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Parshas Vayechi

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vayechi

Dec 17, 2010

Yosef HaTzadik hears that his father is deathly ill. He takes his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim to his father’s bedside. Yaakov Avenu strengthens himself and addresses his son; “G-d appeared to me in Luz, in Eretz Canaan. He blessed me. Be fruitful and multiply. Great nations will descend from you. I will give this land to your issue for all eternity.” 1

Yaakov continues, “Your two sons, the ones born in Eretz Mitzrayim prior to my arrival, Menashe and Ephraim, shall be as Reuven and Shimon.” Yaakov sees the sons of Yosef and queries, “Mi ayleh” (Who are these)?
 
He sought to bless them. The Holy Shechinah departed from him, and he was unable to do so. He searched for the cause and saw through ru’ach hakodesh three wicked descendants of Menashe and Ephraim: Yerav’am ben Nevat, Ach’av, and Yehu. He said, “Mi ayleh” – From whence come these who are unfit for Hashem’s blessing?” 2
 
Yosef responds, “They are my sons that Elokim gave me bazeh (with this).” Yosef displays his shtar eirusin (the document that forged his marital bond) and his shtar kesuba (the document spelling out the responsibilities of the husband towards the wife). He prays for heavenly compassion, and the Holy Shechinah returns.
 
Questions
 
Why would Yaakov Avenu use the words “Mi ayleh” which means, “Who are these”, when actually he is questioning from whence they came?
 
It would seem that one who has wicked members numbered among his descendants is not fit for a blessing. Is there then anyone in existence who qualifies for a blessing?
 
If Menashe and Ephraim are indeed undeserving of a blessing, how do they manage to find their way back into G-d’s graces? Do Yerav’am, Ach’av, and Yehu simply disappear?
 
What quality does a shtar eirusin possess that enables it to counteract the wickedness of Menashe and Ephraim’s descendants?
 
The shtar kesuba is primarily a monetary document. . What could it possibly add to the solution of the problem?
 
Background/Deeper Understanding
 
The Vilna Gaon expounds upon the posuk in Sefer Yeshaya (Perek 40, Posuk 26), Se’u marom eineichem u’r’u mi bara ayleh (Lift up your eyes and see who created these).
 
One who views our world with eyes of flesh and blood can only see the outcome, the product, of the process of creation. The connection between the physical world and its Maker is a hidden one. The root of the word olam (world) is “to hide”. 3  The process of creation is ongoing. Hashem is constantly sustaining all that exists. Unless one digs beneath the surface, one will be led astray by the false trails that serve to hide creation from its source.
 
It is our task to discover the link between the physical world and its source. The source is the “Mi” behind the scenes. Our world that branches out is the “Ayleh”. The Navi Yeshaya exhorts us to lift up our eyes, to view all of reality from an elevated perspective and thereby connect the “Mi” with the “Ayleh”.
 
When these two words are connected, they form the name of G-d, Elokim (Aleph, lamed, heh, mem, yud). 4
 
Initially, man was created alone. Hashem then formed Chava from Adam. Adam is Chava’s source. Upon their separation, Hashem commanded them to join together again. Thus the relationship between husband and wife is an exercise in joining the outcome with its source. 5
 
There is a vast difference between a Torah marriage and that of the gentile world. The Rambam tells us that prior to the giving of the Torah, when a man and woman consented to live with one another, that constituted marriage.  Divorce occurred when the man chose to end the arrangement and sent the woman out of his home. 6 A union that can be initiated and ended at will is not much of a bond. It is just two separate people sharing a home on a temporary basis. They may interact with one another, but there is no commitment.
 
A Torah marriage is cemented by kiddushin. The husband must perform an act through which he acquires his wife.  The relationship is forever. No mere whim can alter the permanent nature of the kiddushin. Only through a counter measure, the giving of a get, can the bond be severed.
 
One does not undertake such a measure lightly. Our sages decreed that one may not be alone with his wife in the absence of a kesuba. In the kesuba is spelled out the responsibilities of the husband. He is as one unit with his wife and must take care of her needs. The needs of the wife are his as well. There is a substantial sum awarded to the wife upon dissolution of the marriage. Besides the concern for her financial wellbeing, the sages were concerned that in the heat of the moment one might make a rash decision and choose to end the marriage out of anger. The large amount would cause one to reconsider, and examine the situation after the anger subsided. 7
 
Answers
 
When Yaakov Avenu beheld the idolatrous descendants of Menashe and Ephraim, he wondered. Did their iniquities stem from their own mistaken choices? Or is it something deeper?
 
Does their wickedness stem from a flaw, albeit deeply buried, between Yosef and his wife? Was the relationship of Yosef and his wife tainted with the perception of the idolatrous Egyptians, of their concept of marriage?
 
When a child is born from a relationship where the bond between the husband and the wife is flawed, the child will be challenged. It will be difficult for him to recognize and connect all that is in this world with its source. This is what lies at the very root of avoda zara. Yerav’am, Ach’av, and Yehu were infamous for spreading, aiding, and abetting the practice of avoda zara. They split the world away from its source.
 
It wasn’t solely the wickedness of these resha’im that held Yaakov Avenu back from blessing Ephraim and Menashe. It was this particular form of wickedness, a form that could possibly be traced back to Yosef.
 
The spirit of Ruach HaKodesh departed. Yaakov said, “Mi ayleh”? From where do these descendants come? They who separate the “Mi” from the Ayleh”. Are they perhaps the product of a union that separates the “Mi” from the Ayleh” as well? This was the basis for his choice of words.
 
Yosef replied, “They are my sons that Elokim gave me.” Yosef uses the name Elokim to refer to Hashem.  These children were born out of a marriage of holiness. A union dedicated to doing its part in restoring creation to its Creator. It is a bond between the “Mi” and the Ayleh”, thus it is a marriage of Elokim, where the two words are found bound together.
 
Yes, even in Mitzrayim, it is a marriage of kiddushin, and he showed his father his shtar eirusin. It is a marriage of dedication that will last forever, as represented in the shtar kesuba.
 
Yosef HaTzadik prayed, and the Holy Shechinah returned. Yaakov Avenu embraced his grandchildren and gave them the blessings of his fathers.


1 Perek 48, Posuk 5
2 Rashi, Perek 48, Posuk 8
3 Me’or Einayim, Likutim
4 Introduction to Sefer HaZohar
5 Rav Mordechai Gifter, z”l
6 Mishna Torah, Hilchos Ishus, Perek 1, Halacha 1
7 Meseches Yevamos 89a
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