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A Not So Simple "Thank You"
In this week's Parsha Yosef and Yaakov finally reunite after twenty - two years. One would expect a reunion filled with emotion with both sides embracing each other. Rashi points out that the posuk says Yosef fell and cried on Yaakov's shoulders, but Yaakov held himself back because he was saying Krias Shema at that time.
The Maharal asks , " If it was the time to say Krias Shema why wasn't Yosef saying it as well? On the other hand , if it wasn't the time to say Shema why now of all times was Yaakov saying it? " The Maharal explains that it was n o t the actual time to read Krias Shema. Naturally, Yaakov at a time of such joy wanted to throw his arms around his son and embrace him , but he felt that something had to come first , which was to t hank Hashem for being able to experience this joy, and realizing that this whole ordeal was a fulfillment of the Divine plan. As Chazal say "everything that Hashem does is for the good. " Righteous people , even at the most emotional times can take a step back and realize what one is truly obligated to do. Yosef would have done the same had it not been for his obligation of Kibud Av . The i dea of saying Krias Shema at such a time is only a Midas Chasiddus which doesn't take precedence over a m itzvah. A s piritual level of the magnitude of Yaakov's or Yosef's is not easy to attain , yet there is a lesson here for all of us. There was once a man who often visited Harav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt"l to talk about some problems that he had been facing. In the middle of his discussion , Reb Yaakov z t"l commented , " Everyone comes to me with his problems . I wish people would let me know when they have simchas as well. " After leaving the h ome of Reb Yaakov z t"l , t his person accepted upon himself that anytime there would be a s imcha in his family he would contact Reb Yaakov . He understood the m ussar that was given to him It is great to have someone to share all of your problems with but it i s even greater to include him in the good things as well.
All the more so in our relationship with Hashem , W ho is the source of all the b lessings that we receive in this world. It i s easy in diff i cult times to start saying Tehillim and davening to Hashem to save us from these t zoros. The question that needs to be asked sometimes is , " What are we doing when times are good? Are we thanking Hashem enough for all the good the He gives us daily? "
Yaakov Avinu was able to do even more than just recognize the good and be thankful for it . He was also able to thank Hashem for the tzoros as well. I f we are able to thank Hashem for the good it will be a step in the right direction to also reach that level of understanding that e verything that Hashem does if for our ultimate good. We hope that with the zechus of being Makir Tov more and appreciating what we have, we will be zoche to many s imchos in our community and in all of Klal Yisroel.
Long Time, No See
Rabbi Avi Weinrib
In this week's Parsha we find the climax of the episode between Yosef and his brothers. Yosef finally reveals his identity and immediately questions whether his father is still alive. This is followed with the joyous reunion between Yakov and Yosef who have not seen each other for 22 years. Chazal tell us that at the moment they met Yakov was reciting the Shema1. Seemingly there should have additionally been a blessing that both Yakov and Yosef were required to recite. The Talmud2 tells us that if one sees a friend he has not seen in thirty days he recites the blessing Baruch Atta. Shehechiyonu V'kiymanu V'higiyanu Lazman Hazeh. If one has not seen his friend for twelve months he would instead recite the blessing Baruch Atta. Michaye HaMeisim. It would seem that both Yakov and Yosef were required to make the blessing of Michaye HaMeisim. In this week's Halacha Encounter we will attempt to determine if this was the case or not. Furthermore, most of us have been in situations where we have not seen a friend or relative in twelve months and yet no one seems to be accustomed to reciting these blessings. Why is this so and what is the Halachic basis for this?
R' Yakov Chagiz was asked in his work Shalos U'Teshuvos Halachos Ketanos3 if one would recite these blessings if he had received a letter from his friend during the 30 days or twelve months. He differentiates between the blessing of Michaye HaMeisim and Shehechiyonu. Michaye HaMeisim would not be recited if a letter was received; however, Shehechiyonu would still be required. The Poskim4 explain the difference as follows. The blessing of Michaye HaMeisim is recited as a praise that the person is still alive while Shehechiyonu is recited because of the joy one feels upon seeing his friend.[ As to why Michaye HaMeisim requires twelve months and Shehechiyonu only thirty days, see Mishna Berura 225-4, Aruch Hashulchan 225-2 and Minhag Yisroel Torah 225-1.] Therefore, if one receives a letter and knows his friend is still alive, no blessing is required. The Poskim5 extend this and say that even if one would not actually receive a letter but be in touch with his friend or even friends of his friend and would hear if something happened to his friend, no blessing would be recited upon meeting that friend. The blessing of Shehechiyonu, however, which is recited upon the joy one receives upon meeting his friend is recited even if there was contact during that time. This is the opinion of the Aruch Hashulchan6 and other Poskim7. However, the Mishna Berura8 seems to make no distinction between the blessings and in both cases rules that if there was any contact no blessing is recited. It would therefore follow that with the communication devices available today according to the Mishna Berura there would be almost no case where the blessings would be required.
Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch9 writes that these blessings are only recited when one feels a tremendous amount of joy upon seeing his friend. Some write10 that being that it is difficult to determine the level of joy necessary and with whom that level is reached, common custom is not to recite these blessings. Finally, some11 write that being that flattery is so prevalent today there is concern that one is only reciting the blessing to flatter his friend so he should feel as if he were sorely missed. Based on these three reasons, common custom is not to recite these blessings.
There are two situations where even the Mishna Berura would agree one should recite these blessings.When one's wife gives birth to a boy the blessing of Hatov Vihmaitiv is recited[see O.H. 223-1] On the birth of a girl this blessing is not recited [See Shar Hatziyon 223-3 ]. However the Mishna Berura rules that when one sees his daughter for the first time the blessing of Shechiyanu is recited. He says the joy one recieves is obviously much greater than when one meets his friend who he has not seen in 30 days.[See Igros Moshe O.H.5 43-5,Halichos Shlomo 23-10 and Zos Habracha page 169 ] A second case would be if a very close friend or relative would go to war or be very ill and is in a constant state of danger, and one would then meet the person after 30 days or 12 months and he would be well, then the blessings would be recited. Being that his friend was in a constant state of danger one is never sure until the moment he meets his friend that all is well.12
As far as Yakov and Yosef are concerned, it would seem that since both were aware before meeting that the other was well, the blessing of Michaye HaMeisim would not be recited. As far as Shehechiyonu it would seem to depend if they followed the Aruch Hashulchan in which case they would recite Shehechiyonu or the opinion of the Mishna Berura in which case they would not. However R' Dovid Zucker shlit"a maintained that even according to the Mishna Berura the blessing of Michaya Maysim would be recited.The reasoning is as follows. Yakov had no idea throughout the 22 years that Yosef was alive and was only told as part of going to see Yosef. Such a case can be compared to the soldier returning from battle calling his parents on the way to inform them that he is coming. Since their awareness was a part of him coming home this can not be compared to the case where there was contact between the two parties during the 30 days or 12 months. Yosef, however who was aware during the years of seperation that Yakov was well would still not recite the blessing.
1 Rashi Bereishis 46-29
2 Berachos 58b
3 Volume 1 Siman 220
4 Aruch Hashulchan 225-2,Yichave Daas 4-17
5 Sefer Zos Habracha Page 169 Orchos Rabeinu Volume 1 Page 94
7 Halichos Shlomo Volume 1 23 Footnote 53; Yichave Daas Volume 4-17
8 225-2. See however Halichos Shlomo ibid. and Sefer Birchos Hashem Volume 4 Page 124 who writes there is a printing mistake in the Mishna Berura. However most Poskim accept the Mishna Berura at face value. See Shone Halachos, Zos Habracha ibid, Shu"t Shaivet Halevi Volume 5-24-2
9 O.H. 225-1
10 Likutei Maharich
11 Chesed Lialaphim 16
12 See Shar haziyun 225-3 and Shu"t Shaivet Halevi ibid.