Shabbat schedule - Friday - Shabbat, December 25-26, 2015

Torah Reading: Vayechi Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
Haftorah: I Kings 2:1 - 12

Shabbat Candle Lighting: 4:15 PM
Shabbat ends: 5:20 PM

Latest Kiddush Levana: Shabbat, 12/26, 1:41 & 12/18 AM

Shabbat Chazzak

Halachic Times:
Earliest Tefillin: 6:29 AM (latest of the week)
Latest Shma: 9:33 AM (earliest of the week)



Last Will and Criticism?

As Jacob lay “dying,” he gathered all of his sons to his bedside and blessed them. In truth, three of his sons, Reuben, Shimon and Levi, were actually censured for their temperament. Rueben was criticized for his impulsiveness and Shimon and Levi for their anger.

In his critical remarks to Shimon and Levi, Jacob stated:

Into their design, may my soul not enter! With their congregation, do not unite, O my honor!

What did Jacob have in mind with these cryptic words?

Rashi explains that the phrase, “Into their design, may my soul not enter” refers to a future incident in the days of Moses. Zimri, a descendant and leader of the tribe of Shimon, consorted with a Midianite princess and brought calamity to his tribe and to the Jewish people. Jacob requested that his name not be mentioned with regard to that matter, thus it was stated, “Zimri son of Salu, leader of a father’s house of Simeonites.” It did not write “son of Jacob.”

Similarly, Rashi explains that in the phrase, “With their congregation, do not unite, O my honor!” Jacob was alluding to Korach’s rebellion against Moses. Korach’s genealogy is described thus: “Korach son of Itzhar son of Hehos, son of Levi” It does not say, “son of Jacob.”

The Questions

Several questions come to mind:

First, why did Jacob feel compelled to criticize his sons at precisely the moment when he gathered them for his blessings? True, in the end, Rashi states, he included all of his sons in all his blessings. One might further observe that by reprimanding them for their imperfections, Jacob attempted to remove whatever blockages there may have been for his sons to be receptive to his blessings. However, the question still remains, why did he wait for the last moments of his life to remove their imperfections?

Second, why was he so concerned with tracing their names back to him? Would anyone have imputed to him the sins of his descendants?

Third, why was he only concerned with the sins of these two tribes? They were not the only ones to sin.

Fourth, these two sinners can indeed, indirectly, be traced back to Jacob, inasmuch as they are traced back to Shimon and Levi, respectively. Doesn’t everyone know that Shimon and Levi were sons of Jacob?

Kindness and Judgment: Double Edged Swords

The key to answering these questions is to first address another question: Why was Jacob more concerned about having his name somehow associated with the sins of his progenies than were Abraham and Isaac? Yishmael is frequently mentioned as the son of Abraham notwithstanding his deviation from Abraham’s way of life. Esau was even more corrupt and yet Isaac allowed Esau to be identified with him. Why was Jacob so sensitive about his reprehensible descendants that he chose to distance himself from them in his parting moments from them?

The answer lies in the spiritual differences between Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Chassidic thought explains that Abraham was the personification of the Divine attribute of chesed-kindness and love. Isaac, on the other hand, was the embodiment of the trait of gevurah-strength, which incorporates awe, judgment and discipline. These traits manifested themselves in the way Abraham and Isaac served G‑d and the way they dealt with others. Abraham served G‑d with love; Isaac with awe; Abraham spread his light outward; Isaac turned inward and introspective. Abraham showered hospitality and love; Isaac demanded high standards.

Jacob epitomized the attribute of tiferes-beauty or harmony, itself the synthesis of chesed and gevurah. Jacob inherited his father’s and grandfather’s traits of chesed and gevurah and transformed them into a piece of art of many colors. Indeed, Chassidic thought explains that when you combine kindness with judgment the result is rachamim-compassion another trait associated with tiferes. The reason why it is called beauty is precisely that it is a blend of two distinct colors. It takes many colors to produce a truly exquisitely piece of art. The most beautiful music is produced through a symphony.

The Awesome Power of Tiferes

When we delve more deeply into these three attributes, chesed, gevurah and tiferes we discover that there is far more power inherent in Jacob’s trait oftiferes. Chesed and gevurah turn out to be double-edged swords while tiferes is pure and pristine.

Chesed and love, Abraham’s attributes, and likewise Isaac’s attribute of gevurah, while positive and holy when they were manifested through Abraham and Isaac, can actually be the source of negativity as they emerge from their source.

To cite a few examples:

Exaggerated kindness to a child or student can often lead to an atmosphere of permissiveness. Giving alcohol to an alcoholic who pleads for it may outwardly come through as an act of kindness but it is just as negative an act as assaulting that person.

The emotion of love, which motivates acts of kindness, can also lead to immoral behavior.

Indeed, the Talmud states that incest is referred to in the Torah as chesed. This is explained in the Talmud by referring to Cain and Abel’s incestuous marriage to their twin sisters through which they populated the world; an act ultimately forbidden and regarded as deeply immoral and a heinous crime. Hence, the Talmud says, we can understand what the Psalmist means when he stated “The world was created with chesed!”

Chesed is, therefore, necessarily situational. There are times when it is considered to be the most exalted and cherished aspects of human personality and at other times it can mark the nadir of depravity.

The same is true for the attribute of gevurah with which Isaac is identified. Harshness and judgment are great when attenuated and capable of refining the one who is being disciplined but unmoderated it can also lead to anger and unmitigated violence.

Thus, our Sages underscore that Yishmael departed from Abraham and Esau departed from Isaac. Yishmael personified the chesed and love of Abraham but in its degenerate form and Esau was an extension of Isaac’s gevurah as he sank into violence. While they inherited their fathers’ characteristics ofchesed and gevurah, respectively, they channeled them into the realm of evil.

Jacob’s trait of tiferes, by contrast, could not degenerate into evil. When a trait is so nuanced and balanced it leaves no room for degeneration. Gevurahlimits the excessive potential of chesed and, conversely, chesed suppresses the explosive potential of gevurah. Tiferes is thus an incorruptible trait. Nothing truly evil or untoward can come out of tiferes. While evil can be committed by people notwithstanding their relationship to a tiferes personality it is notbecause of the tiferes personality but in spite of that person.

Thus the difference between the evil people who descended from Abraham and Isaac and those evil people who emerged from Jacob is that in the former case it was their traits of chesed and gevurah that went awry whereas in the latter instance, it was because they strayed from the tiferes ideals of Jacob.

“Jacob Did Not Die!”

We can now understand the statement in the Talmud that Jacob did not actually die. What this means on a spiritual level is that while the traits of chesedand gevurah can experience degradation and degeneration—death in the conceptual sense—Jacob’s trait of tiferes always remains intact.

This also explains the association made by the Torah of Jacob with truth. Truth in its truest form is the integrity and durability of a thought, deed or concept. Jacob personified this consistency and indeed found immortality.

We can now resolve all of the questions raised above.

The reason Jacob was so concerned with his progeny’s evil conduct that he did not want his name associated with them is that he wanted to demonstrate that fidelity to the well balanced trait of tiferes does not lead to that evil behavior. Abraham and Isaac, by contrast, could not make that case, because, as explained above, their traits can become the double edged swords that lead to immorality and violence.

That people would know that he was their ancestor did not trouble Jacob. What troubled him is that people would conflate their sins with Jacob’s impeccable ideal of tiferes, as if tiferes was just as vulnerable to distortion as the other traits.

We can now also understand why he was only concerned with the sins of these two tribes. The sins of Shimon dealt with immorality, the trait of chesedgoing awry, while the sin of Korach, who was associated with division and conflict was a manifestation of errant gevurah. Jacob wanted it to be crystal clear that their deviations had nothing to do with tiferes.

Preparation for Redemption

We can now also understand why he waited until the last moment to criticize his sons.

The Torah tells us that Jacob’s gathering of his sons was related to the future coming of Moshiach. All of the symptoms of exile, which brought physical and spiritual death and destruction to the world, stem from the corruption of chesed and gevurah. This is reflected in the twin threats to our existence of persecution and the enticement of assimilation. These are dramatic examples of how chesed and gevurah have descended so low. The spiritual powers of Abraham and Isaac have been perverted into tools of destruction.

Jacob wanted to demonstrate that, at precisely the moment they thought he was about to die, in truth he was going to live on; there would be no deterioration or devolution of his power of synthesis. Instead, it will lead to Redemption. He therefore emphasized that the negative behavior that emerged from these sons were aberrations and not related to him. Jacob’s message to his sons and to us all is that his approach would lead to Redemption and the negation of death in all of its forms.

This analysis sheds light on the Rebbe’s instructions to us to study Torah as a way of preparing ourselves for the Final Redemption; it is because Torah istiferes, the synthesis of chesed and gevurah. The Rebbe added particular emphasis on study of the Torah subjects of Moshiach and Redemption. By studying these subjects, we unleash the powerful truth of tiferes. With this power we condition ourselves and the entire world to live a Moshiach-oriented life; one of total balance between chesed and gevurah and thereby hasten the Final Redemption.

Moshiach Matters:

How is resurrection derived from the Torah? It is written (Num. 18:22) "And you shall give thereof the L-rd's heave offering to Aaron the priest." But would Aaron live for ever; he did not even enter the Land of Israel, that the heave offering should be given him? But it teaches that he would be resurrected, and Israel will give him the offering. Thus resurrection is derived from the Torah."