Parshas Vayechi

As Yaakov nears his demise, the Torah tells us that he wanted to reveal to his children what was to transpire at the end of days. The pesukim are quite perplexing, for immediately after Yaakov's plan is mentioned, the Torah continues to tell us that Yaakov called the brothers together to discuss their attributes and qualities. The Gemora tells us that suddenly his ability to prophesize left him, and he was unable to carry out his original plan. Startled by this sudden happening, Yaakov instantly attributed it to a flaw in his progeny, similar to that of Avrohom and Yitzchock, who each had a child who did not carry his legacy. The Shevatim, his children, immediately reacted by reciting the Shema and declaring their unanimous belief in the Oneness of HaShem.  Yaakov subsequently responded with Baruch sheim k’vod malchuso l’olam va’ed, blessing the honor of HaShem’s sovereignty over the world. It is this very sequence that we follow daily in our own recitation of the Shema.

What would the purpose have been to reveal what was to transpire at the end of time? It certainly was not in the near future. Why would Yaakov have wanted to do that? What is the meaning of the responses of both Yaakov and his children? Perhaps this can be best explained through the following example.  Surgery is always difficult.  It comes with fear, trepidation and apprehension. When one has as surgeon who maps out and explains what will be done and what to expect, the very fact that the patient has this knowledge is comforting. This awareness and understanding makes it so much easier to deal with the side effects and ramifications of his illness. Similarly, Yaakov Ovinu wanted to arm his children and all the future generations with the details of what is in store for them. He wanted them to be equipped and prepared to withstand countless grueling ordeals during the exile. He wanted them to see the good times and bad times, the ups and the downs, the tribulations and the triumphs in their future. He wanted his children, as individuals and as a collective whole, to take on their destiny with an upper hand. This would enable them to react and respond properly and to maximize the growth experience that we know as exile.

HaShem, however, did not agree. HaShem withheld this information. HaShem wants us to serve him without a blueprint for our future. HaShem wants us to rise above our difficulties because innately that is who we are, not simply because we were forearmed. HaShem wants us to develop despite our hardship and to recognize the opportunities enveloped in our adversity. The purpose of our exile is to find Hashem amidst his concealment and to learn and appreciate all the good that shines amidst the veneer of our troubles. The purpose of life is to appreciate all that HaShem does even if it appears as something we simply do not understand.  His sons responded by saying the Shema, accepting HaShem’s decision and His rule, and Yaakov countered by blessing his dominion.

The parsha thus contains an important lesson for all of us. We should view our hardships as opportunities for maturity and growth, accept them as chances to find HaShem’s presence and presents amidst our misfortunes, and adapt ourselves and accept a thought process that at times is far beyond our initial perception. It is the purpose of life, and the true understanding that all that HaShem does is for the good. May we be zoche to rise to the occasion when things don’t go our way and serve as an example to others, most importantly our children.

Have a good Shabbos,
Rabbi Katzenstein

Parshas Vayechi

As Yaakov nears his demise, the Torah tells us that he wanted to reveal to his children what was to transpire at the end of days. The pesukim are quite perplexing, for immediately after Yaakov's plan is mentioned, the Torah continues to tell us that Yaakov called the brothers together to discuss their attributes and qualities. The Gemora tells us that suddenly his ability to prophesize left him, and he was unable to carry out his original plan. Startled by this sudden happening, Yaakov instantly attributed it to a flaw in his progeny, similar to that of Avrohom and Yitzchock, who each had a child who did not carry his legacy. The Shevatim, his children, immediately reacted by reciting the Shema and declaring their unanimous belief in the Oneness of HaShem.  Yaakov subsequently responded with Baruch sheim k’vod malchuso l’olam va’ed, blessing the honor of HaShem’s sovereignty over the world. It is this very sequence that we follow daily in our own recitation of the Shema.

What would the purpose have been to reveal what was to transpire at the end of time? It certainly was not in the near future. Why would Yaakov have wanted to do that? What is the meaning of the responses of both Yaakov and his children? Perhaps this can be best explained through the following example.  Surgery is always difficult.  It comes with fear, trepidation and apprehension. When one has as surgeon who maps out and explains what will be done and what to expect, the very fact that the patient has this knowledge is comforting. This awareness and understanding makes it so much easier to deal with the side effects and ramifications of his illness. Similarly, Yaakov Ovinu wanted to arm his children and all the future generations with the details of what is in store for them. He wanted them to be equipped and prepared to withstand countless grueling ordeals during the exile. He wanted them to see the good times and bad times, the ups and the downs, the tribulations and the triumphs in their future. He wanted his children, as individuals and as a collective whole, to take on their destiny with an upper hand. This would enable them to react and respond properly and to maximize the growth experience that we know as exile.

HaShem, however, did not agree. HaShem withheld this information. HaShem wants us to serve him without a blueprint for our future. HaShem wants us to rise above our difficulties because innately that is who we are, not simply because we were forearmed. HaShem wants us to develop despite our hardship and to recognize the opportunities enveloped in our adversity. The purpose of our exile is to find Hashem amidst his concealment and to learn and appreciate all the good that shines amidst the veneer of our troubles. The purpose of life is to appreciate all that HaShem does even if it appears as something we simply do not understand.  His sons responded by saying the Shema, accepting HaShem’s decision and His rule, and Yaakov countered by blessing his dominion.

The parsha thus contains an important lesson for all of us. We should view our hardships as opportunities for maturity and growth, accept them as chances to find HaShem’s presence and presents amidst our misfortunes, and adapt ourselves and accept a thought process that at times is far beyond our initial perception. It is the purpose of life, and the true understanding that all that HaShem does is for the good. May we be zoche to rise to the occasion when things don’t go our way and serve as an example to others, most importantly our children.

Have a good Shabbos,
Rabbi Katzenstein