1. ‘Yissachar is a strong donkey… ‘ (*Bereishis 49.14) It was taught in the name of Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov on the verse, ‘Yissachar is a strong donkey.’ [Heb. chamor gorem]: There is a reward [Heb. yesh sechar] that comes about [Heb. gorem] based on ones deeds [Heb. chamor] in this physical world. [He further taught:] In all physical things there is a portion of *HaShem’s holiness that has a relationship to the particular person’s soul who possesses it. This is the reason why some people love certain things, while another hates the same thing but loves another thing. When a person uses a vessel or eats an object, even if it is for his own physical needs he absorbs the holiness that was in it. This happens because afterwards he uses the strength gained from the food or uses the physical object to serve HaShem. This causes the holiness that was in the object to be absorbed [by his soul]. For that reason we see that at times a person loses an object or it is taken from him. This is because he has absorbed that portion of holiness in the object that belongs to his soul. Then HaShem takes the object and gives it to another person who likewise has a portion in that object. (Tzvuos H’Rivash teachings of *Rebbe Yisroel Baal Shem Tov.) * * * II. Serving HaShem 2. ‘Ephraim and Menashah are like Reuvain and Shimon to me’ (Bereishis 48.5) There are two ways in the service of HaShem. One is the service of HaShem through *Torah learning and prayer which is done in order to strengthen the person in serving HaShem. The second is the one who serves, even without any great knowledge, but he has a greater desire to serve then the one following the first way. For this way of service there is a parable. We can compare it to a person who would often travel from a specific inn to the town. He would do this even though the people at that inn would try to convince him not to go into the town. He would say, ‘Why shouldn’t I go since I have done it many times. Why should I stop in the middle of the way?’ [The meaning is that the person on this level says: why should he allow himself to be talked out of serving HaShem. This is not based on any knowledge of the importance of serving HaShem. He just accepts the responsibility of serving HaShem.] A *Tzaddik is called ‘all things’ [Heb Kol], because all things that occur in this world derive from his actions. He is also called ‘Ephraim’ because he is fruitful [Heb. parah] and multiplies due to his many *mitzvos. [He learns Torah and does mitzvos and hence prospers in a spiritual manner from that.] There is a second level called ‘Menashah’ which is a language of forgetting. As it says, ‘I have forgotten my father’s house.’ This means the person has forgotten about HaShem. He understands in his heart that he has not served HaShem with fear and love. He is inspired from this to the fear of HaShem. However this is not the full measure of fear which he should have. That level is the fear that comes from purification through his understanding. [Through his recognition of the greatness of HaShem.] However he doesn’t have this, and even if he thinks that he is serving HaShem, his love of Him is really nonexistant. This is because the gate to the service of HaShem with love is the fear of HaShem. [And this comes only through knowledge of HaShem.] The one who considers himself a servant of HaShem but who does not serve at all, or is not on the level that the fear of HaShem will grasp him, is not a servant of HaShem at all. His mitzvos are done as if by rote [without any life to them.] Even so he thinks of himself as one who loves HaShem, but that is just frivolous joy. He should return to HaShem, and serve him with a strong desire. This is the level of Menashah. i.e. because he has forgotten HaShem he serves HaShem with more strength then he would otherwise have done. (p. 40 Remzei Torah teachings of the *Rebbe Reb Ber the *Maggid of Mezritch) * * * 3. ‘Yissachar is a strong donkey… He saw that rest was good… He bent his shoulder to bear (the burden)’ (Bereishis 49.14-15) It is difficult to understand what the verse is saying. Because ‘He saw that rest was good’ therefore ‘he bent his shoulder to bear (the burden)’? This would seem to be the exact opposite of ‘rest’. However the true ‘rest’ is that which comes through the holy service of HaShem. The one who has merited that from HaShem he feels the sweetness of this ‘rest’, which is good, he will bring himself to serve HaShem with his complete will. This is the idea of ‘tasting’ the holiness of the Shabbos, which is called ‘rest’ and ‘good’. As the verse says, ‘remember the Shabbos to make it holy’, which means to feel the sweetness of Shabbos which comes from above. (As is known from the *sod of the word ‘remember [Heb. zachor].) After that it says that ‘for six days you should work.’ This refers to the work [i.e. service of HaShem] that comes following the Shabbos from the strength one has received from the ‘sweetness’ of the holiness of Shabbos. This is the meaning of the verse, ‘and he saw rest that it was good’. He merited to taste of the sweetness of the rest that comes from the holiness of serving HaShem. Therefore [after that he could] bend his shoulder to bear the burden, i.e. to work further in the holy service of HaShem. (p. 44 sefer Toras Emes teachings of Rebbe Leibele Eiger of Lublin) * * * III. Turning evil to good. 4. ‘You considered that you were doing evil to me, but HaShem saw that it was for good.’ (Bereishis 50.20) It says in *Pirkei Avos (1.6) that we should judge everyone favorably. It is even more true that we should judge HaShem favorably in all the sufferings that He might cause to befall a person. This is a remedy which will cause that the truth will be that way, and that the suffering should then come out for the good, and the evil will disappear. This was taught by the Baal Shem Tov. [In sefer Toldos Yakov Yosef in the parsha of Noach, The Baal Shem Tov taught that we should look for a source of mercy and good in any appearance of evil. And this will turn the evil into good.] *Chazal also teach us this idea with regards to Nachum Ish Gam Zi. [In the *Talmud in *Taanis 21a it is related that no matter what would happen to him he would say ‘gam zi l’tovah’ i.e. this is also for the good. Because of that miraculous things would happen for him turning seemingly bad events into good ones.] The same is expressed here by Yosef when he says, ‘You considered that you were doing evil to me, but HaShem saw that it was for good.’ [What might have been thought to be an evil event in his life, he realized that there was a source of good in it. Hence it really turned out for the good.] However this was not the case with Yakov as *Rashi states (37.1) that the anguish of the affair with Yosef found him (Yakov). Meaning that for Yakov he found only anguish in the affair of Yosef, and no compassion, therefore he had great suffering from it. (Rebbe Dovid Aharon of Zarik grandson of the Trisker Maggid. This comes from a collection of teachings of the descendants of the house of Chernoble called Meori Or page 28) * * * IV. Ancestry vs. merit 5. ‘I know he (Menashah) shall also be a great people’ (Bereishis 48.19) We need to explain what the argument between Yosef and his father Yakov was here. Yosef thought that all the holiness that he had was only from what he had inherited from his father. This was reinforced when he saw the vision of the face of his father, which protected him from sin [as is stated in the Talmud *Sotah 36b]. All this was because to Yakov he was the firstborn. [This was because Yosef’s mother was really the one that Yakov wished to marry, and hence her first child was Yakov’s intended firstborn.] Yosef thought that everything had depended on this. We see similarly this idea in the blessings of Yakov to his children where he starts to bless Reuvain and says, ‘you are my firstborn, my first strength.’ Besides the fact that the firstborn is the child who is the first strength of his father, he felt that being the firstborn in and of itself was a great thing. Therefore Yosef had wanted Yakov to place his right hand on the head of Menashah, who was his firstborn, since he felt that everything depended on this status. However Yakov held that with regards to the holiness of Yosef, even though he had the strength that comes from his holy ancestors, the main strength came through his own service to HaShem. Therefore he said, ‘I know my son… He will also be great.’ Meaning to say that he understands that the merit of receiving holiness based on being the firstborn which is based on his holy ancestors is great. However the younger one, who spent more time with Yakov learning (as Rashi comments on verse 1), will merit more holiness based on his exertion in mitzvos then from the ancestral merit [of his brother.] He (Ephraim) will be greater then him (Menashah). (p. 231 vol 1 sefer Yirbeh Torah teachings of Rebbe Yissachar Ber of Voideslav) ———————————————————————
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
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