This week we study Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26).
* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “The book of Bereshith ends this week on a seemingly upbeat note. The family of Yaakov, united and now more numerous, live in an apparently friendly Egyptian environment, rather smugly protected by their political influence and their growing wealth.”
“The 130 years of good times in Egypt enabled the Jews to somehow survive the eighty years of slavery and persecution. Spanish Jewry enjoyed a “golden age” of centuries before its three century decline into expulsion and forced apostasy. Polish Jews also enjoyed hundreds of years of autonomy and governmental favor and protection before declining in the three centuries which ended with its destruction.”
* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “As troubling as it is not to know the future it is perhaps even more troubling to know it. It is only the ignorance of the future that allows humans somehow to exploit the present and live a productive life.”
* I learned in daf yomi (Talmud study) that while it is generally a bad idea for somebody to immediately marry after the death of a spouse or after a divorce, in certain circumstances it is acceptable. For instance, if you need a wife to look after your kids. I heard about one rabbi who buried his wife in the cemetery and then immediately married another wife in that same cemetery that same day.
* Rabbi Wein writes: “How easy and understandable it would have been for any of our patriarchs and matriarchs to have become disappointed and disillusioned by the events of their lives. Yet their ultimate faith, that truth will survive and triumph, dominates the entire narrative of this first book of the Torah. Bereshith sets the pattern for everything that will follow.”
* Rabbi Wein writes: “From all indications in the Talmud and in Geonic literature, borrowing books for studious use was very commonplace in Jewish life. In fact, the rabbis spoke out against those who refused to lend their books to others, seeing in this protectiveness of ownership a hindrance to the spread of the study and knowledge of Torah. Rabbinic responsa is replete with issues and liabilities regarding borrowing books and the respective problems that surely emanate from such a policy of liberal lending of books to others.”
I’ve always been careful to return borrowed books in good condition. It shocks me that if you lend a book or anything to somebody, most of the time you don’t get it back. I remember lending some movies to a guy after shul, a fellow Australian, and he never returned them! I appeared in one of the movies! It was my only copy. And every time I would run into him, he would joke about being sorry for not returning the movies and by this time, I did not want to be reminded that I had ever lent him such movies. I was ashamed. And to have lent them to him after temple! Oy vey!
Rabbi Wein writes: “The greatest book borrowers from the Jewish people have been the two other major monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam. Christianity borrowed the so-called “Old Testament” whole cloth from the Jews. It is ironic in the extreme that the gratitude shown by the borrower to the lender of this basis of monotheistic belief and worldview has been expressed in unending centuries of enmity, discrimination and persecution. While Islam never borrowed our book totally it certainly borrowed its contents.”
“The Koran and Moslem beliefs generally – as distinct from its practices and rituals – are based almost entirely on the values and ideas of the Torah. It has also, over the centuries, shown a great reluctance to acknowledge that a large part of its library consists of borrowed books. In fact, this is true about a great many of the principles of Western Civilization. There is nothing wrong in borrowing books, ideas, culture and knowledge. The wrong comes when the borrowing is not acknowledged, recognized and/or appreciated.”
* Rabbi Wein writes: “Sometimes in life, the greatest gift and blessing that a parent can give to a child is the criticism of that child’s traits and weaknesses so that these faults may yet be corrected and improved upon.”
That’s what I appreciate about Rabbi Rabbs. He’s not afraid to point out to people their faults.
* I had a girlfriend. I always wanted on Friday nights to make the blessing over her that fathers make over daughters but she was not into it. Nor would she call me daddy. She wouldn’t let me tickle her either. No wonder things didn’t work out between us.
* Rabbi Wein writes: “One of my great teachers in the yeshiva that I attended long ago defined success in life to us as follows: If your grandparents and your grandchildren are both proud of you and your accomplishments, then you can claim success in life.”
I guess we’re cooked.