Friday, December 10, 2010

The Shaagas Aryeh Rav of Metz - A Story for Parashas VaYigash

"And Pharaoh said to Yaakov how long have you lived?" (Bereishis 47:8)
The Gaon Rav Aryeh Leib Ginzberg the author of Shaagas Aryeh was already seventy years old when he was appointed as the chief Rabbi of Metz.
When he arrived to take up his new role he heard the rumor that some of the townspeople were quite upset that such an old man had been appointed as their new chief rabbi. They were hoping for a younger man full of life and vitality with many good years ahead of him.
That Shabbos Parashas VaYigash he gave his Shabbos derasha and addressed this very topic:
"We find in this week's parasha that when our forefather the patriarch Yaakov to Egypt, Pharaoh asked him "how old are you?" and he answered him, "the days of my life are one hundred and thirty, they have been few, hard and difficult years these days of my life and they have not reached the days of the lives of my forefathers."
This poses several difficulties, firstly why did Pharaoh bother asking Yaakov how old he was? And why did Yaakov answer Pharaoh that "the days of my life . . have been few, hard and difficult?" He wasn't asked that at all? He should have simply answered that he was one hundred and thirty years old?!
"The answer is," explained the Shaagas Aryeh, "that Pharaoh observed that as soon as Yaakov arrived the land of Egypt was blessed and the hunger and famine ceased, he therefore worried over Yaakov's apparent old age, perhaps he would soon pass away and all these blessings would end and leave with his passing? This is why he asked Yaakov his age. However Yaakov understood all this, therefore he answered Pharaoh that he was one hundred and thirty years old however he explained that these years were few, since they did not reach the days of his forefathers who lived to ripe old ages of one hundred and eighty years. And further Yaakov explained that his apparent old age was a result of the difficult life he had lived, this had caused him to age prematurely so that he appeared older than he really was."
"So is the case with me," continued the Shaagas Aryeh, "I am not as old as you think, my life has had certain trials and difficulties which have caused me to age. And G-d willing I shall serve as your rabbi for over twenty years to come." And so it was that the tzadik's words were fulfilled and he served as the chief rabbi of Metz for over twenty years!
Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
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