Monday, January 09, 2006

Guest Posting From Chabakuk Elisha - A 33 Word Complaint

In this past week's Torah portion we read about Yaakov's arrival in Egypt and his conversation with Pharaoh.

Pharaoh asked Yaakov, "How many years are the days of the years of your life?" (Bereishis 47:8). To this Yaakov replied to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not reached the life spans of my forefathers in the days of their sojourns." (Bereishis 47:9)

Yaakov's life turns out to be 33 years shorter than his father Yitzchok since Yaakov lives to the age of 147, while Yitzchok lived to be 180. Chazal tell us that he lost 33 years from his life precisely because of the conversation above - one year for each of the thirty-three words of his complaint. [counted from the Hebrew words in the Chumash]

If Yaakov was punished for complaining about his hard life, why were 33 years deducted, when, if you count the words, in actuality only 25 words were spoken by Yaakov and the other 8 words were spoken by Pharaoh?

The question is really the answer. Pharaoh was not making idle chit-chat; he inquired about Yaakov's age out of shock. For, when Yaakov arrived, Pharaoh saw a man who looked to be ancient! Pharaoh was astounded; he thought Yaakov must be hundreds of years old, which prompted his question. Yaakov then answers to say, "No, I'm not so old, I only look old because my life has been so hard." And this is why Yaakov was punished - had he accepted G-d's will with joy, he would not have looked so haggard, and Pharaoh wouldn't even have asked him his age.

If we accept G-d's will with joy, we look it. Yaakov was the greatest of tzaddikim; he should have accepted G-d's plan in a way that would not have prompted Pharaoh's question in the first place. That's why the lost 33 years of his life. We are certainly not on his level, but if we internalize the lesson perhaps it can help us deal with our hardships a little better.


At January 9, 2006 at 6:29:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...


A beautiful post!!! CE, is this your chiddush?

BTW, SJ, there's a small typo in the last sentence, I believe the words, "the less" are extra.

At January 9, 2006 at 6:38:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks Yitz! I just fixed the typo.

At January 9, 2006 at 10:42:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Yitz!
It's not my chiddush. I heard it a couple years ago from a Breslover chosid and meshulach named R' Shmuel Burstein... but I can't remember what the source was :-/

At January 9, 2006 at 11:01:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing a beautiful Torah thought, which I shared with my wife this evening.

I'm a big fan of the short Torah thoughts that you post on your website - they often provide a great lift for my day.

By the way, I checked the original reference and found that Yaakov isn't actually quoted saying 25 words, and Pharaoh is not quoted saying eight words. In order to reach the total of 33, we have to include the "Vayomer Paraoh el Yaakov..." (Said Pharaoh to Yaakov) and "Vayomer Yaakov el Paraoh..." (Said Yaakov to Pharaoh...)

Keep lighting up the web!!!

At January 10, 2006 at 6:29:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yosef: Thank you very much for the compliments on my blog. I truly appreciate them. Since we all have limited time to read blogs, I try to keep things short and simple.

At January 10, 2006 at 10:05:00 AM EST, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Thank you ASJ and Chabakuk Elisha for this post and the quote on parnassa from Chovot HaLevavot - both are words I know I personally need to internalize...

At January 10, 2006 at 10:56:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I am glad you liked the quote.

At December 12, 2007 at 6:49:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The vort, I believe, was said by R' Chaim Shmuelevitz z"l, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva.

At December 27, 2008 at 1:00:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's something much deeper going on here. i read a midrash about the 130 years adam had no kids, and the first 130years of the exile in mitzrayim...

although there is a moral lesson to be learned here. i think there is something much deeper going on.

let's also look at the exact circumstance: paro is asking. remember, later when yaakov blesses efraim and menashe he is positive.

so paro is asking the question.

we might want/expect yaakov to say "bH i'm 130 and H' has been good to me" wouldn't that be neat and simple and nice?

no way. this is not real. yes,we have tzadikim who really live this and bless them!!! however, yaakov is always 'for real'.

his life has not been easy...and yet why does he say this to paro.
paro only asked his age, but yaakov says more.

i don't know the answer. i will keep searching...i know that there is something much deeper here and it is a lesson for us.


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