Torah Weekly

For the week ending 10 January 2009 / 14 Tevet 5769

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 ofEretz Yisraeland 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!


The Mighty D and the Mighty G

“…then Yisrael bowed himself towards the head of the bed” (47:31)

The recent meltdown of some of the world's most sacred financial gods has shown us once again the truth of the words inscribed on the once Mighty Dollar: "In G-d we trust".

There is no One else.

Shortly before he passes away in this week's Torah portion, Yaakov Avinu bows towards the head of his bed. Rashi explains that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, rests above the head of someone who is ill.

Why does the Shechina hover over the head of an ill person?

G-d’s closeness to us is in direct proportion to our feeling that we are powerless without Him. The more we feel "It's nice of G-d to give me a Hand — but I can also get by on my own," the further we are from G-d.

Being ill makes us realize how feeble we really are. Nothing removes our complacency like the inability to function. When we place our lives willingly in G-d's Hands, we merit a special closeness to Him.

It is for this reason that an ill person's prayers for himself are more effective than the prayers of someone else for him, because a sick person realizes that ultimately his only help is from G-d.

When Yitzchak and Rivka pray for children, G-d hearkens to Yitzchak's prayers more that Rivka’s. Rashi explains that the prayers of someone whose parents are wicked cannot be compared to the prayers of someone whose parents are righteous. Why should that be? Surely it all depends only on the person himself?

Someone whose parents are unworthy knows that they can’t depend on any hereditary merits. Someone, however, whose forbears were righteous can feel that he or she doesn't need to pray quite that hard because they are still reaping the spiritual dividends of their forbears. If nonetheless that person prays as though he had no merits whatsoever, because they have overcome their natural complacency, their prayer reaches the highest places.

Rabbenu Yonah writes that a haughty person doesn't get help from G-d because his pride stops him from being submissive to G-d. Children, on the other hand, realize their total dependence on others, and as a result G-d saves children miraculously all the time. Their lack of self-reliance is their key to receiving Divine intervention.

“G-d is close toall those who call out to Him – to all who truly call out to Him.” G-d listens to every single prayer without regard to our spiritual level, with the condition that when we pray we acknowledge our total and absolute dependence on Him.

The gods of communism, and now capitalism, have dissolved into worthless dross. Only when all the 'isms' have joined that same junkyard will we realize that we have no One to rely on except for the Mighty G(-d).

  • Source: Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

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