Vayechi 5777


As Sefer Bereishes comes to a close, the Torah concludes with the Brachos Yaakov gave to the Shevatim. This completes Sefer Ha’avos, in which the Avos Hakedoshim planted the seeds for the future nation of Klal Yisrael, and brings us to Sefer Shemos, which tells of the fruition of the nation.

The Brachos link these two Seforim, as each Shevet is guided to excel in his Midah and blessed with his unique Bracha that will enable him and his offspring to flourish and succeed in reaching his full potential. Together, the twelve Shevatim bond to become one greater unit, the עם הנבחר , the entity of Klal Yisrael.

Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu, who also gave a Bracha to each Shevet, blessed them in the same vein as Yaakov Avinu. Perhaps it is for this very reason. The Brachos of the Shevatim are not merely a Bracha. They are direction and instruction as well, guiding each Shevet along his special route to achieve his Shleimos. Therefore, the Brachos of Moshe Rabbeinu mirrored those of Yaakov Avinu.

When it came to Shimon and Levi, Yaakov Avinu reproved them, כלי חמס מכרותיהם , “They stole their means of operating” (Bereishis 49:4). Rashi explains, quoting the Midrash Tanchuma, “This craft, the craft of killing (referring to Shechem), is stolen from Eisav.”

Reb Yeruchem Halevi Levovitz, the famed Mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva in Poland, explains that Yaakov Avinu chastised them for “stealing” the trait of others and not acting within their individual Midos. Every person has a Midah or Midos that are his. That is where his strength is and that is where his purpose is.

Reb Yeruchem makes a very interesting observation. People often act in ways and walk on a path which is not their own. They “borrow” from the many personalities in their lives and from the many influences that come their way. They don’t put their energies towards realizing their own potential, knowing their own unique qualities, and being that person, that special asset, they really are.

Reb Yeruchem recounts the following story. In the course of a conversation, he noticed that the other person had various traits and mannerisms which reminded him of an acquaintance of his. Reb Yeruchem asked the fellow if by chance he happened to know his acquaintance.
“Why of course,” the man replied. “He and I are as close as brothers!”

Reb Yeruchem writes in amazement that he saw from this that one can be full of traits and abilities that are totally not his own; they are taken from another!
Every person ought to look into himself, to know his own qualities, and to build that edifice that is uniquely him.

Reb Yeruchem presents a compelling thought. Why was Yosef Hatzadik the son who was tested with the Nisayon of Potiphar’s wife, and not any of the other Shevatim? If anything, Yosef, who epitomizes the Midah of Yesod, spiritual foundation, was the one best suited to pass this test. Reb Yeruchem answers that it is not in spite of the fact that Yosef’s Midah was Yesod that Yosef was tested; it was because of this. The other Shevatim could not have withstood this test, for this was not their strength. Only Yosef was capable of withstanding such a test.

Hashem only tests a person where he is strongest, in his unique Midah. When one has a Nisayon, it is not because he is weak in that area. On the contrary. Because that is where his Shleimos lies, it is the proper place for his Nisayon. One is in his element when battling his Yetzer Hara!

What remains is for one to know himself, to see his strength so that he can bring his own goodness to light. Only then will he merit to withstand any test the Yetzer Hara sends his way.


The common Ashkenazi custom is that at the completion of each of the five Chumashim, the congregation blesses the Oleh by saying חזק חזק ונתחזק , “Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen.”
The earliest source of a similar custom is the Orchos Chaim (cited by the Beis Yosef O.C. 139). The Pasuk (Yehoshua1:8-9) says that Hashem told Yehoshua לא ימוש ספר התורה הזה מפיך… הלוא צויתיך חזק ואמץ , “Do not let this Sefer Torah leave your mouth… I have commanded you be strong and courageous.” The Midrash points out that the Pasuk stresses ספר תורה הזה , this Sefer Torah, and explains that Yehoshua was holding a Sefer Torah as Hashem was talking to him. Since the Halacha is that when one receives an Aliyah he must hold on to the Sefer Torah when he makes the Brachos, the custom developed that the congregation blesses him just as Hashem did Yehoshua.

From this source it would seem that everyone who receives an Aliyah should be wished חזק ! It is indeed the custom of Sefaradim to wish all Olim חזק וברוך . This may also be the source of saying יישר כחך , “May it be for strength”, to one who receives an Aliyah and possibly the .מי שבירך
The Avudraham mentions that the custom in Spain was to wish the Oleh חזק only when he finished a Sefer, similar to the Ashkenazi practice today.

Why is this Aliyah more deserving of a Bracha? The Maharam Mintz explains that this Bracha is similar in intent to the Hadran one says when finishing a Mesechta of Gemara. When one finishes a portion of the Torah, he must remind himself to take care that he does not forget it, and to take in all the lessons learned. Everyone calls out !חזק “Strengthen yourself and don’t forget what you have learned.”

It is worthwhile noting that the Minhag is that the congregation says חזק to the Oleh, and not that the Oleh says it. The Poskim warn the Oleh not to say it, as it is a Hefsik between the Laining and the Bracha.