Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Vayichi 2015 – Forgiveness and Closure

Jacob-EgyptThis week we begin with a Happy Anniversary shout-out to Dena -she the eishes chayil that prepares her husband’s coffee cup each evening with inspiring quotes- and Ben Isaacs who are celebrating 17 years of blissful marriage. Ben, as I have told you many times: you are a blessed and lucky man! Dena and Ben were previously shouted-out in our Parshas Noaich 2013.  Click here to read it.



Why not? Because, anyone that went to yeshiva in the 60s-80’s should know that tonight is Nittel Nacht. What the hec is that? Ver veyst? Who made it up, ver veyst? All we knew growing up is that somehow it involved Jesus whose name we weren’t allowed to utter lest we get smacked on the face or head, or worse yet, experience a bar of kosher soap (yes, that exists) shoved into our mouths. Ober what has Jesus, whom we referred to as Yoshko back in the day, got to do with learning the heylige Toirah? Ver veyst! Ober, some would say that the zichusim (merits) of Toirah leaning on this night, seemingly also the night that he was efsher born, should not inure to his or to the benefit of those who follow him. How all this works, ver veyst? Shoin, back then, very much like today, it didn’t take much convincing to ask us to stop learning. Some are more machmir (stricter) about this minhag and don’t learn any night or day.  Grada Jesus was a nice Jewish boy. Veyter!

Raboyseyee and Ladies:

Forgiveness and Closure:

Shoin, the curtain is about to come down once again on Sefer Bereishis. This week, we will be saying good-by to Yaakov, to Yoisef and to his brothers. Grada (so happens), the passing of the heylige brothers is not recorded in this week’s parsha of Vayichi but is mentioned, albeit very briefly, next week as we begin a new book and read parshas Shemois. No details are given about their passing. A number of medroshim will teach us that Eisav was beheaded and of course also died in this week’s parsha; that incident too is not recorded but zicher makes for nice reading. By next shabbis, many decades will have passed and the Yiddin, in the throes of enslavement, will already have suffered greatly under King Paroy who seemingly forgot that all his riches came about as a result of an ingenious plan concocted and executed by one nice Jewish young man named Yoisef. Shoin, azoy geyt de velt; menchin fargessin (people forget). The Mitzrim and specifically Paroy were not the first, nor the last to forget that success was due in large measure to others. Why people forget those who have helped them, ver veyst?  The Mitzrim were not alone; people of all persuasions seem to forget those that were there for them in their time of need. Maybe they are embarrassed, ver veyst. In any event, it’s not a nice thing to experience, a stab in the heart mamish. The bottom line: Should you be lucky enough to make a friend or two in your lifetime that does not forget, hold onto him or her.

Earlier this week, a reader sent the following comment to the Oisvorfer’s site and we will begin by addressing him and it.

– Dear Ruv

Reading your weekly posts with never-decreasing enthusiasm and wishing you well!

In last week’s parsha Yaakov tells Paroy that the years of his sojourns have been “bad” of course I am paraphrasing.  In essence Yaakov tells Paroy that his life has been bad, rather than expressing the thanks for the blessings he’d received from RBSO, for all the great children he has, for just finding Yosef again, etc.  How can RBSO not punish Yaakov for saying that to Paroy, for being ungrateful.

Thank you for your thoughts on this!  Chaim P.

Dear Chaim P,

Mistama you learned in yeshiva, but were so traumatized by your rebbes advances that efsher you forgot the famous Daas Zekanim M’Ballay Hatoisfis, who mamish address this very topic.  Ober, because you flattered the Oisvorfer so with your gishmake comments, we will review what took place.  Yoisef arranged a meeting with Paroy and introduced his father.  Paroy took one look at Yaakov and instead of saying hello, nice to meet you, how are you, and what a great son you have raised, he asks Yaakov how old he was. Let’s read the posik (Bereishis 47:8):

8.  And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?”   חוַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל יַעֲקֹב כַּמָּה יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֶּיךָ:

Yaakov answered and said:

9.  And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojournings are one hundred thirty years. The days of the years of my life have been few and miserable, and they have not reached the days of the years of the lives of my forefathers in the days of their sojournings.”   טוַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל פַּרְעֹה יְמֵי שְׁנֵי מְגוּרַי שְׁלשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה מְעַט וְרָעִים הָיוּ יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיַּי וְלֹא הִשִּׂיגוּ אֶת יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי אֲבֹתַי בִּימֵי מְגוּרֵיהֶם:

jacob paroyAnd taka many wondered and asked kashas about this weird exchange? Is that the first question a King should ask of an older gentlemen, especially one that looked tattered and tziborchen from many years of tzuris (aggravation)? Wouldn’t we expect the king to say how well he looked? And why would Yaakov give such a longwinded answer and offer information the king did not ask?  Shoin, let’s recall another medrish which will teach us that each of our Ovois were originally given 180 years (10 x Chai) to live in this world. Ober, only one, Yitzchok, taka lived 180 years. What happened to Avrohom? He lived but 175 years and the medrish will tell us that the RBSO did him a favor and cut five years off his life so that he wouldn’t live to see Eisav go off the derech (the reservation). You will of course recall Rashi -who else- quoting a medrish telling us that Eisav had just come from Avrohom’s funeral, but was tired because on that very day, he raped, slept with a married woman, pillaged and did a few other despicable acts.  Did he?  Ver veyst.

In any event, what we know is that Avrohom lived but 175 and that’s how the medrish sees it. Yitzchok taka lived out his 180 years ober Yaakov, as we will learn at the end of the parsha, lived but 147 years. Seemingly, he lost 33 years ober why? Our man Yaakov, father of the B’nai Yisroel who had already suffered so much, had 33 years cut from his life by the RBSO? What’s taka pshat? Let’s recall that he needed to flee his brother Eisav who wanted to kill him, was nebech stuck in a cave over at the yeshiva of Shem & Ever for 14 years, where efsher while advancing in his learning, was a victim of his own rebbe’s advances -oy vey- endured 20 years with Lovon, four marriages, the sale of his favorite son Yoisef with whom he had no contact for over 20 years, and the sheer fright of losing Binyomin albeit temporarily. Moreover, let’s recall what Reuvain did (we will further discuss below), how he suffered when Dina was taken, raped and impregnated, and the aggravation caused when Shimon and Levi used their bar mitzvah swords and cut down all the males in Shechem. No wonder he looked old and maybe much older than his years. And after all that, he was set to lose 33 years of his life for an exchange he had with Paroy?

Ober say the Daas Zekanim azoy: It’s so! Yaakov taka lost 33 years of his life for the 33 words that were exchanged between himself and Paroy. He did? Let’s count the words of his answer and even those who flunked out on Math 101, will quickly conclude that Yaakov’s response was but a total of 25 words. Why did he lose 33 years for 25 words? Shoin our rabbis were of course more clever than are we and said not to worry. Yaakov was punished even for the 8 words that make up Paroy’s question. Ober why should he be punished for Paroy’s 8-word question? Taka an excellent kasha ober, here too our sages have an answer which goes like this: Said Rav Shmuelevitz azoy: Paroy’s question was prompted by Yaakov’s tattered body and face which made him appear old, suffering, and in pain. Before he spoke, he looked old and broken. In other words: Because Yaakov did maybe not truly appreciate and chap how the RBSO taka saved him from Eisav, returned Dina (albeit raped and pregnant), reunited him with Yoisef, had his bed moved back (no one likes their furniture re-arranged without permission), and saw his family reunited in Goishen, he did not look grateful which caused and prompted Paroy to ask how old he was. He was punished not just for his ill conceived answer, but also for the question.

Yaakov’s father and grandfather lived considerably longer. However, because he had a difficult life with so many challenges, it caused him to appear much older than his actual age. In that case, Yaakov was not punished and just passed away when his time was up. Isn’t that a better way to remember Yaakov? In the end, let’s also remember that he did enjoy his last years with a reunited family and lived peacefully in Goishen.

imagesOber, says the Ramban: That’s not how it went down; Yaakov was not complaining at all. Instead, he responded that he was 130 years old- but for his family, that was not old age.  Reb Chaim, it’s like this: If you think Yaakov sinned by complaining, he was taka punished. If you hold the Ramban and a few others, he did not sin and was not punished. Your call. The heylige Toirah can be read in at least 70 different ways. Find the pshat you enjoy and run with it.

In the past twelve weeks, we met many interesting and colorful characters. Some were good, others not so. The RBSO loved some and hated others. He seemingly loved the Ovois and Emo’ois (our forefathers and foremothers) but certainly had no love for Eyr and Oinon. They appear and disappear from the text rather quickly proving avada that if the RBSO does not like you, it’s over.  For some reason He allowed Doson and Avirom – both very bad guys – to roam about for a few decades. Why, ver veyst? Maybe there were needed for the movie version. He wasn’t too thrilled with Mrs. Loit though his special daughters, both of whom mounted their unsuspecting father, seem to have gotten a pass after they made one or two. And despite the fact that Soro seemingly abhorred Yishmoel, the RBSO showed him love and sent a malach (angel) down from heaven to save his life. He avada also saved Hogor from Soro. Seemingly He had plans for her to come back and marry Avrohom following Soro’s passing. They had a bunch of kids together.  In kimat every parsha of Bereishis, we encountered those rejected and those selected; we have avada touched on this topic in previous reviews where we listed the winners and losers of Sefer Bereishis. Check them out at www.oisvorfer.com. Yet one more shameless plug to the Oisvorfer’s content heavy site managed very ably by his chaver Mike Kogan to whom the Oisvorfer remains indebted. It was his idea that the site be built. Today, the Oisvorfer has hundreds of thousands of readers -all over the world- mamish including approximately 70-75,000 that are not email or Facebook subscribers, but do click onto the site weekly to find the latest review. Gishmak.

And as we say goodbye to the shevotim whom will not be mentioned again until late in Devorim (Deuteronomy) when Moishe will invoke their memory, the debate as to whether they were good and righteous continues to rage.  Just last shabbis the Oisvorfer had a two hour shmuz and argument on this very topic.  Our rabbis will try convincing us that, despite the more than questionable behavior of Reuvain, he did not sin. He was a tzadik (righteous) Was he? They will tell us that despite the language in the heylige Toirah -Vayishkav (and he slept)- and Yaakov’s long memory about the incident which he will clearly and deliberately recall this week, Reuvain did not sin by bedding his step-mother Bilah and that the brothers were well within their rights to declare Yoisef a bad guy deserving of the death penalty.

Ober, Yaakov wasn’t convinced and this week as he assembles all his kinderlach (kids) for a few parting words and some blessings, he will remind Reuvain about his bed-mounting and Shimon and Levi about their sword play when killing all male inhabitants of the city of Shechem. Interestingly enough, Yaakov will somehow bequeath that city to Yoisef where he will be buried. Though the heylige Gemora will argue strenuously and threaten us into thinking that Reuvain was innocent, ober, unless we believe that Reuvain mounted the bed to the wall and thereby maybe inadvertently invented the Murphy Bed, Yaakov’s specific language seems to indicate that he harbored strong resentment towards Reuvain. Moreover, let’s recall that Reuvain was the bechoir, the firstborn. His entitlements seemingly (back then) included a double inheritance, political control of the family, and the kihuna (Priesthood).  You should recall that before the RBSO gave the Kihuna over to the Koihanim (priests), this job was assigned to the Bichoirim (first born). Seemingly, Reuvain was in line to get all three.  Ober, did he keep them, any of them?  Seemingly not! Yaakov will strip him -as efsher did Reuvain, if you chap, of all birthright benefits and will bequeath the double portion, the financial rites to Yoisef’s two sons, Ephraim and Menashe who are the subject of the first part of the parsha. Why? To punish Reuvain; is there any other reason? Moreover, it was Yehudah who was selected to be the political leader of the family. It was Yehudah who was blessed with Kingship and much more. And, it was Levi who was to inherit the priesthood. Let’s avada recall that Aharoin came from Shevet (tribe) of Levi. Would a mere moving of a bed have resulted in such a stripdown of what was coming to Reuvain? And would that incident alone not be long be forgotten?

Moreover, as Yaakov gathers the boys for a heart-to-heart conversation about each of their shortcomings and particular strengths, does he mention the entire Yoisef conspiracy myseh? He does not!  Everyone can forget a conspiracy ober chapping someone’s wife, not so fast. Shoin, you tell me what’s worse: Moving a bed or being an active participant in a plot to murder and a conspiracy to sell a brother – their own – into slavery and hiding the emes for twenty two years?  Case closed!  To Yaakov, the bed incident could not be forgotten or forgiven.

Shoin, who are we to judge? If the RBSO decided that kingship will emanate from Yehuda though he had roadside relations with his former daughter-in-law whom he mistook for a whore -meaning his intentions were to sleep with one- and that Moshiach will come (one day soon) and trace his lineage back to Rus and further back to Loit’s daughters, who are we to question?  And if the RBSO decided that all the Yiddin, the Bnai Yisroel, will trace their lineage back to the shevotim, who are we to question? The fact that they wanted to kill their own flesh and blood but instead sold him as a slave, is seemingly not an impediment to greatness. The RBSO selected these people despite what many consider abnormal behavior and there is no need for our rabbis to declare them all innocent. Maybe they were taka all guilty but compared to others of their times, not so guilty? Or, maybe despite their guilt, they had other redeeming qualities? Maybe there were great but flawed in one or two areas? Isn’t that more logical than suggesting innocence mamish? Did Dovid Hamelech, after gazing at Batsheva, a married woman, not intend to send her unsuspecting husband Uria to the front lines where he was sadly killed? He did! Ober does the heylige Gemora wax fancy about his innocence and concoct some story about Uria leaving behind a Get (Bill of divorce) just in case he did not return?  Does the heylige Gemora not try convincing us that Dovid Hamelech was as innocent as the driven snow?  It does so valiantly. Ober didn’t Dovid himself years later admit his guilt and ask for forgiveness? He did. The Oisvorfer’s bottom line: This parsha and many others contains very good news for most of you. If the RBSO likes you, you are safe. The big sheylo (question) is: How does one get the RBSO to like him?

In any event, it is in parshas Vayichi where we will be, as stated above, saying good-bye (for now) to the Yaakov Ovenu mishpocho. Though all of them will pass away -all but Yaakov of course as a few medroshim will teach us that ‘Yaakov loi meys’ (Yaakov did not die), not to fret; they will all come alive again on Simchas Toirah when we begin a new cycle of Toirah review. Ober before we bid adieu to the Yaakov Ovenu family, there are some last minute family matters that are addressed in parshas Vayichi. Yaakov and Yoisef have been reunited as have the brothers with Yoisef. They are on speaking terms avada and Yoisef has done a yeoman’s job of getting the family set up in Goishen. Yaakov is advanced in years and is ill. Yoisef, hearing that his father in not well, will, along with his children Menashe and Ephraim pay a sick call to Yaakov and in one of the most discussed scenes in all of Bereishis, Yaakov will using some sleight of hand trickery seemingly favor and bless Ephraim above Menashe. After all discussions, it would appear that Yaakov is but continuing a long established tradition among the Ovois (our forefathers) where each favored one son above another. Did Avrohom not favor Yitzchok above Yishmoel? He did! Did Yitzchok not (in the end) favor Yaakov above Eisav? Indeed he did! And did not Yaakov avada and avada love and not show favoritism to Yoisef above his others sons? Indeed so and taka that was seemingly the root cause of all the jealousy that was the storyline of the last few parshas. Did Yaakov learn his lesson? Not! Instead he will mamish favor Ephraim above Menashe and will tell Yoisef his reasoning. Is it good to favor one child above others? We are taught not. On the other hand, are we not taught to emulate the ways of our forefathers? Shoin, which is it? Ver veyst? Confusing.

11i-forgive-you-imageShoin, let’s close with this thought. It’s in parshas Vayichi, way towards the end and only after Yaakov dies and is buried, that the brothers will talk amongst themselves and decide that they didn’t have proper closure with their brother Yoisef. It’s emes that they have been civil. They have been talking. Yoisef fed the family during the famine and zicher protected them over in Goishen. Many years have passed, 17 to be exact. They finally figure out that perhaps with their father now gone, Yoisef might seek to exact revenge. As an aside, who can blame them? Did they ever properly apologize and admit their wrongdoing? Let’s recall that in Vayigash, post revelation, all they did was withdraw, take a step back  out of shock and embarrassment. Yoisef then spoke and tried to comfort them. And it’s true that after he kissed them and cried, they finally were able to speak back to him. Perhaps they broke bread together. Rashi will tell us that Yoisef used to invite them over for meals and that these invitations stopped following the passing of Yaakov. Ober its seemingly also true that there was no closure to the entire traumatic event. Nowhere in the text, do we find they that took responsibility for their actions. Let’s recall what they did to their younger brother and the pain and anguish they caused their father. Life just went on.

Thankfully, as Vayichi comes to a close, we will finally read the text where the brothers – whether for selfish self preservation reasons or not- make the big move and say the right words. We have sinned, we are wrong, please forgive us.

17.  … So shall you say to Joseph, “Please, forgive now your brothers’ transgression and their sin, for they did evil to you. Now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” ‘ ” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.   יזכֹּה תֹאמְרוּ לְיוֹסֵף אָנָּא שָׂא נָא פֶּשַׁע אַחֶיךָ וְחַטָּאתָם כִּי רָעָה גְמָלוּךָ וְעַתָּה שָׂא נָא לְפֶשַׁע עַבְדֵי אֱלֹהֵי אָבִיךָ וַיֵּבְךְּ יוֹסֵף בְּדַבְּרָם אֵלָיו:

Why they didn’t utter these words 17 years back, ver veyst. The good news: Seemingly, it wasn’t too late.  Yoisef listened and forgave. Grada, many family disputes run on for years because no one is ready to utter those very words.

A gittin Shabbis and let’s close with chazak, chazak, vi’nischazake- be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened. Let us also apologize and say I’m sorry to those we either wronged and maybe even to those who think we wronged them.

The Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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