Weekly Reading Insights: Vayechi 5766

 

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Vayechi

To be read on 14 Tevet 5766 (Jan.14)

Torah: Genesis 47:28-50:26;  Haftorah: Kings I 2:1-12 (David's deathbed words)

Vayechi is the 12th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 12th overall, and 44th out of 54 in overall length.

Yaacov realized that he would soon pass away, so he asked Yosef to swear that he would bury him with Yitzchak and Avraham in Machpeleh Cave in Hevron. Yaacov blessed Yosef's sons, Efraim and Menashe, and told Yosef that the city of Shechem would be his eternal inheritance. Yaacov prophetically blessed each of his 12 sons. After Yaacov passed away and the mourning period was over, Yosef got Pharaoh's permission to leave Egypt to bury his father in Israel. An entourage of Yaacov's family and Pharaoh's courtiers went to Israel with Yaacov's coffin. After returning to Egypt, the brothers worried that Yosef might still hold a grudge against then for having sold him. Yosef assured them that what occurred was Divine Providence and for the best, and promised to fully sustain them and their families. Yosef lived long and saw his great grandchildren. He made his offspring swear to take his remains out of Egypt when they would eventually return to Israel. "Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazek!"


FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALA (K:1266/Vayechi)

From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:1266/Vayechi)

When Jacob wished to bless Joseph's sons, he blessed them with the unification of above and below [bina and malchut] as one so that the blessings would be fulfilled.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:1266/Vayechi)

It is known that the twelve signs of the Zodiac subdivide into [four categories corresponding to] the four elements, three [signs] associated with each element.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Atar (O:1266/Vayechi)

We need to examine the criteria that cause the Torah to refer to Jacob sometimes as "Jacob" and other times as "Israel".

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:1266/Vayechi)

They had left the city, had not gone far out of the city, and Joseph said to his house steward, "Get up, chase after the men." (44:4)

The Torah emphasizes the fact that they had not gone far. When a person travels to another city, he is supposed to recite tefilat haderech, the traveler's prayer, in order to protect himself from unpleasant occurrences. It is to be recited when one is already outside of the city. Joseph sent his servant out after them before they had a chance to recite the prayer and gain protection from it.

(Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur)



A MYSTICAL CHASSIDIC DISCOURSE

from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:1266/Vayechi)

"Until Shiloh comes." (49:10)

Rashi comments that the above words refer to Moshiach. In addition, the Baal HaTurim points out that the Hebrew words meaning "Shiloh comes" have the same numerical value as the word "Moshiach" - 358. (The word "shiloh" itself has the numerical value of 345, the same as Moshe.) The word "comes" (yavo) contains a profound allusion to the means by which Moshiach can be brought. For yavo is numerically equivalent to 13, which is also the the numerical value of the word echad--one. When there will be unity among Jews, and in particular, when Jews will unite in speaking about Moshiach, they will succeed in drawing down and realizing the ultimate Redemption through the Righteous Moshiach.

The Rebbe HaRayatz

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine.]


An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:1266/Vayechi)

This Shabbat we read Parshat Vayechi, which concludes the first book of the Torah, Bereishit (Genesis). After reading the final verse of the book, the entire congregation joins together and says, 'Chazak, chazak v'nitchazek'-'Be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened'-that by progressing in Torah study, we are strengthened in all aspects of our Jewish lives, both physically and spiritually. There is an advantage to completing Bereishit over the other five books, because it is also the finale of the specific Torah portion, Vayechi. The Medrash explains that the opening words of the portion, "Yaacov lived in Egypt 17 years" tell us that in Egypt Yaacov really lived a good and happy life (hinted in the word 'seventeen'-which is the numerical value of the word 'tov'-good). In Egypt, Yaacov was able to complete and repair his earlier years as though all were happy. Every single Jewish person is a child of Yaacov, therefore, each of us can tap into the dimension of Yaacov and Vayechi-to really live. Each of us is shielded from the bad and is able to live the good and positive life. Start now and it will continue throughout the year.

Later in the portion, we find something very interesting and seemingly peculiar about Yaacov's blessings to his sons-he compares them to animals! Yehuda is a lion cub. Benyamin is an attacking wolf. Naftali is a running hart. Why didn't Yaacov simply bless them with courage and agility? The answer is that there must be some connection between animals and the tribes themselves.

To answer, the Lubavitcher Rebbe cites the Talmud (end of Kiddushin) where Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar discusses the difference between animals and people. 'In all my life', says Rabbi Shimon, 'I have never seen a deer who dried figs, a lion who was a porter, or a fox running a store. Yet they sustain themselves without hardship. And why were they created? To serve me. And why was I created? To serve my Creator. If so [that I have a higher purpose], then shouldn't I also be able to sustain myself without hardship? But, [unfortunately] I corrupted my ways and [therefore] forfeited my sustenance.'

The purpose of creation is to make a dwelling place for G-d in this world, where G-dliness is most hidden. This is accomplished by our studying Torah and doing G-d's commandments. However difficult it is to see, everything in the creation exists just to assist us to fulfill our personal mission. This is what Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar meant in his statement about animals. Their purpose is only to serve people to fulfill our purpose. The inference here is that animals are an initial stage or preparation to the fulfillment of the Jewish people's purpose.

Now, back to the tribes in Egypt. The entire Egyptian exile was to prepare the Jewish people and the world for the giving of the Torah that followed the exodus. Though Yaacov and his sons all descended to Egypt, the real servitude did not begin until Yaacov and Yosef had passed away, even though the other brothers were still alive. The brothers were compared to animals because their purpose was to prepare reality for the Jewish people to receive the Torah. This is exemplified by the three professions that Rabbi Shimon mentions: Drying figs prepares raw food stuffs for consumption; a porter moves things from a less desirable place to a more desirable place; and a storekeeper enables a person to acquire something that initially belonged to someone else.

The lesson for us? It's not always our job to complete the mission. The twelve brothers are to the Jewish people, what parents are for their children, and what a team player is to his colleagues-we prepare the way for others. This does not make our efforts any less noble or important. In fact, since the goal can not be reached without our efforts, it is as if we also participated in the final accomplishment. Do not lose hope if the end seems distant. Our actions now are a necessary step toward fulfillment. This is both crucial on a personal level, and also applies to the entire Jewish people in our united effort to bring Moshiach, may it be now. Start by doing another good deed today!

Shabbat Shalom , Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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