Torah Portion: Vayechi (And He Lived) B’resheet (Genesis) 47-50
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 2:1-12
This Torah portion begins with a word that should be familiar to us all. It is “chai” or live/life. When we see this word in scripture it is usually followed by the death of the person mentioned. Here in our portion we see that play out. The point of the word then is not to dwell on the death of a person but rather to look at his life. Here in our portion we see this in Jacob’s life as he talked to Joseph and reviewed his life where G-d had appeared to him and his connection to the Land of Israel. In a way, telling Joseph and his sons that they too were part of that lineage, not Egyptian, but Hebrews with roots in the mountains of Israel. When we look at the names Joseph gave his sons we can see that this may have been a struggle for him earlier. In Genesis 41:51-52 we read where he named his first son Manasseh, meaning, “It is because G-d has made one forget all my troubles and my father’s household.” When we read these words we can read the hurt in the words and him looking forward to his new life. However in verse 52 we read the name of the second son Ephraim, meaning, “G-d has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” So in this name we can see that now Joseph sees Egypt as the land of affliction. What happened between the births of these two sons? Maybe Joseph remembered or began to realize that he was truly a stranger in a strange land and it would never be his home. This also speaks volumes to us. We must not become comfortable in the land of our affliction. We as G-d’s people have more to live for than the physical things of life. We are in the world but not of the world. John 17:14-16. We are to live life but life is so much more than things. Here in our portion today we see Jacob lay that out to his sons and also to his grandsons. It should also be clear to our spiritual mind as well. What will we leave behind as our legacy when we die? What will we pass on to our children, friends, even strangers we meet along the path of life?
I think to settle this question we must ask who are we and even how do we know who we are? We must ask ourselves where is our anchor in time and society? The prevailing view of society is that we all are to fit into the same mold. We are to conform. We are to be like the world in which we live, the world of our affliction.
In our Torah portion Jacob was reminding his sons and grandsons who they were, their future did not lie in Egypt but was rooted in the G-d of Israel. They were to be different than the world around them. He did this by reminding them who their ancestors were, what Land had been given them by G-d. Genesis 48:3-4 and 28:10-14 relates to when Jacob was leaving Israel and Genesis 35:9-12 when he returned. He gave them anchors to hold on to. Anchors that spoke of G-d and G-d’s plan for them.
As I read this week and thought on this Torah portion I considered how this might apply to us. I believe all of us who have come to the place of trusting and confessing that we believe in Him who the Father sent, have become not of this world spiritually and that belief should work its way out in our day to day life. For example, tomorrow is New Years Eve. What do we do with this day? Is it a picture of who we are? I have a hard time seeing anything of value in a holiday that glorifies drunkenness and other acts that are no reflection of who we are Rather it is a good picture of the land of our affliction. What should be the point of our daily life? What legacy do we leave for our family and friends or even for the world in general? What boundaries do we have in our life, the world’s or G-d’s? Jacob was giving his sons a clear picture of who they were and what their legacy was to be.
So when I sent out my question this week I was thinking of this. What do we want to leave as our last will and testament? What do we want people to remember us by? I pray that each of us spends each day building a legacy that says, “I am a child of G-d who lived my life doing His will in this world no matter what the pressures of society brought to bear.”
Also, we see Jacob blessing each of his children before his death. Our goal as G-d’s people should always be to bless not curse, to bring life not death wherever we are in all we do. I want to thank everyone who helped this past week by bringing a blessing to the people we served on Christmas Day. By bringing food, serving and giving offerings you were an integral part in blessing homeless people with a delicious meal. It was wonderful to see the smiles on the faces of people who have so little materially.