Torah Fax

Friday, January 14, 2006 - 14 Tevet, 5766
Torah Reading: VaYechi (Genesis 47:28 - 50:26)
Candle Lighting Time:  4:32 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:37 PM
Shabbat Chazzak

Anger Management
Our Parshah tell us that prior to Jacob's passing he gathered all of his sons and blessed them. All of his sons, that is, with the exception of Shimon and Levi whom he strongly rebuked for their anger that they vented in the destruction of the city of Shechem and the sale of Joseph.
Jacob said to them: "Cursed be their wrath, for it is powerful, and their rage for it is callous. I will separate them amongst Jacob and I will scatter them throughout Israel."
Rashi comments that as a result of these words of rebuke, the members of the tribe of Shimon were destined to become the scribes and teachers of children who would have to travel throughout the land to perform their services. The tribe of Levi would also have to travel to collect the tithes to which they were entitled.
Several questions arise:
(a) Why would Jacob take the opportunity of sharing his last moments in this world to berate his own children?
(b) Why couldn't Jacob find at least one blessing for these two sons? Why did he single then out for criticism while he gave unqualified blessings to all of his other children?
(c) What purpose was served by these two tribes having to travel? It seems that the reason he scattered them was to reduce their power, so that they could not act up and unleash their anger and aggression on others. But, on the other hand, one could argue, wouldn't scattering them make their influence more pervasive. And, if Jacob was fearful of their ability to instigate violence, as they had done in the past, keeping them apart from the rest of the community would have been a better solution to the problem.
(d) Jacob's final blessings to his sons are prefaced in the Torah with the statement: "Gather round and I will tell you what will happen to you at the End of Days."  In other words, the blessings he gave his children were in some way connected to the Messianic Era. This raises the obvious question: What is so Messianic about the way he "blessed" Shimon and Levi? Is the Messianic Age a time when a father singles out two of his children for condemnation?
The answer to all these questions is to realize that the ultimate blessing one can give a child is for them to be able to take the energy that animates their worst vices and recalcitrant behavior into a positive force.
When we see a child that is rebellious, for example, there are two approaches we can take. The first is to try to rid the child of the rebellious attitudes; to assuage the child's anger, and, in general, to soften the child's temperament. Transforming the child from an aggressive person into a docile and sweet angel is admirable, but it fails to recognize the fact that G‑d created the aggressive mindset and that it might have some constructive value. And if it is part of G‑d's creation, it makes sense that one should try to salvage and utilize it for the good. 
The second and preferred approach to the aggressive child—or any other negative behavioral pattern—is to harness that aggressive spirit for a positive purpose.
This was Jacob's intent when he rebuked Shimon and Levi. Instead of superficially wishing them well and blessing them with peace and humility, he blessed them with the ability to aggressively spread their moral indignation and enhanced sensitivity to all of the Jewish people. To be sure, their anger and aggression had to be transformed into unadulterated dedication to G‑dly ideals. But, in Jacob's mind, it was imperative that they do not slow down. Moreover, Jacob wanted them to be the ones to be in the position to influence others. So while all the other less aggressive tribes were restricted to their territories and vocations, the twin tribes of Shimon and Levi were destined to earn their living by traveling throughout the land, teaching, inspiring and affecting all of the Jewish people.
Even the members of the tribe of Levi, whose travels were intended for material purposes— collecting their tithes — would, nevertheless, be in the position to utilize their contacts with others to impart their knowledge and spiritual awareness to those who would give them their tithes. In the words of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn,  to his emissary who was sent ostensibly to be a fund-raiser for charity: "Your job is to reap material goods and sow spirituality."
Thus Jacob was giving his two sons Shimon and Levi the ultimate blessing: They should be in the position to totally transform their weakness into strength by scattering them throughout the Jewish community so that they can share their dedication with others.
Jacob went beyond the platitudinous well-wishing of many a loving parent. He did not just wish them well, but he blessed them with the ability to transform their energy into a positive force. Moreover, he gave them the ultimate blessing that they share this heightened energy with all the other tribes.
This indeed is a Messianic trait that we must embrace as a way of hastening and preparing for the coming of Moshiach. Moshiach is about transforming all of the negative energy of the exile into a positive force and spreading it to the entire world. Each one of us must likewise reveal our own personal Moshiach by using our vices—not only our virtues—for the pursuit of the highest Messianic ideals and spread it to everyone around us.
Moshiach Matters
The Holy One, Blessed is He, said: "In the present world [only] certain individuals prophesied; in the world to come, however, all Israel will be made prophets, as it is said, 'It shall come to pass afterwards that I shall pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy...' "
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