Before we get to this week’s dizzying Parsha let’s quickly chazer (review) last week’s emotionally charged parsha of Vayigash where we learned that Yoisef exposed himself (literally as well) to his brothers, reconciled and also had an emotional reunion with his tata Yankiff and they all lived happily after, at least for a while. It’s now seventeen years later and we’re ready to learn Parshas Vayichi.
This is the final story of Yoisef and his brothers. Since identifying himself as their long lost brother, Yoisef has been only gracious, has shown only love, has expressed his desire for his brothers to not feel guilt for having him thrown him into a pit and then having sold him into slavery. Had Yoisef not been in Mitzrayim to interpret Paroy’s dreams, perhaps this entire saga wouldn’t have unfolded, we wouldn’t have met Potiphar, his wife, Paroy and his butlers and the course of Jewish history would have been forever altered. But the RBSO had a master plan and here we are.
It’s also time to draw the curtain on the entire sefer B’reishis but not quite yet. In this week’s parsha we’ll bid adieu to Yankiff Oveenu and also to Yoisef Hatzadik, we’ll learn about the final brochos (blessings) the grandfather bestowed slyly on his grandchildren, his own children and also explore a few other surprising nuggets. Stay tuned.
Feeling his days are drawing to an end, Yankiff Ovenee, summons his still favorite son Yoisef to his bedside for some last minute burial instructions. Zicher (of course) Yoisef says he’ll make sure Yankiff is buried in K’nan (eretz Yisroel) in accordance with his wishes and though Yoisef should be taken on his word, Yankiff insists that Yoisef swear. Let’s learn the possik.
|29. When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have now found favor in your eyes, now place your hand beneath my thigh, and you shall deal with me with loving kindness and truth; do not bury me now in Egypt.||כט. וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָמוּת וַיִּקְרָא לִבְנוֹ לְיוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ שִׂים נָא יָדְךָ תַּחַת יְרֵכִי וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל נָא תִקְבְּרֵנִי בְּמִצְרָיִם:|
|now place your hand beneath my thigh: And swear. —As explained in the narrative of Abraham and Eliezer (Gen. 24:2), he meant that Joseph should swear by covenant of the circumcision.||שים נא ידך: והשבע:|
Nu, do any of you laytzonim (clowns) remember how a person took a shevuah (oath) in those days? Rashi didn’t think so and again quotes from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer ch. 39 and reminds us how. Says the heylige Rashi (shaded box above) that Yankiff meant that Yoisef should swear by the covenant of the circumcision and vos meynt doss (what does that mean)? Avada you forgot that way back in Parshas Vayero when Avrum Oveenee wanted Eliezer to go find a suitable wife for his favorite son Yitzchok, he made Eliezer swear as well. In fact the heylige toirah uses the same language.
Nu- since you forgot let me remind you. Back then, the only way to swear was to grab an item that represented a mitzvah and since it was before matan toirah, there were no other real mitzvois but the bris mila to hold onto. In other words, when one had to swear, he had to grab onto the mila (penis) of the person who asked him to swear. Let’s picture the scene: its one thing when your father asks that you accompany him to the mikveh on erev Roish Hashona and even that’s not so comfortable, it’s entirely another matter when your tata asks you to grab his mila and swear. Efsher that’s why Yoisef didn’t contact his father for 22 years; would you contact yours if he was going to make you grab his? Avada nisht! In fact, isn’t that the reason many of you were afraid to go to Yeshiva or an all boys sleep away camp? Anyway, thank the RBSO we finally got the toirah and we can finally swear without having to remove our hoizen (pants)!
And since Yoisef is already so close to his father, if you chap what I’m saying, he takes this opportunity to ask Yankiff to bentch his two children Menashe and Ephraim. Seemingly, Yankiff is in no position to say no but Yankiff, previously the victim of the old bait and switch- (having gotten Lea instead of Ruchil), seems to pull a last minute switch of his own.
Yoisef positioned his sons with the firstborn Menashe to Yankiff’s right and Ephraim on his left. At the last second Yankiff switches hands and places his right hand on the younger Ephraim and the left on the elder Menashe….Nu- Yoisef was upset and tried to switch back his father’s hands, but Yankiff wasn’t budging. What’s p’shat here? Why would Yankiff do that to his own grandchildren? Would a zeyde show favoritism, even a father? On the other hand, isn’t favoritism what seems to have caused the entire mess?
Hadn’t Yankiff learned his lesson from the special love he had shown Yoisef ? Isn’t the entire book of Breishis (Genesis) one big chronicle of the jealousy between brothers? Wasn’t it favoritism that caused Kayin (Cain) to kill Hevel (Abel)? Didn’t tata Avrohum favor Yitzchok over Yishmael, and didn’t tata Yitzchok follow suit and epes favor Yankiff over the paradigm of kibbud Av, Eisav? Oh- and did I mention the jealousy of Yoisef’s brothers towards him? I did!. Yet Yankiff stood his ground.
His reasoning: said Yankiff (according to Rashi) that takeh, the older son would be great, however, the younger brother was destined to have an even greater descendent, Yehoishua, who would astound the world by stopping the movement of the sun so he could end a battle in daylight. Thousands of years later the Beatles mamish wrote the zemer ‘Here Comes the Sun’ to commemorate this event. And Zicher (surely) you’re klerring (wondering): Why not give Menashe the greater blessing with the right hand, and have Yehoishua be his descendent?! Isn’t that what Yoisef desired? Hey, if a fetus can fly out of womb ‘A’ and wind up in womb ‘B’ (last week’s parsha), why couldn’t the brocho be switched before conception? Takeh a gevalddige kasha but once again there’s a medrish with a teritz (answer). And what is it? Seemingly this trick only works with a live fetus but not with a brocho. The brocho itself cannot create potential. It can only help existing potential materialize. You understand p’shat? Good, because I don’t and I like the flying fetus p’shat better. Nu, lets not dwell on this issue and go veyter (further).
As the day of his demise draws closer, Yankiff delivers his final message to his children. In this message he bentches (blesses) each son, or does he? For years as I was reading these blessings I kept thinking to myself that I would gladly have passed was I one of the first three to receive his brochos. As I read them, he was mamish cursing them out, am I alone here? Efsher we can klerr that he was just warming up and by the time he got to Yiheda, he was good to go.
And before we go tiffer (deeper) into the brochois, I was also always wondering why Yankiff didn’t take this opportunity at such an assembly to also ask the big question: why the hec did you guys lie to me for 22 years, would any of you not have asked? One would think that this would be the perfect opportunity to rebuke these rascals harshly and maybe even give them a few petch on their mechila’s (asses) for having ruined 22 years of his life but surprisingly enough throughout the speech he never once rebukes the brothers about Mechiras Yoisef (the selling of Yoisef into salvery).
This of course begs the question: Did Yankiff Oveenu know about mechiras Yoisef at the end of his life? The truth is that there is no clear-cut answer to this question, since the heylige Toirah gives no clear indication as to whether Yankiff did or did not know. Consequently, the commentaries differ in this regard; hey, what’s new, a machloikes.. There are a number of hints that he did know and Rashi explains that Yankiff had initially suspected Yihedah of having killed Yoisef, but then realized that he had withdrawn from the intention of doing so. Rashi adds that Yankiff hints to the sale when rebuking Shimon and Levi, but most “Pshat” Mefarshim do not agree. The Ramban’s approach to this kasha is that Yankiff did not know about the sale. In fact, the brothers never revealed their sin to Yankiff, and Yoisef, compassionate toward his brothers, did not want to tell his father. Zicher you’re wondering how could this be, how is it that when Yankiff is finally told by the shvotim that Yoisef is alive, he doesn’t ask for details. Nu- who said you have to know everything? And let’s avada remember that the RBSO is the master puppeteer, perhaps the heylige shvotim were just pawns in the master plan?
The Abarbanel, however, says that Yankiff did indeed know about the sale. However, he did not rebuke them because he understood that the brothers’ Bechirah Chafshit (free choice) was revoked when they sold Yoisef, as the RBSO forced them to do it. You hear this? It wasn’t their fault, the RBSO made them do it, what a defense! Yes, why not blame the RBSO? Grada (it so happens), Yoisef acknowledges this when he says, “Veata Lo Atem Shalachtem Osi Heyna Ki Haelokim…” “And now it was not you who sent me here, but Hashem.” Well, if we’re going to blame the RBSO for all of our wrongdoing, I guess we’re all Tzadikkim (holy); let’s party.
So here we are: Yankiff is about to pass away and is set to bentch each of the Shvotim, deserving kinderlach that they were. First up Reevin, remember him? Says Yankiff: Reevin, you are mamish a minuvil! You chazir (pig ) that you are! You are my firstborn son and you had everything coming your way including the birthright and more but you had sexual relations with Bilah, my wife, your own stepmother- how could you? Mistasma, you already forgot that Yankiff had four wives- two sisters (Lea and Ruchil) and another set of sisters (Bilah and Zilpah). As you can see this was not what Reevin as Yankiff’s bechor, thought was forthcoming, instead he was expecting a double portion but seemingly he had already double dipped, if you chap what I’m saying. Anyway, says Yankiff…. because you were so hasty to jump into bed, you have lost your firstborn rights. Seemingly Yankiff wasn’t all that upset that Reevin was in on the plot to sell Yoisef but his bedding Bilah, that stuck in his craw and avada who could blame him? Anyway Raboyseyee: jumping into bed too hastily always causes issues.
Next up were Shimoin and Layvee who also take a shmeising (get berated) for their violent temperament. So pissed off is Yankiff that he mamish curses their temper, he calls them co-conspirators- indictment terms mamish Can you just imagine the scene: the tata is laying on his deathbed and instead of bentching his boys, he gets bent out of shape. What was bothering him? Seemingly he was still pissed off that the two boys, in an act of revenge for Shechem the chazir having raped and tortured their shvester Dina, wiped out the entire male population. Judging by his anger, one might have thought that they repeated a word during chazoras hashatz, or efsher maybe something worse, they tore toilet paper on shabbis to wipe their michillas, or worse- they ate at bagel boss (a paid sponsor of this toirah). Takeh killing all the males was a bit extreme but Yankiff seems to be carrying a grudge.
You can just imagine the look on Yihedah’s face when it was his turn for the brocho… in fact Rashi tells us that when he heard the brochos that his older brothers were getting, he started planning an escape. The Chachomim (sages) point out that at this point, after hearing his brothers’ not so givaldige “blessings,” Yihedah started to tiptoe toward the door, anticipating a lambasting for his conduct with Tamar. Then Yankiff called to him in a soft tone, “Yihedah, Yihedaleh! You are not like them. You are the one with leadership qualities. You admitted to being the father of Tamar’s children, despite the considerable embarrassment it caused you. This demonstrated an inner sense of morality. Your brothers will admit to being subordinate to you as their king. You hear this chevra, this mamish amazing headline? You want to outshine your brothers and take over as the leader and have kingship and royalty come from your mishpocho? All you need to do is sleep with your daughter-in-law, condemn her to death, then admit that you got her pregnant with twins and offer her a pardon- you’re in!
Yankiff continues to bless him: “The scepter shall not leave Yihedah and lawmakers from his descendents, until Shiloh (the Messiah) arrives.” . Hey hey- it was the scepter that he did leave behind that got him into trouble to begin with. Didn’t he know that when visiting a roadside zoina (hooker), to clean up and take all his possessions with him? And avada you don’t get the local zoina trugidik (pregnant). Anyway, seemingly Yankiff understood that when it comes to matters of sex, men cannot control themselves and instead of shelting (cursing him out), he instead heaps a series of brochos on him. He gets the first real brocho, let’s see the possik
|8. Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father’s sons will prostrate themselves to you.||ח. יְהוּדָה אַתָּה יוֹדוּךָ אַחֶיךָ יָדְךָ בְּעֹרֶף אֹיְבֶיךָ יִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לְךָ בְּנֵי אָבִיךָ:|
|Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you: Since he reproved the first ones (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) with reproach, Judah began retreating backwards [so that he (Jacob) would not reprove him for the deed involving Tamar . So Jacob called him with words of appeasement, “Judah, you are not like them.”||יהודה אתה יודוך אחיך: לפי שהוכיח את הראשונים בקנטורים התחיל יהודה לסוג לאחוריו (שלא יוכיחנו על מעשה תמר) וקראו יעקב בדברי רצוי יהודה לא אתה כמותם:|
Veyst tzich ois (it appears) that Yankiff was relieved that at least Yihedah, unlike his two older violent brider (brothers) didn’t kill Tamar and her mishpocho and the entire city she came from, though he had so initially decreed.
We’ll skip the rest of the shvotim, seemingly they’re only bit players- followers if you will, and they don’t get much attention either way in the heylige toirah and go straight to Yankiff’s favorite son Yoisef.
Listen to this Raboyseyee: Yankiff spends the next five pisukim of the heylige toirah heaping praise and myriad brochois on Yoisef, most brothers get one possuk (nu, it’s avada good to be the Viceroy). Ober- let’s pay special attention to Rashi who says something so outlandish, it’s mamish hard to picture. Then again for you oisvorfs, it’s perhaps easier. Let’s see what he says in the shaded box below- read this carefully
|26. The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my parents, the ends of the everlasting hills. May they come to Joseph’s head and to the crown (of the head) of the one who was separated from his brothers.||כו. בִּרְכֹת אָבִיךָ גָּבְרוּ עַל בִּרְכֹת הוֹרַי עַד תַּאֲוַת גִּבְעֹת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶיןָ לְרֹאשׁ יוֹסֵף וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו:|
|the one who was separated from his brothers: Heb. נְזִיר אֶחָיו [Onkelos renders:] דַאִחוֹהִי פְּרִישָׁא, who was separated from his brothers, similar to“and they shall separate (וַינָּזְרוּ) from the holy things of the children of Israel” (Lev. 22:2); [and]“they drew (נָזֹרוּ) backwards” (Isa. 1:4). – [From Sifra Emor 4:1] [Returning to verse 24, Rashi continues:] Our Rabbis, however, interpreted“ But his bow was strongly established” as referring to his (Joseph’s) overcoming his temptation with his master’s wife. He calls it a bow because semen shoots like an arrow. וַיָּפֹזוּ זְרֹעֵי יָדָיו [וַיָּפֹזוּ is equivalent to וַיָפֹצוּ, scattered, that the semen came out from between his fingers.]||נזיר אחיו: פרישא דאחוהי, שנבדל מאחיו, כמו (ויקרא כב ב) וינזרו מקדשי בני ישראל, (ישעיה א ד) נזורו אחור. ואונקלוס תרגם תאות גבעת עולם, לשון תאוה וחמדה, וגבעות לשון (שמואל א’ ב ח) מצוקי ארץ, שחמדתן אמו והזקיקתו לקבלם:|
Stop the presses right now and let’s look at the last 7 lines of Rashi again please. What, semen came out from between his fingers? What is going on here? Where and how did semen make its way into the parsha and Rashi here? And what’s this bow and arrow talk in the Rashi, is it lag B’oimer? Nu- I thought that might bother you – so let’s learn what the heylige gemorrah in Maseches Sotah (daf 36B) has to say about this topic.
Yoisef was sold as a slave to Potiphar, the priest of On. In Mitzrayim (Egypt), Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, and although he initially demurred, he eventually agreed. As he was about to complete the illicit act of relations- shrecklich mamish (OMG), the image of his father suddenly became fixed in his mind, and he relented. Said Rebbe Yoichonon azoy: “His strength was firmly founded” – his Ever (member) was erected. “And gushed out from his hands” – he stuck his hands in the ground, and the semen came out from between his fingernails. He dug his fingernails into the ground in order to control himself, and miraculously, the flow of semen issued from his fingers into the ground instead of issuing into Potiphar’s wife. Well, blow me down! Can’t believe what you just read, let’s learn it noch a mol (one more time). Efsher (maybe) yoisef did sin in thought, and drops of his semen issued from between his fingernails, but he did not complete the evil act by injecting [his seed] into that foreign woman (sounds epes Clintonian). Therefore, his skeleton was buried in the Israel but not his body. As an aside, the Marsha suggests that the semen did escape from its usual source, avada this you can understand.
The Gemorrah, quoting a Breysa goes on to say that Twelve Shvatim should have descended from Yoisef, like from Yankiff- but since the semen exuded from his (10) fingernails, he merited only two sons: Whatever happened or not, is none of our business and zicher no excuse for you chazerrim to put yourselves in a situation where semen can come out of your fingernails or any place else and end up in the wrong place, Loi olaynu, chas v’sholom. Anyway…Yankiff dies, (I think) and they’re off to the levaya.
The Midrash tells us that when the funeral procession arrived in Chevroin (Hebron), a surprise was in store for them. Uncle Eisav had preempted them, claiming that the last remaining grave was rightfully his. The brothers argued, “Our tata (father) bought you out for a giant pile of silver and gold and let’s not forget that delicious chulent he made for you! Eisav answered: nu- where’s the document? “We left it in Egypt,” they replied. “Go get it!” Esav responded. As the swift Naftali prepared to run back to Mitzrayim, the situation was saved by Yankiff’s grandson Chushim, the son of Dan. He was big and strong, but a little deaf. When he comprehended that Eisav was holding up Zayde’s funeral, Chushim became enraged, walked up to Uncle Eisav, and literally knocked his head off. (this was a fulfillment of mama Rivka’s prophecy that “I will lose you both on one day.”) According to tradition, Eisav’s head rolled into the cave. Why his nose didn’t stop the rolling, is not discussed. The understanding is that Esav’s head (his intellectual capacity) was equal to that of the Ovois (patriarchs), but his bodily desires got the best of him, something I know you can all relate to, minuvullim that you are.
Yankiff passed away at the age of 147, did he? Expired, yes, but died? The heylige Gemmorrah is not so sure he ever died. Say the heylige Toirah azoy: “When Yankiff finished instructing his sons, he drew his feet onto the bed, he expired and was gathered to his people.” Rashi, quoting the heylige gemorah, comments, “It does not say that he died…. He lives forever.” Said Rabbi Yochanan, in the gemorah, “Our father Yankiff, did not die. Rabbi Nachman asks, “Did the mourners eulogize him and the embalmers embalm him for nothing?” Rabbi Yochanan quotes the verse in Yirmiyahu: “Have no fear, my servant Yaakov…for behold I will save you from afar and your descendants from the land of return.” Just as his descendants are alive, so too is he. Avada you’re thinking how could this be when the Toirah explicitly states that Yankiff was embalmed and buried. Not to worry, this is the medrash and the gemorah and anything goes.
He answers that every verse in the Toirah must incorporate the words of our Chachomim (Sages), even when logic dictates otherwise and that’s what I like to hear. Now it all makes sense. This concept is integral to understanding all of Chumash: to read the Toirah without seeing it through the prism of the commentaries is dangerous. The gemorah states that the Ammora, Rebbi, appeared regularly at his home after his death, until he was spotted by a neighbor. He would recite Kiddush for his family on Shabbos (what he did the rest of the week is not mentioned). This must mean that he was obligated to make Kiddush, or else his family could not discharge their obligations. Similarly, we are all familiar with the tradition of Eliyahu Hanavi appearing at various times throughout history (and avada, yearly at the Pesach seder). One of the Ammoraim was shocked to see him in a cemetery (alive), for Eliyahu is a koihein, and his death did not excuse him from being there. Nu, what can I say? What’s the bottom line?
Seemingly, when body and soul achieve total harmony, as they did in the case of Yankiff Oveenu and Eliyahu Hanavi, the concept of death is not relevant. What does all that mean, I have no idea but it mamish sounded good as I wrote it.
A gitten shabbis-