Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Victory or Vitur? - Rav Moshe Weinberger's drasha on Parshas Vayechi 5779

After three difficult Shabbosim with Rav Weinberger away and one with me away, welcome back to the drasha write-ups!

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from Shabbos, parshas Vayechi 5779. I usually do not include the personal remarks Rav Weinberger makes for smachos in the shul, but as at the request of one of the fathers of the young couple who just got married on Sunday, I did include these remarks here. Rav Weinberger has reviewed this write-up and any corrections are incorporated herein. Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at YUTorah.org's website by Rav Weinberger both as leader of Emek HaMelech, as former Mashpia at YU, and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Vayechi 5779
Victory or Vitur?

We are fortunate to celebrate the upcoming chassunah of Shmuel Aidelson and Rachel Meyer, two young people who grew up in Aish Kodesh. When two people in the world from opposite sides of the political spectrum join forces, the world calls this “reaching across the aisle.” Baruch Hashem, because both fathers literally sit across the aisle from one another in shul, this will truly be an “across the aisle” marriage. May these words serve as a blessing and a little bit of guidance for Rachel and Shmuel.

Every year on parshas Vayechi, my father would tell us how, when he was a child in cheder, the rebbe taught the boys a sad niggun to sing when saying Yaakov’s words to Yosef from this week’s parsha, “As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died on me in the land of Kena’an on the way, when there was quite a bit of land till Efrat, and I buried here there on the path to Efrat, which is Beis Lechem” (Bereishis 48:7).

This is a profoundly emotional passuk. Sometimes a person should talk to someone in his life about something tremendously difficult, but it is too painful to broach the subject. But when death begins knocking on the door, he knows his time is running out and he can no longer remain silent.

Something was bothering Yosef that he was never able to express to his father because of the esteem in which he held Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov addressed this unexpressed complaint here, as Rashi says, “I know that you have complaints against me in your heart” because instead of burying Yosef’s mother Rachel in Me’oras HaMachpela in Chevron, with the rest of the family, Yaakov buried here alone in Beis Lechem. And to make Yaakov appear even worse in his son’s eyes, he asked Yosef to trouble himself to travel all the way from Egypt to bury Yaakov in Chevron even though he seemingly did not bother to take Rachel’s body the much shorter distance from Beis Lechem to Chevron! This apparent denigration of his mother’s honor was lodged like a knife in Yosef’s heart though he could not express it to his father.

Many chassanim and kallos ask me for the secret to shalom bayis – a peaceful marriage. There are volumes to say on this topic and who knows if either of them will remember what I say, but the truth is that there is one trait which I usually tell people is the key to a happy marriage, and that is the midah of vitur – the ability to concede or acquiesce. The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likutei Sichos 30) prefaces his explanation of Yaakov Avinu’s answer to Yosef’s unspoken question by giving us a deeper understanding of the midah of vitur.

Vitur can come from weakness or from strength. It comes from weakness when one person gives into another because he or she simply does not have the strength to argue anymore. Someone does this when continuing to argue will create more pain than the person is willing or able to endure, or because the other person has simply worn them down. In a certain sense, this type of vitur can be good, but it usually leads to long term resentment and anger. Someone who is mevater on payment due to him from a counterparty to a contract may end the argument, but in such situations, such a person often never again speaks to the person he knows cheated him.

When one is mevater from strength, this means that he agrees to what another person wants because he loves that person, whether it is a family member, friend, or spouse. He or she may be right and may be better at arguing the point at hand, but despite this, the vatran – one who has internalized the midah of vitur – nevertheless concedes to the other person’s point because he values the other person and the relationship with him or her more than he values being right or having his way. The vatran gives in from a position of strength, free will, and full-hearted desire to make the other person happy.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that Rachel’s greatest trait was her midah of vitur. The most famous example is when Rachel gave over the signs to Leah which she and Yaakov had established to verify Rachel’s identity under the chuppah in case Lavan tried to deceive them, which he ultimately did (Megillah 13b). But Yaakov Avinu was telling his son Yosef about another expression of Rachel’s trait of vitur: “It is not like you think. Rachel was not mevater on being buried in Me’oras HaMachpela from a place of weakness. She chose to be buried in Beis Lechem, where she and I knew our grandchildren would one day be lead on their way out of Yerushalayim and into exile.”  

The passuk says, “A voice is heard on high – lamentation and bitter weeping – Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children for they are not” (Yirmiyahu 31:14). All Rachel wanted was to comfort her children as they passed her grave into exile and to daven for them from above. That is why she merited Hashem telling her, “Withhold your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears for there is a reward for your efforts, says Hashem, they shall return from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, says Hashem, for your children shall return to their borders” (ibid. 15-16).

We have an ancient custom from the times of the Rishonim, which also has roots in Chazal, that each chassan gives his kallah a gift in the yichud room. When the tzadik Rav Areye Levin zt’l was married he was as impoverished as he was during the rest of his life. His wife Tzipora Channa a’h, the daughter of Rav Dovid Shapira zt’l, later revealed what he said to her in the yichud room: “My beloved, I am so sorry that I do not have any money to buy a gift for you. But let this promise be my gift to you: For the rest of our lives, whenever we disagree about something, I will always be the one who will be mevater.”

While I am sure that our chassan Shmuel has already bought his kallah a gift for the yichud room tomorrow, I also know that he and Rachel will both express Rachel Imeinu’s midah of vitur in their relationship. Shmuel shares the name of Shmuel HaNavi who comes from “Rama,” as the passuk says, “And he [Shmuel] returned to Rama, for his home was there” (I Shmuel 7:17). And the kallah Rachel shares the name of our mother Rachel, about whom the passuk says, “A voice is heard on high – Rama.”


As friends of the Aidelsons’ and Meyers’ for so many years and watching Rachel and Shmuel grow up in the shul, the entire kehillah feel like family. We know that whether the couple spends any Yom Tov with her family or his, we will enjoy their company either way. May Hashem bless this young couple, along with all of us in Klal Yisroel with vitur from a place of strength in all our relationships. In this merit, may we witness the complete fulfillment of Hashem’s words to our mother Rachel, “your children shall return to their borders!”

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