One Small Step for Man, One Giant Step for a Nation by Adam Haimowitz


The Torah records that when Yosef heard that Ya'akov was dying, he rushed over to his father with his sons, Menasheh and Efrayim, intent (as Rashi explains) on procuring a Berachah for his children. When Yosef and his sons encounter Ya'akov, the Pasuk states, "VaYageid LeYa'akov VaYomer Hineih Bincha Yosef Ba Eilecha VaYitchazeik Yisrael VaYeishev Al Hamitah," "Ya'akov was told- Behold your son Yosef has come to you; so Yisrael exerted himself and sat up on the bed" (BeReshit 48:2). After this, Ya'akov proceeded to bestow upon Menasheh and Efrayim their respective Berachot. The description in the above Pasuk seems quite peculiar. Why is it necessary for the Torah to describe Ya'akov's posture when he gave his grandsons' Berachot? Furthermore, would his Berachot have been less effective had he remained prone?

An answer to this question is offered by the Maharam. The Maharam cites a similar instance in the Tanach, namely the story of Purim, where a person lies on a bed. When Esther exposed him to be a Rasha at her second party, Haman immediately fell on her bed, pleading for his life. This story is compared to Ya'akov in this instance where he draws the strength not to fall onto the bed, but to rise from it. Based on this comparison, the Maharam comes to the conclusion that these Pesukim are an allusion to the nature of the Tzaddik. When a Tzaddik is faced with setbacks, he does not succumb to them. Instead, he rises from his challenges more often than not as a stronger person. This is unlike the Rasha, who, when faced with the same circumstances, will fall.

Unfortunately, over the past weeks and months, both the Jewish and the broader American communities have been afflicted with many hardships. In November, Israel faced a major challenge with its neighbors in Gaza, and more recently, the entire American nation has been dealt a major blow, with the horrific attack and murder of 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut. With each added detail and tragic story, it becomes harder and harder to see into the future where we can pick ourselves up and move on. Confronting this difficult challenge, we look to this week’s Parashah and the story of Ya'akov to uplift us. Ya'akov teaches us that we have the ability to overcome any Tzarah that we might face, just as Ya'akov was able to rise up from his bed to greet his grandsons and give them a Berachah.

When we are faced with these trials and tribulations we must remember that our society today unfortunately might not be perfect. We have flaws and we should be constantly introspecting and looking to improve ourselves. However, we should also recognize all of the goals as Jewish people that we are able to achieve in our society. More Torah is being studied today than at any other point in history. When a senior in high school chooses a Yeshivah or seminary to attend the following year, the issue is never that there are not enough choices, because as a community we are spreading our Torah as much as possible. Every night in the Teaneck area alone, there are numerous opportunities to learn Torah and perform acts of Chesed. It is on this merit, Am Yisrael's vast accomplishments, that we will be able to overcome and help soften the blow that recent events might have dealt. We will hopefully, with the help of HaKadosh Baruch Hu and the understanding of the message of Ya'akov’s ability to overcome his crippling illness and greet his grandsons, even when it seems impossible, be able to overcome our own challenges and continue to thrive as a nation.

Yosef’s Last Request by Leiby Deutsch

Who Sold Yosef? by Nachum Fisch