Parshat Va'yechi - Yaakov Lived


“My dearest brothers and sisters

I bring you regards from the holy city, Yerushalayim” –Reb Shlomo zt”l.

In the midst of all the terror and anti-Jewish anti-Israel activity Remember- Va’yechi Yaakov – Yaakov Avinu lived!!! We Jews live connected to our real and only source of life – Hashem, Hakadosh baruch Hu.

Hashem we need and we want the ‘geulah shleimah’ NOW. We believe in it and we really want to see and be in it NOW. Send us Your Moshiach NOW!

Parshat Va’yechi, the last parsha of sefer Bereishit, parallels the opening parsha- Bereishit. Parshat Bereishit begins with the glorious Creation, with Adam and Chava in the Garden of Eden. But soon they are expelled from the blissful garden into a world of greater concealment- the ‘world of separation’, ‘the world of lies’. Now it is our task to find Hashem’s light in the darkness.

Even before the creation of Adam and Chava there is already a diminution of light when the moon, which initially was a ‘great light’ becomes ‘the small light’. And even before this, what happened to the light which Hashem created on the very first day of Creation? Our Rabbis z”l teach us that Hashem hid this light. The אור הגנוז, the ‘Ohr Haganuz’ – the hidden Light. Again and again, throughout sefer Bereishis we are filled with joy and we are broken, we fall and we get up to come closer and to find more of Hashem's light.

Similarly in parshat Va’yechi. Yaakov Avinu is reunited with Yosef and the family is whole again. Yaakov Avinu had seventeen ‘good years’ in Mitzrayim. But when the famine ended we did return to our Promised Land, we remained in Mitzrayim and we are about to go into a deep and horrifying exile and enslavement. BUT…

What you have to know all the time, every day of your life, is ויחי that this parsha is named Va’yechi – He lived. Yaakov Avinu ‘lived’ there. He taught us how to ‘live’ even in the darkness.

Wherever Hashem puts us, we continue to seek and search for the Ohr Haganuz – the Hidden Light – we are here to make this world, His dwelling place. And where do we find it? Where did Hashem hide the light? It is hidden in the Torah!

כִּי-עִמְּךָ, מְקוֹר חַיִּים, בְּאוֹרְךָ, נִרְאֶה-אוֹר

תהילים ל"ו:י

For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light do we see light. [Ps. 36:10]

Our enslavement in Mitzrayim began ever so subtly; well before it turned into open brutality. It is so easy to be drawn away from truly living our lives as we are meant to; before you know it, you are already somewhat enslaved. And so it is not at all surprising that so many commentaries are looking for the Torah’s lessons on learning how to not get trapped in your Mitzrayim – narrows and on how to live a real Jewish life even in the darkest of exiles.

Right at the opening of the parsha Rashi tells us that the exile began soon after Yaakov Avinu’s departure from this world “the eyes and hearts of Israel were 'closed' because of the misery of the bondage, for they [the Egyptians then] began to subjugate them.”

Though the actual harsh physical enslavement began only after the last of the twelve sons of Yaakov passed away, the exile and enslavement started with our eyes and hearts being closed. We need to think about that.

Reb Shlomo zt”l said, if the words and letters of the Torah are not shining into your heart and soul, you are in exile. The light is there ready to connect with and illuminate my soul – but my eyes and heart need to be open! The Ishbitzer Rebbe teaches that the exile begins by not judging another favorably:

daaven and keep on daavening

to always see the good in another

to always judge positively

daaven for others to see

the good in you

to judge you positively

daaven and keep on daavening

to see the good in yourself too

Do this with joy and you will see the good in another, you will find the good in yourself and you will find the Hidden Light in the Torah. And we will dance with joy. Keep your ‘yid’ alive and find the Ohr Ganuz.

Va’yechi is full of secrets- the secrets of connecting and living with Hashem’s light. May we all be blessed with success and love

Have a wonderful Shabbos b’ahavah ubivracha


Reb Shlomo's Torah

The End of the Beginning

There is always a little space between every portion in the Torah. So Rashi explains (Bereishis 47:28) that between the parshas of Vayigash and Vayechi there is no space, because when Ya'akov died suddenly there was no space left in the world.

I want to tell you something very deep. Why is there always a space between one portion and the other? The space is there in order for people to think. You end one portion, think a little bit, and then something new happens.

But when it comes to the portion of the beginning of the exile, there is nothing to think about, because the exile is beyond everybody's thinking about it. There is nothing to feel about it, nothing to think about it because we don't understand it. We don't know what it is. Even deeper, do you know what exile means? Exile means that I've stopped thinking and stopped feeling. When I'm not in exile I feel everything that I am learning. Exile learning is when I am reading the portion but I don't think and I don't feel. Let's say, for instance that I eat food and yet I'm still hungry. This is exile eating, because my eating doesn't help. So since the beginning of the exile is when Yaakov came down to Egypt in this parsha, there is nothing to think and nothing to feel.

Forgetting and Remembering

Now open your hearts, friends. There are certain things in life which I have to forget. It's better for me to forget these things, but this is only before I fix myself. After I fix myself, I have no right to forget anything, because I look back and realize that everything I did wrong was part of this great fixing. So how could I forget it?

Imagine someone hurt my feelings and I say, "I forgive you, I've already forgotten all about it." But it's only forgotten because we are still in the middle. We are all in the middle, absolutely in the middle. First of all, we were not born yesterday, so we are in the middle of our lives. We are also not here for the first time, so we are in the middle of our incarnations. Sometimes we forget this; sometimes we think that whatever we do now, that is all there is to it. But we're only in the middle, on the way to the end. And on the level of the end, I can't forget what happened with the person who hurt me, since maybe because of that we became better friends. So I have to remember.

When someone says, "I've forgotten everything I did wrong in my life," it's very beautiful. While we are fixing ourselves, while we are trying to get better, it's vetting not to think about what we did wrong - because otherwise it will tear us apart. But after that , at the end, we have to remember everything. So the way to fix ourselves is that first we have to forget, and then we have to remember again.

I want to share something way out with you. When we daven Musaf on Rosh Hashonna we say, "ki zocher kol hanishkachos Ata," G-d, You remember everything which is forgotten. Obviously G-d remember everything, and this sentence has maybe million of meanings. But for the moment I want to translate it this way:

Ki zocher kol hanishkachos Ata - when you really stand before G-d, then you remember all the things you were suppose to forget. There were so many things you have to forget while you were on your way to, so to speak, get to G-d. Then, when you mamesh stand before Him, you remember everything. Nothing can be forgotten, how could it be forgotten? It happened to you, it happened in the world, inn G-d's world... how could you forget?

And here we get the portion of the week where we ar elearning about Yosef's two songs, Menashe and Ephraim. Menashe comes from the phrase "ki nashani Elokim es kol amali" (Bereishis 41:51), G-d gave me strength to forget all my troubles. Ephraim comes form the word "ki hifrani Elokim be'ertz onyyi" (41:52), G-d gave me strength to become more and more, even in light of my pain.

So Yaakob was ready to bless Yosef's two sons. Yosef told Menashe, who was the firstborn, to stand on his father's right side - and Ephraim, the second one, to stand on his left side. And Yaakov didn't say "no." He said, "It's okay, he is the firstborn and has to stand on my right side." Then Yaakov crossed his hands. He put his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Menashe. Yaakov Avinu did not say, "I am putting my right hand on Ephraim despite the fact that Menashe is the bechor." He said, "I am putting my right hand on my Ephraim because Menashe is the firstborn." What I've just told you is what the Ishbitzer says; now I want to tell you what I most humbly think...

You see what it is, the first thing is that you really have to forget everything you did wrong. Menashe, whose name is from the word "nashani," forgetting, was the firstborn. He was a hundred percent the first step. Yaakov said, "I am not denying it, but I want to start all over again from the beginning."

Do you see what is going on here? Before Yaakov Avinu passed away, he connected us to the end, to the level of the end.

It's true, at the beginning Menashe was very important - first you have to forget. And if you begin to remember before the end, it's mamesh not good. You have to forget while you're at the beginning or in the middle. But then you come to the end, and this is the level of Ephraim. Ephraim was mamesh the top man for the end. When you come to the end, you have to remember everything on the level of Ephraim. But ahh, this is a different kind of remembering.

Just to say it in a very way out way - although we are not on the level yet - imagine you tell a Yiddele who came out of Auschwitz, "If you walk around thinking all day about Auschwitz, you won't be able to bear it. You have to forget it a little bit." It's heartbreaking - how can you utter such words? It's even blasphemy to say it, but otherwise a person can't keep on living. This Yiddele has to forget it a little bit, But on the other hand, how can he forget it? He is mamesh not permitted to forget it. But on the level of the end, you can;t forget anything - nothing... nothing, nothing.

Let me tell you something very deep. When you love somebody a little bit, you can talk to him or her about what happened before, at the beginning. But if you love someone with all your heart, you can talk about the end. Sometimes you meet somebody you love very much. You tell her your life story, but you omit everything you did wrong. I am not knocking it, sometimes that's also good. But sometimes you meet somebody whom you love so much that you can also hare everything you did wrong. So what is the difference? The answer is like this. When you love somebody on the level of the beginning, you have to forget what you did wrong. You just tell her all the good you did in your life. But when you love somebody so much that you are connected to her on the level of the end, you can't forget anything.

Parshat Va'Yechi: Teachings From Previous Years

▪ Friendship & Shabbos: Chizuk for the End of Days

▪ Shema Yisrael

▪ The "Closed" Parsha

▪ Secrets of Jewish Living

▪ The Greatness of Rachel Imeinu – Our Mother Rachel

Friendship & Shabbos: Chizuk for the End of Days

Holy Friendship

In the sefer Neir Yisrael [ - the Light of Yisrael- a collection of teachings from the holy Reb Yisrael of Rizhin and also of his descendants zt"l] it is related that one of his very important Chassidim asked the Rebbe of Rizhin to please tell him some words of 'chizuk' – words that will always give him the strength to be steadfast in his faith and service of Hashem.

The Rebbe told him: Know that before the arrival of Moshiach, the faith and the religion will be hanging on a thin hair (it will be very easy to lose one's faith). The advice with which to overcome these difficult times is for friends to 'get together' every Shabbos to relate and to listen to stories of the righteous tzaddikim – this will serve to strengthen the religion and our faith.

This is the advice that Yaakov Avinu alluded to his children – when you will be at the End of Days, in the times just before the arrival of Moshiach, the will be a great cold in matters of faith. The remedy is to gather together on Shabbos, in brotherhoods of friendship and unity, and to talk about matters of faith in Hashem and His servant Moshe.

The Rebbe concluded his words of advice to the chassid, saying, 'I am setting three conditions upon you: א) You must remember my words. ב) You are to fulfil my words. ג) You are to relate this message to the entire community of Chassidim.'

Shema Yisrael

Screenshot - Shema Yisrael - Hebrew

According to the Midrash the first ones to have ever said Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad, were Yaakov's 12 sons. As they stood around his bed moments before Yaakov Avinu returned his soul to Hashem, they proclaimed: Shma Yisrael - Hear our father, Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One, the only one, there is no other!

Yakov Avinu wanted to hear from his children if they were truly united. Would they be united in hard times as well as in good times? Would they be united in good times as well as in hard times? Was any one of them, G-d forbid, harboring any kind of idolatry which would surely cause division among them?

And his children, the 12 tribes of Israel responded, 'Hashem is our G-d; we believe that Hashem is our G-d, He is our source of life, He is the source of our strength and talents, He is the source of our unity; Hashem is One, His unity is indivisible; our unity is rooted in Hashem's unity. We will always strive for true unity no matter how many times we might fight and separate, we truly believe that we will ultimately succeed in manifesting Hashem's unity in this world within our unity.

The "Closed" Parsha

At the beginning of the parsha Rashi alerts us to its unusual opening. Parsha means a portion or a section of Torah. Each weekly parsha is made up of many smaller portions, and each is called a parsha. In the sefer Torah you can distinguish between one parsha and another by the open space between them. The size of this open space varies in length. A "parsha p'tucha" is an open parsha, i.e. there is an open space in between that parsha and the previous one. However our parsha, parshas Va'yechi, is a "parsha stumah" a 'closed parsha', i.e. there is no open space between the beginning of our parsha and the end of the previous one. Why is this so?

Rashi brings us two reasons for this: "This is because once our father Yaakov died the eyes and hearts of Israel were 'closed' because of the misery of the bondage, for they [the Egyptians then] began to subjugate them. An alternate explanation: Because Yaakov wished to reveal the End to his children and it was concealed [closed] from him" (Bereishis Rabbah).

Secrets of Jewish Living

Va'yechi- he lived. Most of today's parsha learning is about living a true and exalted life even in the midst of hardships. Wherever you are today, I hope first of all that you have much to celebrate. I also hope that our learning will inspire all of us to reach even higher, to reach for a taste of true life and supernal delight- for a taste of Olam Ha'bah- a taste of the world to come here in Olam Ha'zeh- this world.

The following piece, from the sefer Torat Emet, the collected teachings of Reb Leibeleh Eiger zt"l, is connected to the teachings about the opening of Parshas Va'yechi, which is known as a parsha stumah- a closed parsha. For an easier understanding see the related teachings, which can be found further on in the collected teachings of previous years.

The last verse in last week's parsha says, "[The children of] Yisroel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and they took hold of it and they were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly." While the opening verse of this week's parsha begins with, "And Yaakov 'lived' in the land of Egypt for seventeen years." It is between these two verses that there is no empty space in the Torah, and thus, it is called a parsha stumah- a closed parsha.

Many of the Chassidic commentators focused their attention on the phenomenon that Yaakov and his children were prosperous and fruitful in the land of Egypt, the country in which G-d's presence was most concealed. The basic lesson derived is that one can actually live a life of holiness in the midst of tremendous hardship and spiritual darkness. The Zohar teaches that this is the reason there is no break between the end of last week's parsha and the beginning of this week's. In other words, by taking hold of the circumstances, rather than getting lost in them, we can learn how to grow, be fruitful and multiply, even in the most severe spiritual conditions. This is what Yaakov Avinu and his children accomplished in their lifetimes, even in Mitzrayim- the spiritual narrows of Egypt. Having done this the Torah continues and says, "vayechi Yaakov"- Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt, for that is true life: mastering your circumstances instead of being mastered by them.

Reb Leibeleh continues to expound on this theme by bringing the following verse, "The offering [desirable] to G-d is a broken spirit, a contrite and broken heart, G-d you do not disdain" (Psalm 51:19). The Talmud also teaches that seeing broken vessels in a dream is a sign that your prayers have been accepted. Reb Leibeleh relates the broken vessels to Yakov Avinu's life experiences. Yaakov Avinu, in particular, went through many tests and oppressions of kinds that would sour anyone's heart, such as having to flee for his life from his brother Eisav, the deceit of his father-in-law Lavan, the abduction and rape of Dina and the loss of Yosef. He lived through all this in order to teach future generations the essence of Jewish living in this world. If one has to 'chas v'shalom', [may Hashem have compassion upon us and bless us with peace always] live through obstacles and experience brokenness, there is a way to use them and elevate them. Obstacles are there so that we should rise above them. Concerning brokenness – remember what the Kotzker Rebbe (who was Reb Leibeleh's Rebbe) said, "There is nothing more whole than a broken heart!"

Maybe you remember that as a child you had a favorite toy. When you were playing with it, it filled your heart so much that you didn't pay any attention to anyone else, you didn't care to share it with anyone and you didn't mind being alone. And then one day the toy broke and no one could fix it for you and you cried and cried; your heart was broken- it was broken-open; and now there was room for something even better. This illustrates the concept of 'hamtakas hadinim' – the sweetening of judgments.

The Zohar says that ultimately, Yaakov merited to receive a small taste of olam habah here in this world because he had reached a level where his physical reality was totally purified by all the obstacles, tests and brokenness he lived through. He became entirely spiritual, living in exalted delight.

Being that Yaakov is Yaakov Avinu – our father Yaakov, the spiritual inheritance he gave each of his descendants is the knowledge and capability not to fall into despair as a result of life's hardships and brokenness. Our father Yaakov taught us how to use each lack and hardship to refine ourselves and our aspirations, to open ourselves up to coming closer to Hashem, and enhance our service of Hashem.

Hashem's intentions are always for the good. Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explained the Talmud's teaching (Megillah 13b) "Hashem yisborach brings the healing before the infliction," as saying that the point of infliction is to break the small vessel so that it can be enlarged to receive the greater salvation. Though the suffering individual might think otherwise, it is "Better to teach the needy how to fish rather than to give him a fish." The experience of a lack and hardship can be used positively. We can elevate the experience to acquire deeper sensitivity, increased skills and enhanced awareness. Through our mistakes and losses we realize that we still have much to learn and to grow. Ultimately we can and hopefully we will merit life in the world to come – which is the greatest of delights- continuous pleasure, a delight to which none other can compare.

The essence of the Jewish soul in this world is to constantly be yearning for a deeper and closer connection to Hashem. Consequently we are aware and concerned about that which is still lacking in our service of G-d. And if one does not feel any lack in his service, if he completely satisfied with himself and with the way things are, it is a sign that his soul has not yet been purified, chas v'shalom. In this case, one ought to throw oneself on the ground, begging G-d to give him the consciousness to sense his lacking, and to help him break his heart so that he should merit to come closer to G-d. Yaakov Avinu, alav hashalom, is the source of this pathway.

What will be when we finally get to that place of supernal delight and pleasure? The Rabbis teach us on the verse, "'I [G-d] will walk [with you] in your midst,' I [Hashem] will take a walk with you in Gan Eden. Does this then mean that you will not tremble in G-d's presence? From the end of the verse which says, 'and I will be Elokim unto you,' we learn that even in that world of supernal delight we will continue to be aware of G-d's greatness and power and we will tremble in His Presence."

Says Reb Leibeleh, simply speaking, going for a walk means to enjoy the pleasure strolling with your loved ones in beautiful gardens and orchards after eating and drinking. Such walks are parables to life in 'the world to come', our ultimate desired goal and destination after completing our journey in this world. For then the Tzaddikim will not be lacking anything good. Nevertheless, the fear and awareness in conscious awareness of G-d will be upon their faces.

In our present time, the holy Shabbos is 'mei'ayn olam habah' – a taste of the world to come. On Shabbos we eat and drink and experience the delight of Shabbos. I frequently used to see Chassidim going for walks after their Shabbos meals. Now that Reb Leibeleh has revealed the secret of the parable, it seems to be a good idea to adopt this Shabbos custom, and while walking with your loved ones and friends, let's try to imagine walking with Hashem in Gan Eden.

The Greatness of Rachel Imeinu – Our Mother Rachel


At the beginning of this week's parsha – Va'yechi Yaakov – Yaakov 'lived', we see Yaakov Avinu making his last preparations before leaving this world. First he arranges for his burial, requesting of Yosef to swear to him that he will bury him in the Me'arat Hamachpeilah in Chevron, where his ancestors, Adam and Chavah, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah were buried. Yosef took the oath and then Yaakov blessed him and his children. Soon after we read:

Bereishis 48:7: And I, when I came from Padan, Rochel died unto me in the land of Canaan, on the road, when there was yet a stretch of land, before coming to Efrat. I buried her there on the road to Efrat, which is Beis Lechem.

Concerning the last verse (48:7) in which Yaakov recounts where he buried Rachel, Yosef’s mother, Rashi explains that Yaakov was excusing himself to Yosef for not having brought his mother to burial in Chevron:

Rashi: “I buried her there.”

"And I did not carry her even to Beis Lechem in order to bring her to a [settled] land, and I know that you have resentment toward me. But, know that it was by the word [of G-d] that I buried her there so that she might help her descendants when Nevuzaradon would send them into exile and when they would pass by way [of her grave] Rochel would emerge from her grave and cry and beseech mercy [from G-d] for them, as it is said: "A voice is heard in Ramah, Rochel is weeping for her children, etc." And G-d answers her: " 'There is reward for your toil,' says G-d, 'for your children will return to their border.' Yirmiyahu 31

It was Hashem’s who informed Yaakov to bury Rachel just outside Bit Lechem. Surely Yaakov wanted to bring her to burial in Chevron, but Hashem told him not to do so because that is what Rachel wanted.

Like the mother who does not wish to enter into her home until all her children are in first, Rachel Imeinu, our mother Rachel remained outside the Land of Israel. She knew prophetically that it would be a long time before all her children would come home, and so she chose to remain outside of Israel and weep bitterly over the exile of her children. She refuses to be comforted:

Yirmiyahu 31:14 Thus saith the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children, because they are not.

And finally Hashem promises her that her children will come home.

Yirmiyahu 31:15 Thus saith the LORD: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. 16 And there is hope for thy future, saith the LORD; and thy children shall return to their own border.

We see that it was Rachel Imeinu’s choice to remain outside as Hashem says, “for thy work shall be rewarded.” Says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, this is the greatness of Our Mother Rachel: she was well aware of the importance and holiness of being buried in Eretz Yisrael, probably no less than Yaakov Avinu, who insisted, that Yosef take an oath swearing that he will make sure to do so. Nevertheless, she chose to give up on achieving her highest level in holiness, to be buried together with her husband Yaakov in the Me’arat Hamachpeilah in Eretz Yisrael, for thousands of years, for the benefit of her children. (Likkutei Sichos 30, p.239)