Vayechi 5765

June 23, 2009

7 min read


Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )

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GOOD MORNING!   The other day I was in line at a grill restaurant. The woman in line in front of me asks, "May I have a shwarma please ... and would you please warm the pita before you put the meat in the pita?" The grillman replies, "No. The pita has to be heated after the meat is in it for best results." The woman responds, "I don't want it done than way. Just give me the shwarma without heating the pita." "No" replies the grillman, "If you want a warm pita, I'll warm it after I put the meat in." To the woman's credit she just laughs and exclaims to no one particular, "This is incredible!"

It reminds me of the story of the father asking his son, the Boy Scout, if he did his good deed for the day. The boy says, "Sure, I helped an old lady cross the street. It took 12 of us." "Why did it take 12 boys to help her across the street?" asks the father. Answers the son, "Because she didn't want to cross!"

When we do an act of kindness we all have - to one degree or another -a personal benefit from doing the kindness. We hope that by doing this kindness, the person will like us better or maybe give us a more favorable deal or price. There is to one degree or another an angle in the kindness for our own benefit.

In this week's Torah portion Joseph buries his father Jacob in the Ma'arat HaMachpela, the burial cave in Hebron that Abraham purchased from Efron the Hittite. The Sages (see the Dvar Torah) call the kindness of burying someone a "chesed shel emes" - a true kindness. Why? As mentioned, in every kindness there is hope that the kindness will be returned by the person. When one performs the necessities for a burial - a tahara (gently washing and clothing the body while reciting prayers by people who truly care) and kevura (preparing the grave and doing the burial, attending the funeral) - there is no way that the deceased will ever repay this kindness. Yes, the Almighty rewards us for every mitzvah we perform, but the person will not repay the kindness.

In the Shemoneh Esray (Shemoneh Esray means the number 18. However, there are 19 blessings because 2,000 years ago the Sanhedrin added a blessing against informers. It is also called the Amida, which means the Standing Prayer - the main prayer that a Jew prays three times a day including praises for the Almighty, requests for the whole people and the world, personal requests and thanks to the Almighty) we have the phrase in the first blessing that the Almighty is "gomel chasadim tovim" - He bestows good kindnesses. Why did the Sanhedrin in its great wisdom decide that it was necessary to add the seemingly extra word "good" to tell us what kind of kindness the Almighty bestows?

The answer is to teach us to emulate the Almighty to ensure that the kindnesses we bestow are truly good. We all have the capacity to justify and rationalize our thoughts and actions. The brain is a very powerful tool. If you ask it, "Brain, give me 10 reasons to rob a bank, it will give them to you: (1) Think of all the good you could do with the money! (2) No one is really getting hurt. They're insured! (3) It will be exciting.... And if you ask your brain for 10 reasons NOT to rob the bank, it will gladly oblige - (1) You'll probably get caught! (2) You'll go to jail. (3) It will bring shame on your family. (4) It's wrong! and so forth. One has to be aware of the motivations for his/her actions and make sure they are for the right reasons.

The story is told of Moshe who returns from synagogue one night and asks his wife Sadie what is for dinner. Sadie replies, "Chicken. But to tell you the truth, it smells kind of funny." Moshe says, "You know, the rabbi announced that there is a poor man who needs food. I'll take him the chicken; you make something else!"

The next day, Moshe is late from synagogue and Sadie wants to know "Why?". Moshe tells her, "Remember the poor man who needed food to whom I gave the chicken?" He got sick so I went to fulfill the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the sick).

The third day, Moshe was REALLY late. When Sadie asks for the reason, Moshe says, "Well, you remember the poor man to whom we gave the chicken and who got sick? Unfortunately, he died and I took care of his funeral. It's really sad - but look at that - we got three mitzvahs from one stinking chicken!"

When you do a mitzvah of kindness make sure it is a true mitzvah of kindness that is good for the other person and what the other person wants!

Torah Portion of the Week

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 oreign influences and still remained devoted to the Torah. The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is "to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.") He then individually blesses each of his sons. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary.

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

The Torah states:

"And the days of Israel (Jacob) drew near to die; and he called his son Joseph, and said to him: If now I have found favor in your eyes, please ... deal with me kindly and truly; bury me not in Egypt." (Genesis 47:29)

What does the phrase "kindly and truly" come to teach us?

Rashi enlightens us as to the meaning of "kindly and truly." Kindness which is shown to the dead is true kindness, for one who does chesed (kindness) for a dead person certainly does not look forward to any payment.

When someone does something for another person so that the person will in turn do him favors, the action cannot be considered true kindness. Rather, it is a form of bartering in which the merchandise is not objects, but favors.

When Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was seven years old, there was a severe famine in Lithuania. Poor people wandered from village to village in search of food. Many of them flocked to the home of Rav Moshe's mother, who readily cooked and baked for them. Once a very large number of the poor came to her home and she had to cook for them in shifts.

When some individuals grew impatient and insulted her, she began to cry, since she felt that she was doing her utmost for them. Her young son, the future Rabbi of Kobrin, said to her, "Why should their insults trouble you? Don't their insults help you perform the mitzvah with sincerity? If they had praised you, your merit would be less, since you might be doing the kindness to gain their praise, rather than to fulfill the Almighty's command."

CANDLE LIGHTING - December 17:
(or go to

Jerusalem  4:06
Guatemala 5:21  Hong Kong 5:28  Honolulu 5:37
J'Burg 6:43  London 3:37  Los Angeles 4:30
Melbourne 7:21  Mexico City 5:50  Miami 5:18

Moscow 3:44  New York 4:16  Singapore  6:49
Toronto 4:27


Good is the enemy of great!

Happy Anniversary!
Lenny & Lisa Wolfe

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