Vayechi 5778


ואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך…בחרבי ובקשתי (בראשית מח:כב)

And behold I have given you one portion extra… that I conquered
by my sword and bow (Bereishis 48:22)

Yaakov Avinu tells Yosef that as reward for burying him in Eretz Yisrael, he is giving him the city of שכם. שכם indeed! Nothing about שכם is exactly flattering! Rashi (Bereishis 37:14) sheds light on the history of שכם. Citing the Gemara (Sanhedrin 102b), he writes that שכם was a place predisposed to misfortune. It was there that Dina was taken, it was there that the Shevatim sinned with the sale of Yosef, and it was there that the unified kingdom of Klal Yisrael was eventually divided.
Why did Yaakov choose שכם of all places as a gift for Yosef? If anything, it seems more of a liability than an asset. Any explanation requires a better understanding of the nature of שכם. What do Chazal mean by saying that שכם was predisposed to misfortune? What is there in the DNA of שכם that lends itself to trouble?
The Shem Mishmuel explains that the definition of the word שכם is Chelek, a portion. The nature of שכם was that all who lived there were cognizant of their self-importance. Every person viewed himself as a Chelek, a special part that cannot be replaced. This Middah can be the greatest good when seen in the right light, but it can also be extremely damaging.
When one distinguishes himself in righteousness, it results in his accepting great responsibility. He realizes that every action he does, for good or for bad, has the potential to sway the merit of the world, as stated in the Gemara (Kiddushin 40b). He sees the importance in his Avodas Hashem and does not allow others to sway him. No ridicule or degradation can budge him from his noble mission.
However, the pitfalls can be great. If indeed this sense of self-importance revolves around him, and the objective is his desire, then he will develop into an arrogant, conceited person. He will be brazen and oblivious to all others, a detriment to society.
שכם בן חמור thought of himself as an equal to Yaakov. He therefore pursued the daughter of Yaakov. His extreme haughtiness completely blinded him.
The Shevatim knew from the dreams that they were destined to bow before Yosef. Yet they were unable to humble themselves before him, for their own sense of greatness obstructed them.
Generations later, Bnei Yisrael felt their own importance and refused to be subject to the reign of Malchus Beis Dovid, thus causing a great rift within Klal Yisrael.
In all three cases, the unique nature of שכם took on a harmful shape.
Yosef, however, represented this nature at its finest. He was alone in Mitzrayim, betrayed by his own brothers, enslaved by the Mitzri’im, completely left to his own devices. He was enticed and hounded by his mistress, imprisoned by his master, and left in the dungeon to rot. Even after reaching the pinnacle of success in Mitzrayim, he was estranged from his people, from his religion.
Yet through all his trials and tribulations, in the face of great adversity, Yosef triumphed. He faced each day with amazing fortitude and never lost sight of himself and his mission.
The difference is Emunah. When one’s rock is Hashem and his strength is his Emunah, then his mission is never himself. His abilities and value are reflected in his subordination to Hashem’s will. Only then will this person truly achieve greatness and be a blessing to his people.
Yosef truly deserved the gift of שכם, for it was he whose life resonated with the richness of spirit that lay ready within. He established Klal Yisrael in Galus and single-handedly supported the Nation. It is only through such strength and focus that Klal Yisrael can survive and persevere in this Galus. We do not allow the winds of change, nor all the torment and ridicule so lavishly heaped upon us by the Gentile world, to shake us. We are entrenched in the Emunah that our ancestors have imbued in us, and so B’ezras Hashem we will always be until the Galus is finally over.


Can עין הרע (A”H), “the evil eye,” have an effect on one who is not deserving of punishment? The Chazon Ish explains thatהכל בידי שמים , all is decreed from above. It is possible that the person has a sentence awaiting him, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu is using this A”H to carry out the sentence. There is also the possibility that he does not currently have a decree hanging over him. There is, however, a rule that שטן מקטרג בשעת הסכנה. There are times when a person’s actions can be looked at under the microscope and be re-evaluated. The A”H could be the catalyst for such a review of his previous judgment, and now he is sentenced guilty. (Chazon Ish C.M. p. 255; see also Ohr Hachaim Vayeishev 37:21; Sifsei Chaim ibid.)
There are many Halachic implications of A”H.
• When giving out Aliyos, two brothers are not called up for consecutive Aliyos. There is no Halachic prohibition in doing so, but this is not allowed it due to A”H. The same applies to father and son, and preferably even grandfather and grandson. Even if all of them say that they are not concerned about the A”H, it is still not permited. (O.C. 141,6; M.B. 19)
When one brother is called for Shevii and the other for Maftir, with Kaddish separating the two, Rema’s opinion is that A”H still takes effect. If, however, a second Sefer Torah is taken out for Maftir, it is viewed as two individual readings, in which case there is no issue of A”H. (M.B. 20)
Can two brothers be called up for Hagba’ah and Gelilah? Some opine that it depends on the manner in which they are called up. If it is customary to call them up by name, then it should not be done. In some shuls, however, the Gabbai just approaches the person and asks him to perform the Hagba’ah/Gelilah. Since there is no mention of names, there is no A”H.
• If there are two Chasanim who would like to have their Chuppah together, Rema rules that it is customary not to make one Chuppah for both. Rather, each one has his own Chuppah and Brachos. The reason behind this Halacha, says the Rema (E.H. 62,3), is due to a fear of A”H.
• The Torah teaches (Shemos 30:12) that one should not count Jews in the normal manner, in order to prevent A”H. (see Rashi ibid.)
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch writes that even when counting for a D’var Mitzvah, such as counting to see if there is a Minyan, it should be done by using a Pasuk that contains ten words.
Abarbanel wonders why, if the Torah specifies not to count people, it is not included in the Taryag Mitzvos. Kli Yakar answers that the Torah did not specifically state, “Do not count without using Shekalim”; rather, it was phrased as a warning of the dangers involved in such a counting. This does not qualify it to be considered a Biblical prohibition.
• One should not stand and stare into another’s field that is full of grain, due to the damage his A”H can cause. (Baba Metzia 107a; Kitzur 183,6)
Therefore, two people who share a field are obligated to build a wall separating their two halves, in order to prevent any jealousy and A”H caused by looking at each other’s portion. (C.M. 158, Sma 15).
A question is raised regarding the extent of the obligation to build this wall. If one’s portion is larger, the benefit he accrues from the prevention of A”H is more than his partner’s benefit. He should therefore be required to pay a larger portion of the construction costs (Nesivos 158,3). This question remains unresolved.