Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vayechi

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

The first vort relates to a minhag that is not widely accepted in klal yisrael. Although I have davened in many dozens of shuls, I have only seen this minhag once. The Tur mentions a minhag that in Chodesh Nissan they read one of the karbanos of the Nassiem from Parshas Nasso on each consecutive day of Nissan. R' Zalman Volozhin notes that the parsha of the Nasi of Dan is read on the 10th day and that the following year's Rosh Hashana will fall on the same day of the week as the 10th of Nissan. This year, the 10th of Nissan 5769 was a Shabbos (April 4, 2009) and Rosh Hashana 5750 started on a Shabbos (September 19, 2009). The remez to this is from Vayechi where the bracha to Dan is Dan Yadin Amo (49:16).

The second vort (said in the name of R' Mattisyahu Solomon) dealt with the bracha that Ya'akov gave Yosef. In Vayechi 48:15, Ya'akov says that Hashem has been his Roe'h - shepherd. The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni on Tehilim states in the name of R' Chama Bar R' Chaninah that there is no lower job than that of the shepherd. Every day, the shepherd goes with his staff and coat into the fields with the sheep, whether it is hot or cold or raining. Neverthless, David HaMelech also called Hashem a shepherd (Mizmor L'David Hashem Ro'ii) and the only reason he did so was because Ya'akov had already called Hashem by that title in Yayechi.

Rabbi Frand then asked - why was Ya'akov the first to call Hashem his shepherd and why now?

Rabbi Frand answered in the name of R' Chaim Volozhin that in Parshas Vayigash, Ya'akov is asked by Pharaoh about his age and he responds that he has had a miserable life (Vayigash 47:9). Now in Vayechi, Ya'akov had a chance to reconsider and realizes that Hashem has guided hm and that all has been for the best. He then analogizes it to a shepherd who moves the sheep from a nice watering hole or meadow to harsher ground because the wolves are coming. The sheep do not understand why they are being taken from the nicer area and do not see the danger they are being saved from. There is also a deeper level - the shepherd does this because he cares for the sheep and does not want to see any harm befall them. Rabbi Frand used the term empathy to describe the shepherd's view of the flock. This is the language of Hashem who has been Ya'akov's shepherd.

The fact that Ya'akov uses this term when giving the bracha to Yosef is not coincidental. The Torah mentions Ya'akov and Yosef together in the beginning of Toldos when it states that these are the generations of Ya'akov, Yosef was shepherding his brothers with the sheep. This shows that Yosef truly cared and empathized with his brothers.

We also see this middah in Yosef when he is in prison. When one is in prison it is best to keep to one's self. Yosef did the opposite as he saw that the servants of Pharaoh were upset (Vayeishev 40:6-7). He asked why are you upset - and then interpreted their dreams.

Rabbi Frand then quoted the gemara in Ta'anis which states that it is forbidden to be intimate during a time of famine. The gemara learns this from Yosef as it states in Mikeitz (41:50) that Yosef's sons were born before the famine came. This is another proof as to Yosef's middah of empathy and the halacha we learn from his act.

Rabbi Frand closed with a story from Rabbi Moshe Sivitz ( who was the Rabbi in Pittsburgh in the 1930s. There is a story told about him that his family eventually would not let him walk alone in the winter in Pittsburgh. The problem was that any time he saw a person who could not afford a winter coat, he would give his away and walk home cold.

We can all try to learn from these acts and be cognizant of the needs of others.

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