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Parshas Vayechi - Has This Ever Happened To You?                                       13 Teves 5779

12/21/18 09:58:00


The Gemara in Chagiga 16a quotes: “There are six things that are said regarding a human being: three of them are like angels and the three are like animals.” There are a few other sources with identical phraseology of six things - three are this and three are that. The Gemara, in Shabbos 151b, states: there are six kinds of tears, three are good for the body and three are bad”; “Six things are said by wine – ‘three are for the good and three are for the bad’.

My version is that there are six things that generally happen to individuals; they think it only happens to them and to no one else: three of them are bad… and I would like to hear from any of you readers the three good things that happen to people. Let me explain by giving the three things that have happened to me. Most recently, my cars were vandalized by some joy-walking people who decided to rip off the windshield wiper arm off the back window of one car and smash the driver’s side mirror on the second vehicle. This has given me a good bit of aggravation. I have wasted time and money, for no worthwhile, meaningful reason that I could think of. I thought that vandalism of this kind only happened to me, but when I related this to someone else, he told me that the same thing had happened to his wife’s car a few months ago. The second thing that happened to me actually occurred twice within the last nine month - credit card fraud, requiring freezing the current cards being used until new ones can be issued. The credit card company reverses the fraudulent charges and are very good at securing your account. But it is inconvenient and makes daily living a little more challenging. After mentioning this to a few people, they all started telling me their own stories of credit card fraud on their accounts. I supposed these shared tales of woe aren’t necessarily bad unless your intention was to be unique. How often does a person purchase a car deep down feeling that no one else has that car. It may be that the person buying the car simply wants to feel unique or feel nerdy that he/she is the only one on the planet driving that kind of a car. Later, driving around town in this brand new car begins to notice the same vehicle everywhere! Bottom line: in all three scenarios we felt we were the only victims or the only buyers when, in reality, we all share the same similar fate and aggravation.

There is a real dichotomy with this kind of thinking. Sometimes we want to feel special - but not when it comes at an expense. As we conclude sefer Bereishis, the story of Yosef and his brothers comes to an end. Yakov dies, leaving the brothers susceptible and exposed to Yosef’s revenge and retribution. Each one of the Shevatim received a Bracha from their father Yakov which was independent of his siblings, with the exception of Efraim and Menashe, who received theirs together. The brothers continue to witness different treatment between them and Yosef through the children. As far as they are concerned, their take on receiving a bracha was the supposition that perhaps they each were unique when receiving a blessing from their father. Did they know at the time that everyone was getting a bracha? Did they believe that bracha each of them had received was solely for that one brother, for better or for worse? Maybe they viewed receiving a bracha as a necessary act because their father thought they would be bad and lead a life of sin without it. This thought was not so farfetched after learning the family history of the blessings their grandfather Yitzchok originally set to give Eisav but was taken instead by their father Yaakov. It was going to be a certain bracha for the future creativeness that would be necessary for Eisav to lead an upstanding life. Nevertheless, Yosef recognized all of this and tried to quell their fears.

In this week’s parshas Vayechi the Torah states in Bereishis 50:21: “V’ata Al Tira’u, Anochi Achalkeil Eschem V’Es Tapchem, Vay’nacheim Osam, Vayidaber al Libam” - “Now don’t worry. I will fully provide for you and your children.” According to Rashi, ‘Yosef thus comforted them and tried to make up’, explaining that the words of Yosef were words receptive to the hearts of his brothers. Yosef explained, “Before you came down to this land, people murmured about me that I was only a lowly slave; it was through you that it became known that I am a free man. Now, if I were to kill you, what would people say? A group of young men did Joseph see and he glorified himself through them and said, ‘they are my brothers’, and in the end he killed them. Is there a brother who kills his own brothers?” Reb Yisroel Salanter in his sefer Be’er Yosef comments that on the one hand Yosef’s words are to comfort them, assuring them that he would not harm them. On the other hand, however, when he tells them, “Is there a brother who would kill his brother?” Yosef stares into the eyes of those who were guilty of that exact crime, wanting to kill their brother. How could these words be interpreted as Yosef tried to comfort them? He answers that, in truth, a brother does not kill his own brother. It is antithetical to the course of nature for that to be the case. With this, Yosef reiterates again that this was not a natural course of events but rather a series of events directly from Hashem. God orchestrated an unnatural set of circumstances, having brothers trying to kill their brother, as a sign that the entire purpose was only to arrange the family to down to Goshen, averting the family suffering from famine.

This kind of comfort would be accepted by the any nation of the world in order to reconcile a family, bringing it together. How much more so for the number one Jewish family of Yakov and his twelve sons. The words were truly comforting knowing that this all came about to show the brothers that it was the hand of God which was involved in the entire process. The Jewish people should give comfort to each other by standing behind each and every brother of ours. The story of Yosef and his brothers is a template for the Jewish people to learn and apply our responsibility to ultimately treat each other.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sat, December 14 2019 16 Kislev 5780