Wednesday, December 31, 2014

VAYECHI - SOMETIMES YOU JUST CAN'T SKIP TO THE END ----------------- (Based on Shira Smiles' essay in Torah Tapestries-Breishis pages 183-186)

Last night was mom's Yahrtzeit and I learned a bit in her memory.  i didn't plan it but the essay i chose spoke about kaddish and how the key is the response it evokes, like a brachah and the key of it being the amen.  The essay by Shprintza Hershkovits dealt with the irony of a parsha about death being called "And He Lived." 

Tonight and tomorrow are the Yahrtzeit of my mother's only brother, my dear Uncle Sid.  He was a sweet man. his wife, she should live and be well is sweet and kind too.  And he has left behind a lot of wonderful grandchildren from his 2 amazing daughters.  I have sweet memories from the earliest time of my life, of Uncle Sid making and buying the best presents for me and my brother. And taking me places and treating me with such loving kindness. It was tragic to see him go.  i had the sad privilege of staying with him one night very close to the end. I was in the waiting room with his wife when she got the news of his illness (and I'll never forget how she was able to call her rabbi and share with him like and rely on him in a way you wish every rabbi could and would do- and that's to the great credit of rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt).

I have been feeling really ill and been on bed rest. I continued to care for myself as best I could today and stuck to the doctor's orders of staying in.  I did, though, go out for minchah.  And I had the merit to lead the Tefillah and to say kaddish in my mother's memory.  And before and after minchah I learned from another holy woman about the parshah: Shira Smiles.  I'll share some of her essay in memory of my highly sensitive and loving mom, and my favorite uncle.

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The fact that the portion about Yaakov's death is called "And he Lived," tells us that only this parsha, which seems to be about his tell, truly tells us about the most lived part of Yaakov Avinu's life. It starts with Yaakov saying that he will tell his sons what will occur in the end of days, and then he goes into blessing them, starting with Reuven, and skipping the end of days thing.  The rabbis say that G-d blocked him from revealing wat was to happen. One wonders why he now merited  knowing what would happen in the end of time and why he was stopped from sharing this information.

Before we're told that he lived 147 years, the Torah says that Yaakov was in Mitzrayim for 17 years.  This teaches us that those 17 years were the highest of the high- mei'ein olam habah-a taste of the world to come.   This is quite something, considering that he grew up in he holy home of Yitzchak Avinu and that he spent many years  exclusively devoting himself to studying Torah in Yeshivah. This may be explained by context and contrast.  The 22 years that preceded these 17 were dark ones for Yaakov, the Divine Spirit did not/could not rest with him, because he thought Yosef was dead. The Torah states that "the spirit of their father Yaakov was revived" when the brothers told him that Yosef was alive, meaning the Divine Presense came back to him. After having been blocked for so long when he was able to raise himself spiritually again he shot up like never before and experienced the best years of his life.

Just as Yaakov went through hard times - the last of which was his mourning for Yosef - and then had his happy ending, so will we. he wanted to share with his sons the knowledge he'd acquired following all his hardship, which would parallel the world that was yet to come for them. However, his children and their descendants, needed to live through more suffering of their own and could not be privy to the knowledge he'd earned at the end of his days.  They'd have to get there themselves because that's how it works.

3 Comments:

Blogger kishke said...

The essay by Shprintza Hershkovits dealt with the irony of a parsha about death being called "And He Lived."

It's a good point. However, since "Yaakov Avinu lo meis," the question is less strong than it might appear.

January 1, 2015 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous lavender garden said...

Beautiful, post, Rabbi. When the school in which I once taught changed from a neviim Rishonim to a Neviim acharonim track, the principal brought Mrs Smiles to New York to "teach us how to teach."
We haven't seen your blog in a while, and coming back here now, are delighted that it is full of wonderful material, as usual.
Of course, we especially appreciate your posts about family- and not just from Dad's side either!
May your amazing father be blessed with long life,good health, and nachas always!
Have a great Shabbos

January 9, 2015 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks for reading and for the point Kishke.

LG - I'm glad to hear that your school brought in Mrs. Smiles. I never heard her live. In recent years two Chumash volumes came out and I really like them. I didn't cite all her sources- she's always weaving the insights of great rabbis together. This piece was based on Rav Gedaliah Schorr, Rav Yehudah Zev Segal, Rav Matisyahu Salomon, and others.

Thank you for reading, commenting, for all the kind words and all the good wishes. Hope all is well with you/your family.

January 10, 2015 at 7:05 PM  

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