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As Yaakov makes his way back to the land of Canaan, several events – spanning the full range of emotions – transpire in rapid succession.
The sequence (Beraishis 35:16-29): Yaakov and Rochel are blessed with the birth of Binyamin Rochel died during the childbirth of Binyamin and was buried in Beis Lechem. Shortly thereafter, Reuvein committed a significant misdeed, by interfering in the affairs of his father, when he moved the bed of Yaakov from the tent of Bilhah to his mother Leah’s tent Finally, Yaakov arrived home to the land of Canaan where he was reunited with his aged father Yitzchak.
Many meforshim (commentators) seek to shed light on the logical thread that ties these events together. Additionally, they address the fact that the Torah seems to interject a census of the 12 sons of Yaakov in the midst of these pesukim without an obvious reason.
Rashi creates a sequential chain that pulls these seemingly disparate facts into a coherent progression. The joyous birth of Binyamin brought about the tragic death of Rochel and her burial. After Rochel’s demise, Yaakov moved his bed and possessions from Rochel’s tent to Bilhah’s.
Reuvein felt that, as the firstborn, it was his place to defend the honor of his mother Leah. As Rashi explains, Reuvein felt his mother Leah would be offended at the notion of having Bilhah assuming the role of “akeres habayis” (the primary wife) at this point.
Thus, Reuvein took matters into his own hands and moved his father’s belongings. Once this incident was recorded, the Torah reverts to the fact that, after Binyamin’s birth, Yaakov’s 12 Shevatim (Tribes) were now complete and listed their names. Finally, Yaakov’s arrival at the home of his father is noted.
Shedding Light On The Actions Of Reuvein
Rashi offers a second explanation for the interjection of the listing of the 12 sons of Yaakov in the midst of this sequence. Quoting a Gemara (Shabbos 55b), Rashi points out that even immediately after the actions of Reuvein, he was listed with the other sons – with the respectful title of firstborn (Beraishis 35:23) – to lend significance to the fact that he remained a tzaddik (righteous person). In fact that Gemara notes that Reuvein did not sin at all.
Ramban takes this defense of Reuvein two steps further, by pointing out that the Torah specifically mentions that Yaakov immediately heard about the actions of his firstborn (Va’Yishma Yaakov, 35:22) to inform us that he did not punish him at that time. Additionally Ramban maintains that the Torah lists these two themes in one passuk – even through these is an unusual space in midst of this passuk – to show that Yaakov accepted Reuvein even after this act.
Why The Punishment?
After this rousing defense of Reuvein, Yaakov’s actions in the twilight of his life, as recorded in Parshas Vayechi, require explanation. As he blessed his children, Yaakov admonished Reuvein for his impulsive actions, and took from his firstborn’s rights to Kehunah (priesthood) and Malchus (royalty), which were given to Levi and Yehudah, respectively. (See Rashi, others, for the reasons that Yaakov delayed his response until close to his death).
If Reuvein had not sinned, why, then, was he punished so severely? And if he was listed as the firstborn immediately after his misdeed, why did he lose those privileges later on?
The Responsibility of Leadership
I would like to suggest that Yaakov was not “punishing” Reuvein by any means. Yaakov still considered Reuvein to be his firstborn and began the Birchos Yaakov by noting “Reuvain bechori ata – You are my firstborn” (Beraishis, 49:3).
Losing the leadership role, however, was inevitable once Reuvein had demonstrated that he acted impulsively – without proper reflection. If an individual responds impulsively to situations that arise, he or she may be subjecting him or herself to the consequences of poor decisions.
However, as a leader, this type of impulsive actions can be nothing short of disastrous. A true leader must always be reflective and measured in his or her responses.
Leadership of any kind – in one’s class, school, peer group, or any other social structure – is an honor and privilege. It is also a significant responsibility, one that is best exercised with restraint and reflection.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.
To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s Dvar Torah Sefer, “Growing With the Parsha” or his popular parenting tapes and CD’s – including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children” – please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, email email@example.com, or call 845-352-7100 x 133
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
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Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.
There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.
In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.
While multitasking is not ideal, it is often necessary and unavoidable.
Maybe now that your kids are back in school, you should start cleaning for Pesach.
The interpreter was expected to be a talmid chacham himself and be able to also offer explanations and clarifications to the students.
“When Frank does something he does it well and you don’t have to worry about dotting the i’s or crossing the t’s.”
“On Sunday I was at the Kotel with the battalion and we said a prayer of thanks. In Gaza there were so many moments of death that I had to thank God that I’m alive. Only then did I realize how frightening it had been there.”
Neglect, indifference or criticism can break a person’s neshama.
It’s fair to say that we all know or have someone in our family who is divorced.
The assumption of a shared kinship is based on being part of the human race. Life is so much easier to figure out when everyone thinks the same way.
Various other learning opportunities will be offered to the community throughout the year.
Those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public regarding the accusations against Nehemia Weberman. This case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of the victim, a courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did.
These lines are written in loving memory of our dear father, Reb Shlomo Zev ben Reb Baruch Yehudah Nutovic, a”h, whose first yahrzeit is 7 Menachem Av. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshamah.
All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim.
A surefire way to gauge the generation in which a person was raised is to have him or her fill in the following sentence: Where were you when ?”
Baby Boomers would ask, “When President Kennedy was shot?” Thirtysomethings would respond, “When the space shuttle exploded?” Today’s teenagers would reply, “On 9/11?”
One week ago on my website I announced my intention to attend the next court appearance of a man who was arrested last year and is now standing trial on 10 felony charges of child abuse.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/leadership-3/2007/11/21/
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