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Friday, January 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

Yesterday marked the first yahrtzeit of Rabbi Joseph Schechter of Ner Yisroel. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yoseif ben Eliezer Z'ev.

Two geography notes:

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 Yisroel. 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.




When Yaakov's sons bring him back to Eretz Canaan to be buried (50:10), they reach "Goren HaAtad asher be'eiver haYardein." The term "eiver haYardein" in most cases refers to the eastern side of the Yardein. Also, since the word eiver implies a crossing over, and they started off to the West of the Yardein, "eiver haYardein" would seem to imply the Eastern side. This is hard to understand for there is a rather direct route from Mitzrayim straight up to Chevron without encountering the Yardein. Why would the brothers end up on the other side of the Yardein?


The easiest answer to this question is that of the Chizkuni, that here "eiver haYardein" refers to the western side, as it does in Devarim 11:30. However, the most interesting answer is that of Rabbeinu Meyuchas, that in bringing Yaakov to be buried, the sons went around Eretz Yisroel in the same manner that B'nei Yisroel did when they left Mitzrayim. The sefer Torah Sheleimah quotes from an obscure source that this is the meaning of the pasuk (Tehilim 114:3) "hayam ra'ah vayanos," for the ark of Yosef, "haYardein yisov le'achor," for the ark of Yaakov, that the sons of Yaakov had the Yardein split for them at the same point that it split for B'nei Yisroel. So, suggests Rabbeinu Meyuchas, they were indeed on the eastern side of the Yardein as part of their journey and that place, "Avel Mitzrayim," was indeed "Avel haShitim" where B'nei Yisroel cried for Moshe Rabeinu.

Chazak, Chazak, veNischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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