This shabbis, as we read parshas Vayichi, with which we will close out Sefer Bereishis (Book of Genesis), we will learn of yet another case, perhaps two, of favoritism on display by our forefathers. Playing favorites seems to one of the central themes of Bereishis. Why? Ver veyst? Ober, if the RBSO chose to share these incidents and information with us, zicher there are lessons to be mined; it’s our tafkid (mission) to figure them out. Let’s begin.
Way back in Parshas Bereishis, we learned that both Kayin and Hevel (Kain and Abel) brought korbonos (sacrifices) to the RBSO. The RBSO accepted Hevel’s korban while rejecting Kayin’s. The response: Kayin killed Hevel and shoin, the early experiment in brotherly love, failed. As an aside, things don’t improve much until we meet Moishe and his older brother Aharoin who seem to get along famously. Though they were the only two brothers alive in the entire world, and Gan Eden was quite large, seemingly it wasn’t large enough for both Kayin and Hevel. The good news: the RBSO gave Kayin a pass.
Over in parshas Noiach, we learned that Noiach himself favored Shaim and cursed his younger son Chom, along with his grandson K’nan. Then again, can we blame him? Chom and K’nan did seemingly either rape, or castrate their own father Noiach, so says Rashi. Whatever they did to their own father and grandfather, Noiach was, according to Rashi referencing the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 70), left emasculated. Not very nice. Shoin. Let’s give Noiach a pass.
In Lech Lecha we met Avrom and Sorai, eventually known as Avrohom and Soro. We also met Hogor and her son Yishmoale. Soro did not like Yishmoale -at all- while Avrohom, his father, did show compassion. Under instructions from Soro, and after the RBSO told Avrohom to do as Soro pleases, Avrohom evicted Yishmoale and his mother Hogor. We are taught by the medrish, that Avrohom and Yishmoale did eventually reconcile. It was Yitzchok who was favored. Near death, Avrohom bequeathed his entire estate to Yitzchok. Ober, to his other boys -those he sired with Hogor and or Kitura, six more in addition to Yishmoale, he gave parting gifts as if they were the losing contestants on a game show. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 25:5-6), azoy:
|5. And Avrohom gave all that he possessed to Isaac.||הוַיִּתֵּ֧ן אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֖וֹ לְיִצְחָֽק:|
6. And to the sons of Avrohom ‘s concubines, Avrohom gave gifts, and he sent them away from his son Yitzchok while he [Avrohom] was still alive, eastward to the land of the East.
|ווְלִבְנֵ֤י הַפִּֽילַגְשִׁים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְאַבְרָהָ֔ם נָתַ֥ן אַבְרָהָ֖ם מַתָּנֹ֑ת וַיְשַׁלְּחֵ֞ם מֵעַ֨ל יִצְחָ֤ק בְּנוֹ֙ בְּעוֹדֶ֣נּוּ חַ֔י קֵ֖דְמָה אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ קֶֽדֶם:|
Yitzchok and Rivka had twin boys. Rivka liked Yaakov while Yitzchok favored Eisav. So says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 25:28):
|28. And Yitzchok loved Eisav because [his] game was in his mouth, but Rivka loved Yaakov.||כחוַיֶּֽאֱהַ֥ב יִצְחָ֛ק אֶת־עֵשָׂ֖ו כִּי־צַ֣יִד בְּפִ֑יו וְרִבְקָ֖ה אֹהֶ֥בֶת אֶת־יַֽעֲקֹֽב:|
Shoin, we all know how that worked out. Eisav, we are taught hated and still hates Yaakov -and his extended family, us- ad hayoim hazeh (until today). Can we blame him? Eisav, born first was hoodwinked -with the help of Rivka- out of the blessings rightfully due him.
Yaakov’s life was seemingly more complicated than was his father’s and grandfather’s, Avrohom. Somehow he managed to marry four women, two sisters and two half-sisters. All four from one father by the name of Lovon. Ober, he loved Rochel. And he loved her more than Leah. Perhaps he didn’t love Leah at all, that too is debated. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 37:3), azoy:
|3. And Yisroel loved Yoisef more than all his sons, because he was a son of his old age; and he made him a fine woolen coat.||גוְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אָהַ֤ב אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ מִכָּל־בָּנָ֔יו כִּֽי־בֶן־זְקֻנִ֥ים ה֖וּא ל֑וֹ וְעָ֥שָׂה ל֖וֹ כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים:|
We are taught that this Lovon character is worse than Paroy. So says the Hagodo Shel Pesach, every version. In any event, Yaakov sired 12 boys, and according to some, at least 12 girls. Some say he sired as many as 14 daughters. We never got to meet them. We are taught they either all died childless, or never existed. Ver veyst? In any event, did Yaakov learn any lessons from all the hatred caused by favoritism shown in his family’s past? Not! Instead he fashioned for his favorite son Yoisef, a multi-colored coat, or cloak, which resulted -among a few other factors, this being the makeh bipatish (the straws which broke the camel’s back)- in the brothers hating Yoisef. You know the rest. Though guilty of conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping, and a massive cover-up which lasted 22 years, the RBSO gave them a pass. In fact, they went on to become what our holy seforim refer to as the “Shivtay ko,” God’s holy tribes from whence we all trace our lineage back to. Amazing.
And did Yoisef, who was nebech sold, resold, and traded like a commodity, before becoming a slave, then prisoner, before showing a knack for dream interpretation, which led to his new life as Viceroy of Egypt, learn a lesson in favoritism? Also not! In last week’s parsha we learned that Yoisef favored his little brother Binyomin. How? Let’s read the posik innaveynig. Yoisef had revealed himself to his brothers. He told them to go back and tell their father that he was alive and well. The 22 years of suffering were over. And for his father and brothers, all to come back ASAP. He sent wagons laden with food and clothing. Ober, little brother Binyomin got more than the others. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 45:22), azoy:
|22. He gave them all, to each one [several] changes of clothes, and to Binyomin he gave three hundred [pieces of] silver and five changes of clothes.||כבלְכֻלָּ֥ם נָתַ֛ן לָאִ֖ישׁ חֲלִפ֣וֹת שְׂמָלֹ֑ת וּלְבִנְיָמִ֤ן נָתַן֙ שְׁל֣שׁ מֵא֣וֹת כֶּ֔סֶף וְחָמֵ֖שׁ חֲלִפֹ֥ת שְׂמָלֹֽת:|
And finally, in this week’s parsha, it’s Yaakov, on his deathbed mamish, who will once again play favorites. More than once. He will first tell Yoisef that his son Ephraim, the younger of Yoisef’s two boys, will outshine his older brother Menashe. Shoin, we can imagine that Menashe was not very happy hearing this. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 48:19):
|19. But his father refused, and he said, “I know, my son, I know; he too will become a people, and he too will be great. But his younger brother will be greater than he, and his children[‘s fame] will fill the nations.”||יטוַיְמָאֵ֣ן אָבִ֗יו וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ יָדַ֤עְתִּי בְנִי֙ יָדַ֔עְתִּי גַּם־ה֥וּא יִֽהְיֶה־לְעָ֖ם וְגַם־ה֣וּא יִגְדָּ֑ל וְאוּלָ֗ם אָחִ֤יו הַקָּטֹן֙ יִגְדַּ֣ל מִמֶּ֔נּוּ וְזַרְע֖וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֥ה מְלֹֽא־הַגּוֹיִֽם:|
He will then bentch the boys placing Ephraim ahead of Menashe. Incidentally, that brocho has stuck with us “ad hayoim hazeh” (until today), and in our times, no matter the names of our children, we bless them become to be like Ephraim and Menashe. Gishmak.
And then, one more display: Yaakov will again play favorites as he gathers his 12 boys together for a final blessing. Shoin, when we read just how he blessed Reuvain, Shimon and Levi, it’s miraculous that the other boys -all men by now- did not skedaddle out of the room. What is clear is that on his deathbed, Yaakov again showed favoritism. He bentched (blessed) Yoisef profusely and lambasted Reuvain. One can just imagine the scene. Lommer lernin innaveynig (let’s read the text of the heylige Toirah which tells us in Bereishis 49: 3-4), azoy:
|3. Reuvain, you are my firstborn, my strength and the first of my might. [You should have been] superior in rank and superior in power.||גרְאוּבֵן֙ בְּכֹ֣רִי אַ֔תָּה כֹּחִ֖י וְרֵאשִׁ֣ית אוֹנִ֑י יֶ֥תֶר שְׂאֵ֖ת וְיֶ֥תֶר עָֽז:|
4. [You have] the restlessness of water; [therefore,] you shall not have superiority, for you ascended upon your father’s couch; then you profaned [Him Who] ascended upon my bed.
|דפַּ֤חַז כַּמַּ֨יִם֙ אַל־תּוֹתַ֔ר כִּ֥י עָלִ֖יתָ מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אָבִ֑יךָ אָ֥ז חִלַּ֖לְתָּ יְצוּעִ֥י עָלָֽה:|
He reminded Reuvain of a few things. Ershtens he told Reuvain that he, Reuvain, was born out of Yaakov’s first emission of semen. He was what? Is that what he said? Ober wasn’t Yaakov already 84 years old before fathering his first child? Say the Ohr Hachaim and the medrish (Medrish Rabbah) azoy: What Yaakov meant by the words “you are my strength and the first of my virility,” was that he -until the age of 84- never once spilled any seed. Meaning none was omitted. And that includes a 14 year stint in the dormitory of the yeshiva of Shaim and Ever. Believe me, no one the Oisvorfer has ever met in his entire life has gone two weeks, especially in a yeshiva dorm setting, let alone 84 years, without, if you chap. Shoin, that’s why he is Yaakov Ovenu and you are not.
Ober why did Yaakov share this information with Reuvain? Is this what Reuvain came to hear from his father who was near death? Which kid wants to hear about his father’s emissions? Ober, says the medrish that the information was just the buildup to Yaakov’s next few words with which he reminded Reuvain about his impetuosity. Reuvain acted impetuously? We know that two of Yehudah’s three boys spilled seed, ober Reuvain? And was he guilty of the charge? Let’s read one more verse of the special brocho…err..rebuke Yaakov had kept to himself these past years, exactly how many, ver veyst. Let’s read posik 4 one more time. Yaakov tells Reuvain that he acted with water-like impetuosity regarding the incident with Bilha and therefore, he is being stripped of his first born rights.
Shoin, though we have covered Reuvain and the infamous bed mounting, arranging, or moving incident in the past, let’s learn what was on Yaakov’s mind moments before passing away. Seemingly his memory was crystal clear and he was still harboring resentment towards Reuvain. We have also, in prior posting on Reuvain, quoted and paraphrased the heylige Gemora which tells us that whomever thinks Reuvain committed a sin- the sin of sleeping with Bilha -one of Yaakov’s four wives and Reuvain’s own step-mother, say it’s not so, is mistaken. Reuvain was innocent, case closed. Shoin, who are you, or even me, to argue with the heylige Gemora? Ober listen to this amazing medrish from the Medrish Rabbah.
Rebbe gave the following interpretation of Yaakov’s words of rebuke. Yaakov was saying azoy: Reuvain, you are a firstborn, as am I. But at 84 year of age, I had not yet -prior to your conception- experienced the emission of a drop of semen. (As an aside, this indicates that Yaakov got Leah pregnant the very first time he slept with her and not everyone agrees that this took place.) Still, let’s not forget this exchange as it’s critical to what comes next. Whereas you Reuvain went and lay (Rebbe is of the view that he not just lay, but also had sexual intercourse with Bilha), with your father’s concubine. Oy vey! You Reuvain were the beginning of my strength and the beginning of my pain.
Wait, there’s more: Avada we all know that according to the heylige Toirah -which of course our Ovois (forefathers) kept (except when they didn’t), the firstborn child is entitled to a double portion of one’s inheritance. Reuvain was of course first born. Ober did he get his double portion? Not! He did get a double portion of rebuke and was told specifically that he is being stripped of his first born rights. Maybe this was payback for his stripping out, if you chap, with a restricted party? Could be. Medrish offers two interpretations; let’s read them.
In one, Yaakov was saying that Reuvain, had he kept his birthright, would have been entitled to the priesthood and to kingship. However, on account of his grave sin, his birthright was given to Yoisef (who got a double portion). Kingship went to brother Yehudah, and the priesthood to his brother Levi. Ober, listen to this eye opening pshat, one you mistama never heard before, which goes like this: Reb Acha said that what Yaakov was telling Reuvain in the pisukim referenced above, was this: the birthright was never yours to begin with. Ober, wasn’t Reuvain Yaakov’s first born? He was! Didn’t Yaakov just say that Reuvain came about, if you chap, as a result of Yaakov’s first seminal shpritz at age 84? How is that Reuvain was never the legally recognized firstborn with attached rights? Ober listen to this: According to Reb Acha, what Yaakov was saying was this. Did I Yaakov not go to Lovon’s house for the purpose of marrying Rochel? I did! Did I not see Rochel at the well? I did! Did I not kiss her, and did I not make a deal with Lovon to work for her? I did and I did! Did I not sacrifice 7 years, which turned to 14 years of my life for her? I did! Thus all the intentions that I directed towards your mother (Leah) should have been directed towards Rochel instead. What the hec are “intentions” you ask? nu, according to the medrish, intentions likely mean ‘thoughts I had during coitus.’ In other words: “Leah was in my bed, but my mind was on Rochel. I was thinking about Rochel and not your mother Leah! And now that you have sinned, I have righted the wrong, I have restored the birthright to its rightful owner. OMG and blow me down. Seemingly, though Yaakov had Leah in the martial bed that night -avada you recall that Rochel not wanting her older sister to be hurt, gave Leah the nuptial sighs she and Yaakov had arranged. It was Rochel whom Yaakov was thinking about that very night as he delivered his first emissions which resulted in the birth of Reuvain. Had Rochel been in bed that night, she would have given birth to Yoisef, and he would have been my firstborn with full rights. Now, they are his. OMG! and how creative of both medrish and Yaakov.
Shoin if that theory were to be upheld legally, uch and vey (OMG!); don’t ask what this world would look like. How many men are thinking about their own wives during tashmish hamita (intercourse)? And if firstborn rights attach based on whom the man is thinking about, the courts would be bursting with claimants seeking their firstborn rights. Of course the Oisvorfer is just kidding as the heylige Gemora tells us that we are forbidden from thinking about other women while enjoying the fruits of our own wives. And of course, who doesn’t follow that Gemora? Don’t answer that. But do have a pleasant shabbis as you ponder the ways of our forefathers whom we are to emulate. Chazak!
Chazak, chazak, vinischazake!
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv