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    Priority Number One

    The Torah tells us that when Eisav confronted Yaakov, everyone lined up and bowed before him.  When it was Rochel’s turn, Yosef, her son, stood in front of her and blocked her from the wicked Eisav.   Rashi explains that this was because Rochel was very beautiful and, since Eisav was a notorious ladies man, Yosef did not want Eisav to set his eyes upon his beautiful mother.  The Netzi”v, Zt”l, Zy”a, gives another reason.   He explains that the Medrash says that the reason why the Beis HaMikdash was built in the portion of Binyamin was because he was the only one who did not bow down to the wicked Eisav.  Since at the time of the bowing, Rochel was already pregnant with Binyamin (cf. Targum Yonason Ben Uziel), Yosef blocked Rochel from Eisav so that even in the fetus stage Binyamin should be spared from bowing down to Eisav.  The Sifrei says another reason why the Beis HaMikdash was built in the portion of Binyomin: Because Binyamin was the only one who was not involved in the terrible sale of Yosef and an absolute prerequisite for the residence of the Shechina is that it should be a place of brotherly love and harmony.

    The Ben Ish Chai, Zt”l, Zy”a, cites the famous Medrash of two brothers, one who was poor but had a lot of children and the other who was wealthy but childless.   One day, the poor brother mused to himself: My dear brother has no children.  What a lonely existence.  Let me at least give him some extra crops.   And so, in the stealth of night he brought over some crops to his brother’s field.  At the same time, the rich brother thought to himself: my brother has so many mouths to feed.   Let me bring him some extra crops.  This went on for many months without them realizing what was happening.   One night, they met up with one another and upon realizing each other’s loving intentions, they fell upon each other and cried.  Hashem saw this and said this is the Place where I want to build My temple.

    Once again, we see that Hashem’s desire for His ‘Home’ is a Place where love reigns supreme.  This is why we are taught, “Ish v’isha sholom beinhem, Shechina shruya beinehem – Husband and wife, if there is peace between them then the Shechina resides amongst them.”  When we wish a chosson and kallah that they should build a Mikdash M’at, a mini-sanctuary, we are primarily wishing them that their home should be peaceful, without quarrels and screaming, so that they should merit the presence of the Shechina, like the Sanctuary itself. 

    The Ben Ish Chai relates a lesser known sequel to the story of the two brothers.  He relates that at the time this story happened, in another part of the world, there were two other brothers, one poor with many children and one wealthy but childless.   These two brothers were envious of each other and as such hated one another.  The rich brother said to himself: My brother should have many children and crops also?  So, every night he went and he stole crops from his brother’s field.   In a similar way, the poor brother said to himself: I have so many mouths to feed and my brother has only himself and his wife. So, he went every night and stole from his wealthy brother.  One night they caught each other in the act, fell upon one another and beat each other up.  On that spot was built an idolatrous shrine which spewed hatred out into the world.  This is consistent with the Medrash that teaches that a shul that is riddled with strife will end up becoming a place of tumah.  

    In the coming parshios, we will hear about Yosef’s dramatic revelation to the brothers when they came down to buy food from him as Viceroy in Egypt.  Before revealing himself, he declared, “Hotzi-yu kol ish mei’alai – Remove every man from the room.”   The simple reason for asking the palace guards to vacate themselves was to spare the brothers from being shamed when he declared, “I am Yosef who you sold.”  But, Rav Miller zt”l zy”a gave a second reason.  He explains that the brothers were about to make peace with one another after twenty-two years of animosity.  And, when brothers have achdus, the Shechina comes down and Yosef didn’t want any Egyptians to be there at the holy time when the Divine splendor returned upon them.

    It is therefore incumbent upon every intelligent man, woman, boy and girl, to always pursue the path of peace.  If we want G-d to be in our shul, them the mission statement of the shul must be “Harmony Above All.”  If we want Hashem to grace our homes with his constant Presence, then brothers and sisters should never fight, and husbands and wives should strive mightily never to snap at one another and make it Priority One to preserve domestic tranquility at all costs.   If we want the blessings of the Shechina in our place of work, then our relationships with our employers, employees, and co-workers has to be cordial and friendly.  In the merit of making shalom a top priority, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.

    Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.

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