the current freeze on settlement construction, the use of IDF soldiers for civilian missions, the oft-repeated ritual needed to prevent closing down the Sheirut Leumi, and the efforts to prevent budget cuts in the religious educational system.
Don't Destroy the System
We have always been smart enough not to oppose the system as a whole and not to punish the State of Israel for the sins of its leaders. We differentiate between our love for the Jewish state and the political activities of the government and the Knesset. As part of our belief that Israel is "the beginning of our redemption" we cooperated with movements whose outlook completely contradicts our beliefs. We always knew to love and embrace the country while - when necessary - we struggled against the government.
In no area have we been completely successful. In the area of religion and the state (Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, marriage and divorce, kosher foods, conversions, and other matters) we succeeded only in part of our goals. In spite of the fact that the law permits only religious weddings, about a third of the people in Israel were not married in religious Jewish weddings. In spite of the fact that the labor laws prohibit hiring Jews on Shabbat without a special permit, about 40% of retail business is performed on Shabbat, employing more than 400,000 people illegally. Similar numbers apply to other sectors too. We realized all the time that if we would insist on "all or nothing," we would end up with "nothing."
An Unholy Revolt
The call for insubordination includes an element of an unholy rebellion against the country. It is a call that challenges the authority of the state and legitimate decisions by the democratic institutions. It includes a good measure of an approach which accepts the State of Israel on condition – that the country will be run according to the way of the insubordinates. This means that insubordination is not directed against the commands in the IDF but is rather a refusal to accept the authority of the state. But our struggle will not succeed if it includes an attempt to harm the authority of the country. Struggles which succeeded in the past, even if only partially, were won by a combination of education, persuasion and discussion, together with appropriate voting – that is, through a political struggle. This is the appropriate way, and it is the only legitimate one even if it requires an approach of flexibility and tolerance.
Yaacov's blessings to his sons are an example of two different approaches to leadership, represented by Reuven and Yehuda. Reuven, the firstborn, failed in his suggestions with respect to the sale of Yosef and in his attempt to convince Yaacov to send Binyamin to Egypt - in spite of his remarkable offer of guaranteeing the trip with the life of his own sons! As our sages noted, this approach demonstrates a lack of responsibility, "A foolish firstborn: Aren't the sons not only his but also his father's?" [Bereishit Rabba 91:9]. The opposite approach is seen with respect to Yehuda, who is destined to become the real leader, "The sceptor will not be taken away from Yehuda, and he will retain the task of legislator" [Bereishit 49:10]. He unites his brothers during the sale of Yosef using logical and emotional reasons, and he persuades Yaacov to send Binyamin, giving his own personal guarantee: "I will be responsible for him, ask me for him" [43:9]. Yehuda's leadership is also revealed in his impressive speech at the beginning of the Torah portion of Vayigash. Note too that Yehuda was rewarded with the blessing, "Your brothers will acknowledge you" [49:8]. His brothers chose him to be the leader, he did not do it himself.
The actions of the forefathers are a sign for the sons. Somebody who was chosen democratically deserves our support even if his decisions are not always acceptable to us.
SOMETHING FOR THE SOUL: They will Harvest with Joy
- by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rosh Yeshivat Ramat Gan
When we meet a great person, filled with internal substance, he excites us. Even if we have heard his opinions in many areas, we can still find new elements that will challenge us and inspire the way we look at every subject that interests us. The concepts and the opinions that travel from his mouth to our ears represent but a small portion of the internal flow that gushes forth, which in general is much greater than what is revealed to the normal observer. Anybody who has a very sharp insight can find such elements in every person, no matter who he is. And he is described by our sages by the phrase, "Who is wise? It is one who can learn from every man" [Avot 4:1].
This situation, which we accept with respect to a living person, especially when a great man is concerned – that his character is an indication of the depths within his soul – is very hard to understand with respect to the Torah, about which we are told, "turn it around and around, because it contains everything" [Avot 5:25]. The words of Torah appear to us at first glance as well defined and limited study material, something that has no greater depth than what is written down, black on white. However, in our prayers we call it "a living Torah" – this means that it is a wellspring that is constantly renewed, growing and expanding from its source with every novel piece of learning, something that indeed has great depth.
Those who regularly study Torah know that this is its main secret. The more we are involved in the words of Torah and manipulate them – and not only passages which we are learning for the first time but rather passages with which we are very familiar – the more likely we are to find new elements that were not revealed to us before. Evidently that is the reason our sages taught us that "There is no comparison between one who reviews his studies one hundred times and one who reviews his studies one hundred and one times" [Chagiga 9b].
I have heard that the GRA (the Gaon of Vilna) was willing to study together with anybody who requested it with only one condition. As a preparation for a test, the candidate was asked to study a passage and to review it fully. When the person came to be tested, the GRA would first ask him how many times he had reviewed the passage. Whoever had not reviewed the material dozens of times would not be allowed to continue. Only somebody who had reviewed enough times could go on to the next stage, where the GRA would try to determine if each additional review had increased and enhanced the person's joy and clinging to the Torah. He did not search for a sharp mind but rather for clinging to the Torah – for this is the most important element of maintaining our roots.
Here is what was written by the great disciple of the GRA, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin: The purpose of Torah innovations is not for the person to say things that have never been heard before, rather the matter is similar to one who polishes golden vessels again and again, until they appear as if they were new. The vessels are not really new, bit their shine has been lost and they become covered in black as time goes on, and in order to reveal their shine it is necessary to work hard to remove the coating.
The same is true of the words of Torah. They are not really new in an absolute sense, since the Torah preceded the world by nine hundred and seventy-four generations, and anything that a scholar reveals was already declared at Mount Sinai. But when a person approaches a passage while he is immersed in the physical world, he peers at it through the thick veil of life in this world. From then on, every time he returns to look at the words of the Torah he will find novel aspects. The "vision of this world" – the physical way we look at the world – steadily dissipates, and the wellsprings of Torah flow out. This is the meaning of the phrase, "The light within it returns him to the good" – to the good that is hidden within the passage, each level deeper than the previous one.
The sages compared one who studies but does not review to one who plants but does not harvest. The Torah has shown us how to differentiate between planting and harvesting – the planting is with sorrow, the harvest is with joy (see Tehillim 126:5). The initial study, the encounter with the words of Torah through a filter of the human intellect, is merely a preparation for the next step, which is a deep identification with the contents of the Torah itself, as it is revealed in subsequent reviews. But even one who reviews is like one who plants with respect to the enhanced Torah which will be the result of the next review – and one who reviews one hundred times is not comparable in terms of the joy of the harvest that he achieves in relation to one who reviews one hundred and one times.
ONE ON ONE – Interview of the Week
- by Nachum Avniel
"The nearby poplar trees dimmed the Shabbat sun. I remember the light around my grandfather as a flicker. Sounds reached us in the 'little room,' where we all waited, the women and the young girls: In my ears, used to Hebrew, the cries of the children in Yiddish added a mysterious charm to the mystic tunes. In the chambers of my memories today, the Yiddish of the children blends into the glory of the difficult Aramaic of the ARI, and both tongues are scrambled into the fog of time and yearning."
The above passage is an example of the prose written by Sarah Friedland Ben Arza, an editor, philosopher, and poet, in writing about the school run by her grandfather. Friedland Ben Arza, a born Jerusalemite, whose way of talking gives a feeling of the Jerusalem trait of tranquility, symbolizes the limits of discussion and spirit in the religious world. She is married to Yaacov, and their children are Alia, Ahava, and Eli-Ber. She studied in several Batei Midrash and published a book of poems, "Anna Beshem." She now edits books on the subjects of research and philosophy. "I live between Beruria and Rabbi Meir streets," she says with a smile, "and it is clear that I am influenced by the tension that existed in their lives."
I ask Sarah about her poetic writing. How does it happen, how does she feel about it? "I write poetry, but I am also involved in contemplation," she says thoughtfully. "There is a big difference between the two. In contemplation, I must maintain my coherence, everything must be united by a single comprehensive viewpoint. Poetry, on the other hand, is closer for me to a specific experience. It is usually created as a result of an encounter with a person, an event, or sometimes even a text. My way to understand what has happened, what occurred in the encounter – is through writing. This is something that is close to the center of my soul. Words play a dual role. On one hand, they describe, report, and represent, and on the other hand they create and establish the experience. At times the reflective talk about an event enhances and sharpens it. This is the miracle of writing, and while I do this I have a dual loyalty: both to the experience that I had and to the language which recreates the event. Whenever I try to speak out, the Hebrew language provides me with gifts and shows me the treasures that it contains. Poetry is born within me at a place that is close to the place from which the oral Torah is rejuvenated for me."
Sarah's family is linked to Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin. Her grandfather, Rabbi Eliyahu Ki-Tov, was the son of a disciple of the rabbi, and her relatives published some of his books and other books about him. Sarah says, "I am his first granddaughter, and I was very attached to my grandfather's identity, during his life and even more so after his death. He is one of the people most dear to me, people to whom I dedicated my book of poetry, and it is through him that I am linked to Rabbi Tzadok's approach.
Q: How does the figure of Rabbi Tzadok influence you?
A: Rabbi Tzadok was a reflexive commentator – he was aware of his traits as an innovator and a creative man. His method is completely consistent. He sets up rules for studying and refuses to make use of associative thinking, a trait that is not common among commentators. In my writing I also create in a deliberate way. I am not spontaneous. I am always editing my work. As far as I know, Rabbi Tzadok was very interested in esthetics. To me this is another element of the great respect I have for form.
Rabbi Tzadok's approach is also filled with messages about innovation. As a Jewish woman I believe that the oral Torah must be renewed, especially in view of the developments in the last few hundred years. Half the world of those who observe the mitzvot (and I am referring to the women) has now entered the Beit Midrash. This will of necessity lead to a different type of study, which has already begun to appear.
Q: Are you referring to study by women? How would you characterize this?
A: Women's study is based on a personal starting point, it includes the emotional and personal world of the one who is involved. Oral Torah is a synthesis between the authoritative Torah that stems from the books and the traditions and innovation that I can do, as I am, making use of the moments of experience out of which this Torah grows. This is in effect a discussion with Rabbi Tzadok, since his attitude towards women is not something I want to adopt – but I do adopt his strong messages about innovation and inner strength.
- Sarah participates in a special women's prayer group. She emphasizes that it is not a minyan, "but rather a shared prayer by women, without any men present. We remain true to the halachic ruling that does not allow the reciting of holy elements without the presence of ten men. But since we want to maintain the form of public prayer we have found alternatives to the elements that cannot be recited without a minyan such as the repetition of the Shemona Essrei and the Kaddish. For example, instead of 'Barchu' we sing 'Let us sing a new song before You.'"
Q: From a halachic point of view you do not seem to be violating any prohibitions, and you in fact observe the mitzva of prayer in a special way. But aren't you afraid that this prayer is too similar to other alternatives from the past, like the Reform siddur for prayer or the Hagadda for Pesach that was written in irreligious kibbutzim?
A: The main difference is that we are not searching for any changes in content. We have no desire at all to modify the prayer or to replace it with an alternative text. The changes are a result of our adhering to the halacha and not from our opposition to it. This is the opposite of the alternatives which you mentioned. We would like to pray in the accepted way but the halacha has forced us to make changes. This is not an act of rebellion. The only change we have made is to replace our status as "not a community" to that of a prayer group.
A LESSON FOR THE CHILDREN: Turning the Light back on during Chanukah
- by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Merkaz Neria, Kiryat Malachi
Last Chanukah, we took a trip – my wife Racheli, our son, and I – to visit my parents. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. A small woman stood there, with a forlorn look and eyes red from crying, and she asked to speak to my sister. The two women went into another room and talked. Now and then we heard some choked sobs, accompanied by the encouraging and calming voice of my sister. We were very curious about what they were discussing, but of course we did not interfere.
After a while, my sister came out of the room, and she also had signs of tears in her eyes. "Just imagine," she said. "On Chanukah, the festival of lights, all the light went out for this poor family!" As we looked on in amazement, she continued: "We have been in contact with Michal for a long time. Everything was fine, until her husband became sick with a cancer, so that he was forced to stop working and take expensive treatments. Two of their children also became sick with complicated diseases, and they also need constant treatments. Their financial situation has steadily become worse. And now, their electricity has been cut off because of a bill of NIS 700! What can we do? How can we help them?" My wife and I looked at each other. The story touched our hearts, and we really wanted to help. But we are a young couple with a child, and we could not afford to donate such a large sum of money.
Suddenly, I jumped up with a scream of joy. Racheli looked at me and did not understand what had happened, but I had already taken out my wallet and removed two crisp pieces of paper. "Look, Racheli, it is the hand of G-d! Do you remember that I met Yoram the day before yesterday, and what a strange meeting we had? Do you remember what we received from my grandmother?" Of course she remembered. Yoram, a friend of mine for many years, was very embarrassed when he visited our humble home. He said that he had not yet given us presents for our wedding (which had taken place a few years ago) or for the birth of our son. So he had decided to make up for the missing presents, and he gave us a check for NIS 500! And then my grandmother gave us a gift for Chanukah of another NIS 200. Look at the miracle. We received exactly NIS 700 as a surprise, as an addition to our regular budget! We both took this as a sign that we would be the ones to give the unfortunate Michal back the light in her home.
Happily and without any hesitation, we gave my sister the two checks to give to Michal. She was of course very happy, but there was a problem. Checks must be put into the bank, and she knew that Michal's bank account was like a bottomless pit. She had overdrawn her account, and the bank would not allow her to take out any cash. Depositing the checks might help her decrease her debt to the bank but she would still not be able to pay her electric bill. What she needed was cash, not checks. What could we do?
Just at that moment the Almighty sent us the solution to this problem too. Another one of my sister's friends came to visit. She heard our story and immediately agreed to help us. In her wallet she had just the amount that we needed. She would take the checks and give us the cash to pay the bill!
Soon afterwards Michal left the house with the light restored to her eyes, with the entire sum that she needed to restore the electricity in her home.
The truth is that I never before had such a holiday of Chanukah, so filled with light...
(Source: This is a true story that took place this year. Only the names have been changed. I thank Y.T. for sharing his story with us.)
Reactions and suggestions for stories: firstname.lastname@example.org