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Friday, January 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

Yesterday, 12 Teves, was the 12th yahrtzeit of Rabbi Joseph Schechter of Ner Yisrael. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yoseif ben Eliezer Z'ev.


When Yaakov blesses Yoseif and his children before he blesses all his sons together, he tells Yoseif (48:22), "I have given you an additional shechem, more than that of your brothers." Rashi offers two interpretations of the word "shechem." He explains, not without adequate support from other pesukim in Tanach, that the word "shechem" means portion. In halachah, the first-born son receives a double portion of the inheritance. Instead of Reuvein being the beneficiary of that privilege, it was granted to Yoseif as both his sons received a portion in Eretz Yisrael. The other explanation offered by Rashi is that this is a reference to the city of Shechem. In reward for his toil in assuring his father a proper burial, Yaakov granted the city of Shechem to Yoseif for burial and as an extra portion of land for the inheritance of his descendants.


In sefer Yehoshua (21), we are given an exhaustive list of the different cities that were designated for Kohanim and Levi'im. Among the cities designated for Levi'im was Shechem. Additionally, we are told in the previous perek that Shechem was a city of refuge for accidental killers. That being so, of what significance is this gift to Yoseif if his descendants would not ultimately settle in that city?


The gemara (Makkos 10a) presents a similar difficulty with a different city. Chevron was another city that was designated for Kohanim as well as a city of refuge. However, we are told (Shofetim 1:20) that Chevron was given to Caleiv ben Yefuneh as decreed by Moshe Rabbeinu. Abbayei's answer is a single word, parvadaha, the origin of which is the subject of some discussion. The essence of his response seems to be that the fields and courtyards around the city were given to Calev. Perhaps this answers the above question as well. Although Yoseif's descendants may never have settled in Shechem itself, the fields and courtyards were available to them and this was indeed a significant gift for Yoseif.  (Unfortunately, today, the inhabitants of that city are not descendants of Yoseif by any means.)


Chazak, chazak, venischazeik!

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