Thursday, January 12, 2006



Tevet 12, 5766 * January 12, 2006


Parshat Vayechi

Hear O Israel
- - - - - - -

It was a crisp Sunday morning, and the sun shone down on the river bank. Ben and David were carrying a large model boat down to the river for a test sail. Ben had started building this boat about four months before, every day after school he would add something to it. It was now very impressive, with sails and a radio-controlled rudder.

You could hear the leaves crunching under their feet as David and Ben carefully made their way down to the river bank, carrying the boat between them, and a box of the operating equipment. "I can't wait to see it on the water" David said.

"I hope it doesn't sink," Ben said a little nervously.

"Why should it sink?" David asked. "Haven't you spent hours making sure it's perfect?"

"Well I have" Ben said thoughtfully. "It's just that now is the time to see if it was all worth it, to see if it is really going to work".

"It's a little bit like what we learned about Jacob in this week's Parsha", Ben said. "All the time Jacob lived in Israel, he couldn't tell if his children were really going to follow in his footsteps, because Israel is such a holy place".

"What do you, mean, follow in his footsteps?" asked David. "If he was in Israel he wasn't going anywhere".

"Are you trying to be funny?" asked Ben. "You know what I mean, serving G-d and all that, being a good person. Maybe they would only be good there, in Israel, but who could tell what would happen if they got to a place like Egypt, where people served lots of different idols and were cruel to each other? Perhaps they would forget what they had learnt from Jacob, and they would sink into the Egyptian style of life, forgetting about G-d. Sink, get it?".

"Sink," said David. "Got it. So long as your boat is sitting in your bedroom, there is no way one could know if it is a good boat, we don't know if it will float or maybe sink. Will the steering work or will it just drive in circles and things like that, but when you get to put it in the water then you get to see if it is working, and then you see if it was worth it. So okay, I've got it, I can see why you are worried. What happened with Jacob?"

"Well, the Parsha tells us he gathered all his children together to bless them. The Sages of the Midrash explain that he was worried, like I said. But then his children all said something, all together, that reassured him."

"What did they say?" asked David.

"Well, you know Jacob was also called Israel. They said to him 'Listen, our father Israel, don't worry, we really believe in G-d, and we know that G-d is one. So he was very happy. He said Baruch Shem…, blessed be G-d, thank G-d".

"That reminds me of something," said David. "I know, that is the first two lines of the Shema! Hear o Israel, G-d is One! Then the second line, Baruch Shem…!"

Ben was not listening. Instead he was intently climbing down to the water's edge, carefully holding his boat. He slowly pushed it out into the water. The two boys watched with bated breath as the boat floated away, controlled by Ben. "I guess there goes a lesson for us" he said, thinking out loud, "we've learned lots in school, now the question is can we float when we get into the real world".

"It's a good question" Ben said happily, "and it looks like the answer is "yes, Hear o Israel!"


Featured Audio Class on

Vayechi - Jacob's Unrequited Desire
By Moshe New

“Jacob called for his sons and said, ‘Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days”. Rashi explains: He attempted to reveal when Moshiach would come, but the Shechinah withdrew from him. So he began to say other things.

More Audio/Video


By Dr. Tali Loewenthal, Director of Chabad Research Unit, London

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