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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayechi

It was on a Friday, about thirty five years ago, I was sitting with one of the most studious and learned men that I came to know upon my arrival in Seattle. His name was Reb Moshe Solny obm; he was a survivor of the Holocaust of World War II from Poland. In reminiscing with me about the years of the War, he shared with me that he was a prisoner of the German Army and forced into labor in several of their camps. Towards the end of the War, due to increasing aerial attacks, the Germans figured out how to build a whole underground system of armament factories to escape destruction of their munitions. Reb Moshe, who was forced to work in these underground factories, said to me, “Rabbi Levitin, it was there, during those incessant bombings, where we literally lived underground and only came to the surface for an hour or two, I felt the presence of G-d. Felt G-d’s benevolence, and saw open miracles.”

He continued, “Here in America, with all of our comforts (Thank G-d), I don’t feel or see, what I felt or saw then.”

I was shocked. Especially as one, among many, who lost family to the atrocities. How could G-d be felt or experienced during such horror, more than in our blessed country?

Now we come to our weekly Torah portion Vayechi.

Chapter 47, Verse 28 begins. “Yaacov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years.” The Baal Haturim commentary says, “Our father Yaakov lived his seventeen best years in Egypt.” (The Hebrew word for “17” is “Tov” which also means “good”).

We also learn from the Passover Haggadah that Yaakov was “forced” by the Divine decree to descend to Egypt. We must ask ourselves how Jacob could have the “best years of his life” in a place he was “forced” to live, where he wasn’t surrounded with the Holiness and protection that the land of Canaan (Israel) granted.

The Alter Rebbe answers: “It is written, “And Yehuda he sent before him to Yosef to give instructions for Goshen.” “The Midrash states, and Rashi quotes this, to establish a house of study so Torah would be there, and the tribes would study Torah. ‘To give instructions for Goshen’ means (in a deeper sense), when one learns Torah he comes closer to The Almighty, may He be blessed, so even in Egypt it was true to say vay’chi – he lived.” (Hayom Yom).

In the language of the Kabbalists, “The extraction of the sparks.”

On one hand Yaakov is desirous to be in the peaceful holy land of Israel, to the point where he has to be coerced to go forth into Egypt, and on the other hand he must engage and transform the “realities” of Egypt with Torah, where he lives the best seventeen years of his life. This is the same struggle of our reality today.

The model of the fusion of these two realities is exemplified by Yosef, his son.

Yosef was sold by his brothers into slavery. Upon Yosef’s arrival in Egypt, he was “purchased” into the house of a courtier of Pharaoh, Potiphar. Potiphar, “Saw that Hashem is with him, and all that he would do Hashem would make successful in his hand.” Rashi elucidates, “That Hashem is with him, - he would regularly refer to G-d in conversation.” Later, the wife of Potiphar, became attracted to Yosef. “She caught hold of him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ But he left his garment in her hand, and he fled, and went outside.” (Bereishis 39, 7-23)Yosef was able to resist the temptations of Potiphar’s wife, as Rashi quotes the Tractate Sotah (Talmud), “Because the image of his father’s visage appeared to him.”

Yosef was constantly spiritually tested while in Egypt, and yet still managed to overcome all hardships to become the viceroy to the Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Yosef, “Since G-d has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.” (Bereishis 41/39). He gained the admiration of the Pharaoh, and still remained loyal to his father and the lessons he was taught.

Upon revealing himself to his brothers, he directed them to return to their father and tell him he was alive. Yosef told them that the proof that he remained true to his tradition and he was alive would be to share with their father, Yaakov, that after 22 years he still remembered, “What topic of study he was involved in when he separated from Yaakov.” “Only then, the spirit of Yaakov was revived, The Shechinah (Immanent Presence of G-d) rested upon him.” (Bereishis 45/27, see Rashi).

Like Yosef, our mission is to rise above the temptations that reality presents and infuse into our material life the spiritual, G-dly presence.


From the desk of Rabbi Levitin

Dear Friends, 

I am pleased to send you this week’s (Vayigash) edition of Here’s My Story

Dr. Mordechai Reich is a psychologist practicing in Efrat, Israel, where he lives with his wife and their five children. He was interviewed in his home in June of 2015.


Black and White:

Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Levitin 

From the desk of Rabbi Levitin

Please enjoy this article for Chanukah, entitled, “Light Multiplied” from Ami Magazine, written by Editor in Chief, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter. Ami Magazine is one of the top three Jewish Magazines in the New York Jewish community with a very large and growing following. This article was written following the yearly Kinus gathering of over 4000 Shluchim in New York last month, and it is relevant in these challenging times.

I hope you have a wonderful and illuminating Chanukah, may we all continue to spread light into the world!

Rabbi Levitin

In memory of Shmuel ben Nisan OBM - Samuel Stroum - Yartzeit March 9, 2001 - 14 Adar 5761 


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