Parshas Vayechi:- Rebuke: The Greatest Blessing

By R' Shaya Gross, z'l

Posted on 12/27/17

[Ed. Note] Out of the respect and recognition of the impact made by longtime BJL friend and contributor, Reb Shaya Gross, z’l, we will maintain a living memoriam to Shaya through the sweet words and thoughtful insights of  his Divrei Torah. BJL readers will remember his weekly column on the Parsha and on various Torah ideas and concepts. These meaningful words will help us remember this special young man who will be sorely missed and for those who did not merit to know him, this will be the most appropriate way for them to become familiar with who he was.

This week’s Parsha contains the blessings that Yaakov gave his sons before his death. A close look at the psukim, however, seemingly reveals that Reuvain, Shimon, and Levi did not receive any blessings at all. Instead, they were rebuked. And yet the Torah tells us that Yaakov ‘blessed each (son) according to his appropriate blessing,’ clearly teaching us that all of Yaakov's sons were blessed. How can we understand these psukim?

I think the answer is that rebuke is not only not a curse, but [at times] can be the greatest blessing one can receive. We are all born with faults that we need to work on and fix, but human nature is that most people aren’t clued in as to what their own faults are, as they rationalize away all their actions and bad midos. It’s very easy to find faults in others, but much harder to find flaws in ourselves. So when Yaakov rebuked Reuvain, Shimon, and Levi, Yaakov was really blessing them, as they would now better be able to work on themselves, and rectify their actions.

With this understanding, I think we can now appreciate a Mishna in Avos. The Mishna tells us that ‘One should make for himself a Rebbi…. and judge everyone favorably.' What is the connection between these two seemingly disparate teachings?

I think the answer is that once you have a Rebbi who clues you in to your own shortcomings, you then realize that even YOU YOURSELF are not perfect, hence you can then judge other people favorably by realizing that everyone is born with issues that need to be worked on!                                

May we all always consult with our mentors and introspect to figure out what our issues are so that we can then work on them, improve them and grow closer to Hashem.