Illuminations #57, Tevet 5776, Parshat Vayechi

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Illuminations #57, Tevet 5776, Parshat Vayechi

Torah Gems

The Ben Ish Hai tells a story of a man that once went for a stroll in the forest. He was walking through the trees enjoying the scenery when suddenly he saw a bear standing in front of him, ready to attack. The un-armed man, trembling, had no idea what to do. The man remembered he was holding a cane and decided to point it at the bear, pretending it was a gun. The man hoped the bear would think it was a gun and flee. The man raised his cane, pointed it at the bear, and pulled his imaginary trigger. Suddenly, he saw the bear fall flat on his face. The bear was dead. The man hugged and kissed his cane for killing the bear. There was a hunter hiding in one of the trees who shot the bear, and the hunter called out to this man, “You fool; you think your cane killed the bear?!”

When Yaakov Avinu’s two sons, at the age of thirteen, killed all the men of Shekhem, they showed their tremendous power. However, Yaakov revealed to us that he was the one who killed Shekhem, as the passage says, “With my sword and with my arrow,” and Unkulus explains that means with my prayer and my request. To the human eye it seems that it was Yaakov Avinu’s sons’ great strength that enabled them to defeat Shekhem. However, Yaakov Avinu tells us otherwise: it was his prayer than enabled them to be victorious. We see from here that when we fight wars it is not our power that wins the war, rather it is our prayer to Hakadosh Barukh Hu.

Parsha Pearls

Why Is the Fast of the 10th of Tevet for the First Temple?

The fast of the 10th of Tevet was established on account of the siege
of Jerusalem that took place at the time of the First Temple, at the
hands of Nebuchadnezzar. This needs some explanation, since we are told that the destruction of the Second Temple was more serious than the destruction of the First. If so, we should be fasting for the siege of the Second Temple instead.

The question is, why was the destruction of the Second Temple more serious? The answer is that after the First was destroyed we were comforted by the Second. Now that the Second is destroyed, we are still in mourning. Additionally, the Second had more honor. It stood taller on the Temple mount and also stood for ten more years than the First.

The truth of the matter is that even though the Second Temple had more honor, the First Temple had more holiness attached to it. It should be pointed out that when the Second Temple was built, this fast ceased, but when it was also destroyed, it was reinstituted. In fact, today we consider that all the fasts over the Bet Hamikdash (Temple) are both for the holiness of the First and the honor of the Second.

Glimpses of Greatness

Some Jews met Rav Hayim Hizkiah Medini (author of the Sdei Hemed) walking down the street in the heat of the day. “Where are you going, Rav Hayim?” they asked him. He replied, “I am going to fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick.” ” Who is ill?” they inquired. At the mention of the individual’s name, the men shuddered. “He is such a sinner! May there be no more like him in Israel.” Why was the Hakham suffering the intense heat to visit him? The Hakham patiently explained, “First of all, a Jew, even if he sins, is as stuffed with Mitzvot as a pomegranate is with seeds. Secondly, it is not only the sick man that I am going to visit, but the Divine Presence, which hovers over the bed of the sick.” The men joined Rav Hayim on his visit. When the sick man saw his distinguished guests, he gathered all his strength to sit up in their honor. Not many days passed before the man was seen walking the streets of Hebron in full health, both physically and spiritually, for he had returned to his faith in perfect repentance.

Halacha Weekly

Q. How should one celebrate a birthday according to Jewish Tradition?
A. There are different opinions how one should celebrate one’s birthday. Some are of the opinion that on should wear new clothing. Some suggest having a new fruit at their meal and saying the brachah of shehechiyanu (blessing where we acknowledge that Hashem brought us to this point in our lives) as a way to give thanks to Hashem. Still others are of the opinion that one should give charity corresponding to the age one has reached on one’ s birthday. Some say one should fast or take upon themselves a Ta’anit Dibur, where one does not speak the entire day to avoid speaking Loshon Hara. Some say one should make a spiritual accounting of their deeds on their birthday and accept upon themselves a good  practice to adhere to that they have not taken on before.
Harav K’Tav Sofer says one should give a siyum (when one finishes a tractate of Gemara) on their birthday, pointing out that this father, the Chatam Sofer, also did the same.  Some have a custom to receive an Aliya to the Torah during their birthday. Others have the custom that one should say chapters of Tehillim according to their age.
HaRav Chida writes that one’s date of birth is when one’s Mazal thrives and flourishes most. He continues that a birthday presents a special potential for an individual to succeed. Therefore, it is a day where one should make personal requests of Hashem, since it has that special potential. HaRav Ben Ish Chai adds that in addition to a birthday, there are those who celebrate on the day they had their Brit Milah, and this is a good custom.   There is also an old custom in Jerusalem where people go to the Kotel (Western Wall) on their birthday.


In appreciation for the members of Kollel Ner Hamizrach
and the Torah they learn.
Jeff & Renée Levene
We’re so happy they’re here!