A SUMMARY OF VAYECHI, Gen. 47:28-50:26:
Sick old Yaakov first blesses younger Efrayim, then Menasha, both to form tribes of Israel for Yosef. They, models of Torah combined with worldliness and harmony (and the first Biblical brothers who don't quarrel AND WHO GROW UP FREE OF TRAUMA) are to be models for Israel in blessing their children to this day. Then Yaakov gathered all his sons to his deathbed, where he delivered his ethical will and blessings. A huge contingent accompanied his remains for burial in Israel; Yosef can't, however, arrange his own burial in Israel; he can only extract a promise from his brethren that they'll rebury him there when God finally redeems them. Even his power is limited, as the noose begins to tighten.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING: After Yaakov's death, the Jews got more and more "into it" in Egypt; they left Goshen Green Ghetto for lusher suburbs. Jewish traditions gradually eroded; nature abhors a vacuum- Egyptian cultural influences seeped in (one who doesn't give his child clear Jewish values may be appalled by those which she adopts; man seeks and needs guidance, not just information- R. Sh. Sarbarnik). Avraham's great mission of world redemption from Zion fades into oblivion for the moment- his descendants are busy "making it" in Goshen Green & Monsey-on-the-Nile (Hirsch, who assumes they COULD leave Egypt at his point). The MIT degree turns into a few years of work experience; it culminates in a ranch house in LA with a subscription to the local Hebrew paper, Hayored. Genesis, the story of Creation and the unfolding of Jewish history, Re-Creation, ends with the death of Yosef; he is the last remnant, the continuation, of Yaakov, model man who links heaven and earth; often a parent is not really "dead" as long as that sibling, who most closely resembles him, is still alive. Despite his life of hardship, Yaakov is the first patriarch to keep his entire family dedicated to his Divine Mission. With all their faults and catastrophies, the family emerges united, a variegated model for families everywhere. Thus ends Genesis, the book of natural creation, corruption, and return via Yaakov and his family.
But man doesn't just live as an individual and a family; he also identifies, perhaps not naturally, as part of a people. Thus the next stage is transformation of Yaakov's model family into a Jewish model nation- this is the theme of Exodus, the book of sociological Re-Creation.
GREEK CULTURE SEES THE BEAUTIFUL AS GOOD (e.g. Aphrodite); TORAH TRADITION VIEWS THE GOOD AS BEAUTIFUL (e.g. a shainer yid).
A SHORT STUDY OF VAY'CHI, "YAAKOV LIVED", GEN. 47:28-50:2
Israel settled down in Egypt, rich, pious, and at peace; yet "vayauchazu bah" (47:27), translated "THEY POSSESSED THINGS THERE", means literally: "They were possessed in it"- their financial success and possessions possessed them, enslaved their souls to the wealthy Egyptian civilization. Patriarch Yaakov's aura kept their Jewish spirits vital and intense; after dies at 147, only surface glitter remains- EJA fundraisers and JCC's.
This passage is closed, w/o the usual 9 space break- "the eyes and hearts of the Jews closed from their agony" (Rashi). Initial enthusiasm for Yosef and his brothers slowly turns into envy and disdain, way before Kristalnacht. Fearing rejection, Israel then "closes up", represses, its Jewish insight (eyes) and feelings (heart), e.g. Zionism, to be "good Egyptians". At some point, Jews could no longer leave.
"Captain of the ship" Yaakov can't abandon his sons in Egypt (cf. the Habad Rebbe). God even told him to stay (Abarbanel- 46:2-4 above). Perhaps Israel should have returned home with whatever they could take, at the height of their power, BEFORE envy led to catastrophe (cf. Western Jewry today, Iranian 20 years ago, German 60 years ago)
These last 17 good years were a bit of reward for Yakov's years of struggle and sacrifice; he is NOT called struggling and conquering Yisroel in 47:28- he accomplished little in anticlimatic Egypt (Hirsch). A great Torah scholar, who suffered in Europe, might truly enjoy life with his children in L.A.; tho no longer active and creative, he inspires his grandchildren; once he goes, his survivors must ask- WHO WILL BE MY CHILDREN'S ZAIDE IF NOT ME? (Megama's Jerusalem Jam Video is available at TOP!)
Yet Rashi(37:2) says the righteous only have trials here- their reward's Upstairs (he doesn't comment on "YAKOV LIVED")!-- He means they must not SEEK or EXPECT a life of ease, but if God sends it, fine! Enjoy it! (cf. Jer. Kid., end IV, vs. the ascetic view- God's happy if I'm not!). Perhaps only a saint can feel the pain of exile amidst the joy of being so alive. Some U.S. olim's kids want to mimic their visiting relatives- enjoy comfortable easy diaspora life, spend several weeks each year at the Laromme, and contribute generously to Israel. Close to death, Yaakov has Yosef swear to bury him in Israel with his fathers.
Ch. 48: Yosef brings his 2 sons, Manasha and Efrayim, for ill Yaakov's blessing. Yaakov gives them 2 shares, as separate tribes, in God's blessings of Israel and world leadership. He puts the younger, Efrayim, first; he also blesses them to be models for future generations- they're the first Biblical brothers without conflict; the elder quietly accepts his displacement. They're also Jews fully in the world, yet holy and transcendant; educated in Egypt's best prep schools, they remain true sons of Yosef.
CH. 49: Now 147, Yaakov gathers all his sons about his deathbed, for messages, blessings, and succession of leadership. He passes over his first 3 sons- Reuven's irreverent and impetuous; Shimon & Levi's vigilante violence is first directed against the infidels of Schem; Yosef is their next target. Yaakov disassociates himself from their future escapades- Korach's Levite and Reuvenite rebellion and the Shimonite orgy with Midianite women and idols. The other tribes are praised, but leadership is to be shared by Yehuda and Yosef. All are blessed according to their nature, and commanded to join Yosef in Yaakov's Chevron burial.
CH. 50: Yosef wept over his dead father and had him embalmed for 40 days; public mourning lasted 70 days. Yosef tells Pharoh of his oath to bury Yaakov in the grave which he dug in Canaan; Pharoh approves, sending along Egypt's officialdom and a military escort; Jewish children and animals remain (as hostage?). After 7 days of mourning in Canaan, they bury Yaakov in the Cave of Machpala and return. Canaan was agin Judenrein (the leftist-U.S. goal for Judea & Samaria). Yosef never took revenge upon his brothers; he died at 110, making them swear to bring his bones back to Canaan- God will EVENTUALLY liberate them. He was embalmed and buried in Egypt.
CONTRASTS IN GREATNESS: In our Haftorah, I Kings 2:l-12, David is close to death. Prof. Y. Leibowitz compares his plot and intrigue-ridden court with Yaakov's harmonious family parting. David's also concerned with his successor in kingdom and covenant; he blesses and commands Shlomo to be truly Torah-oriented, that his kingdom continue; he's to settle David's scores- some are to be bumped off, others rewarded.
SOUL LINKS: Another exposition of YAAKOV WAS ALIVE: God's spirit, source of true vitality had departed from Yaakov with Yosef's departure; she returned with Yosef's return- AND THE SPIRIT OF YAAKOV THEIR FATHER REVIVED (45:27). In God's presence, man transcends his body, constantly dying from the moment of birth. God's spirit also enters the sanctum sanctorum of man's most intimate interpersonal relationships. Yaakov's spirit joined Rachel's the moment they met; her son Yosef had a double soul-link to Yaakov- he reflected her beautiful form and countenance (39:6, 29:l7), and was also Yaakov's only son of kindred spirit (37:2- THESE ARE THE SONS OF YAAKOV- YOSEF). While virtually enslaved by Lavan, tho he had Rachel, he didn't really live; when Yosef was born, he began to build his own fortune and felt really alive until Yosef was presumed dead at 17; This total of "real life" with Yosef, l7 + l7, 34, years, is hinted at in YAAKOV WAS ALIVE- "Vayichi"= 34 (Vov-6, Yod-lO,Ches-8, Yod-lO). Yakov lives 47 + lOO years, rather than l47, a hint of 47 years of real living with Rachel & Yosef!! The same idea is found in 23:l- AND THE DAYS OF SARA WERE- vayiyu, = 37, the number of years Sarah lived with her son Yitzchak (per one opinion; Vov-6, Yod-lO, He-5, Yod-lO, Vov-6).
The message is that EVEN A PATRIARCH must have deep bonds of love and sharing with another to be really "alive", infused with God's spirit. Yaakov had this with Yosef, Sarah with Yitzchak, who was only comforted for his mother when he married Rivka- 24:67; so Solomon advised in Ecc. 9:9- SEE (experience and share) LIFE WITH A (1) WOMAN WHOM YOU LOVE. Satre said that hell is other people; loners so live. A descendant of Avraham, Barbara Streisand, however, sings that "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world"! Chava is created as "it is not good for man to be alone" (2:l8). Some very public men may thrive on many intense relationships- each, by definition, is of limited commitment and involvement. Great leaders and entertainers are often such. Hertz says that only he who has been a force for human goodness, and abides in hearts and souls made better by his presence, during his pilgrimage on earth, can be said to have truly LIVED; only such a one is heir to immortality. R.Bachye says charity always pays and prolongs life; for supporting Yosef for l7 years, Yaakov is supported by him for l7 years!
THE END OF THE BEGINNING: After Yaakov's death, the Jews got more and more "into it"; they decided to move out of Goshen Green Ghetto to more appealing Egyptian suburbs. Jewish traditions gradually eroded; as nature abhors a vacuum, Egyptian cultural influences seeped in (so one who doesn't give his child clear Jewish values may be appalled by those which take over; man seeks and needs guidance, not just information- R. Sh. Sarbarnik). Avraham's great mission of world redemption from Zion fades into oblivion for the moment- his descendants are busy "making it" in Goshen Green & Monsey-on-the-Nile (Hirsch, who assumes they COULD leave Egypt at his point). The MIT degree turns into a few years of work experience; it culminates in a ranch house in LA with a subscription to the local Hebrew paper, Hayored. Genesis, the story of Creation and the unfolding of human history, re- creation, ends with the death of Yosef; he is the last remnant, the continuation, of Yaakov, model man who links heaven and earth; often a parent is not really "dead" to his children as long as that sibling, who closely resembles him, is still alive. Despite his life of hardship, Yaakov is the first patriarch to keep his entire family dedicated to his Divine Mission. With all their faults and catastrophies, the family emerges united; Thus ends Genesis, the book of natural creation; the next stage- founding of the nation- is the theme of Exodus, the book of sociological creation.
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