March 17, 2018 ~ Shabbat VAYIQRA. Maqam RAST.

Shabbat Vayehi


ישמך אלהים כאפרים וכמנשה - When Joseph sees Jacob placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Menashe, he is displeased (וירע בעיניו). He tries to fix the situation by moving his father's hands to the proper positions, but Jacob insists that he is fully aware of what he is doing (ידעתי בני ידעתי). He wants Ephraim, the younger son, to realize that he has high potential to become great even though he is not the eldest. He also does this to monitor Menashe's reaction. A happy ending to the long story of feuding siblings is that Menashe passes the test by remaining quiet and not showing any signs of jealousy. It is then that Jacob declares "May the Lord make [the people of Israel] like Ephraim and Menashe;" brothers living in harmony with one another. Only after Israel witnesses the progress (peace between brothers), is he truly content with his life and ready to depart (Beth Torah, 1/14/17).

White Teeth

ולבן שנים מחלב - In Genesis 49:12, Judah is blessed by Jacob with "teeth whiter than milk." It goes without say that white teeth are important for ones self-esteem and overall health, but what is the deeper meaning of this blessing? Whereas our teeth remain concealed behind our lips, it is only when we smile that our teeth are shown to those around us. We learn from this that Judah is blessed with a constant showing of his white teeth and a continuous smile. My late Uncle Saul A Shrem (1919-2017), whose smile always brought happiness to others, taught me the importance of a smile. Smiling, whether happy or sad, "doesn't cost you anything," he used to say, and "can give so much to the recipient." In the words of Stanley Gordon West, "when you smile, the world smiles with you." The trait of being able to smile is what enables Judah to connect with his brothers and in turn is what draws them to reciprocate by appointing him as their leader. Beth Torah Bulletin, December 30, 2017.