Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayechi
To dedicate this lesson

Life’s Loose Ends

With typical Torah irony, the parsha of Vayechi – “and he will live” – is centered around death. Both Yakov & Yosef, two of the greatest personalities in all of Jewish history, will pass away in this final sedra of Sefer Bereisheit.

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Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tevet 11 5782
With typical Torah irony, the parsha of Vayechi – "and he will live" – is centered around death. Both Yakov & Yosef, two of the greatest personalities in all of Jewish history, will pass away in this final sedra of Sefer Bereisheit.

When a loved one dies, we are accustomed to pray, "May he/she rest in peace." But what is most important is that a person makes peace with himself before he dies, that he ties up all the loose ends in his life so that he can close the shop & his neshama can transition to Life Eternal.

All his life, Yakov has agonized over one central event: the B’Chora. Did he act properly when he wrested the blessing from his father by subterfuge? Did he really deserve to become the leader of the nation & the father of his country? Or is he a "heel," as his name implies?

And so, when Yakov calls for his two grandchildren in order to bless them, he does a rather strange thing: he reverses his hands & diagonally extends his right hand – the one symbolizing the primary blessing – toward Efraim, who was on his left side. In doing this, he is vividly replaying the scene of the B’chora, where the key bracha is surprisingly given to the younger son.

When Menashe, the elder, issues no protest & accepts the decision, Yakov innately knows that his actions have been validated, that he was right in believing that Jewish leadership is a meritocracy, not an aristocracy.

That this episode connects to the B’chora is made clear by mentioning that Yakov, like Yitzchak, is blind, & that an angel will bless the boys, just as an angel wrestled with Yakov & then blessed him with the name Yisrael, thus validating his actions vis a vis Esav those many years ago. Now, Yakov’s soul can rest at peace.

Yosef must deal with his own crisis: Does he hold any grudge against his brothers for what they did to him? And did he do right by bringing his entire nation to Egypt, a land infamous for immorality & depravity? Should he rather have sent them provisions, instead of taking them into a long Exile?

Yosef finally will conclude that, "Elokim chashva l’tova," whatever G-d does, He does for the good, & that this was all a necessary part of our eternal journey. And in his last words to his people, he assures them they will, they must return to Israel; no matter how privileged a life they may lead in Goshen that cannot be our home. And he makes his family swear an oath that they will take him with them when they do go. As Yosef takes his final breath, you can almost hear him confidently proclaim: "Chazak, Chazak, V’Nitchazek" – be strong, & strengthen one another.
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר yeshiva.org.il