Category Archives: Parshas Vayechi

Parshas Vayechi: Step Up To Greatness!

Parshas Vayechi

Step Up To Greatness!

“Yisrael saw Yosef’s sons, and said, ‘Who are these?’” (Bereishis 48:8)

When our forefather, Yaakov, became ill, Yosef went with his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim, to visit him. Yosef wanted Yaakov to bless them while he was still able to.

When Yaakov was about to bless them, he asked Yosef, “Who are these?” (Bereishis 48:8) It seems as if Yaakov did not recognize Yosef’s sons. That is very strange as the Midrash Tanchuma (quoted in the Mizrachi and Ohr HaChaim) says that Menashe and Ephraim learned with Yaakov for the past 17 years! How did Yaakov not recognize them? The Midrash Tanchuma says that, indeed, Yaakov knew who they were. However, when Yaakov was about to bless them, he saw with Ruach HaKodesh, Divine Inspiration, that each of them would have some descendants who would be exceedingly evil. When Yaakov saw that, the Shechina, Hashem’s Holy Presence, departed. Yosef davened to Hashem, pleading for mercy. Thereupon, Hashem caused His Shechina to return to Yaakov, who then blessed them.

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin zt”l in his Oznayim LaTorah (quoted in Iturei Torah by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg) had a different understanding of Yaakov’s question, “Who are these?”  Yaakov had told Yosef, in lieu of Yosef being counted as a shevet, tribe, Yaakov was elevating Yosef’s two sons, who were his grandsons, to the level of sons. Thus, two tribes would come from Yosef. Menashe and Ephraim would be counted as separate shevatim along with Yaakov’s sons.  Until now, Menashe and Ephraim’s deeds had been considered proper and acceptable. However, to be elevated to the status of shevatim, they had to be on an exceptionally, high levels. Their actions would be viewed more precisely. A person on a lofty level cannot act the same as a regular person. His actions must be even more refined and more perfect.  Menashe and Ephraim were great people. However, they were not yet great enough to be considered shevatim to receive these monumental brachos. That is what Rashi means when he says, “Who are these people who are not fitting for this blessing?”  Whereupon, Yosef davened to Hashem, the Shechina returned to Yaakov, and Yaakov blessed them.

The explanation of the Oznayim LaTorah can help us understand another question. When Yaakov blessed his sons, he did not put his hands on their heads. Then why did he put his hands on the heads of Menashe and Ephraim when he blessed them? The Chizkuni says that Yaakov put his hands on their heads to appoint them as shevatim. The Chizkuni compares this action to when Moshe placed his hands on Yehoshua’s head. Rashi (Bamidbar 28:23) says that Moshe generously placed BOTH of his hands on Yehoshua’s head (more than he had been commanded, for Hashem had said to place one hand on him) making him a full vessel filled with Moshe’s own wisdom. It seems that here, too, Yaakov placed his hands on their heads, instilling within them the ability to be considered shevatim.

The blessing that Yaakov gave them was, “Through you, shall the People of Israel bless saying, ‘May Hashem make you as Ephraim and Menashe…’”. Many parents bless their sons with this bracha on Friday night (there is a different, befitting blessing for girls).  Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l (in Daas Torah page 274, quoted in Messages from Rav Pam by Rabbi Sholom Smith) says that Yaakov filled this bracha with so much blessing that it overflowed. Accordingly, when one blesses his sons with this bracha, it is more than a bracha from parent to son. The bracha is also infused with the power of Yaakov’s bracha to Ephraim and Menashe. We should say this bracha with great concentration to maximize its effect.

We see that the actions of greater people must be greater than those of ordinary people.

The Jewish people are the children of Hashem. That makes us great.

We should strive to ensure that our actions are always exemplary!


Parshas Vayechi: You Have the Right to Remain Silent – or to Say Something Nice!

Parshas Vayigash

Look in the Mirror and See Your Greatness!


“They made him bitter and quarreled with him. Expert bowmen with hatred made him their target.” (Bereishis 49:23)

When Moshe went to sleep, he felt great. When Moshe arose in the morning, he felt very strange. He turned to speak to his wife, but no sound came out of his mouth. He tried again, but nothing happened. Overnight, Moshe had lost the ability to speak! He began to panic! Finally, he got out of bed and wrote a note to his wife, about what had happened to him. Over the course of the next few weeks, Moshe saw every single doctor in his city. Unfortunately, no one was able to cure him. Sometime later, Moshe heard promising news. A well-known specialist was coming to the city for a few weeks. Maybe he could cure Moshe’s ailment. Moshe made an appointment to see the doctor. Not only was the doctor able to heal Moshe, but he even did so at no cost.  Obviously, Moshe was going to thank the doctor profusely. Obviously, if the doctor needed a favor, Moshe would run to be the first to help. Obviously, Moshe would only have kind words to say to the doctor. What would you think if Moshe did none of that? What would you say, if Moshe spoke rudely and arrogantly to the doctor? You would think that Moshe was mean and ungrateful. What if the doctor ignored the nasty remarks and still gave Moshe the remainder of the medicine needed for a complete cure?

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l uses this parable to teach us a very important lesson. Hashem gave man the gift of speech, over and beyond that which Hashem gave to animals. Hashem gave us this ability so that we could learn Torah and do mitzvos, for our eternal benefit, for us to earn a portion in the World to Come. We would think that everyone would appreciate this special gift and use their power of speech solely for good. What would you think if someone would use this gift of speech to lie, to make fun of others, to bully others, or speak lashon hara about others? Unfortunately, many are not careful with their gift of speech. Despite that, every morning Hashem, with great kindness, returns this gift to us. Hashem keeps giving and giving, with the hope that we will improve. (based on the Chofetz Chaim zt”l in Sha’ar Hatevuna, perek 1)

Before our forefather, Yaakov, passed away he gave his sons words of reproof and blessed them. Yaakov said to Yosef, “They made him bitter and quarreled with him. Expert bowmen with hatred made him their target”. Yet, “His bow remained in strength”. (Bereishis 49:23,24) Rashi says that “They made him bitter” refers to those who made life bitter for Yosef. Rashi says that they were called “Expert bowmen” because their tongues were like arrows. The Midrash Rabbah (98:19) questions, “Why are their tongues are compared to arrows, moreso than other weapons?” The Midrash answers that other weapons cause harm at the spot of the attack with that weapon. Arrows, however, can cause harm a great distance away. The Midrash continues that this is like loshan hara, slanderous speech. “One can say slanderous speech in Rome and cause the death of someone far away, in Suria”.

 Recently, I was present at a funeral. One of the speakers praised the woman who had passed away, by saying that she did not speak loshan hara. She was content with her life and did not feel the need to make herself feel better by degrading others.

King Solomon said that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Mishlei 18:21). The Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of the sin of loshan hara. “Loshan Hara is the source of many social ills. It has caused the dissolution of numerous friendships, the termination of endless marriages, and has generated immeasurable suffering. The evils of hatred, jealousy, and contention spread through the medium of loshan hara, as diseases do through filth and germs. The speaking of loshan hara has resulted in people losing their incomes and it has led to many an untimely death. The evils of loshan hara are universally recognized.” (Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin) Every single word of loshan hara is considered a separate sin.

On the other hand, the reward for abstaining from loshan hara is very great. For every moment that one has the chance to say something negative and yet does not, he merits tremendous reward. The Vilna Gaon zt”l cites a Midrash saying that for every second that a person remains silent, he will merit reward of a magnitude that is beyond the comprehension even of angels! (Ibid)

The next time that we have the chance to say or hear something negative, let’s stop and think. Would that be showing proper appreciation to Hashem for giving us the gift of speech? Also, is it worth it? Is it worth the severe sins and punishments? Wouldn’t we rather enjoy the special rewards that Hashem has set aside for those who “guard their tongues”?

It is not always easy to refrain, but let’s try our best.

For each negative word from which we do refrain from speaking, we receive untold reward!


There are numerous English sefarim teaching the details of the laws of loshan hara,

 such as Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. You can also go to CCHF.Global at Daily learning

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