Vayechi

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ויקרא יעקב אל בניו   מט:א     The Brisker Rav was exceedingly exacting in the way he said Krias Shema.  It would take him a very long time.  (Paranthetically, the Gemara says that the reward for reciting Shema carefully is that Gehinom will be cooled off for him.  This is a tremendous schar.  Nevertheless, apparently not all Gedolei Yisrael held of the extreme extent to which the Briskers take this inyan.  One time, Rav Meir Soloveitchik was in the presence of the Chazon Ish when he (Rav Meir) was saying Shema.  He said it in Brisker form, taking an extremely long time to say every word with the utmost of precision.  Afterwards, the Chazon Ish told him, “Be careful you don’t catch a cold.”)  Baruch sheim, though, was not given the same attention to exactitude.  Given his pace throughout the rest of Shema, the amount of time from when he finished the word echad until he began v’ahavtah was much quicker.  When asked about this, the Rav answered as follows.

The halacha that one must be medakdeik in Krias Shema is not because of the act of kabalas ol malchus Shamayim, but a requirement as far as reading pesukim is concerned.  The proof of this is the source of precision reading.  It is derived from the word v’limadetem, which Chazal darshen to mean that your limud should be tahm, complete.  The enunciation should be unadulterated.  Where does the word v’limadetem appear in Krias Shema?  In the second paragraph.  Most Rishonim hold that the second paragraph is only required mi’d’Rabannan, so the derasha cannot be referring only to Krias Shema.  Rather, it is a halacha that applies to mikrah, reading pesukim.  Rav Moshe Feinstein was once observed doing shnayim mikrah, and it was apparent that he was saying the words with the same degree of precision as when he would say Krias Shema.  So we see that he too held that the halacha of precision reading is not a requirement unique to Shema, but that it is a requirement insofar as reading pesukim is concerned.

Baruch Sheim, despite being an integral part of kabalas ol malchus Shamayim, is not a pasuk, and therefore does not require the same level of precision. This, of course, leads us to the question, seeing that Baruch Sheim is not a pasuk, where does it come from? Of course, everyone knows the Medrash on this week’s parsha that when Yaakov Avinu wanted to reveal the end of days to his sons, the Shechina departed from him, and he was worried that maybe one of his sons was unworthy.  Yishmael was an aberration that came out of Avraham Avinu, and Eisav was an aberration that came out of Yitzchak Avinu, and Yaakov was worried that perhaps something bad came out of him as well.  The Shevatim all cried out, Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad, thus confirming that they were all staunchly and fully committed to Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu alone.  Upon hearing that, Yaakov Avinu responded Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuso L’olam Va’ed. This is the way that it is recounted in the Bavli (Pesachim 56a).  The Gemara concludes that Yaakov Avinu said Baruch Sheim but Moshe Rabbeinu did not.  Therefore we say it, but only silently.  The Gemara gives a mashal to a princess who smelled the greasy, burned remainders at the bottom of a pot (tzikei kedeirah) and felt a strong desire to eat it.  On the one hand, if she asks for it, it will be embarrassing, but if she doesn’t she will suffer.  So her servants brought it to her secretly.  This is a difficult mashal to understand, because it would seem to imply as if there is something missing with Baruch Sheim.

There is another Medrash that says a different version of the source for Baruch Sheim.  It says that when Moshe Rabbeinu when up to On High, he heard the malachim saying Baruch Sheim and he brought it down to Klal Yisrael.  Since it was a sort of confiscation from the malachim, we don’t behave so boldly as to say it out loud, except for on Yom Kippur when we ourselves are like malachim.  The Medrash there makes it clear, though, that Moshe did not “steal” it.  The mashal is like a man who was given permission by a king to go in to the palace and take whatever he wants.  What did he take?  The queen’s finest piece of jewelry!  He is not a crook.  He had permission to take whatever he desires.  Still, no one thought he would take the queen’s crown jewel.  Therefore, the man tells his wife, “Here is this piece of jewelry, but only wear it inside our home.” Yet a third version is in the Medrash on parshas Va’eschanan.  The Medrash asks, from where did we get the zechus to say Shema?  From Matan Torah.  What happened?  Hashem said, Shema Yisrael Anochi Hashem Elokecha, Klal Yisrael responded Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad, and Moshe Rabbeinu followed with Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuso L’olam Va’ed.

Interestingly enough, in the Targum Yerushalmi on the pasuk, the conclusion is that when Yaakov Avinu heard his sons say Shema Yisrael he responded, Yehei Shemei Rabah Mevarach L’almei Almin.  Essentially, they mean the same thing.  Both are statements that the great Name of the Almighty should be blessed forever and ever.  The word baruch, explains the Nefesh Ha’Chaim, means increase.  When we are making a bracha to Hashem, we are saying that His Presence in the world should be increased.  The revelation of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu should become greater and greater.  So, Baruch Sheim is a statement that Sheim Kevod Malchuso, the name of the glory of the kingship of Hashem, should become more and more revealed and present in the world forever and ever.

A question that could be asked is what is the basis for saying Baruch Sheim out loud at the close of Yom Kippur?  This question is even sharper when it comes to Yom Kippur Katan, where at the end of the seider ha’teffilah, there is the same kabalas ol malchus Shamayim as at the close of Yom Kippur.  Also, at large rallies in times of tzarah, this is sometimes recited.  So what could be the basis for this? The Maharsha says that the reason why we say Baruch Sheim quietly is so that it should not be an interruption between Shema and v’ahavtah.  Really the two should be immediately juxtaposed, but we have to say Baruch Sheim.  We minimize the separation, though, by saying it quietly. According to this, it is not a problem in general to say Baruch Sheim out loud, only when said as part of Krias Shema.  That could be the basis for saying Baruch Sheim out loud in all the above circumstances. (Audio recording)

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יהודה אתה יודוך אחיך מט:ח      Rabbeinu Bachayei says that Yehuda corresponds to Shabbos because he was the seventh child of Yaakov avinu.  The words yoducha achecha allude to the fact that, on Shabbos, there is a particular avodah of expressing hodaah (gratitude/praise) to Hashem. As it says in the Mizmor shir l’yom ha’Shabbos – tov l’hodos la’Hashem. That is why there is a significantly longer pesukei d’zimrah – which is full of hodaah to Hashem – on Shabbos. It is specifically the content of pesukei d’zimrah that is the avodas ha’yom. From the words v’daber davar (Yeshayahu 58:13), Chazal derive the halachah that “your speech on Shabbos must not be like your speech during the weekdays”. According to some mefarshim, this includes davening. Davening on Shabbos has to be of a different, more exalted quality on Shabbos. That is the avodas ha’yom.

On the topic of the concept of avodas ha’yom (the specific “service of the day”), there is fascinating idea brought down in the name of the Arizal. Every day of a person’s life has its own particular purpose and goal, and, accordingly, each day has its own din v’cheshbon (accounting). This is the reason why we sleep. There is a specific part of the neshamah that corresponds to each particular day. It is specifically that part of the neshamah that carries the task and potential to fulfill the purpose and goal of that day. Once that day is completed, the corresponding part of the neshamah returns to Shamayim – while one sleeps – because its role has been completed.

Interestingly, the Gra gives a different explanation of the reason for sleep. He says that it is in order to enable one to achieve levels of understanding of the Torah that are not possible to grasp so long as the neshamah is fully confined within the physical body. By going up to Shamayim, the neshamah is able to reach those higher levels of understanding Torah.

Regarding Torah achievement, we find two brachos that were said to the Shevatim. One is in this week’s parsha, “Yissachar chamor garem” (49:14), which is an expression of the determined effort that is necessary for Torah achievement. The other is in parshas V’zos Ha’Bracha regarding sheivet Levi, “tumecha v’urecha l’ish chasidecha” (33:8), which represents the idea of staying in one place and maintaining focus. It’s about being removed from the mundane concerns of this world and keeping focus on what really counts. Kedusha brings one to success in Torah. Learning Torah brings one close to Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu. One’s actions also affect his level of success in growing in Torah. Key to understanding what success in Torah means, though, is realizing that it is not simply about how much one knows. It’s not simply about being a “big talmid chacham”. Rather, true success in Torah is measured by the degree to which one becomes connected and bound up with Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu. (From Reb Naftali Eichen)

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Quotables          “Some people think that if they exit the world of full-time learning to take on a job, that means that they can no longer expect of themselves to learn Torah on the level of the Ben Torah they once were. It doesn’t always happen immediately, but it unfortunately happens all too often as time goes on. But this is a mistake. Imagine you are the owner of a mehudar set of teffilin. Would you exchange your teffilin for a lesser quality set of teffilin because you decided to go out to work? Of course not! Well, the same way that there is no reason to exchange your teffilin if you go out to work, so too is there no reason to exchange the quality of your Torah learning! The fact that you may not have as much time to learn the same quantity does not at all mean that the quality of your learning should be any less than it was when you were learning full time.”

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Vignettes            My father once told me that, when he assumed the position of maggid shiur in Yeshivas Toras Moshe, he accepted upon himself that he would do his utmost to always give a talmid his full attention whenever a talmid would want to ask something or discuss some matter. My father became a Rebbi of talmidim right around the time I was born, and I heard this when I was seventeen years old. So it was a seventeen year old resolution. “Tatty,” I asked in all earnestness, “did you keep to the resolution?” “Yes,” my father answered me, “with the exception of three occasions in which there was something that I absolutely had to attend to, and, in those three instances, I was unfortunately not able to give the talmid the full attention and time that I had wanted to. (Reb Avraham Twersky)