Thursday, December 24, 2015

achalkeim b'Ya'akov -- spread the zeal and passion

Last post was a little lomdus, so this will be a little derush on the parsha. I noticed that fewer and fewer people are reading blogger.  Maybe it's time to switch formats or stop?  Any ideas?

After referring to the kinah of Shimon and Levi, Ya’akov says “achalkeim b’Ya’akov v’afitzeim b’Yisrael.”   The Chasam Sofer explains that Ya’akov was not referring to the members of sheivet Shimon or the members of sheivet Levi – he was referring rather to the kinah of sheivet Shimon and sheivet Levi, the "arur apam" mentioned earlier in the pasuk.  Shimon and Levi reacted too strongly, but the other shevatim didn’t react at all, which is not a good thing either.  Ya’akov said that if only a little of the zealous anger of Shimon and Levi was spread among the other shevatim, then they would all have the proper balance.

This is one of my pet peeves.  You have people who call up WFAN and argue with such passion about the Mets, the Jets, the Knicks, etc. but often it's the same people who are totally pareve and passionless when it comes to their avodas Hashem.  You don’t need to walk around fighting with people and picking arguments, but at the same time, if you are speaking and/or thinking about issues that are devarim ha’omdim b’runo shel olam and/or are integral to your identity and what you feel life is all about, then there should be a little passion there, at least inside.  The opposite of being a Shimon and Levi is not indifference -- it's having the proper balance.
Rashi writes that the members of sheivet Shimon would be teachers who wander from place to place to teach Torah, and the Levi’im have to wander from place to place to collect ma’aser.  The Rambam in Hil Shemita writes that the Levi’im were also teachers of Torah, and it was sheivet Levi who kept the mesorah of the Avos alive in Mitzrayim.  R’ Ya’akov Kaminetzki explains that kana'us without Torah is of no value.  With Torah, it can be channeled and harnessed properly.  Ya’akov assigned Shimon and Levi the task of becoming the rebbe’s of Klal Yisrael, and in this way, the Torah would temper their nature and bring it under control.
This is also a tremendous lesson in chinuch.  Ya’akov didn’t tell Shimon and Levi, “Don’t be so impetuous!”  That wouldn’t have worked – a tiger can’t change its stripes, and Shimon and Levi would not so easily become different people.  Instead, he gave them a means of channeling their strengths properly.  The job of a mechaneich is not to take the talmid who is a Y personality and force him or her to become X.  The job of the mehaneich is to take the talmid who is a Y and show him or her how he/she can best serve Hashem as a Y. 
Ya’akov said to Yosef, “…V’hinei her’ah osi Elokim gam es zarecha.” (48:11)  The simple pshat is the Ya’akov was thanking Hashem that he was able to see his grandchildren, Yosef’s sons.  If that’s the case, the pasuk should say “her’ah li,” not “her’ah osi.”   Why the awkward construction?
A number of meforshim remind us that when Yosef was challenged with the test of Eishes Potifar, what saved him was the vision he saw of his father’s face.  That shield from danger worked for Yosef, but what about the next generation, the generation of Menashe and Ephraim, who never saw Ya’akov Avinu before?  What vision would protect them when their commitment would be challenged?  When Ya’akov saw how Ephraim and Menashe had developed, he realized he did not have to worry.  “Hinei her’ah osi” – Hashem showed me, my image, to these children as well, said Ya’akov.  They may not have seen me in person, but through Yosef, they have before them the “dmus d’yukno” of a Ya’akov Avinu.


  1. See Kiddushin near the top of 30b where the very emotion-laden word אויבים is used.
    And then, there is the famous story with R Laizer Gordon: "You can't learn Torah in a cemetary."

    Source for the pshat in the last two paragraphs?

    1. I saw it in more than one place. Here's one from R' Noson Gestetner (slight variation from how I wrote it, but same basic idea):


    2. Thank you. But...somehow it feels that you using your wife's header borders on לא תלבש.

  2. I believe that many stat counters do not register mobile devices. I know that mine does not. I believe google's does, but they also count robot access. In any case, whether you have innumerable fans or few, this one both appreciates and uses it.

    Yasher koach for the vort. The Chasam Sofer, while so true and important, strains even the suspension of disbelief as for being pshat in the passuk. Reb Yaakov's addition gives the Chasam Sofer validity- by sending them out as teachers, their dispersion will both temper their temper and also impart it to others.

  3. Re blogger -numbers might be down, but I appreciate your blog and check every week or 2. Thank you.