Matter & Spirit – The Blog

1 בJanuary 2015

All for One & One for All – Vayechi

The major stumbling block that ultimately led the Tribes to sell their brother Yosef was the jealous rift between them; and the emotional reconciliation didn’t occur until the hour when their father Yaakov lay on his deathbed.

“And the days drew near for Yisrael to die…” (Bereishit 47:29). From his deathbed, Yaakov Avinu calls his twelve sons together. “Gather…congregate and listen, sons of Yaakov, to your father Yisrael” (49:1-2).


No longer is one son apart or estranged from his brothers. No longer is Yosef alone in Egypt and his brothers in the Land of Iisrael. No longer is Binyamin safe with Yaakov while his older brothers venture to buy food. No longer is Shimon held prisoner while the others return to their father…  Now, all the brothers join together to receive their father’s blessing which begins with a surprising statement:

“And Yaakov called to his sons…Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days” (49:1). Rashi elucidates that Yaakov intended to divulge to his children the time of Mashiach, but at that moment, the Divine Presence deserted him, and he continued with his other messages.

Yaakov, the loftiest of our forefathers, was able to clearly distinguish the uniqueness and singularity in each and every son. He discerned their powers and failings, their strengths and weaknesses, the realms in which they could soar and those where they had potential to stumble.

This is evident from the very first blessing that Yaakov bestows on his eldest child, Reuven: “Reuven, you are my firstborn…Yeter se’et—the excellence of dignity; v’yeter oz—and the excellence of power” (49:3). Rashi explains that the words yeter se’et—the excellence of dignity – refers to Kehuna, Priestdom; and yeter oz—the excellence of power – refers to Melucha – Kingdom. Indeed, Reuven could have merited both of these honors, but lost both because he was, “Pachaz kamayim – unstable as water” (49:4). He was quick to express his anger, as water rushes to reach its destination.

Yaakov charges each of his sons with a unique mission, and bequeaths them each a portion in Eretz Yisrael according to the individual’s unique gifts and capacities. “Zevulun will dwell upon the haven of seas,” becoming affluent through extensive commerce and trade. “Yissachar, strong as a donkey,” carries the burden of Torah upon his shoulders. “Asher, his bread will be fat,” with the many olive groves in his portion. “Yehuda…wine and milk,” symbolizes the material and spiritual bounty of leadership and monarchy…



It’s not just the spectacular imagery of these verses that has inspired oil paintings and wall drawings, stained-glass windows, embroidered Ark coverings, and decorations in hundreds of synagogues worldwide, but the symbol of unity and exclusivity therein. The Twelve Tribes epitomize the perfect balance of individuality and unity that our nation must emulate.

Jack of all trades & master of none

In the world of design, teamwork is the name of the game, but first, it’s fundamental to ensure that each member of the team is a professional in his specific role as opposed to being a jack of all and master of none…


Only bone fide professionals can guarantee a job well done. Only master artisans know exactly which materials to use and how to use them. Only those who are proficient know quality and durability when they see it, and when and where to cut down on expenses. A professional is qualified to offer suggestions, solve problems that inevitably arise and is attentive, respectful and responsive to the client’s particular needs.


In our attempts to reduce costs and save money, we’re often tempted to try for the “all in one,” but experience has proven time and again that there’s no substitute for professionalism. A kitchen carpenter isn’t the same as a door carpenter,


and someone who designs breathtaking wall paintings isn’t necessarily an expert at painting furniture…



Midrag—A new way to do it!

Let me introduce you to Midrag, a company which acquaints you with professionals who’ve undergone careful screening and are continually subjected to new screenings and tests by clients who rate their level of professionalism. Whether you need an electrician or plumber, carpenter or interior designer, or any other type of professional, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Gone are the days of Googling your keyword and spending hours browsing through websites and advertisements, never knowing whether the testimonials are authentic or not. With Midrag, clients themselves rate their service providers based on a range of criteria including professionalism, price, timeliness, customer relations, etc. The higher the rating, the higher the professional appears on the list. (If you sneak a peek at the Interior Designer category in Jerusalem, you might chance to spot a familiar face!)



When the floorer complains that the floor isn’t straight!

Back when I first completed my studies, I couldn’t wait to start working. I was eager, motivated and excited to enter the field, prepare plans and blueprints, choose floor tiles and pick out furniture while becoming acquainted with my clients and their needs. What did intimidate me though was collaborating with other —painters, floorers, carpenters, contractors, etc., and I dreaded the inevitable argument, disagreement and distrust. I couldn’t help but recall my personal experience and the experiences of family and friends when they’d built and/or renovated, some of which were far from pleasant to say the least.  No matter what the trouble, every service provider found reason to shift the blame onto others. The painter complained that he would have done a better job, if only the wall were straight. The floorer griped that the one who’d poured the cement did a lousy job… And the list goes on…


Professional teamwork

In time, I was glad to discover that it doesn’t have to work like that. In fact, there are many wonderful, honest and hardworking professionals willing to take responsibility for their work, collaborate and complement the efforts of other professionals. There are contractors who keep cool under fire, who don’t let others ruffle their feathers and who know exactly how to puppeteer the show as they work hand-in-hand with the designer, professionals and service providers who all do their job with a good- natured grin and calm. Sometimes, the total figures end up higher, but the cost is well worth the satisfaction and serenity throughout what could otherwise be a difficult, painful experience.


Twelve Tribes of Israel—Together

Professionals are good.

Professionals who work together, who cooperate and are attentive to each other’s needs, who consult with one another and respect each other, are unmatched.

When everyone works at a team, the job gets done, and everyone is happy and satisfied.


Yaakov Avinu’s blessings to his sons ensured that every individual realized his own strengths and abilities. They underscored that every person’s role is a vital piece in the total puzzle, and when combined into a single masterpiece, each one – individually and collectively – brings blessing to our nation.


Chazak Chazak V’nitchazek!

With the rain pouring down in abundance and the change in season, we have merited completing Chumash Bereishit, the first of the five Books, from the very first word  heralding Creation and until the blessings of Yaakov Avinu. We’ve discovered the seeds of creation and creativity, rest and relaxation, guests, dreams, ladders, stripes and blessings.

Thank you to each and every one of my readers for joining me through this journey and for your warm responses. Looking forward to meeting you soon in Chumash Shmot!


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