Parshat Vayechi by Lauren Eskreis-Winkler
Most people would have not the faintest clue but the swirling image is actually an image of Aspirin, the common over-the-counter drug which relieves your minor aches and pains. Fascinating how things can look so different when seen from another perspective.
This week’s Parsha, Vayechi, contains a fascinating story about perspective. When it comes time for Yaakov to bless his grandsons, he maneuvers his hands, placing his right hand on the younger one Ephraim, and his left hand on the older one, Manasseh.
The directional switch brings to mind the Sifre Rashi’s quotes in his commentary to Devarim 17:11. There he says that you are to obey the ruling of the courts, “even if they should tell you that right is left and left is right.”
People ask what the Sifre means. Is it advocating blind adherence to law, even when that law is completely nonsensical? Rabbi Chaim Yaakov Levene zt”l, offers a beautiful explanation. He says that if you are standing opposite an official who tells you that left is right and right is left, that statement contains truth. When we stand face to face with another, their left is our right. We learn from the Sifre the importance of appreciating and respecting the other’s perspective.
This notion of seeing things from the other’s perspective is also intrinsic to the giving of tzedakah. For Rambam, “dai machsoro” means tzedakah should be given according to the needs of the receiver. If someone lacks clothes, we clothe him. If he lacks food, we feed him. So too, if it was the poor person’s previous practice to travel on horseback preceded by a running servant, we give him a horse and a sprinting servant.
Like the giving of tzedakah, to perform tzedek properly it is crucial to experience this shift in outlook. We must consider the perspective of someone other than ourselves. Merchandise is no longer just an article for consumption—it is seen from the perspective of production as well. So too with all true acts of tzedek—the perspective of the other floats triumphantly into view.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.