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D’var Torah: Parashat Vayechi

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In this week’s D’var Torah the Chief Rabbi explains the beautiful meaning behind the blessing our Patriach Jacob gives to his grandchildren.

Be like fish.

This was the essence of the blessing given in Parashat Vayechi by our Patriach Jacob, to his grandchildren Ephraim and Menashe, and through them to all subsequent generations. What did Jacob mean?

“V’yid gu larov b’kerev ha’aretz”  – he said, “May you multiply like fish in the midst of the land.”

There’s a beautiful Midrash which asks us to contemplate the sight of the waters of a river on a rainy day. Suddenly we notice the head of a fish rising above those waters: it opens it’s mouth in order to take in fresh drops of rain from the skies. Despite already being submerged in water, the fish seeks the new drops.

So too, says the Midrash, we should fight against apathy. We need to be enthusiastic and passionate about the opportunities presented to us for the performance of Mitzvot.

Even though we might be immersed within the waters of full Torah observance, when an opportunity comes for a new Mitzvah to be performed, we must relate to it as if we’ve never done it before.

So too, the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh explains the concept of being ‘Shomer Shabbat’, which we usually understand to mean ‘to keep Shabbat’. The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh says instead, one is ‘Shomer Shabbat’ from Sunday to Friday, as ‘Shomer’ means to look forward, and on Shabbat itself, you are ‘Osser Shabbat’, you are doing or making Shabbat. He takes this from a verse in the book of Bereshit.

Vayekanu vo echav” – we are told how Yosef revealed his dreams to his family, and his brothers were jealous of him because of those dreams. And what was the response of his father? “Ve aviv shamar et hadavar” – his father looked forward to the fulfilment of the dreams as he knew that there was some element of truth in them.

Joseph’s dreams would come to fruition; he was “Shomer” the matter – he looked forward to it happening.

So too, said the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh: we need to be ‘Shomer Shabbat’ through the days of the week, to anticipate the arrival of the next Shabbat as if we have never had Shabbat before. So too with regard to being ‘Shomer Mitzvot’: let us remember the blessing of Jacob our ancestor to guarantee that there will always be excitement, that there will always be a buzz around the performance of Mitzvot, and as a result we will truly be able to be Shomrei Mitzvot: to look forward to the performance of Mitzvahs, and also, to keep them properly.

Shabbat Shalom