Compassion and Justice: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Parashat Vayechi 5776
Parashat Vayechi 5776
Rabbi Nachman Kahana
Why did Ya’akov cross his hands?
In his parting moments, Ya’akov blesses his sons and their families. Yosef brings his two sons, the first born Menashe and the younger Efrayim. He places the older Menashe near Ya’akov’s right hand and Efraim near Ya’akov’s left, because the right represents a higher sanctity than the left, so that the elder Menashe would receive the preferred bracha.
Yaakov crosses his hands, so that his right is now over the head of Erayim and his left over Menashe. Yosef points out his father’s “mistake,” and Yaakov replies that what he is doing is deliberate, since Efraim will be more dominant in Jewish history and therefore is in need of superior guidance of HaShem.
What is behind Ya’akov’s thinking?
In Tehillim 137,1-6
(א) על נהרות בבל שם ישבנו גם בכינו בזכרנו את ציון:
(ב) על ערבים בתוכה תלינו כנרותינו:
(ג) כי שם שאלונו שובינו דברי שיר ותוללינו שמחה שירו לנו משיר ציון:
(ד) איך נשיר את שיר ה’ על אדמת נכר:
(ה) אם אשכחך ירושלם תשכח ימיני:
(ו) תדבק לשוני לחכי אם לא אזכרכי אם לא אעלה את ירושלם על ראש שמחתי:
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion (The first Bet Hamikdash).
2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
Why are the consequences for forgetting Yerushalayim the right hand’s inability to function and loss of speech?
Halacha prefers right handedness over left, requiring many mitzva activities to be performed only with the right hand.
In Kabbalistic terms the “right” represents the quality of compassion, charity and goodness which are preferred qualities in this revealed world of human beings. Whereas the “left” represents the quality of precise, exact justice which is the preferred quality in the unperceived (to us) next world of absolute truth.
Similarly, every human being has a perceived aspect – the body which represents the material world, and the non-perceived intellect and conscience, both of which rest in the encapsulated brain and represent the spiritual next world.
The brain, as the seat of spirituality, is composed of a right and a left hemisphere. As stated above, the right represents the quality of compassion, charity and goodness which are preferred in this world, and the left represents the quality of absolute truth of the next world.
At the base of the brain, the nerves cross over on their way to the body, with the nerves of the right hemisphere going the left and the nerves of the left hemisphere going to the right, resulting in the brain’s right hemisphere controlling the left part of the body and the brain’s left hemisphere controlling the right part of the body.
HaShem’s intention upon creation was to link the primary to the primary and the secondary to the secondary, meaning the preferred left hemisphere of the non-revealed spiritual world links with the “this world’s” preferred right side of the visible body, and the secondary right hemisphere of the non-revealed spiritual world links with the secondary left side of the visible body.
King David the Psalmist, is informing us that if one is indifferent, aloof, and apathetic with regard to Yerushalayim, his spiritual left brain hemisphere is weak, which is expressed in paralysis of the right arm and the inability to speak – all which are controlled by the brain’s left hemisphere.
Ya’akov crossed his hands in order that his right hand would be on the head of Efrayim in order to emanate the preferred bracha to Efrayim and the secondary bracha to Menashe through his left hand.
Compassion and Justice
Today, Tuesday, is the tenth of Tevet, when through prayers and fasting we bring to the forefront of our consciousness the beginning of Nevuchadnetzer’s siege of Yerushalayim, which eventually led to the destruction of the first Bet HaMikdash and the Babylonian exile.
The tenth of Tevet has also been declared by the Chief Rabbinate as Yom HaKaddish HaKellali, the day when kaddish is to be said for the martyred Jews in the Shoah whose day of death is uncertain.
In defiance of all religious and historic logic, there are still millions of Jews who prefer to remain in the galut despite what we experienced at the hands of our goyishe hosts.
I can explain it in terms of what appears above.
Decrees emanate from the spiritual world of the compassionate right and stern justice of the left. And as they leave Shamayim for this world, just as when the nerves leave the brain they cross over, where the compassionate right often creates difficulties and the stern hand of justice often creates pleasantries.
HaShem is angry at His children who ignore His call to come home. So the stern left of the Shamayim sends its decrees to the Jews in the galut in the form of wealth and security and false spiritual leaders, guaranteeing that they will never have the merit to live in the Holy Land.
Conversely, the compassionate right in the Shamayim sends its decrees to the Jews in Eretz Yisrael which express themselves in struggle and difficulties in order to increase the merit of His loyal children.