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Shmooze News November 26, 2021

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Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Teves

Rosh Chodesh will be next Shabbos and Sunday

Light 1st Chanukah candle this Sunday night

The “Gift” of Yosef’s Special Tunic

In this week’s parashah we are told that Yaakov gives his favored son, Yosef, a special garment as a gift; a כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים, a tunic of “passim” (generally translated as “fine wool”). Rashi, in his explanation of the term passim, cites the Midrash that the word פַּסִּים – PaSYM – is an acronym. It stands for the difficulties Yosef would endure under Potiphar (the Egyptian master that would purchase him), the Sochirm (merchants to whom his brothers sold him), Yishma’elim (the caravan drivers who took him down to Egypt), and Midianim (Midianite slave traders).

The question, of course, is how is that a “gift”? Who would wish that upon anyone, certainly his most beloved son!?

Another difficulty is that on the Yom Tovim, when we recite our personal prayer while the Kohanim are chanting the last word of Bircas Kohanim (the Kohanic blessing), we ask Hashem to “view us with חן, grace, … just as He viewed Yosef at the time that his father garbed him in the tunic of passim. Now, Hashem is certainly not moved by a fancy coat! How then did Yosef’s tunic cause him to find grace in Hashem’s eyes?

On a deeper level, clothing, represents more that just the material that keeps us warm. Garments serve as a metaphor for the traits, the middos, that clothe our inner selves. We may be born naked, but we are indeed “clothed” in this deeper sense. And those

middos of ours with which we were not born, we develop over our formative years. Pretty early on we have already developed a complete wardrobe of “clothing” – some nice and some not so nice (see Malbim to Vayikra 6:3).

Throughout our life, we are to mend that “wardrobe” and make it beautiful by strengthening the good middos and ferreting out the bad ones. No one starts out with a beautiful and complete wardrobe; that is a lifetime’s worth of work. But as we engage in that work, we develop a certain חן, chein (grace), in the eyes of those who see us.

Yosef developed that chein, so much so that wherever he went he was the natural choice for leadership, whether in his master’s home, in the dungeon, or in the court of Pharaoh. How did Yosef develop that chein? How do we develop chein? The answer, notes Rav Yitzchak Berkovitz, is through challenges. We do not ask for difficulties, and we pray that we not be tested with them. However, inevitably all of us undergo challenges; some greater and some smaller, but challenges are a feature of life. Yosef did not become Yosef HaTzadik in spite of all the challenges heaped upon his young head, rather it was through the very challenges, and how Yosef overcame them, that he became whom he became. Those challenges represented in (and engendered through) the passim built Yosef into who he was to become.

Of course, in giving him this tunic, Yaakov did not mean to heap challenges upon Yosef. He did not intend to give him the life experiences that would mold his character. But on a deeper level that’s exactly what Yaakov ended up giving him. He gave him the “gift” of whom he was to become, the gift of self-actualization. Such passim were indeed something that engendered grace. Such passim found chein in the eyes of Hashem!

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom / Good Shabbos, and Happy Chanukkah!

Rabbi Moskovitz


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The Malach’s Telltale Song

In this week’s parasha, we are told that while traveling back to Eretz Yisrael, Yaakov Avinu was attacked. וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר, a “man” wrestled with him, until dawn (Bereishis 32:24). Our Sages explain that this “man” was in fact a malach, an angel that had taken the form of a man, and that the malach was none other than the arch angel of the wicked Eisav (Bereishis Rabbah 77:3).

The pesukim go on to note that Yaakov struggled with that malach all night long, and then at the end of the night, the malach asked Yaakov to let him go. He said, שַׁלְּחֵנִי כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחר, let me go, for the dawn has come (ibid. v. 26). Our Sages explain that the reason the malach asked to go was because it was his unique time in heaven to sing Hashem’s praises. אָמַר לוֹ מַלְאָךְ אֲנִי, He said to Yaakov, “I am a malach,וּמִיּוֹם שֶׁנִּבְרֵאתִי לֹא הִגִּיעַ זְמַנִּי לוֹמַר שִׁירָה עַד עַכְשָׁיו, “and from the day that I was created the time had not yet come for me to sing shirah, to sing songs to Hashem [as angels do], until now (Chullin 91b).

In other words, the malach was saying, “This morning is my time to sing to Hashem. It is the day for which I was created, so – please – let me go as I really do need to leave!”

Why, though, of all times was it specifically now that the angel’s time had come to sing shirah? And if this was his predestined time to sing shirah, then why did he choose this time to wrestle with Yaakov? After all, the night before your “big day” up there in heaven is the very worst time to pick a fight with someone; certainly, someone as powerful as Yaakov!

Rav E.E. Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu vol. 5, p. 469) explains, that as our Sages teach us elsewhere, the arch angel of Eisav goes by a different name as well, namely שטן (sa’tan). They are one and the same malach. Sa’tan is the malach whose job it is to tempt us to do what is wrong. He is the malach whose job it is to make sin look alluring. But sa’tan, like any other malach, simply does the will of Hashem. Like any other malach, sa’tan too wants the Glory of Hashem to be manifest in the world. Indeed, Hashem only sends sa’tan to our world to tempt us, so as to allow for us to make free-willed positive decisions. Hashem’s purpose in sending us this malach is precisely so that we will ignore the malach’s temptations, and instead choose to listen to Hashem. When Yaakov overcame that angel, when he refused to allow sa’tan to control him, he actually was fulfilling what the angel was created to do! It was specifically then that the angel reached its purpose! And when an angel reaches its purpose – it sings shirah to Hashem, for the fulfillment of what a malach was created to do, is its song!

It was not a coincidence that this was the time for the malach to sing. Just the opposite! It was because Yaakov overcame it now, that the angel reached its purpose and therefore wanted to go sing shirah to Hashem.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom / Good Shabbos

Rabbi Moskovitz


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Angelic Encounters

Parshas Vayeitzei is bookended with stories involving malachim, angels. In the beginning of the parashah, Yaakov dreams and sees a vision of angels going up and down a ladder. At the end of the parashah, twenty years later, Yaakov returns to Eretz Yisrael with his family, and once again encounters angels, at Machanaim.

The Torah uses similar language to describe both encounters. In both instances, the Torah uses the root word פגע, which R’ Shimshon Raphael Hirsch translates to mean, “to be touched” or “moved” by something.

In the beginning of the parashah, when Yaakov arrives at the site where he will dream of the ladder, the pasuk says, וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם, and he was moved by the Place (Bereishis 28:11). “Place” is often times used as another name for the Omnipresent (“HaMakom”). Yaakov, explains Rav Hirsch, was moved by his encounter with the Divine, for he experienced a transcendent vision in which he was shown malachim climbing heavenward to find Hashem, but then coming back down only to find Him נִצָּב עָלָיו, standing over him – i.e., over Yaakov. This impressed upon Yaakov the powerful message that it was now Yaakov’s mission to become the bearer of Hashem’s Glory upon the earth. As our Sages say, האבות הם הם המרכבה, the Forefathers are themselves the chariot of the Divine (Bereishis Rabbah 47:6). When the angels go to look for Hashem, ideally, they should find Him manifest in this world, through the righteous deeds of Yaakov, and his descendants. This entire encounter was moving for Yaakov, leaving an indelible impression upon him. וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם, and he was moved by the Place.

At the end of the Parashah, we again find the root פגע being used to describe yet another one of Yaakov’s angelic encounters. There, though, the pasuk says וַיִּפְגְּעוּ בוֹ מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹקים (32:2), and angels of Gd were moved by him. While at the beginning of his journey, the impressive event was Yaakov’s encounter with the Place and his vision there, now – twenty years later – the impressive event was … him! The malachim, themselves were now moved, for they now encountered greatness. They saw the realization of the lofty vision that was expressed at the beginning of the parashah. Before their very eyes the malachim were privileged to see – not in theory, but in the flesh – an entire household dedicated to the mission of bearing the Divine in this world. Quietly and humbly going about their business, the family of Yaakov was a site to behold! Twenty years ago, it was Yaakov who was touched and moved by the angelic vision, but now the tables had turned. It was the angels that were touched and moved by their vision of him!


Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom / Good Shabbos.

Rabbi Moskovitz

Mon, November 29 2021 25 Kislev 5782