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Vayechi 5763

Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!  Everyone loves a story -- particularly a
true story and especially a story with a surprise and a happy ending.
Even better is when there is a message which we can incorporate into
our own lives. That is why I am sharing with you a wonderful
article, "Meriting a Miracle," written by one of the writers I hold
in highest esteem, Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of Am Echad. Here is
the article:

In 1943, after more than three years of German control over
France, the Great Synagogue of Lyon continued to function. That
December 10, the Lyon Milice, the shock troops of the Vichy
government, decided to put an end to the Jewish worship.

The shul's rabbi survived the war to tell the tale, which is
recorded in a book about Klaus Barbie, the infamous "Butcher of Lyon"
(the title, in fact, of the book, by Brendan Murphy - Empire/Harper &
Row, 1983). A member of the Milice quietly entered the rear of the
sanctuary that Friday night during services. Armed with three hand
grenades, he intended to lob them into the crowd of standing
worshippers from behind, and to escape before the explosions.
After silently opening the door and entering the room unnoticed by
anyone but the rabbi (who stood facing the congregation), he pulled
the pins.

What he saw, though, so shook him that he remained wide-eyed
and motionless for a crucial moment, and then only managed to toss
the grenades a few feet before fleeing. Several worshippers were
injured by shrapnel but none were killed.

What had so flabbergasted the Nazi was the sudden,
unexpected sight of his intended victims' faces, as the congregation,
as if on cue, turned as one on its heels to face him.

The would-be mass-murderer had entered the shul precisely
at "bo'i b' shalom," the last stanza of the liturgical poem Lecha
Dodi, when worshippers traditionally turn toward the door to welcome
the Sabbath. The account came to mind of late because it is, at least
to me, a striking reminder of something truly fundamental yet easily
forgotten. We Jews often survive on miracles.

To be sure, we don't base our belief on them, as do some
religions. Maimonides famously wrote that the miracles recounted
in the Torah - even the parting of the Red Sea - are demonstrations
not of G-d's existence but rather of His love for His people. We
know G-d exists because of our carefully preserved historical
tradition that He communicated with our ancestors at Mt. Sinai, an
event we will soon celebrate on Shevuot.

All the same, though, His love and His miracles underlie our
existence.

Our tradition teaches that our foremother Sarah was
biologically incapable of conceiving a child; the very beginning of
our people thus was miraculous. The perseverance of the Jewish
people over the millennia is a miracle, as is our rebirth after
countless decimations.

And recent Jewish history has been no less miraculous. When
Israel destroyed the assortment of Arab armies arrayed against it in
1967, even hardened military men well aware of the Israeli air force
and army's skill and determination spoke of miracles. And the rescue
at Entebbe in 1976 may have entailed special-forces acumen, but
sensitive Jews saw on it the clear fingerprints of the miraculous as
well. And, in 1981, they recognized no less in the destruction of
the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak, signs not only of military might
but of miracle, of G-d's love.

None of which is to belittle the tremendous efforts of Israel's
military, may its members be safe and protected. But while "this
world" efforts must always be made, believing Jews maintain a
concomitant consciousness of the fact that success and failure are
determined by something considerably more sublime. In the
perspective of our religious tradition, that something is our merit
as a people - our kindness to one another, our prayers, our study of
Torah and our performance of mitzvot. In the end, those are the
things, our tradition teaches us, that will make all the difference.
In the Torah we read how the Jews, led by Joshua, fought the
Amalekites. When Moses held his hands high, the verse
continues, the Jews waxed victorious. "Were Moses' hands waging
war?" asks the Mishna. The answer, it continues, is that "when the
Jews eyes [inspired by Moses' hands] were lifted heavenward, they
were militarily victorious."

In these terribly trying times for Jews, when hatred carefully
nurtured for decades has erupted in a plague of vicious murder and
old, ugly ghosts have been stirred awake, it behooves us to remember
that fact. We all ask ourselves what we can do on behalf of our
beleaguered brothers and sisters. There are many things, to be sure.

But at the very top of each of our lists should be things like:
prayer; with concentration and heart; charity, with generosity and
concern; Jewish observance, with care and determination;
Torah-study, with effort and commitment.

Because, unified spiritually by the expression of our common
Jewish religious heritage, we are doing something nothing else can
do: meriting a miracle.


Torah Portion of the Week
Vayechi

The parsha, Torah portion, opens with Jacob on his deathbed
17 years after arriving in Egypt. Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons,
Manasseh (Menashe) and Ephraim (to this day it is a tradition to
bless our sons every Shabbat evening with the blessing, "May the
Almighty make you like Ephraim and Manasseh" -- they grew up in
the Diaspora amongst foreign influences and still remained devoted
to the Torah). He then individually blesses each of his sons. The
blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary. (The
Shabbat evening blessing for girls is "to be like Sarah, Rivka,
Rachel and Leah.")

A large retinue from Pharaoh's court accompanies the family to
Hebron to bury Jacob in the Ma'arat Hamachpela, the burial cave
purchased by Abraham. The Torah portion ends with the death of
Joseph and his binding the Israelites to bring his remains with them
for burial when they are redeemed from slavery and go to the land of
Israel. Thus ends the book of Genesis!

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Before Jacob died he blessed and admonished his sons. He
rebuked Shimon and Levy for destroying the city of Shechem in
response to the violation of their sister, Dina, the son of Hamor, the leader of Shechem. The Torah brings Jacob's words, "...for in
their anger (b'apom) they slew men" (Genesis 49:6). What lesson for
our lives can we learn from Jacob's words?

Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Telshe
Yeshiva, says, "Although not the literal meaning of the verse, the
thought has been expressed that besides meaning 'n their anger,'
b'apom (the Hebrew word for 'in their anger') can also be defined as
'with their nose.' Quite often, by just turning up one's nose, one
can greatly harm another person. If that person is present, he will
feel belittled and humiliated. Even when someone is not present,
turning up one's nose at the mention of this name implies derogatory
attributes and can cause someone to lose a job or marriage prospect."

Besides watching our words, we must also be careful to watch
our body language!


CANDLE LIGHTING - December 20:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  3:59
Guatemala 5:20  Hong Kong 5:26  Honolulu 5:36
J'Burg 6:40  London 3:35  Los Angeles 4:30
Melbourne 8:24  Miami 5:16  Moscow 3:40

New York 4:13  Singapore  6:45



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:


There are two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.
-- Albert Einstein

In Loving Memory of
Rena Rachel Rivka bas Binyamin HaCohen Zemel
by her children

In Loving Memory of
Anita Karl
Bobby, Nilza, Daniel, Lara & Kevin




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