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Vayechi(Genesis 47:28-50:26)

Vayechi 5762

GOOD MORNING!  I have an amazing story to share with you! A rabbi in Dallas receives a phone call from a man wishing to make a contribution to his synagogue. (That he called to make a donation is not the amazing part I am referring to...) They meet. The rabbi gives the man a tour of the synagogue and tells him of the educational programs for the community. The man gives the rabbi a check for $2,000.

The rabbi is puzzled why the man -- Jewish, but clearly not Jewishly well-educated nor observant --wanted to make a contribution to his synagogue. The man replies in a thick Texas drawl, "Rabbi, recently I was in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. There I saw a man praying with such fervor, such concentration ... I was moved to the depths of my soul. I wanted to express how moved I was, but I didn't want to insult the man by giving him money, so I decided that when I got back to Dallas I would make a contribution to a synagogue where that man would feel comfortable praying."

The donor continues, "When I returned to Dallas I went to the kosher bakery and described the man I saw at the Wall --- the long black coat, the broad black hat, the sidelocks -- and asked where a man like that would feel comfortable praying; Rabbi, they told me your synagogue! So here I am."

The man and the rabbi become good friends, they study together from time to time, and they share in each other's family's Simchas, joyous occassions. Over the years the man and his extended family become major supporters of the synagogue and its efforts for Jewish educational outreach.

Here comes the interesting part! The Jerusalemite returns from praying at the Wall. His wife asks him, "So, nu, Berel, how was your day?" And Berel replies, "Nothing unusual." Now imagine, after the proverbial 120 years, Berel passes on to the next world. He's greeted in Heaven with the spiritual counterpart of a brass band and a ticker-tape parade and is ushered into the presence of the Almighty! The Almighty says to Berel, "Berel, I heartily commend you on what you did for educating the Jewish people in Dallas!" Berel, who never in his life ever left the Holy Land, stands in bewilderment and replies... "What is Dallas?"

Like all good stories there is a lesson here for us! Each and every one of our actions has ramifications and impact far beyond our limited ability to know in this world. Therefore, we should always think twice if we are about to forego an opportunity to help someone or about to do something which would best be left undone. On a deeper level, even those actions which we do not even think others notice or care about, can have significant consequences -- in this world and for the next.

No wonder our Sages tell us in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers (Six chapters of concentrated Jewish wisdom which will change your life! It is found in the back of many prayerbooks. Go to your local Jewish book store to purchase a copy or call toll-free 877-758-3242. I like the Kahati paperback edition; for more depth, the Bunim commentary or the Artscroll editon.): "Pay attention to three things and you will not transgress. Know what is above you -- the Eye that sees, the Ear that hears and all your actions are recorded in a Book." The battle for life is the battle for awareness!


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). He then individually blesses each of his sons. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary. (The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is "to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.")

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 Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states that in giving Judah (Yehuda) his blessing, Jacob said, "Yehuda is a lion's whelp. From the prey, my son, you have gone up." (Genesis 49:4) Rashi, the premier commentator, tells us that Yehuda elevated himself by two actions -- (1) he stopped his brothers from killing Joseph and (2) he publicly embarrassed himself to save the life of his former daughter-in-law, Tamar. Why is it important for us to know how Yehuda behaved in a praiseworthy manner?

Yehuda is the progenitor of the tribe from which came the future kings of Israel. It was precisely because of these exhibitions of character that Yehuda merited this honor and responsibility. In Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, the question is asked, "Who is the mighty person?" and answered, "He who rules over his own desires." Such a person is worthy to rule over others because he will rule over them with the same righteousness as he rules over himself.

In saving Joseph, he ruled over himself not to be influenced by the other brothers who wanted to kill Joseph. In saving Tamar, he did not let personal pride stand in the way of doing the right thing. The ability to rule over one's own passions makes any person a true king.



CANDLE LIGHTING - December 28:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)

Jerusalem  4:07
Guatemala 5:24  Hong Kong 5:30  Honolulu 5:40
J'Burg 6:44  London 3:40  Los Angeles 4:30
Melbourne 8:26  Miami 5:17  Moscow 3:45
New York 4:14  Singapore  6:49



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

There are only two ways to fail:
to quit, or to never try.



In Loving Memory of
Anita Karl
Bobby, Nilza, Daniel,
Lara & Kevin

Published: December 22, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Snejana Varbanova Coles, December 27, 2001 12:00 AM

Much needed online inspiration from shabbat shalom weekly

This website is wondrously constructed in mind with our souls that thurst for light in the darkness; all you write is essential in promoting awareness of the high ideals expounded in the Torah to illumine our existence. Thankyou Rabbi Packouz from the depths of my heart.

(1) PAULINE MEYEROWITZ, December 23, 2001 12:00 AM

VERY RECENTLY I SENT TWO PRAYERS TO THE WALL THROUGH THIS WEBSITE AND IMMEDIATLY FOLLOWED WITH A DONATION. MY PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED AND I THANK GOD. OVER THE YEARS MY PRAYERS TO THE WALL WERE ANSWERED AND I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL. HOW COULD I NO BELIEVE IN THIS.

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