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Vayechi Summaries

Vayechi 5778-2017

“Blessing the Children–Revisited”

One of the most meaningful and powerful rituals in Judaism–blessing the children on Friday nights and Jewish holidays, is derived from Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe, found in parashat Vayechi.

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Vayechi 5777-2017

“The Passing of the Last of the Patriarchs”

According to tradition, Jacob was the first man to die of disease. The world is still unresolved regarding the benefits of a sudden death as opposed to a long terminal illness.

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Vayechi 5776-2015

“Jacob Maintains a Bitter Grudge Against Simeon and Levi”

Why does the patriarch Jacob seem to be more angry with Simeon and Levi at the end of his life, than when they attacked and killed all the men of Shechem?

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Vayechi 5775-2014

“Jacob Remembers Rachel”

Although Joseph had already sworn to his father, Jacob, that he will bury his father in Canaan, Jacob unexpectedly raises the issue of Joseph’s mother, Rachel, and the fact that Jacob had failed to bury Rachel in the Machpelah Cave together with the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs.

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Vayechi 5774-2013

“Reconciliation and Death”

The Midrash greatly embellishes the final chapters of Genesis by adding fascinating details regarding the reconciliation of Joseph with his brothers and Joseph’s demise.

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Vayechi 5773-2012

“The Patriarch Jacob Did Not Die!”

The word “va’yah’maht”–and he died–is not mentioned regarding Jacob’s passing, whereas at the passing of both Abraham and Isaac, the Hebrew word for death is mentioned. Consequently, our rabbis, of blessed memory, maintain that this implies that our father Jacob did not die. Just as Jacob’s descendants live on, so does Jacob.

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Vayechi 5772-2012

“The Scepter Shall Not Depart from Judah”

The commentators are divided over whether Jacob’s statement, that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, was intended as a decree or as a promise.

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Vayechi 5771-2010

“A Very Imposing Camp”

The Torah informs us that when Joseph and his family went to bring his father Jacob to Canaan for burial, they were accompanied by both chariots and horsemen–a very imposing camp. Was this great retinue a reflection of the Egyptians’ enormous respect for Jacob and Joseph, or were there other, more nefarious, reasons for this show of respect?

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Vayechi 5770-2009

“Rachel’s Burial Place in Bethlehem”

Jacob interrupts a most important message to his son Joseph by recalling his failure to bury Rachel in Hebron. What could possibly have been his motivation?

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Vayechi 5769-2009

“Blessing the Children”

There is no greater joy for parents than to bask in the blessings of one’s children. Unfortunately, there is no greater pain that one can endure than the shame brought upon one’s family and on the family of humankind by our children.

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Vayechi 5768-2007

“The Struggle Over the Birthright”

It cannot be mere coincidence that in every single instance in the book of Genesis the firstborn child never emerges with the birthright. The Torah wishes to teach that it is not an accident of birth that determines one’s stature, but rather personal merit and the quality of one’s life.

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Vayechi 5767-2007

“Lessons in Child Rearing from the Patriarch Jacob”

It is surprising, to say the least, to find an important principle of child rearing and education attributed by rabbinic sources to the actions of Jacob. Nevertheless, it is Jacob of all the patriarchs, who sires twelve righteous and loyal sons.

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Vayechi 5766-2006

“The Passing of a Patriarch”

Father Jacob had given his children explicit instructions how to conduct his funeral and burial. His instructions, however, clashed with the political and social mores of Egypt. The all-powerful Joseph needed to navigate the very sensitive path necessary to accommodate the Egyptians, yet ensure the fulfillment of his deceased father’s wishes.

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Vayechi 5765-2004

“The Sealed Torah Portion”

Parashat Vayechi is the only portion in the Torah that is “sealed,” beginning as a direct continuation of the previous week’s parasha, Vayigash. There are many reasons suggested by the rabbis for this “closure.” Their numerous responses lead us on an intriguing and revealing excursion of Judaism and Jewish history.

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Vayechi 5764-2004

“Can It Be a Mitzvah to Lie?”

When Joseph’s brothers come to seek forgiveness from him, a battle of “truth” versus “peace” takes place. The meaning of these two values goes from absolute to relative, leaving the ethical fabric of the world to appear tattered and threadbare, without the proper perspective.

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Vayechi 5763-2002

“How Important is Timing?”

When blessing his children, Jacob says of Reuben that he has all the natural advantages of the firstborn child in rank and in power. Jacob then retreats suddenly, declaring that Reuben is impetuous like water and therefore cannot be the foremost. As we study the actions, deeds and words of Reuben we find a good person–good-hearted and well-intentioned. Reuben is always ready to do the right thing. Unfortunately, his timing is off, intending to do the right thing, but, unfortunately, at the wrong time. As important as actions and words are, timing is just as critical.

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Vayechi 5762-2001

“The Debate: Burial in the Land of Israel”

In parashat Vayechi, both Jacob and Joseph request to be buried in the land of Israel rather than in Egypt. The Midrash Rabbah records a major debate between the sages regarding whether being buried in the land of Israel for someone who lived in galut is good or bad. The Abarbanel seems to assert that only those people who lived righteous lives outside of Israel are entitled to be buried in Israel, otherwise their bodies defile the land.

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Vayechi 5761-2001

“Revealing the Time of the Coming of the End of Days”

Parashat Vayechi is the only Torah parasha that has no empty spaces between the beginning of the new parasha and the end of the previous week’s parasha. Vayechi is consequently considered a “sealed” parasha. The rabbis say that the reason the parasha is sealed is because Jacob wished to reveal when the end of days would be–when the Messiah would arrive. G-d, however, did not agree that Jacob should reveal this information. The Malbim explains that revealing when the Messiah would arrive would have left the Jewish people depressed that the wait would be so long. However, now that we have come much closer to the Messianic era, it is permissible to calculate and predict the arrival time of the Messiah.

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Vayechi 5760-1999

“How Important is Timing?”

When blessing his children, Jacob says of Reuben that he has all the natural advantages of the firstborn child in rank and in power. Jacob then retreats suddenly, declaring that Reuben is impetuous like water and therefore cannot be the foremost. As we study the actions, deeds and words of Reuben we find a good person–good-hearted and well-intentioned. Reuben is always ready to do the right thing. Unfortunately, his timing is off, intending to do the right thing, but, unfortunately, at the wrong time. As important as actions and words are, timing is just as critical.

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