Vayakhel 5765 – Gilayon #384
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AND WHEN THE TIME
APPROACHED FOR JACOB TO DIE, HE SUMMONED HIS SON JOSEPH AND SAID TO HIM,
"PLEASE, IF I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR EYES, PLACE YOUR HAND UNDER MY
THIGH AND TREAT ME WITH KINDNESS AND LOYALTY: PLEASE DO NOT BURY ME IN EGYPT.
WHEN I LIE DOWN WITH MY FATHERS, TAKE ME UP FROM EGYPT AND BURY ME IN THEIR
BURIAL-PLACE." HE REPLIED, "I WILL DO AS YOU HAVE SPOKEN."
And when the time approached – The great weakness brought on
by many toils and troubles made him feel his own death's approach. Fearing
sudden death, he instructed his son Joseph to have him taken out of Egypt and
buried in the tomb of his fathers.
(ReDaK on Bereishit 47:29)
And when the time approached for Jacob to die – It says approached
every time someone wants to instruct his children. For instance: When Isaac
was old… he called Esau… I do not know how soon I may die (27:1,2), and when
the time approached for David to die, he instructed his son Solomon… (I Kings 2:1). This parasha
really begins with And Israel settled in the
land of Egypt… (Bereishit
47:27), since Jacob lived (27:28)
is connected to it. But the communities did not want to have parashat Vayigash end with [the
section beginning] and the land passed over to Pharaoh (47:20), so they ended it with And Israel settled.
(RaShBaM ad loc)
When Jacob started to
die, he began humbling himself before Joseph, and said to him, Please, if I have found favor in your eyes… (47:29). When [does he speak in this fashion]? When
he approaches death, for it is said, And
when the time approached for Jacob to die.
(Bereishit Rabbah 96:3)
and Levi to Pinhas and Zimri
our parasha Shimon and Levi are both castigated for the harm they caused to
Jacob as a result of the massacre they perpetrated in Shechem,
while in the parasha Zot
ha-Berakha, Levi wins Moses' blessing, but Shimon
does not appear in the list of those blessed.
can we explain this? The Sages already addressed this problem in Sifri Devarim (349), answering it, as is there custom, with a
is like the story of two people who borrowed from the king. One paid back his
debt to the king, and even lent him money. The other not only failed to pay
back his debt – he borrowed even more from the king. So it was with Shimon and
Levi who borrowed at Shechem, as it says, two of
Jacob's sons, Shimon and Levi, took each his sword and went stealthily to the
city and killed all the males (Bereishit 34:25). In the desert [during the sin of
the golden calf), Levi paid back his debt, for it is said, and Moses stood
at the gate of the camp and said, "Thus says the Lord: Let each man place
his sword on his thigh,' and the Levites did what God had said (Shemot 32:27-8), and
he [Levi] went on and lent it to God at Shittim, for
it is said, Pinhas son of Elazar
son of Aaron the Priest took back my anger against the Israelites, by being
zealous for my jealousy among them, and so I did not destroy the Israelites in
my jealousy. (Bamidbar
seems the Sages noticed that the expression ish
harbo (each man his
sword) – appears only twice in the Torah: in connection with the Shechem massacre, and in connection with the sin of the
golden calf. In both cases, Levi was holding the sword in question. However, in
the first instance, Shimon and Levi killed every male in Shechem, and in the second instance, the Levites killed
three thousand of their own brothers and neighbors from among the Israelites. There
is another difference: in Shechem, Shimon and Levi
acted of their own volition, while in the case of the golden calf the Levites
answered Moses' (a fellow tribe-member's) call: Whoever is for the Lord,
come to me! (Shemot
32:26), and they executed his command: Go back and forth from gate to
gate throughout the camp, and slay brother, neighbor, and kin (32:27). One might say that the slaughter
perpetrated by Shimon and Levi by their own decision and in the name of
brotherly concern was later atoned for when the Levites killed their Israelite
brothers on Moses' command. However, they only atoned for Levi's part in the Shechem massacre.
bit later, when the Israelites were camped in Shittim
and attached themselves to Baal-Peor (Bamidbar 25:3),
another Levite zealot rose up – Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aaron the Priest, and another sinner from the
tribe of Shimon appears – Zimri son of Salu. After Moses commands the people's judges to each kill
those of his men who attached themselves to Baal-Peor
chieftain of a Simeonite ancestral house (25:14), arrives and attaches himself not only
to Baal Peor, but also to Kozbi
daughter of Tzur, the Midianite.
In this emergency situation, Pinchas rises up from
the community, spear-in-hand, and stabs them both. In a way, Pinchas' action is similar to that of Shimon and Levi; he
decided to act on his own. In contrast
to the general massacre that took place in Shechem, Pinchas only killed the sinners themselves. And in contrast
to Shimon and Levi, who earned their father's reprimand, Pinchas
was rewarded with both a pact of priesthood for all time (25:13) as well as a pact of peace (25:12) with God.
and Levi committed a double sin: they acted without their father's knowledge,
and they killed all of the males in Shechem. In their
response to the golden calf, Levi's descendants managed to atone for one part
of the sin, and in Shittim, Pinchas
atoned for the other.
and Levi acted as partners, and here we see that a descendant of Levi publicly
kills a chieftain of the tribe of Shimon, who was sinning in public. As a
result, the Levites receive Moses' blessing, and the Simeonites
end up doubly disadvantaged.
concern has given rise to needless killings in our day as well. May we find the
courage to atone for them – not through additional killings – and not leave the
matter for our descendants.
Prof. Elimelekh Horowitz, a member of the
board of Oz Ve'Shalom, teaches in the Jewish History
department of Bar-Ilan University.
Love Truth and Peace – Justification of Lying and the Motivation of
brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph still
bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did to
him!" So they sent this message to Joseph, "Before his death your father left this instruction:
So shall you say to Joseph, ‘Forgive, I urge you, the offense and guilt of your
brothers who treated you so harshly.' Therefore, please forgive the offense of
the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept as they spoke to him.
Rabbi Eliezer said in the name of Rabbi Shimon: One is allowed to
lie for the sake of peace, for it is said: your father left this instruction:
So shall you say to Joseph, etc.
Rabbi Natan said: It is a commandment [to lie for the sake of peace],
for it is said: Samuel replied, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he
will kill me."[The Lord answered, "Take a heifer with you, and say,
‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord."] (I
The school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: Great is peace, for even the Holy One
blessed be He lied for it; first it says: [And Sarah laughed to herself,
saying, "Now that I am withered, am I to have enjoyment] with my husband
so old?" (Bereishit
18: 12), but later it says, [Then the Lord said to Abraham, "Why
did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I in truth bear a child,] old as I am?'"
And Joseph wept:
He understood that his brothers had sent the messengers, telling them what to
say, and that Jacob had not commanded any of it. Had he wanted to, he [Jacob] would
have told him while he was still alive. He cried because he saw how troubled
his brothers were, fearing for their lives, forced to invent ploys to save
themselves from his wrath.
(ShaDaL on the Torah, as quoted in Prof. Nehama
Vindictiveness and Suspicion vs. Forgiveness and Peace
brothers saw that their father was dead. What did they see then that made
them fearful? They saw that on the way back from burying their father, Joseph visited the pit into which they had sent him
in order to say a blessing, as one is required to say a blessing at a place
where a miracle happened for one's sake: "Blessed is the omnipresent who
performed a miracle for my sake at this place." When they saw this, they
said, now that our father is dead, "What if Joseph still bears a grudge
against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did him!" So they
sent this message to Joseph, "Before his death your father left this
instruction… So shall you say to Joseph, Forgive… " (50:15-17). We have searched and not found that
Jacob commanded this thing. But come and see how great is the power of peace,
for the Holy One blessed be He wrote these things in
His Torah regarding the power of peace.
The midrash tells us that Joseph the Righteous had acted
for the sake of Heaven, he went to fulfill the commandment taught him by his
father, to recite the customary blessing for a miracle which had occurred. Nevertheless,
the brothers are unable to shake off their suspicions. They were entrapped by
their old prejudice that had caused them to err even after the reunion; they
were incapable of understanding the reality that someone might be guided by
forgiveness, even for a terrible deed such as that which they had done to their
(Y. Leibowitz: Sheva Shanim shel Sihot al Parashat
Ha-Shavua, pg. 186)
Between Regime and Morality
When David's life
was drawing to a close, he instructed his son Solomon as follows: "I am
going the way of all the earth; be strong and show yourself a man. Keep the
charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and following His laws, His
commandments, His rules, and His admonitions as recorded in the Torah of Moses,
in order that you may succeed in whatever you undertake and wherever you turn. Then
the Lord will fulfill the promise that He made concerning me: "If your
descendants are scrupulous in their conduct, and walk before Me
faithfully, with all their heart and soul, your line on the throne of Israel
shall never end."
Further, you know
what Yoav son of Zuriah did
to me, what he did to the two commanders of Israel's forces, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Yeter: he killed
them, shedding blood of war in peacetime, staining the girdle of his loins and
the sandals on his feet with the blood of war. So act in accordance with your
wisdom, and see that his white hair does not go down to Sheol
(I Kings 2:1-6, from the Haftorah
for parashat Vayehi)
Every king or sovereign
or ruler among human beings, in as much as they are human beings, even amongst
Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even if he is called "Messiah
of the God of Jacob", will become evil as a result of his ruling over his
brothers. There cannot be a monarchy that is not wicked. This is something that
the greatest believers and Torah scholars would occasionally mention even in
connection with King David, who was in their eyes the great example of a just
and pious king, as they said: "Any one made a leader below becomes evil in[the eyes of God] above."
(Y. Leibowitz, op. cit. pg.
Forces from without compelled us
to forsake the political arena of the world, but our withdrawal was also
motivated by an inward assent, as if to say that we were awaiting the advent of
a happier time, when government could be conducted without ruthlessness and
barbarism. That is the day for which we hope. Of course, in order to bring it
about, we must awaken all our potentialities and use all the means that the age
may make available to us: Everything evolves by the will of the Creator of all
worlds. But the delay is a necessary one, for our soul was disgusted by the
dreadful sins that go with political rule in evil times. The day has come – it
is very near – when the world will grow gentler; we can begin to prepare
ourselves, for it will soon be possible for us to conduct a state of our own
founded on goodness, wisdom, justice, and the clear Light of God.
"Jacob sent the royal robe
to Esau": Let my lord go on ahead of his servant (Bereishit 33:14). It is not meant for Jacob to engage in political
life at a time when statehood requires bloody ruthlessness and demands a talent
for evil. At the beginning of our history we were granted only the foundation,
the minimum that was necessary to establish a nation. After our race was
weaned, our political sovereignty was destroyed, and we were dispersed among
the peoples and sown in the depths of the soil, till the time of singing is
come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land (Shir Ha-Shirim
(Rabbi A. I. Kook, ztz"l,
Orot, pg. 14. Translation based on Arthut Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea, pg. 422)
Jacob – the Galut aspect of the
Jewish People, oppressed and persecuted.
Israel – the "God won" victorious aspect of the
Accordingly: the danger
to the general weal by Shimon and Levi's excessive impetuosity and choleric
disposition is only present at a time when the nation is flourishing, when it
forms a powerful body of a people who could easily be influenced by two compact
tribes filled with glowing feelings of strength and power and of the unity and
brotherhood of the whole nation. Therefore in Israel: I will scatter
them. In a flourishing state of Israel they are to be scattered. As actually happened. Levi received no province at all when
the land was divided up, and his existence was, through tithes, made entirely
dependent on the good-will of each individual. For the Jewish tithe, in
contrast to the later and present-day tithe of the Church and landlord, was
absolutely "property that no one could claim," a tax which it was
certainly the duty of the occupier of the land to pay, but to which no
particular Levite had any direct claim. The one who had to pay it could give
the tithe to any one of the tribe of Levi that he pleased and none had the
right to demand it from him…
But in Galut, where the pressure of our fate bows everything down
and the nation itself torn asunder, there the danger lies, that all feelings of
one's own importance becomes lost, and the sense of oppression kills all
spiritual force and energy. That even the wandering Jew, peddling through
Europe, still looked down on the street boys of the various countries with
proud feeling of his own value, and he, downtrodden and driven all over the
world still keeps the feelings of the importance of his own person and the
sense of belonging to his people, for that I shall divide them among Jacob,
it was of the greatest benefit that the tribes of Shimon and Levi were
scattered amongst the other tribes, which had the natural result that, when the
state collapsed and the nation scattered in all directions, in this dispersion,
Shimonites and Levites would be found everywhere,
who, with their fiery and proud dispositions would keep alive the energy and
the courage, the fire and the noble Jewish pride of the Jewish spirit,
outliving the loss of the state.
(R. S.R. Hirsch on Bereishit
49:7, Levi translation)
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