Tuesday, January 07, 2020

the greatest tragedy of all

Chazal offer different reasons why parshas Vayechi is a parsha stuma, a "closed" parsha, one with no break between its opening and the previous parsha.  One view suggests that the text is alluding to the fact that Yaakov's access to ruach hakodesh was closed off and he was unable to reveal to his children what will happen in the end of days.  Another view sees the parsha stuma as an allusion to Klal Yisrael being closed off in galus.  A final view quoted in the Yalkut explains that the parsha is closed because, after suffering for so many years of heartache and pain, Yaakov was finally closed off and removed from all sorrows.

Although the same Midrash quotes all three views, the last one clearly stands out as  anomalous.  The first two explanations see a parsha stuma as alluding to something negative -- Yaakov's loss of ruach hakodesh, Klal Yisrael's loss of freedom.  Not so the third view, which sees the stuma as alluding to Yaakov's loss of sorrow -- what could be better than that?

Chasam Sofer (derashos, 5593) explains that in fact, this third view actually reflects the most negative perspective on the parsha and sees in it the greatest tragedy of all.  Here we have Yaakov Avinu entering galus where he knows he will die, here we have the shivtei K-h leaving Eretz Yisrael with no idea when they will ever return home.  What happened when they entered the land of Mitzrayim?  Last week's parsha ends by telling us that they settled in Goshen, "va'yeiachazu bah vayifru vayirbu me'od."  They had beautiful homes, lots of kids, mistama they started businesses, and life was good!  There was probably a kosher pizza or two or three in Goshen, a sushi joint with fresh fish from the Nile, etc. -- all the amenities we like to have.  And with no break our parsha starts, "Vayechi Yaakov...," Yaakov had a second wind in life and he too could enjoy his final years in Mitzrayim.  What's so bad?

Chazal tell us that when you see this scene, instead of jumping for joy, you should shed a tear.  Does anyone living that life in Goshen -- a life similar to the life many of us live in galus USA -- remember that this is galus, that this is not where we are supposed to be and not where we should want to be?

The greatest tragedy of the parsha is that we've forgotten the tzaros -- we've gotten used to galus and we're successful and happy here and we could care less about getting out. 

Chasam Sofer elsewhere writes that when the navi tells us that the fast days that commemorate the churban habayis, among them today, 10 Teves, will one day be transformed into days of simcha, it does not mean that we will suddenly forget everything from the past.  Aderaba, the simcha comes davka because we never forgot the past.  It's only because we continue to think about beis hamikdash even when we don't have it,  showing that we still connect to it and long for it, that we will eventually be able to celebrate it's return.  But if we forget, if it doesn't bother us that it's not here, then what exactly is going to move us to happiness when we do get it back?


  1. -- "galus USA"

    "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust", Article Six, clause three, U.S. Constitution

    ...and as for membership in the Great Sanhedrin*, the Supreme Court of Israel that adjoins the "beis hamikdash"?

    {lest one say that 'would the U.S. effect "an establishment of religion", it sure as a steeple of steel would not include Rabbinic Judaism', what was it Yosef arranged in a foreign land? for klal Yisrael to hold property (47:11, 27). where who else owned land? [only] the priests! (47:26) -- why wait for Hashem to render you a kingdom [or a fiefdom] of kohanim, when you can do it yourself? (Yosef also >lessened< the family's awareness of exile by shuffling the Egyptian populace around, Rashi 47:21a)}

    *'the successful candidate for office will be able to argue convincingly that a creeping animal is tahor by Torah law', etc., Sanhedrin 17a

  2. "different reasons why parshas Vayechi is...a 'closed' parsha"

    because Yaakov finished commanding his sons 49:33*, closed his instruction, spoke his last

    *but didn't Yaakov's command end at pasuk 29? no! in addition to telling his sons to bury his body, he tells them that they must remember both the particulars of business transactions (:30), and the context of such tranactions (:32); and they must remember their ancestors, their history, their 'narrative' as it were (:31), in which he their father is already impersonally embedded (>they< buried Yitzchak)...

  3. -- "Aderaba, the simcha comes davka because we never forgot the past"

    thus did Yaakov switch [aderaba] his hands and put Ephraim first, put b'eretz an'yii (41:52) ahead of ki-nashani Elokim...es kol-beis avi (:51), put a sense of affliction ahead of forgetfulness ('beis avi', Yaakov's house, also meaning Temple)

    -- "what exactly is going to move us...?"

    that only a small portion of those little removed from "10 Teves" returned from Bavel to rebuild, shows that weeping* is one thing (T'lim 137:1), relocation another...

    *fasting, commemorating

    -- Mehr News, on January 5, prints 'the last script' of Qasem Soleimani: I love meeting You The same meeting which made Moses unable to stand and breathe...

    which meeting was that?? and yet, maybe, when Moshe first learned from G-d that he would not be entering eretz Yisrael, he momentarily felt floored, floored and suffocated; he'd been consigned to "galus"...