This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Vayechi (5765)
In this week's section, we read that on his death bed, Jacob wants to reveal what will occur in the days of Moshiach, but it became closed to him. In fact Rashi tells us that upon his death 'the hearts and eyes of all the Jews became closed'.
So instead of telling about Moshiach, Jacob tells his sons about other important things.
Except for his son Judah where Jacob speaks about Moshiach and then about NOT so important things:
He tells him that Moshiach will issue from his seed and that his land will produce so much wine that his offspring will have red-eyes from drink.
Why was Judah different? What is the connection between Moshiach and wine?
And what is the importance of having bloodshot eyes from drinking? What type of prophesy is this?
Also, near the end of the section Rashi (49:33) informs us that Jacob really didn't die (as the Talmud explains that he only APPEARED to be dead, embalmed and buried but he's really alive (Taanis 5b see Rashi there). This is a hint at the raising of the dead. Is there a connection to what was said earlier?
To understand this here is a shocking story I read in a recently published book called "Sipurim Sh'Ani Ahavti L'saper" (pg. 399)
Some one hundred and fifty years ago in Pressburg Germany there lived a rich Jewish factory owner. He was a kind man that provided well for his wife and three daughters and was accustomed to giving much of his wealth to charity.
But then tragedy struck. In the prime of life he suffered a fatal heart attack and his wife suddenly had to manage his affairs. Because he had no sons, immediately after the funeral she had to arrange someone to say Kaddish for him.
[When a Jew passes away it is a custom that his/her sons say a special praise of G-d called 'Kaddish' three times a day for that entire year and again on every anniversary day of the passing.]
The year passed. His wife settled in and was managing his business well but a thought crossed her mind.
What about all those Jews who pass away and have no one to say Kaddish for them?
It so bothered her that she went to a local Yeshiva (Torah academy), asked to speak to the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) and told him that she wanted to pay for Kaddish to be said for all those people.
The Dean agreed, a young man was paid to say a 'general mourner's Kaddish'
for that coming year. And so it continued for several years.
Until her finances took a turn for the worse; in fact for the worst.
Overnight her business failed and she found herself bankrupt, deep in debt and three daughters to marry off - and what about the Kaddish? The whole thing was a nightmare.
She decided to trust in G-d. 'Next year will be better' she told herself as she took what remained of all her jewelry to the pawnbroker and got enough money to pay for one more year of the Kaddish and a little bit left to live on.
But the next year things were even worse. The creditors became more demanding, her daughters kept getting older and in fact the oldest just got a very serious offer for marriage.
With a heavy heart she returned to the yeshiva and got the Dean to agree to say just one more year of Kaddish and she would try to pay later. But she left the building very downhearted.
As the door closed behind her and she stepped onto the sidewalk she felt like bursting into tears.
Then, as though from nowhere, a well-dressed elderly man approached her and said, "Excuse me, but is everything all right? Did something happen? Perhaps I can be of assistance?"
He seemed so kind and sympathetic that she poured out her entire sad story.
What did she have to lose?
"How much money do you need?" He asked when she finished. "That is, to pay all the debts, marry your daughter off and support yourself for another year?"
She smiled at the question; it would take a small fortune. Certainly he wouldn't be able to pay. And she wanted to end the conversation; after all she never saw this man before in her life.
"How much? I'm afraid it would be several thousand - at least fifteen thousand marks!" she replied; "But now I must be going. Thank you so much for your interest. I'm sure G-d will help. Good bye."
"Just one minute!" he said as she turned to go. He pulled out a checkbook, found something to rest it on and began to write. "Here! Please, it's for you." He said loudly enough to keep her from leaving, then walked over and handed her a check for twenty thousand marks!
As she stood there astounded, wondering if it was all a dream or perhaps some sort of trick, he continued,
"It's a fairly large sum. So maybe it is wise to get two witnesses to sign it." He opened the door of the Yeshiva and asked her to follow him in.
They went up the stairs to the large learning hall. It was almost empty as it was lunch break. Only two conscientious fellows remained sitting and learning. The elderly man walked up to them, explained what he wanted, produced identification and they signed. Then he returned the check to the woman and told her to hurry to the bank before it closed.
She thanked him profusely, ran down the stairs, then to the bank, gave the check to one of the tellers and she was referred to the manager. Once in the manager's office, just catching her breath, she presented him with the check and his eyes opened in amazement.
He looked at her then at the check then back at her again. He did this several times until he leaned forward and asked in an unusually serious and quiet voice. "Where did you get this check? Who signed this? What did he look like?"
She explained the whole miraculous chain of events and pointed to the signatures of the two witnesses on the check.
"Where are these witnesses?" he asked "I want to see them."
Moments later they were standing in the yeshiva. The young men readily verified their signatures and described the elderly man. The manager shook their hands, thanked them and headed back to the bank with the woman.
All the way he was strangely quiet, looking repeatedly at the signature on the check. When they returned to the bank and had the money transferred to her account he was whispering to himself and constantly wiping the sweat from his brow.
When she asked if everything was all right he asked her to sit down and began.
"The man who signed that check was my father."
He wiped his brow again, again looked at the check and almost whispered "He passed away four years ago."
"Just last night he appeared to me in a dream and reprimanded me for leaving the Torah and its commandments he even said that if it wasn't for some woman no one would say Kaddish for him. He was really angry, but I didn't take it seriously. After all it was only a dream. So I thought!
"But I was wrong. Now I see that he is really alive and I am the one that is dead. Rather, was dead. I have decided to start doing what G-d wants and not just what I want. I swear that from today on I will return to Judaism."
[The two witnesses were Reb Yhosua Grinvald who became head Rabbi of Austro-Hungary and Reb Yosef Chiam Zunnenfeld who became the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. The author claims the story was verified by Rabbi Zunnenfeld's great grandson]
Although this story is really strange it is no stranger than what we find in the Talmud (Ketuvot 104a) that after Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was dead and buried he used to return home each Shabbat and make Kiddush for his family! And in Sanhedren 98b (and elsewhere) that even Moshiach will come from the dead!
Which is explained simply: if Moshiach will bring about the Raising of the Dead, which is the ultimate level of purity, he must also possess this
So this answers our question. Jacob's message to Judah was different because our section begins with the closing of the 'eyes' and 'hearts' of the Jewish people and only Moshiach, who will come from Yehuda, is going to open them.
And that is the deeper meaning of Yehuda being "red-eyed from wine". Wine refers to the G-dly secrets of the Torah. Eyes refer to one's goals and desires - he has his 'eyes' on that prize etc. And 'red' means being inflamed.
Moshiach, through the Holy mysteries he will reveal and teach, will inflame the desires of the Jewish people with the love of G-d. (see Torah Or of Chabad pg 47)
Then the world will become so purified that even death will be abolished, and Jacob was a foretaste of that.
This is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe means when he said over ten years ago that Moshiach is here, we only have to open our eyes to see him.
Namely that we should be so inflamed with the love of the Creator and the desire to reveal His presence in the world that we will do everything, literally everything in our power, to bring...
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.