(Haftara: Kings I 2:1-12)
1. [48:14] “And Israel put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger…” Ya’akov got the rights of the first-born son even though he was younger than Esav. Now he is giving the rights of the first-born to Ephraim even though he is younger than his brother, Menashe. It seems that the Torah does not really value the rights of the first-born. If so, why does the Torah give the first-born extra rights?
2. [48:20] “And he blessed them on that day, saying, “By you shall Israel bless, saying…” On the evening of Shabbat, when we bless our daughters we say, “May God make you like Sara, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah”. When we bless our sons, we say, “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe”. What is so special about Ephraim and Menashe?
3. [49:18] “For your salvation I hope, God”. Ya’akov says this short prayer in the middle of his blessings for his sons. This prayer does not seem to relate to anything that he is saying. Why does Ya’akov say it?
4. [49:14] “Yissachar…crouching between the borders.” A number of commentators say that this means that Yissachar sleeps in unfamiliar places because he travels in order to teach Torah. What does this tell us about the Torah’s vision of teachers of Torah?
5. [Haftara: Melachim I, 20:6] “Do not let his old head go down to the grave in peace.” Among King David’s last words to his son, Shlomo, is this in order to take revenge. R. Yosef Tzvi Hertz (born 1884) makes a distinction between this kind of revenge—which is to create a feeling of justice in the state—and revenge in one’s personal life. Revenge for justice in the country can be justified, but personal revenge cannot be justified. Do you agree with this distinction?
When a person feels that he is very much lacking and inadequate in his spirituality, he should know that the time has come for him to put up a new structure–more elevated, stable and magnificent than it was before. And he should strengthen himself and strive to change his actions and his ways in an organized way, with a strong heart and with pure motivations—with a heart full of strength and inner joy. God is just and good. Therefore, He teaches sinners the way, directs the humble with justice and teaches the humble His way.
.—R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker
And to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer