Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TORAH STUDIES: Parshat Vayechi


Tevet 11, 5766 * January 11, 2006


Parshat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)
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In last week's Parshah, Vayigash, Ya’akov Avinu and his entire family, the progenitors of the twelve tribes, descended into Egypt.

The first aliyah of this week’s Parshah, Vayechi, begins with the words: "And Ya’akov lived 17 years in Egypt." Yosef, his son, left his father Ya’akov after Ya’akov fed him 17 years. Now, mida-kneged-mida (measure for measure), Yosef feeds his father Ya’akov 17 years because his father is now living with him in Egypt. Ya’akov asks Yosef, and Yosef promises, to bury Ya’akov in the Cave of Machpella. Later, Yosef hears that his father is sick. He goes to visit him and has his two sons blessed.


In the second aliyah Ya’akov points out he didn't think he'd ever see Yosef again, and now he's seeing even Yosef's children! Ya’akov blesses them "to grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth" (multitude - "v’yidgoo" like "dag" - fish, i.e. no evil eye shall ever harm them).


In the third aliyah when Ya’akov blesses Yosef's sons Ephraim and Menashe, he places his right on Ephraim, the younger son, and his left hand on Menashe, the older son. Yosef is displeased about Ya’akov's right hand on Ephraim, so he tries to remove it, but Ya’akov affirms his action and says that the younger will be greater. Ya’akov blessed them: "With you, Israel will bless, saying, 'May God make you like Ephraim and like Menashe", which is how we bless our children on erev Yom Kippur. Ya’akov says G-d will be with the Jewish People in exile.


In the fourth aliyah Ya’akov calls all his sons to tell them when Moshiach will come, but his prophecy was turned to blessings, instead. Each tribe is blessed, as follows:

Reuven's blessing: As first-born he was destined for priesthood and kingship but lost them by his hasty actions regarding his father's couch.

Shimon and Levi's blessing: Conspiracy (Zimri from Shimon, who will bring the Midianite woman into the camp for harlotry, and Korach and his rebellion, from Levi).

Yehuda's blessing: Monarchy, Moshiach, abundance of wine and milk in his portion.

Zevulun's blessing: Supporter of Torah (specifically, the tribe of Zevulun engages in sea trade to support the tribe of Yissachar in their Torah study).

Yissachar's blessing: They were active in Torah study, they bore the yoke of Torah, and from Yissachar issued 200 heads of the Sanhedrin (Rashi).

Dan's blessing: Shimshon (Samson) - a judge over Israel who will avenge the Philistines.


The blessings of the tribes continue in the fifth aliyah:

Gad's blessing: Strength. According to Rashi, this means that Gad, whose portion will be on the opposite side of the Jordan from Israel, will cross over the Jordan to conquer Israel with their brethren, and then return to their portion without even a single man missing.

Asher's blessing: An abundance of olive oil in their portion.

Naftali's blessing: Beautiful fruit, beautiful words.

Yosef's blessing: Charm, righteousness, Stone of Israel, with the evil eye having no power over his sons.


In the sixth aliyah:

Binyamin's blessing: Shaul fighting against Moav and Edom, and Mordechai and Esther in the story of Purim.

Ya’akov says that his passing away is near, and requests that he be buried in the cave of Machpella which Avrohom bought in Parshas Chayei Sara. After that, Ya’akov passes away. The Egyptians weep for him 70 days because when Ya’akov arrived, blessing arrived with him (i.e. the famine ceased [Rashi]). Then a very great funeral procession consisting of all the elders of Egypt and Ya’akov's own family go up to bury Ya’akov. Ya’akov's sons carry the coffin in the same arrangement that their tribes will later journey and camp.


The seventh aliyah describes the later years of Yosef's life in Egypt He lives for 110 years. He promises his brothers that G-d will eventually bring them out of this land, and he makes them promise to carry his bones with them, and bury him in Israel (he's buried in Shechem). Yoseph Hatzadik then passes away in Egypt.


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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