Torah Weekly

For the week ending 30 December 2023 / 18 Tevet 5784

Parshat Vayechi

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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After 17 years in Egypt, Yaakov senses his days drawing to a close and summons Yosef. He has Yosef swear to bury him in the Machpela Cave, the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka.

Yaakov falls ill and Yosef brings to him his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. Yaakov elevates Ephraim and Menashe to the status of his own sons, thus giving Yosef a double portion that removes the status of firstborn from Reuven. As Yaakov is blind from old age, Yosef leads his sons close to their grandfather. Yaakov kisses and hugs them. He had not thought to see his son Yosef again, let alone Yosef's children. Yaakov begins to bless them, giving precedence to Ephraim, the younger, but Yosef interrupts him and indicates that Menashe is the elder. Yaakov explains that he intends to bless Ephraim with his strong hand because Yehoshua will descend from him, and Yehoshua will be both the conqueror of Eretz Yisrael and the teacher of Torah to the Jewish People.

Yaakov summons the rest of his sons in order to bless them as well. Yaakov's blessing reflects the unique character and ability of each tribe, directing each one in its unique mission in serving G-d. Yaakov passes from this world at age 147. A tremendous procession accompanies his funeral cortege up from Egypt to his resting place in the Cave of Machpela in Chevron.

After Yaakov's passing, the brothers are concerned that Yosef will now take revenge on them. Yosef reassures them, even promising to support them and their families. Yosef lives out the rest of his years in Egypt, seeing Efraim's great-grandchildren. Before his death, Yosef foretells to his brothers that G-d will redeem them from Egypt. He makes them swear to bring his bones out of Egypt with them at that time. Yosef passes away at the age of 110 and is embalmed. Thus ends Sefer Bereishet, the first of the five Books of the Torah. Chazak


Automatic Approval

“Yosef’s brothers perceived that their father was dead…” (Ber. 50:15)

It’s amazing how much we need approval

I recently got a new car. It’s all-electric, all ‘whistles and bells,’ and does absolutely everything thing for you. It turns the headlights on when it’s dark, tells you when you need air in the tires and even warm itself up for you before you get in on a cold day. The only thing it doesn’t do is make you a cup of coffee, but I’m sure they’re working on that.

One of the features that was new to me is that, if you have the electric key in your pocket, your mere approach to the car releases the lock on the door and all the light flash.

The other day, I was crossing the road to take out the trash and I came within a few feet of the car. The lights flashed; the door locks opened with a welcoming clunk, and the side mirrors flipped out like a pair of ears of an old canine friend.

I had this unmistakable feeling, absurd as it was, that the car was smiling at me, and gave me a fleeting moment of happiness. I caught myself and thought, “Wow! If being recognized by an inanimate object can bring a smile to my face, how much more does the recognition of a human being lift our spirits?”

“Yosef’s brothers perceived that their father was dead…”

With Yaakov’s death, the brothers sensed that Yosef’s attitude to them had changed. He no longer invited them to dine with him as he had done during their father’s lifetime. They thought his latent resentment was now surfacing, but they were wrong. The Marahal explains that with the death of Yaakov, Yosef knew that the persecution of the Jews could start at any time. An invitation to the palace could be construed as the Jews seeking power and influence. So, to minimize this latent antisemitism, Yosef stopped inviting them.

Yosef knew that his actions might be misinterpreted by the brothers, but to be a leader of the Jewish People means knowing when to override the natural sensitivity that a brother has toward his siblings for the greater good of the Jewish People.

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