Vertluch: Parshas Vayechi


In this weekspasha, Yaakov calls his children together and tries to informthem what will happen at the end of time. The pasukim continue on andrelate how in reality, Yaakov gave each one of his children anindividualized bracha which we refer to as the birchos Yaakov(49; 1-27). However,upon further examination we can clearly see that the first three in reality didnot receive brachos.

By Reuvanwe find Yaakov giving him mussar saying that he had so muchcoming to him but lost it all, as Rashi (49;4) points out ‘The restlessness and the haste with which you hastened todisplay your anger, similar to water which hastens on its course. Therefore,you shall no longer receive all these superior positions that were fit foryou.’ Reuvan was destined for malchus and kehuna but because of hismidah of being too hasty it was taken away.

A questionthat comes to mind is how is this a bracha? The Torah relates tous how Yaakov goes through each one of his children and ‘blesses’them. Was Reuven not given a brachalike the others? If Yaakov focused on the negative traits Reuvanpossessed, how was that a bracha?

The gemarain Shabbos (55b) states that anyone who can say that Reuvan had indeed sinned,is mistaken. It’s a bit hard to understand this. Did he sin or not?

Perhaps wecan explain with a parable. There was a father trying to explain to his childabout bacteria. He started off by saying that it is hard to see; it’s dangerousand is commonly found in fruit. He is trying to explain the concept to thechild by ‘painting a picture’ of the bacteria, in order for the child tocomprehend it. He continues and says you can take a fruit which is delicious,but in essence it is full of bacteria; we must be extremely cautious whendealing with fruit. Shortly thereafter, the child approaches his father holdinga fruit and says, ‘father, I think I seebacteria on it.’ The child proceeds to show the father a black line goingacross the fruit. The father smiles and responds, ‘if you can see it, it’snot bacteria.’

Reuvan did an aveirah but only Yaakovwas able to see it. If anyone says that Reuvan sinned they’re mistakenbecause his aveirah was only a sin because of his lofty madrega. But for a regular person to think that theyunderstand it, are mistaken. The reason being, that we have no idea-even on amicroscopic level-of how to understand it. Should someone think they canpinpoint it they have no idea what he did.

Yaakov tells Reuvan that you acted inhaste and we are therefore stripping you of the kehuna, and malchus asyou defiled the kavod of the Shechina. It was a mida k’negedmida. Reuvan did something quickly; he acted with haste. These maalosare all positions of a leader; dealing with people; feeling and needs come intoconsideration with such a position. Anyone who possesses the midah ofacting a bit too hastily, cannot serve properly as a leader A leader has to beextremely meticulous, thought out and clear minded. The way to understand it isthat someone who is a leader has to be extremely responsible. Yaakovwas saying that since you acted too quickly, this is not for you. Yaakovwas in essence giving him the biggest bracha! He was informing Reuvanof his weaknesses and what his strong points were! Someone with a weak heartwould not apply for the stressful job as an air traffic control at JFK airport.By rejecting him for the job you are doing him the biggest favor; it’s thebiggest bracha he can ask for. Yaakov was saying you’re not cutout for this job. In the pasukim itmay look like it wasn’t, but in reality it was the biggest bracha that Reuvancould have asked for.

The MeshechChochma brings out this point beautifully from last weeks parsha.In last weeks parsha it says (46; 4) ‘and Yosef will place his hand on youreyes.’ What exactly does that mean? Besides thesimple meaning, Hashem is in middle of telling Yaakov to go downto Mitzrayim. Where does this fit in?

Answers RebMeir Simcha, for twenty two years Yaakov mourned the loss of hisson. There was no greater tragedy than this in the world to Yaakov; nogreater tragedy for any parent, lo aleinu. But in one instant that allchanged. He heard that his son was not only alive–but frum, and themost powerful person in the world who was being mekadesh shem shomayimstraight-for twenty two years! What I thought was the worst was inessence the best kiddush Hashem in the world! Hashem davkaput that pasuk here to tell Yaakov that you’re going to be goinginto galus. Be prepared that what may seem not so smooth to you may bethe best thing in the world for future generations. We don’t always understandeverything.

As much aswe think we know what’s good for us and what we should do, it’s not always likethat. Sometimes we can lose something we think we deserve. In truth it can bethe biggest bracha. We think we deserve this job and we think we’llsucceed in that position, but we don’t know. We have to try our hardest. At thetime we might think it’s the biggest blow that one got turned down (i.e for theoffer at Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, etc.) but realized later that it was thebiggest bracha they could have gotten.

Although wemay not realize it at the moment, may we all continue to experience tremendous siyatad’shmaya from the Ribono Shel Olam, in all our future endeavors.