Yacov Nordlicht – Parsha Vayechei – A Sasum Parsha

This week’s parsha is called sasum, meaning “closed”. Meaning there’s no space separating Vayechi and last week’s parsha, Parshas Vayigash as we find by every other parsha. The first Rashi in the parsha explains that the reason behind this anomaly is that the lev (heart) and ayin (eyes) of klal Yisrael were “closed” due to the death of Ya’akov. In an allusion to this, the parsha itself was left “closed”.

What does this mean? Obviously, Bnei Yisrael didn’t begin to lose their actual eyesight as a result of Ya’akov Avinu’s death. Rashi must be referring to our spiritual eyesight, the ability to truly see and feel the presence of HaShem. But why did Ya’akov’s death contribute to a lessening of this ability?

Chazal tell us that normally, when we have a space in between each parsha, the function and purpose of the space is to give time to be misbonein the previous parsha and process all the fundamental yesodos we just read. It’s to take all of the ideas we just gleaned from the Torah and make them relevant to ourselves.

With this in mind, Rashi isn’t merely telling us that we began failing to see and feel HaShem with Ya’akov’s death. Rather, the parsha was left sasum because we began to lose our ability to properly be misbonein about the Torah. Without Ya’akov Avinu, there’s no purpose towards having a space in between parshas for without Ya’akov we lost our ability to properly think and inculcate the Torah ideas within ourselves.

In more kabbalistic sources, each part of the body is likened to a corresponding middah. The “eyes” of a person correspond to kedusha. They’re the only part of the body which cannot receive even a small speck of a foreign agent such as dust without irritation and discomfort. The “heart” on the other hand, corresponds to tahara. Just as the process of tahara is the changing of a substance which was once tamei, so to the heart receives the blood from the rest of the body and “changes” the blood so to speak by infusing it with usable oxygen before dispersing it again to the limbs of the body.

This is the deeper idea which Rashi is alluding to. It isn’t that we physically began to lose our eyesight. Rather we began to lose our spiritual sight.  When Ya’akov Avinu passed away, the galus began. The koach of kedusha and tahara in Yisrael began to diminish and wither away. In an allusion to this nekudeh, the parsha is sasum. Because we began to lose our kedusha and our tahara, we weren’t able to properly focus and inculcate the concepts of the Torah.

There’s a much deeper idea and penetrating insight which results from this train of thought. By leaving the parsha sasum, the Torah isn’t just teaching us what results from a diminished sense of kedusha and tahara- rather it’s also teaching us how to deal with it. It’s teaching us how to live our lives while still in the galus. It teaches us how to respond during the times when our avodah isn’t as it should be. The only way to deal with such a galus, is to look back. Because the parsha is sasum, its forever connected to its predecessor. This teaches us to always look back. To remember the times of enlightenment, when things were clearer, when our avodah was stronger. In the parsha, the Brothers knew that in order to deal with the diminishing kedusha in klal Yisrael, the only way to handle it would be to look back. To remember when Ya’akov Avinu was alive. To remember the times of light and the times when avodas HaShem was stronger. With that type of hisbonenus, a person can bring light even into a galus night.

This idea is a very important eitzah for the times in life when a person falls. So many people leave yeshiva, and after a short time in the secular world, realize that they aren’t holding where they used to be in avodas HaShem. Many just get disappointed and move on, because that’s just the way life is. Back in yeshiva, night and day were spent focusing on avodas HaShem and a clarity in life. But after yeshiva ends, ever so slowly the trivialities we tend to attribute so much importance to begin to take over. Our kedusha and tahara which we worked so hard on to build begins to falter. So how do we react? Does one shrug and accept it as a hardship of life? The Torah here is teaching us how to deal with it. Don’t just ignore it, rather think back to the times when you were in yeshiva, to the times when we loved davening and learning, when they weren’t a burden for us. When we remember and relive those times, we draw upon our power of inspiration. And with that inspiration, we can continue to grow, even amidst our dark galus night.