Parashat Vayigash 5768

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12 Dec 2007

Parashat Vayigash 5768

Parashat Vayigash – I Feel Your Pain

“Then he [Yosef] fell on his brother Binyamin’s neck and wept, and Binyamin wept upon his neck” (Bereshit 45:14). “And he [Yosef] wept” – over the two Temples that would stand in the territory of Binyamin and would be destroyed, and Binyamin wept over the Tabernacle of Shiloh that would stand in the territory of Yosef and would be destroyed (Rashi).

Why did they weep then, at a time of joy, over future destruction? And why did each one weep over the destruction in the other’s territory and not in his own territory?

As is known, the Temples were destroyed on account of baseless hatred (Yoma 9b). When Yosef and Binyamin met, they realized that the separation between them up to now was caused by baseless hatred, and they foresaw the future destruction, which would also be a result of baseless hatred. They therefore wept.

The spiritual repair of baseless hatred is the great strengthening of mutual love to the point where another person’s pain is greater than one’s own pain. Each one therefore wept over the other’s destruction, which teaches and proves that each one of them cared more about the other’s destruction than his own. Even though Binyamin’s Temples could not be built until after the destruction of Yosef’s Tabernacle, Binyamin nonetheless wept over the destruction of Yosef’s Tabernacle, since he preferred that his Temples not be built if it meant that the other’s sanctuary would be destroyed. This love contains in it the ability to be a spiritual cure for baseless hatred (based on Me’eina shel Torah in the name of Ha-Rav Ha-Kadosh Y. Mikazmir z”l). – Tal Chermon

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Text Message Responsa:

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets “Ma’ayanei Ha-Yeshu’ah” and “Olam Ha-Katan.” Here’s a sample:

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Stories of Rabbenu – Our Rabbi: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Honoring Parents

Our Rabbi would stand before his mother, and when he would separate from her he would walk backwards.

Our Rabbi’s mother needed to send him a message to remind him that he needed to eat. When our Rabbi reached the age of bar mitzvah, he informed his mother that from now on he did not want her to determine what he ate, but he would decide on his own. Nevertheless, when there were days that she saw him and touched her finger on cookies that were on the table, he immediately took from them and ate in order to provide her with contentment.

Netilat Yadayim (Ritually washing hands)

– One day, before netilat yadayim, Our Rabbi said: “Blessed is Hashem, a meeting with King Shlomo,” on account of a recognition and feeling that King Shlomo, who established netilat yadayim, was there (see Shabbat 14b and Rambam, Hilchot Avot Ha-Tumah 8:8).

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Avraham’s language at home

Rav Kook and English

A talk given after lunch at the yeshiva –

Secular Jews: Today’s Hellenists?

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On Air

Every Tuesday and Thursday night Rav Aviner answers questions of Jewish Law and faith on the radio in Israel. On the Air presents a sample of these answers each week.

Tzahal soldier lighting chanukiyah

Maximum distance between Chanukah lights

Reciting “Shehechiyanu” more than once on Chanukah lights

“Magdil” or “Migdol”

Shabbat Chanukah after from home (This question was asked five times this week!)

Waiting between Chanukah and Shabbat lights

Lighting chanukiyah at work

Woman lighting chanukiyah

Late-night lighting

Lighting in home where there are no people

Cemetery on Chanukah

Lighting outside

Fake oil

Where to light

Window or door

Following different opinions in one house

Best place to put chanukiyah

Moving chanukiyah

Rabbenu Tam Tefillin by accident

Hashem forgiving Yosef’s brothers

Non-Jewish calendar

Kashering a pork factory

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Rav Aviner’s article from this week’s parashah sheet “Be-Ahava U-Be-Emuna” of Machon Meir (Translated by Rafael Blumberg)

It’s a Mitzvah to Take Part in the Strike

[The teacher’s strike in Israel which began around Rosh Hashanah is entering its fourth month]

Obviously, the ideal is to solve labor disputes not through strikes but through rapprochement, arbitration or a court decision. One should not rush to use the weapon of strikes.
Yet if one side refuses to talk, or to turn to arbitration, or to honor a decision of arbitration, it is permissible to use the weapon of a strike in order to force that side to agree to talk or to arbitration or to agree to a decision arrived at through arbitration.

This principle applies today regarding the school teachers, who are arguing that they do not receive enough of a salary, and that to the contrary, the strike is in the pupils’ best interests. After all, if the teachers cannot earn a respectable living, many will not turn to this profession. Moreover, some will leave teaching. Also, due to the burden on teachers, who have to work many hours to earn a good living, the students are not going to receive the full care that they require.

Therefore, even though during the strike the students lose out, in the long run, they will benefit. Amongst our communal leadership, some do calculate the minor loss in the present versus the great benefit for the future – and this whether the pupils forfeit secular study or Torah study, for regarding both types of students, the same calculation applies.

And certainly a teacher cannot argue that he will not take part in a strike since either way it is going to take place. If one teacher is obligated, then all are obligated. If others do as he does, the strike will collapse. Regarding such thinking, it says, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.” If you strike, you don’t want other teachers not to strike. Or, in the philosophical language of Kant, morality must be “universalized”. In other words, in any moral dilemma, you must determine how matters will be if everyone behaves like you, and you must see yourself as a universal legislator whose behavior will serve as a yardstick for everyone. Therefore, every teacher must participate in the strike, both those teachers teaching secular subjects and those teaching religious subjects.

Yet since the pupils need to study, since their roaming around free is harmful and even dangerous, and since the teacher is free due to the strike, he has a moral obligation to give of his time to his students so as to advance them. In other words, he should provide them with informal study which is unconnected to the regular study regimen and which can be held in an informal location.

We have to hope and pray that the strike will improve the state of our children’s education.
One might ask: How can a teacher knowingly participate in a strike that brings Torah learning to a halt? This is an important question. Surely the Rabbis said that we do not cancel children’s Torah learning even to build the Temple. Yet educational considerations lead us to cancel Torah learning for many things, such as… youth activities and the struggle over Eretz Yisrael.

Yet in the case at hand, let it be said that canceling those Torah studies is what will allow them to survive. After all, the present situation of the teachers’ poverty and the crowdedness of the classrooms is leading to the loss of much Torah learning. It constitutes the worst neglect of Torah that there could be. Therefore, our great halachic decisors have allowed Torah-teachers’ strikes under certain circumstances where there is no choice, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Rabbi Chaim David HaLevi, and – among those alive today – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Moreover, should someone argue, “I, as a teacher, have no complaints. I receive a fair wage and in the institution where I teach all is well,” he is still part of the Jewish People, which includes not just the rich but the poor as well. Providing good public education is literally a matter of “pikuach nefesh” – not just physical life and death, but spiritual life and death – for the nation. Hence no one can say, “All is well with me”. Rather, he must enlist in the struggle on behalf of good education for the entire nation. Morality and self-sacrifice demand no less. And in these days of the strike, we must be strong and courageous on behalf of our children’s education.

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Family Matters – Ha-Rav writes weekly for the parashah sheet “Rosh Yehudi” on family relationships

We are not compatible

Special thank you to Fred Casden for editing the Ateret Yerushalayim Parshah Sheet

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Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner is Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim. All material translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig. For more Torah:

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.