Wednesday, January 11, 2006

PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Week of January 8-14, 2006 (Vayechi)


Tevet 11, 5766 * January 11, 2006


TORAH PORTION: Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

Torah Reading for Week of January 8-14, 2006

On the Web:

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Jacob lives the final 17 years of his life in Egypt. Before his passing, he asks Joseph to take an oath that he will bury him in the Holy Land. He blesses Joseph's two sons, Menasseh and Ephraim, elevating them to the status of his own sons as progenitors of tribes within the nation of Israel.

The patriarch desires to reveal the end of days to his children, but is prevented from doing so. Jacob blesses his sons, assigning to each their role as a tribe: Judah will produce leaders, legislators and kings; priests will come from Levi, scholars from Issachar, seafarers from Zebulun, schoolteachers from Shimon, soldiers from Gad, judges from Dan, olive growers from Asher, and so on. Reuben is rebuked for "confusing his father's marriage"; Shimon and Levi for the massacre of Shechem and the plot against Joseph. Naphtali is granted the swiftness of a deer, Benjamin the ferociousness of a wolf, and Joseph is blessed with beauty and fertility.

A large funeral procession consisting of Jacob's descendants, Pharaoh's ministers, the leading citizens of Egypt and the Egyptian cavalry, accompanies Jacob on his final journey to the Holy Land, where he is buried in the Machpeilah Cave in Hebron.

Joseph, too, dies in Egypt, at the age of 110. He, too, instructs that his bones be taken out of Egypt and buried in the Holy Land, but this would come to pass only with the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt many years later. Before his passing, Joseph conveys to the Children of Israel the testament from which they will draw their hope and faith in the difficult years to come: "G-d will surely remember you, and bring you up out of this land to the land of which he swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

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- I have given to you Shechem (Genesis 48:22)

As it is written, "And Joseph's bones... they buried in Shechem" (Joshua 24:32). This is analogous to thieves who stole a barrel full of wine; when the owner found them, he said: "Be so kind, when you finish drinking up the wine, put the barrel back in its place." So, too, Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers in Shechem, and to Shechem they returned his bones. (Daat Zekeinim)

- ... which I took out of the hand of the Emori with my sword and with my bow (ibid.)

Did Jacob then conquer Shechem with sword and bow? But "my sword" is his prayer, and "my bow" is his supplication. (Midrash Mechilta)

Why is prayer like a bow? Just like a bow, the more a person draws the bowstring to himself, the further the arrow flies, so it is with prayer: the deeper one delves into one's own heart, the higher one's prayer ascends... (Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk)


For more Parshah reading, please visit our "Full Parshah with Commentary" section with its dozens of excerpts from the Midrash, Talmud, Commentaries and the Chassidic Masters:

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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


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