Torah Weekly

For the week ending 14 January 2006 / 14 Tevet 5766

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 Sara, 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!


Tranquility Base

“Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey; he rests between the boundaries. He saw tranquility that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant, and he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured laborer.” (49:14)

Every year people pay over $300 billion for prescription drugs. Tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants and other Central Nervous System drugs account for an estimated $76 billion of those sales. Approximately 10% - 20% of the world's population use tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Over the age of 60 years, the figure rises to 30%. Of this age group, many had tranquilizers prescribed at a much younger age and have become "accidental or involuntary addicts".

In the world in which we live, the price of tranquility is very high.

“He saw tranquility that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant, and he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured laborer.”

Something doesn’t quite make sense in this verse. If Yissachar saw that tranquility was good, why should he have “bent his shoulder to bear,” why did he exert himself? If tranquility is so great, then why not take it easy? Kick back! Chill!

Obviously then the kind of tranquility of which Yissachar was thinking was not physical tranquility.

If we base our equilibrium on our physical well-being, we will always be a hostage to circumstance.

Imagine. You get to the airport and find that your flight has been delayed eight hours. When you finally board the plane, you discover that there’s not enough food for you. You are sitting in an aisle seat and a quarter of an hour into the flight you discover that the person sitting next to you is suffering from chronic in-flight wanderlust (nasty, but fortunately not contagious). This person gets up and down from his seat on average about six times an hour. You arrive at your destination feeling like a shmatte.

If our tranquility depends on our physical repose, life becomes a myriad of minor inconveniences sprinkled with some real bummers.

However, if we find our equanimity through bending our shoulders to bear the task of being better people closer to G-d, then we will have found our true tranquility base.

  • Sources; based on Ohr Yaheil, Tranquillizer information, Joan E. Gadsby, Market-Media International Corp. October 2003

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