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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayechi

Parashat Vayechi

To Be Independent and Uniqe in Eretz Yisrael

Rabbi David EbnerVayechi 5763
3001
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As Jacob senses death approaching, he adjures Joseph to bury him in Eretz Yisrael. He is also concerned with the "end of days," and in this spirit he blesses his descendants. How are these matters of burial and blessings intertwined?

After recording Jacob's blessings, the Torah tells us that "he blessed them, each according to his blessing did he bless them" (49:28). The Or HaChayyim HaKadosh comments on these seemingly superfluous words - asher k’virchato. Jacob understands the particular strengths and talents of each of his sons. Giving a blessing means wishing that the recipient fulfill his own potential; that he become that which is possible for him to be. It is not what I would have the other be; nor is it about my dreams or wishes. Rather, it is about realizing the potential that is inherent in the other. K’virchato. To bless is to utter "you;" not "I."

Thus, Jacob saw no problem in breaking rank regarding Menashe and Efraim and reversing the customary order of blessings (indeed, this was something with which he was intimately familiar from his own experiences with Esav and his father's blessings). And perhaps this is what lies at the root of the blessing we give our sons to this very day - K’efraim Uk’Menashe -"live out your particular and unique talents."

Immediately following the verse of k’virchato, Jacob once again instructs his sons to bury him in the land of Canaan. Is this another facet of his profound understanding of the idea of blessing?
The Alexandrover Rebbe teaches that the exile of Egypt only began when the Jews forgot that they were in galut, in exile. Exile is the inability to develop and flower, neither as an individual nor as a nation. The prince who forgets that his home is in the palace and the Jew who forgets that his presence belongs in the palace of God are both sadly bereft of blessing.

But it was easy for Jacob's descendants to forget all of this while they enjoyed the ease of Egyptian life and the physical comforts it first offered. In a fool's paradise, there is no realization of foolishness. Jacob’s insistence that he not be buried in Egypt was a verbal shofar sounding a warning note against such a dangerous illusion. It was a call to choose blessing over fantasy.
Jacob told us - his children - that his aversion to any place other than Israel was so great that even his bodily remains must be returned to that land. For Israel is the only place of full self-actualization for the Jewish people who must bear the blessing of Abraham through the course of history to the end of days. This is our blessing.

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