שבת טעם החיים ויחי תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayechi 5771
Shechem and the Power of Prayer
ואני הנה נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך אשר לקחתי מיד האמרי בחרבי ובקשתי, and I have given you Shechem – one [portion] more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow. (Bereishis 48:22)
It is said (Bereishis 48:22) ואני הנה נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך אשר לקחתי מיד האמרי בחרבי ובקשתי, and I have given you Shechem – one [portion] more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow. Rashi writes that one explanation for portion is that it refers to the city of Shechem that Yaakov bequeathed to Yosef. Alternatively, the extra portion refers to the birthright that Yaakov took from Esav and transferred to Yosef. Let us understand the first explanation of Rashi. HaShem had promised to Avraham that his descendants would inherit Eretz Yisroel. Nonetheless, the land still belonged to the Canaanites who at the time were the land’s inhabitants. After Yehoshua led the conquest of the land he divided it up to the tribes. Why, then, was it necessary for Yaakov to grant Yosef the city of Shechem?
The answer to this question can be found in the Targum on the words בחרבי ובקשתי, which the Targum renders as בצלותי ובבעותי, my prayers and my supplications. What prayers was Yaakov referring to regarding the city of Shechem? The first mention of Shechem in the Torah is when Avraham entered the Land of Canaan. It is said (Bereishis 12:6) ויעבר אברם בארץ עד מקום שכם עד אלון מורה והכנעני אז בארץ, Avram passed into the land as far as the site of Shechem, until the Plain of Moreh; the Canaanite was then in the land. Rashi writes that when Avraham passed through Shechem, he prayed for his descendants who would wage a battle against the people of Shechem. When Shimon and Levi attacked the city of Schechem, it is said (Ibid 34:25) ויהי ביום השלישי בהיותם כואבים ויקחו שני בני יעקב שמעון ולוי אלי דינה איש חרבו ויבאו על העיר בטל ויהרגו כל זכר, and it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Yaakov’s sons, Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and they came upon the city confidently, and killed every male. Rashi writes that the word בטח, confidently, means that they were confident in the power of the elder, i.e. Yaakov. It would appear from this Rashi that Yaakov also prayed for the success of Shimon and Levi in defeating Schechem. The Sfas Emes cites the Chidushei HaRim who said that the word שכם is an acrostic for the words שם כבוד מלכותו, the Name of His glorious kingdom. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 102a) states that Shechem was a location that was prepared for adversity. The brothers sold Yosef in Shechem, the Schechemites violated Dinah, and in Shechem the kingdom of Dovid was divided. It would follow then that heartfelt prayers would be necessary to negate a place of such extreme adversity.
We can now understand why Yaakov bestowed upon Yosef the city of Shechem. When Yaakov blessed Shimon and Levi, he said (Ibid 49:6) בסודם אל תבוא נפשי בקהלם אל תחד כבודי כי באפם הרגו איש וברצונם עקרו שור, into their design, may my soul not enter! With their congregation, do not unite, O my honor! For in their rage they killed a man and in their wish they hamstrung an ox. Rashi writes that the words כי באפם הרגו איש, for in their rage they killed a man refers to Shimon and Levi annihilating the inhabitants of Shechem, and the words וברצונם עקרו שור and in their wish they hamstrung an ox alludes to their desire to eliminate Yosef. While on the surface Yaakov was certainly rebuking Shimon and Levi, there was also a deeper meaning to his words, as the Torah states that Yaakov blessed all the tribes (see Rashi Ibid verse 28). What was the blessing that was contained in Yaakov’s words? Perhaps the message that Yaakov was conveying to his two sons was that despite their misdeed, they were successful in their mission because of the prayers of Avraham and Yaakov. Yaakov rebuked Shimon and Levi for their external actions. Beneath the surface, however, was the awesome power of payer that allowed them to be successful. Thus, even in a depraved city like Shechem, HaShem’s glory was revealed through the power of prayer. It was specifically the effect of prayer that Yaakov bestowed upon Yosef. The reason that Yaakov gave Yosef this power of prayer is because Yosef was the only one of the tribes who spent most of his life amongst gentiles and was faithful to Hashem and His Torah. This is the explanation for Yaakov juxtaposing Shimon and Levi’s actions against Shechem and against Yosef. The fact that Yosef was able to resist temptation in Egypt was akin to the hidden prayers that sustained Shimon and Levi in their victory over Shechem. For this reason Yaakov declared that he had taken Shechem from the hand of the Amorite with his sword and bow, which the Targum renders as his prayer and his supplication. The meaning of this is that the victory over Shechem was effected through Yaakov’s prayers, and it was this power of hidden prayer that Yaakov transferred to Yosef.
Shabbos with the Sfas Emes and the Rebbes of Ger
The Sfas Emes writes that Zevulun supported Yissachar, and for this reason Yissachar was thus named, because he received a double reward. Yissachar received his own reward and the reward of Zevulun his provider. Similarly, the days of the week function as a preparation for Shabbos, and it is for this reason that we eat Lechem Mishneh, two loaves of bread, on Shabbos. Indeed, all matters of Shabbos are double, as the Shabbos receives the blessing for itself and for the days of the week.
|One Playgroup and Three Weddings|
|An avreich in Rechasim had the good fortune of having two sets of twins born to him one after the other, in addition to his older children. However, the good fortune was accompanied by the reality of having four extra mouths to feed in a short amount of time. His wife decided to open a gan (playgroup) in their apartment to help support the family. Their apartment was on the ground floor with an adjoining courtyard, so it was an ideal setting for a gan. They asked permission from the neighbors, who were aware of their difficult financial situation, especially since the birth of the two sets of twins, and they all graciously agreed. Each one gave permission in writing for the opening of the gan.
All the preparations were going smoothly, until one of the neighbors decided to retract his permission, citing two reasons for his decision. First of all, his wife suffered from high blood pressure, and he was worried that the noise from the gan would negatively affect her health. Secondly, three of his children had strayed from the Torah path, and he was making all kind of efforts to influence them to return to a Torah lifestyle. He feared that if his children would see that the charedi neighbors were not considerate of their mother’s high blood pressure, they would be very angry, and there would be no hope of them returning to a Torah life.
The avreich was very distressed by the neighbor’s decision, and he consulted with one of the rabbanim in the city. The Rav paskened that even if the neighbor’s wife suffers from high blood pressure, he’s forbidden from retracting his original agreement, since his agreement was considered a neder. The avreich told the neighbor about the Rav’s psak, and the neighbor requested to speak with the Rav himself. The avreich took him to the Rav, and the Rav repeated his psak that it was forbidden for him to retract his agreement. However, the Rav also had something additional to say. He took out a bottle of wine and said to the man, “If you grant permission for the gan, you’ll be zoche to pour from this wine at the chasunos of your three children, after they return with a teshuvah shelaima!”
|The Chafetz Chaim Passes Around A Petition|
|There was a town near Radin whose Mikva fell into disrepair and could no longer function as a kosher mikva. The Chafetz Chaim, then at a very advanced age, wrote a letter to the community leader urging them to raise money for the important cause. His words fell on deaf ears as the townspeople cried poverty.
After a number of appeals failed, the Chafetz Chaim, despite his frail health, personally traveled to the town and called a meeting in the Shul. He told the people that he is very old and does not know how many more years he has left on earth. But when it comes to an end he will stand before the Bais Din Shel Ma’ala and need to account for all his actions. They will ask him, “Yisroel Meir what did you do about the town near Radin that did not have a functioning mikva. How can you let a Jewish community be without such an important and central need?”
To this I will respond said the Chafetz Chaim that I appealed to them many times but my words fell on deaf ears. What more could I have done? Therefore, said the aged tzaddik, I am passing around a form for everyone to sign that attests to the truth of my words. I need to take this with me to show them.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayechi 5771
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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