Pearls of Rashi – Vayechi II

Near the end of this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, we are told the following[1]. “Yosef saw a third generation born to (his son) Ephraim. Also, the sons of Mochir who was the son of Menasheh were born ‘on Yosef’s knees.’”

What is the meaning of being born “on Yosef’s knees?” Rashi explains that “as Targum Onkelus translates the words – he (Yosef) raised them between his knees.”

In the Alter Rebbe’s[2] Shulchan Aruch[3], it says that the time of a baby boy’s Bris is the beginning of the entrance of his Divine soul into his body. Based on this, we can understand the explanation given by Targum Yonoson. He explains the meaning of “they were born on Yosef’s knees,” that after they were born, they were circumcised by Yosef. The fact that that the Bris was on Yosef’s knees means that it was their spiritual birth, i.e. the entrance of their G-dly soul.

This teaches us a great lesson according to both Rashi and Onkelus. One is obligated to teach Torah to his children and his grandchildren. However, as far as great grandchildren are concerned, as long as there are more qualified teachers than him, he has no obligation to teach them. Nevertheless, from both Rashi and Onkelus we see that Yosef taught his great-grandchildren, “he raised them between his knees.” This is despite the fact that Yosef had no obligation to teach them. Yehudah had founded and headed a Yeshiva full time prior to the arrival of all of the Jews in Egypt. This being the case, it is possible that he was a greater scholar than Yosef. Since Yosef governed all of Egypt (including his family), he had the law of one who is “occupied with the needs of the community.” This would exempt him from the obligation of teaching. Nevertheless, we see that according to Rashi’s commentary on the Torah there is an obligation to teach one’s great grandchildren.

From this we can learn a tremendous lesson. If one merits having great-grandchildren, he must teach them Torah. If he is not capable, he must support the Torah institution in which they study.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 20, Page 243-249

Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen
Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778
May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יוצא לאור ע”י בני משפחתה שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Bereishis 50:23.

[2]. The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (1745 – 1812), was the founder of Chabad Lubavitch.

[3]. The Shulchan Aruch is the Code of Jewish Law. Despite the fact that a Shulchan Aruch existed prior to Rabbi Shneur Zalman, at the behest of his teacher, he wrote a more up-to-date version. Additionally, the Alter Rebbe writes the reasons behind each law.

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