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A Father's Loving Embrace

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vayechi

Jan 2, 2015

A Father’s Loving Embrace


Parshas VaYechi 5775


As Yaakov Avenu’s final moments in this world approached, Yosef brought his sons, Menashe and Ephraim, to be blessed by their grandfather. Yaakov prepared himself to bless them.[1] The Torah refers to Yaakov as Yisroel, the name that conveys nobility, indicative of his connection to the heavens at that moment.[2] He would bless them through his connection to the Holy Shechinah …. and the Shechinah departed from him. He could not bless them.


Why did the Shechinah depart? Yaakov Avenu saw, through ruach hakodesh, that the wicked kings Yerav’am ben Nevat and Ach’av would be descended from Ephraim. The evil King Yehu would be descended from Menashe.[3]

Yosef showed Yaakov his shtar eirusin and shtar kesubah – document of betrothal and marital conditions. He prayed for divine mercy and the Shechinah returned. Yaakov then blessed Menashe and Ephraim.[4]


Questions


If the Shechinah departed due to the wickedness of Menashe and Ephraim’s descendants, what changed so that the Shechinah was able to return?


Yosef showed his father evidence that his marriage with the mother of Ephraim and Menashe was a proper one, yet the Shechinah did not return until Yosef prayed.


If one may bless those who produce such wicked descendants, why, then, is a prayer required?


And if it is improper to bless them, what then was the essence of Yosef’s prayer that altered the matter?


Analysis


There are two basic causes for evil, one is internal and one is external.


One can be essentially good, but due to one’s circumstances can commit acts of evil. Sometimes evil can be attributed to the influence of society, a depressing set of circumstances, or moments of weakness.[5]


Or, one can be evil incarnate, wicked to the core. One can actually be a source of evil.


There actually is a parallel to the Shechinah departing at the moment of a blessing.


Yitzchok Avenu thought Eisav worthy of his blessing. He asked Eisav to bring him the fruits of his hunt. He did so in order to rejoice in Eisav’s bounty and thus attain a level of prophecy. Hashem viewed Eisav as unworthy of Yitzchok’s blessing. Hashem intervened by revealing this unworthiness to Rivkah Imeinu. This resulted in the blessings being withheld from Eisav.


Eisav was not evil due to the impact that society exerted on him. On the contrary, he cast his evil upon his surroundings. Eisav is the source of all that is evil in this world. Every nation has an angel that is appointed by Hashem to guard its interests. The angel of Eisav’s nation is the Satan.[6]


Yaakov Avenu thought that the departure of the Shechinah was due to the impropriety of Yosef’s marriage. Yosef married a daughter of one of nations under the sphere of Eisav. The children of such a union are internally evil, and thus, one must not bless them. One does not bless a source of evil. Blessing a source of evil makes the source a more potent one. It will only produce more evil.


Yosef showed Yaakov his shtar eirusin and shtar kesubah. The bond with his wife was a Torah bond. The source of Menashe and Ephraim was a pure one. They are unlike Eisav. Any evil among their descendants was due to the personal choice of those descendants and not because of improper beginnings.


And yet the Schechinah did not return.


Although the source of Yeravam, Ach’av and Yehu is a pure one, they are still evil. Evil will be the beneficiary of Yaakov’s blessing. This cannot be.


Answers


The gemara tells us, Yisroel af al pi shechata Yisroel hu – An Israelite, even though he sins, is an Israelite.[7] It is impossible for a Jew to be lost to the Jewish people. No matter how far he strays, he is a Jew. He might not be a very good Jew, but a Jew he remains. One cannot “convert” out of the Jewish religion.


There is a reason for this.


Yaakov Avenu fathered a nation. His life’s accomplishment was to give over to his children the unbreakable bond that he merited with the Creator.


He succeeded.


Built into the fabric of being of every one descended from Yaakov Avenu is the deep awareness that our existence is predicated upon our connection to a higher power, the power of the One who created us, the power of the One who sustains us.


Yaakov’s offspring are internally good. They identify with the name “Yisroel”. Any evil among them is superficial.

Yaakov Avenu would never bless those who personify the evil of Eisav. But what of those who only resemble Eisav externally? They are also doers of evil. Are they also beyond redemption?


The answer really depends. If those who are externally evil are beyond hope, if they cannot get in touch with the goodness that lies at their inner core, then there is not much difference between them and those who are internally evil. They are unworthy of a blessing.


Yosef prayed. Yaakov embraced his grandchildren.


The content and effect of Yosef’s prayer was that Yaakov should embrace Menashe and Ephraim. Yaakov should embrace all of Menashe and Ephraim. He should embrace the tzadikim who will emerge from Menashe and Ephraim and he should embrace the wicked ones of Menashe and Ephraim. They are all worthy of his embrace because they are all Yisroel. Through Yaakov’s embrace, through Yaakov’s blessing, he blessed Menashe and Ephraim that their essence and that of their offspring should always be embraced by Yisroel.


Yosef's prayer and Yaakov's embrace had the desired effect.


Prior to that moment it was possible to go beyond the point of no return.


It is possible no longer.


Every yid is precious. Every yid is lovingly being held in Yaakov Avenu’s embrace.



[1] Parshas VaYechi, perek 48, posuk 1 - 9

[2] Parshas VaYishlach, perek 32, posuk 28

[3] Rashi, Parshas VaYechi, perek 48, posuk 8

[4] Rashi, Parshas VaYechi, perek 48, posuk 9

[5] Meseches Brachos, daf 17a – Retzoneinu la’asos es retzonecha

[6] Rabeinu BaChaye, Parshas Toldos, perek 26, posuk 19

[7] Meseches Sanhedrin, daf 44a

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