RABBI SCHOENBERG'S EREV SHABBAT MESSAGE PARASHAT VAYECHI
WHY THE JEWISH PEOPLE ARE COMPARED TO FISH?
This week we read the final chapters of the first book of the Torah. It contains one of my favorite verses. Why? The ancient Israelites and by extension all of the Jewish people are compared to fish. It would be more impressive to be compared to a powerful lion, or a soaring eagle or a gentle dove. But fish in the ocean? Yet, we will see it is most meaningful to be thought of as fish.
Genesis 48:16 reads
הַמַּלְאָךְ֩ הַגֹּאֵ֨ל אֹתִ֜י מִכָּל־רָ֗ע יְבָרֵךְ֮ אֶת־הַנְּעָרִים֒ וְיִקָּרֵ֤א בָהֶם֙ שְׁמִ֔י וְשֵׁ֥ם אֲבֹתַ֖י אַבְרָהָ֣ם וְיִצְחָ֑ק וְיִדְגּ֥וּ לָרֹ֖ב בְּקֶ֥רֶב הָאָֽרֶץ׃
The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm- Bless the lads. In them may my name be recalled, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, And may they be as numerous multitudes upon the earth.
Joseph is blessing his children Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph is saying, 'May my family and by extension the Jewish people be populous, filling the earth.' The word is וְיִדְגּ֥וּ which in the Biblical context means 'multitudes.' But as a pun it also means 'to be like the fish' This leads our rabbis to expand the text and say. Fish love water. Fish can never have enough water to swim in. So too Israel and Torah. The people of Israel are like the fish in the sea, we can never have enough Torah in our lives.
We can never have enough Torah to study. As we start a New Year, Let me take this opportunity to share with three websites I consult daily for Torah study. I love my books and my library, but these three websites make learning a little Torah every day easy and accessible.
MY JEWISH LEARNING https://www.myjewishlearning.com/ Want to know how to bake a challah? Need a definition of some key Jewish term? How do you celebrate Purim? This is the website for basic Jewish information. It also includes a weekly parsha summary. You can get it delivered daily directly into your inbox.
SEFARIA https://www.sefaria.org/texts The world of Jewish sacred texts is now completely online. When we at TJC send out the weekly service links we include a link to the parsha from sefaria. If you want to check a verse or find a quote from the Torah, Talmud or Midrash this can be your primary source.
JTA https://www.jta.org/ A website for Jewish news, culture and happenings in the Jewish world. It is a terrific way to stay up to date on current events. You can get it delivered to your inbox automatically.
There are a multitude of websites for Jewish information available. These are three of my favorites I check every day. Let me know your favorites. Where do you learn Torah online?
Your comments and suggestions here would be terrific. I would write a follow up article on the additional websites our community is accessing.
May 2021 be as filled with study of Torah as fish fill the sea.
Rabbi Elliot Salo Schoenberg