Thursday, December 20, 2007

Parshas Vayechi - "Everyone Deserves a Chance"

Quickie/Funfact: 47:28 “…and the days of Jacob the years of his life were one hundred and forty seven years”

Normally the Torah recounts the years of a person’s life immediately before or after the persons death. Why by Yaakov does the Torah tell us his age so long in advance before his death?

Rav Moshe Feinstein answers that the Torah is telling us that each day of Yaakov’s life was consistent in terms of his enthusiasm and commitment to Hashem and the Torah. Even through all of the trials and tribulations which he endured (Im Lavan Garti = 613 Mitzvos), Yaakov still managed to remain headstrong in his observance of the Mitzvos. For this reason the length of his life span is told well before his death.

48:14 “But Israel extended his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head though he was the younger and his left hand on Menasseh’s.”

Within this episode, Yaakov is lying on his “death bed” as all of his progeny awaits his blessings before his imminent death. Yosef brings his children Ephraim and Menasseh to receive the blessing of their grandfather, Yaakov. Instead of placing his right (stronger) hand on the older Menasseh’s head, Yaakov places it on Ephraim and in turn places his left (weaker) hand on Menasseh. As Yosef stands by, watching on both befuddled and bewildered he watches his father give his sons the famous blessing of, “Hamalach Hagoel…”

As far as the power of the blessings are concerned it does not make any difference whether one is blessed with the right hand or the left hand, especially because Yaakov gave both brothers the same bracha. Regardless, the difference is strictly within who is accorded with the most respect.

Rashi commenting on the Pasuk says that the reason for Yaakov’s decision to do this was because he saw that in the future Ephraim would have a greater lineage than that of Menasseh.

The Gemara in Messeches Sanhedrin 44a says that Menasseh was zocheh to have Yair come from him; a person who was the equivalent to 36 members of the Sanhedrin. Nonetheless, since Yehoshua, who surpassed him came from Ephraim, Ephraim was awarded the honor of having his head covered with Yaakov’s right hand.

But why was Ephraim zoche to having such an amazing descendant?

A story is told of R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Every day in his shiur he would delve into the most complicated sugyas and he would give the most complex explanations to his understandings of them. There was a well known rule at the time however, that R’ Shlomo Zalman did not answer any questions on old sugyas during shiur. One day, a young boy raised his hand in the middle of shiur and asked a question on the previous shiur. As the shiur looked on in amazement R’ Shlomo Zalman answered the boys question with a smile on his face, almost as if he was telling the boy that his question was accepted and welcome at any time.

After shiur some of his top students approached R’ Shlomo Zalman and inquired about the boy’s question and why the Rebbi even entertained the idea of answering him?

R’ Shlomo Zalman looked at them and answered that the boy had been in the shiur for a year and until now had never mustered up the courage to ask a question. Had he rejected the question the young student would have been totally discouraged and may have never asked a question again. R’ Shlomo Zalman went against protocol to give this boy a newfound confidence.

The same was with Ephraim, Menasseh’s name was one that reflected the old world, as long as there was some attachment to that world there was a lesser need of a blessing of a sage. Ephraim on the other hand was a representation of the prosperity of the new country for that reason he needed this bracha from Yaakov more than anyone and this is why he was eventually zoche to have a descendant like Yehoshua.

Everyone deserves a chance regardless of their background. All that we have to do is embrace them.


1 comment:

Ibn Mordechai said...

My apologies on the graphic that is displayed in this article. If anyone is offended please tell me and I will remove it. Unfortunately there are no pictures on Google Images of Yaakov blessing Ephraim and Menashe. If someone wants to put one up or re-enact the scene I will gladly take pictures of them and post them so we will have something for next year. If not then....I guess we'll go for round 2 with these.

You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!