Shabbat Shalom Weekly: Vayechi 5771
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Vayechi(Genesis 47:28-50:26)

Vayechi 5771

GOOD MORNING! This past week I had a fascinating experience. I asked a supporter of the Shabbat Shalom for $1,800 - and he laughed. In my experience as a fundraiser, I have had many emotional reactions to requests for support - stunned disbelief, anger, irritation ... even welcomed appreciation. However, I think this is the first time someone laughed. So, I asked him, "Why are you laughing?"

The man replied, "A few weeks ago I made a deal with the Almighty that if my business deal went through, I would give $1,800 to the first person who asked for it. You're the first!"

While I look forward to more people laughing - and giving - I began to think "What a wonderful topic for the Shabbat Shalom - Are you allowed to test the Almighty?" And as is usually the case, the Torah deals with the question.

The Talmud (Taanis 9a) tells us that Rabbi Yochanan met the young son of Reish Lakish (his study partner). Rabbi Yochanan says to the boy, "Tell me the verse in the Torah that you are studying." The lad replies, "Tithe, you shall certainly tithe" (Deuteronomy 14:22).

The boy then asked Rabbi Yochanan, "What is the meaning of 'Tithe, you shall certainly tithe'?" Rabbi Yochanan responds, "Tithe in order that you will be come wealthy." (This is an alternate translation of the verse.) The precocious lad then asks, "How do you know this?" Rabbi Yochanan answers, "Go and test it; take tithes and see if you become wealthy."

Reish Lakish's son was a bright boy. He then respectfully asked Rabbi Yochanan an excellent question, "Is it permitted to test the Holy One, blessed be He? Isn't it written (Deuteronomy 6:16), 'Do not test the Almighty?' "

Rabbi Yochanan probably smiled at the precocious youth. "Rabbi Hoshaya taught that the case of separating tithes is an exception to the prohibition against testing the Almighty. He gave proof from the verse: 'Bring all the tithes to the storehouse, so that there may be food in My House (for those who serve in the Holy Temple) and you may test Me now through this, says the Almighty, Master of Legions, if I will not open for you windows of the sky and pour out blessing for you without limit' (Malachi 3:10)."

The Sefer HaChinuch - a book written about 800 years ago detailing the what, how and understandings of the Torah's commandments -teaches: It is usually forbidden to test the Almighty by performing a mitzvah (commandment) with the intent of seeing whether or not one is rewarded because the place for receiving reward is the World to Come; one cannot expect to see a reward in this world. However, because of the verse in Malachi (a prophet), there is an exception made regarding tithes and one can expect to see financial reward in this world.

Years ago, Harry Fischel was a wealthy Jewish man dealing in New York real estate. When asked for the secret of his success, he would gladly share the advice that the great sage, the Chofetz Chaim, gave him before he came to America: "If you want to succeed in business, you must take God Himself as your partner in every endeavor. Before you enter into any investment or project, try to make an accurate estimate of how much profit you stand to make in the undertaking. Then calculate how much the tithe of your projected profit will be and write a check for that amount to be eventually deposited in your tzedakah (charity) account.

"Turn to the Almighty in fervent prayer and say: 'Master of the Universe, it is my privilege to invite You to be my partner in this endeavor. If, heaven forbid, I fail to realize a profit, I will have nothing to share with You, my partner. However, if I successfully realize my anticipated profit, then the ten percent I have set aside for tzedakah is Yours.' When one takes God as his partner from the outset, he is guaranteed success!"

(with thanks to Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, The Tzedakah Treasury
for source material - available at Artscroll.com)

For more on "Tithes" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!

 

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Torah Portion of the Week
Vayechi

The parsha, Torah portion, opens with Jacob on his deathbed 17 years after arriving in Egypt. Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons, Manasseh (Menashe) and Ephraim (to this day it is a tradition to bless our sons every Shabbat evening with the blessing, "May the Almighty make you like Ephraim and Manasseh" - they grew up in the Diaspora amongst foreign influences and still remained devoted to the Torah. The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is "to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.") He then individually blesses each of his sons. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary.

A large retinue from Pharaoh's court accompanies the family to Hebron to bury Jacob in the Ma'arat Hamachpela, the burial cave purchased by Abraham. The Torah portion ends with the death of Joseph and his binding the Israelites to bring his remains with them for burial when they are redeemed from slavery and go to the land of Israel. Thus ends the book of Genesis!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the days of Israel (Jacob) drew near to die; and he called his son, Joseph, and said to him: If now I have found favor in your eyes, please ... deal with me kindly and truly; bury me not in Egypt." (Genesis 47:29).

What does the phrase "kindly and truly" come to teach us?

Rashi enlightens us as to the meaning of "kindly and truly." Kindness which is shown to the dead is true kindness, for one who does chesed (kindness) for a dead person certainly does not look forward to any payment. When someone does something for another person so that the person will in turn do him favors, the action cannot be considered true kindness. Rather, it is a form of bartering in which the merchandise is not objects, but favors.

When Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was seven years old, there was a severe famine in Lithuania. Poor people wandered from village to village in search of food. Many of them flocked to the home of Rav Moshe's mother, who readily cooked and baked for them. Once a very large number of the poor came to her home and she had to cook for them in shifts.

When some individuals grew impatient and insulted her, she began to cry, since she felt that she was doing her utmost for them. Her young son, the future Rabbi of Kobrin, said to her, "Why should their insults trouble you? Don't their insults help you perform the mitzvah with sincerity? If they had praised you, your merit would be less, since you might be doing the kindness to gain their praise, rather than to fulfill the Almighty's command."

 

 

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Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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Published: December 12, 2010

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