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Parshas Vayechi - Family Feud       16 Teves 5784

12/27/2023 06:51:20 PM


One of the most common – and upsetting – causes for parental angst   is when their children fight among themselves. There is nothing so troubling as sibling rivalry. When we, disconnected from such ongoing rivalry, are told that this ongoing fighting and rivalry is deeply disturbing, we may be inclined to chuckle, shrugging it off, thinking it’s cute. It may very well be ‘cute’ when the squabble is about some silly, insignificant situation among young children. Unfortunately, those same children as teenagers and then adults often get into major arguments and disagreements with their siblings over money and other possessions.  These sometimes-ugly fights between siblings typically take place when parents pass away and there is money to be divided and a yerusha/inheritance that needs to be sorted out. The best way to break up a fight is to avoid it in the first place. Reality - and statistics - show us that even though most assets left to children could be distributed without incident, stress, anger, and ugly fighting occurs far too often. Those same parents who were distressed when witnessing their children fight while they were alive, surely fret over witnessing their children fight when they are looking down from the next world and can no longer intervene.

There are situations when sides taken by children result in open wars of one group against the other.  (Perhaps that’s how the Hatfields and the McCoys started their everlasting feud). Reb Yitzchok ben Nisan of Vilna in his sefer Kehilas Yitzchok enlightens us regarding a passuk in Devarim: The Torah states in Devarim 14:1 "בנים אתם לה' אלוקיכם, לא תתגודדו ולא תשימו קרחה בין עיניכם למת"  : “You are children to Hashem our God. Do not make groups and do not place a scratch between your eyes.” The Gemara Yevamos 13b explains לא תתגודדו  as ”Do not make groups and groups against each other.” The Kehilas Yitzchok tells a story of a city whose Rabbi passed away. Even before the Rabbi was buried there was machlokes/division about hiring a new Rabbi! One side argued that the Rabbi’s son has the rights to the pulpit; he should take over for his father. A different group demanded they reach out to a certain large city and select a well-known Rabbi from there to relocate and take over here. Others spoke up and said why should we look at another city? We should select a new Rabbi from our own town because he is a great Torah scholar. In the meantime, a great Darshan (highly qualified, wise man who is able to expound upon and explain the Torah) ascended the pulpit to eulogize the Rabbi of the city who had passed away. During his eulogy he mentioned the machlokes raging throughout the city causing   groups forming on different sides of the aisle. He cried out exclaiming that the Gemara warns us not to cause bands of people to be divided, fighting over issues. The Darshan raised the question regarding how we need to see why the Holy Torah deemed it necessary to hint, mention, and warn us not to make a machlokes, to avoid creating opposing groups focused upon building opposing sides of basic issues, specifically when speaking about a deceased person. Couldn’t the Torah find another place in to apply this issue?  Why should such a discussion take place here at the very time when discussing the laws regarding the death of someone in the community?   The answer is that the Author of the Book, The Ribbono Shel Olam, knew exactly, from the very beginning of time, that people come to disagreements when someone passes away. By nature, when someone dies, that very loss automatically brings out the harshness of people choosing and picking one side or the other.The Kehilas Yitzchok concluded, ”Just as we now have in our own community.”

It is not only over money that people disagree; people sometimes come to argue on everything and anything. Some say the person should be buried in this type of casket while others say the deceased should be carried directly on the shoulders of important people to show greater respect. Some say there should be many eulogies to give greater honor and respect to the deceased while others challenge and claim the deceased never would want to burden the community with a long funeral. There are many other examples of ways for anger and divisiveness to develop. Therefore, the Torah HaKedosha instructs us at the outset not to make rival groups of this opinion and that opinion. Rather, this is the time to become unified with one voice, as an Aguda Achas, to call out united as one group bound together. This is the symbol of what the Book of Bereishis is about. This is how the Book of Bereishis ends.

In this week’s Parshas Vayechi the Torah states in Bereishis 48:1 "ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים שבע עשרה שנה, ויהי ימי יעקב שני חייו שבע שנים וארבעים ומאת שנה"  “And Yaakov lived seventeen years in the land of Egypt, and it was the days of Yaakov’s life -  one hundred and forty-seven years”. Parshas Vayechi is unique in that it is a ‘Parsha Stuma’- a closed section. There are no spaces left between last week’s parshas Vayigash and this week’s parshas Vayechi. Several commentators give insight as to why this is. The Midrash Rabbah explains since Yaakov Avinu dies, the subjugation of the Jews in Mitzrayim will begin. A second interpretation is that Yaakov wanted to reveal the end of days, the time when Moshiach will arrive. And so God ‘closed him up’ and took away this ability. A third explanation is Hashem in His mercy closed up, hid all the difficulties, tragedies, and problems of the world. This also signifies that Yaakov would be protected from any of the infighting that may occur among his children. The manifestation of Yaakov being protected and not be subjected to any discord from his family truly gave him that ‘life’ both in this world but more importantly in the world he was now heading towards.

We all want peace in our family and homes whether the children are young or growing older, but we especially want our children to get along when they are older. This Shabbos Parshas Vayechi was established by the National Association of Chevra Kaddisha, the Holy Burial Society, to be the Shabbos dedicated to focusing of end-of-life concerns. The transition to the next world should be an easy and pleasant one for everybody.    

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784