I had anticipated that most people would want more posts on parsha, as this is one area we share in learning every week, yet surprise, surprise, lomdus is the big winner in the poll. But I can’t ignore parsha, can I? A few gems from R’ Shteinman’s “Ayeles haShachar”:
Commenting on the placement of Ya’akov’s hands on Ephraim and Menasha (48:14), Rabeinu Bachye notes that in many places we see the laying on of hands in particular is connected with bracha, e.g. birchas kohanim, the smicha of Moshe to Yehoshua. R’ Shteinman in Ayeles haShachar uses this as a springboard to address an interesting question: The gemara tells us that R’ Chisda would use more than the required measure of water for netilas yadayim and he attributed his receiving bracha for this meritorious behavior. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 158) writes that one should try to emulate this practice and use more than enough water for washing. Yet, we do not find in halacha that being toivel in a mikveh that has more than the necessary 40 se’ah of water is any more meritorious than being toivel in a mikveh that has exactly the shiur. Why the difference? R’ Shteinman suggests that the halacha may be based on the particular connection of the hands with bracha. I don’t know if I’m satisfied with the answer, but I like the question.
Reuvain is told that his haste in disturbing his father’s bed cost him additional bracha: “Pachaz ka’mayim al tosar ki alias mishkivei avicha…” (49:4 ) Yet, we know from a previous Rashi (37:29) that Reuvain did tshuvah for this act. R’ Shteinman notes that apparently tshuvah is not enough to recover the lost ma’alos which Reuvain could have have had if not for his impetuousness.
“Lo yasur sheivet m’Yehudah u’mechokek m’bein raglav” (49:10) Rashi explains mechokek refers to the Nasi in Eretz Yisrael. R’ Shteinman explains that the Nasi is not described with the term “sheivet” because unlike the Reish Galusa in Bavel, the Nasi had no political power to enforce his will. For a more detailed discussion of the differences between these two rulers based on a chiddush of the Dvar Avraham, see this post.