Torah Portion: Vayechi (And He Lived) B’resheet (Genesis) 47-50
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 2:1-12
Our Torah portion begins with the words “And he lived,” found in B’resheet/Genesis 47:28. However, as we read further, we see in a few verses later that Ya’acov died in this portion. His son, Joseph, died also. What can we make of these first few words, “And he lived?” I think scripture is making a point important to us all. Ya’acov’s body died but he lived on through the lives of his descendants, as do we. This opens up a few issues I want us to give some thought to. How do each of us live on after our physical passing? If we look at verse 48:15 we read what Ya’acov attributed his life to as he faced death. In this verse we read where he made the statement that he and his forefathers spent their life walking with G-d. I believe each of us should look at our life and consider how we have spent our days. In this same verse he went on to say G-d had been his Shepherd for his life.
This brings to mind the L-rd’s Prayer found in the Messianic scripture, “The L-rd is my shepherd…” I have used this example before but it bears repeating in light of this verse. When we lived in Jerusalem, each day two shepherds would bring their flocks of sheep to feed in the field across from our apartment. In the afternoon, when it was time to take their flocks home for the night we watched from our balcony as they separated their sheep. It was amazing to watch. Each shepherd would call his sheep and without fail the sheep knew which shepherd to follow. The two flocks had inter-mingled all day but when they heard the call of their shepherd, they followed him. There was no confusion as the shepherd slowly began to walk home the sheep knew to follow him and him only. When I read this verse containing the L-rd’s Prayer, this scene is what I think of. Yeshua and Ya’acov were making that point. Ya’acov was saying he knew the voice of G-d, knew what he was to live for and followed his Shepherd. That is exactly what Yeshua was saying to His flock. We are expected to live our life as our shepherd’s flock, putting our lives under His control and following Him all the days of our lives. Even in those times we lose our way the Father is still there calling us back, calling us home.
My question for this week is tied up in this voice of G-d and our response to that voice. Like Ya’acov sometimes we lose our way but G-d is faithful. Let’s look at Ya’acov’s life for a moment. As I said in the question, I think we can look at his life and by extension our own life in segments. We can look at Ya’acov’s life in three segments, his years in Israel, his years in Haran, and his years in Egypt. As we do this, I want each of you to consider your own walk and look for lessons we might learn. At any time in our lives we can find ourselves in any of these three places.
How would you describe Ya’acov’s years in Israel? In Israel he was in a place of growing spiritually, figuring out who he was as a son of Isaac, and learning from his father. He was also in a place of safety. This reminds me of when we first come to faith. We feel close to our Father, learning from Him daily. We pray and feel G-d is with us every day. We want to be with people who are like us and share our faith for there we feel safe.
However, Ya’acov did not stay there. He moved on to Haran to live with Laban. He left Israel and entered a place of stress. He had to figure out how to deal with his new situation. He was surrounded by people who did not share his faith, who were in fact out to deceive him and cheat him.
In our own life we can find ourselves feeling alone, living in a world that has little or no concept of G-d or our faith. This can beat us up and cause us to lose our way. However, when we look here at Ya’acov’s time in Haran G-d did not leave him, but instead called him to come back home, even though he would have to face some issues with his brother Esau. When we take that first step towards G-d He is there to welcome us home again, to renew our faith and bring us back under His wings.
Then we come to Ya’acov’s life in Egypt. In Egypt his physical life passed into the Egyptians hands. He was told where to live and in many ways control over his physical life was out of his control. However, even here he held on to his faith in G-d. He even was able to pass it on to his children and grandchildren. His physical eyes had grown dim but not his faith. Because of his faith, today we see a people and a county that carries his name. His descendants still carry his faith.
Each of us find or will find ourselves in such places where we may feel powerless to change our situation. However, like Ya’acov, we must not forget that the Lover of our souls is still on His throne, still loves us and still has us in the palm of His hands. Even in difficult circumstances He still has something for us to do. I encourage you to not lose heart no matter where you find yourself along life’s path. G-d’s love for us has not waivered. He is with us always.