Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Vayechi
Rabbi Jablinowitz

There is a remarkable similarity between Yaakov blessing his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, in this week’s parsha and Yitzchak blessing his children in parshas Toldos. Just as the younger Yaakov received the blessing over his older brother Eisav, so too Yaakov blesses the younger Ephraim over Menashe. But there is another likeness the two episodes share. In both cases the one giving the blessing has trouble seeing. Just as the Torah tells us that Yitzchak had great difficulty seeing, so too we read in this week’s parsha (Chapter 48 Pasuk 10,) V'Einei Yisrael Kavdu M'Zoken Lo Yuchal Liros. And Yisrael’s eyes were heavy from old age, he was unable to see.

What is the significance of Yaakov being unable to see? The Seforno points out that seeing is an essential element in blessing. It is important that the one giving the blessing see the one he is about to bless. This establishes a deeper connection between the two and enables the bracha to take effect. In a similar manner, Gd showed Moshe  Rabbeinu all of Eretz Yisrael right before his death. The pasuk says (Devarim Chapter 34 Pasuk 1), Vayareihu Hashem es Kol Ha'Aretz. Gd showed Moshe all of Eretz Yisrael. If he wasn't going in, what was the point of showing the land to him? The reason was so that he should see the land and then be able to bless the land. The eye is a significant factor and a prerequisite for blessing.

This is why the pasuk in our parsha continues, Vayageish Osam Eilav Vayishak Lahem Vayechabeik Lahem. And he (Yosef) brought them close and he (Yisrael) kissed them and hugged them. Since Yaakov was unable to get close to his grandchildren by seeing them, he did the next best thing, which was to hug and kiss them. This was in order to establish closeness with them and enable the bracha to take effect. This parallels the kiss given to Yaakov by his father Yitzchak when he blesses him, as the pasuk says (Chapter 27, Pasuk 27), Vayigash Vayishak Lo, And he came close and he (Yitzchak) kissed him. And the pasuk continues Vayarach es Rey'ach Begadav Vayevarcheihu, he smelled his clothes and he blessed him. The Seforno teaches that smelling is a more sublime sensation which is felt more by the soul than the body and enabled the bracha to take effect.  

We see from here that seeing is a higher level of connection than hugging or kissing. Seeing is a more spiritual act; a bond felt between two people merely by establishing eye contact. When that became impossible, Yaakov resorted to physical contact.

Yaakov’s relationship with Yosef was on a higher level. We read a few pasukim later that Yaakov blessed Yosef. The pasuk says (Chapter 48, Pasuk 15), Vayevareich es Yosef Vayomar, He blessed Yosef and he said. There is no mention of Yaakov hugging or kissing Yosef even though we know that he couldn’t see him. This is because Yaakov felt so close to Yosef that he didn’t even have to see him in order to bless him and have the bracha take effect. Their closeness went beyond the need for any physical connection at all.

In addition, the blessing isn’t even mentioned. After the pasuk above tells us he blessed Yosef and he said, the Torah continues with a different bracha, a bracha for his grandchildren. The blessing given to Yosef isn’t even mentioned (see the Seforno’s commentary).

This is because the highest level of bracha is to be removed even from sight. As the Gemara in Baba Metzia 42A teaches, bracha is only found in that which is hidden from the eye. Yosef didn't need to be seen or touched in order for Yaakov's bracha to take effect; their bond was so close that no new contact needed to be established, even that of vision. Similarly, the bracha itself was so deep and profound that it didn't need to be mentioned. It was removed from sight thereby ensuring the bracha its eternal existence.

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