Vertluch: Parshas Vayetzei


This weeks parsha describes in detail, the birth of the twelve shevatim. The Torah also included the reason why each mother chose the name that was given to that child. When the Torah reaches the name for Yosef, the pasuk describes the reason for that name and says, ‘She conceived and bore a son, and she said, God has brought in my disgrace. So she named him Yosef…’ (30; 23-24)

Rashi, in his second opinion, quotes the Medrash and explains what Rochel really meant by ‘disgrace’. Up until this point she had no children and therefore she had no one to blame any misdeeds on, (i.e. who broke the flower pot, who spilled the milk, etc.); for it was just her. Now that she had a child she was able to relieve herself of feeling disgraceful by having someone with whom to blame these incidents on. It was for this reason that she named her son Yosef.

On the surface, Rashi needs some explaining. We are talking about the mother of klal Yisroel; a lady who had watched her sister, sister’s maidservant and even her own maidservant bear children to her husband. Needless to say she felt completely out of it and was yearning to have her own children. She also knew that Yaakov would father twelve shevatim and that she would be part of it somehow. Finally, when Hashem listened and answered her tefillos she appeared to thank Hashem for what seemed to be the most meaningless and silliness of reasons, as to why she was ecstatic to having gave birth to her own child. How can we explain this pshat in Rashi?

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Zt”l, answers beautifully.

Rochel imeinu knew that by naming this child Yosef she would be teaching bnei Yisroel how to thank Hashem. She taught us that when Hashem provides a chesed to someone there is a multitude of elements that lie within this chesed. Most people only have the ability to focus on and thank Hashem for the big parts of the gifts. Rochel was teaching us that we can’t only thank Him for the big things, but we must express our thanks for the smaller things too. She was teaching us that even what seems to be meaningless as a gratitude to Hashem, in the bigger picture still needs to be recognized and thanked upon. Don’t just thank him for having children and for them being part of the shevatim. We also have to include the seemingly meaningless benefits that are a direct result of this chesed. Not that this was the only thing she thanked Hashem for but rather this is where it had to end-not begin- so the Torah told us that she even thanked Him for this.

Towards the end of his life, Rav Issur Zalman Meltzer, zt’l, was very weak and not so mobile. One Friday afternoon a talmud came by the house to inform his rebbi that he was making a bar mitzvah on Shabbos. Although he didn’t expect the Rov to attend, he wanted a beracha for the bar mitzvah boy. Rav Issur Zalman took his hand and asked ‘for which boy is this?’ The talmud responded, ‘Dovid.’ He answered, ‘Dovid? Wow. Already? Time flew by so quickly; I remember when he was born.’ The Rov then proceeded and gave the bar mitzvah boy a beracha.

Shabbos morning came and after shul there was a small yerushalmi kiddush in this talmuds house, in honor of the bar mitzvah. Suddenly, the crowd heard a commotion. When they looked outside they saw that Rav Issur Zalman and his Rebetzin were approaching. The talmud ran out to greet his rebbi and said, ‘I didn’t invite the rebbi; I simply informed him as not to make it a bother.’ So he answered, ‘when you came and told me it was for Dovid I realized how time flew by so quickly and I was mechazek myself at that moment to increase my Torah study. For that, I owe you gratitude and decided I must come to your simcha.’

The Rov was teaching us the same lesson. Yes, he surely was maker tov for the greater things that Hashem had brought him throughout his life. But he was also maker tov for the smaller things in life. This was the lesson that Rochel Imeinu taught us.
In life, it’s much easier to thank Hashem for the bigger things (i.e. children, a job, a home, etc.). The challenge is to train ourselves and even thank Him for the smaller things in life.

May we all be zoche.