Torah Portion: Vayechi (And He Lived) Genesis 47:28-50:26
HafTorah: I Kings 2:1-12
Tonight we look at the remaining verses of Genesis. The Torah reading is titled, “And He lived.” However the Parasha covers mainly the preparation for death of both Joseph and Jacob. We see both men give instructions about what to do with their bodies when they die. Jacob (Yaakov) uses an interesting phrase here in Genesis 49:33, where the Torah reads, “he gathered up his feet and was gathered to his people.” I think the intention here is to show that even when Yaakov is no longer physically alive and he has passed over to be with his ancestors, his influence lives on. He never lost faith in the promises of G-d. In Hebrews 11 we see him mentioned in the blessing of his sons and in not ceasing to exist, but rather moving on to the promise of G-d.
There was an intense debate during the time of Yeshua between the Pharisees and Sadducees about the afterlife. The Sadducees argued against and the Pharisees saying yes there is an afterlife. Here we see the New Testament using part of our reading to make the case for the after life. My point being, Yaakov was certain there was more after he breathed his last. He would live on, both through the influence he had had with his children and in being with his fathers again.
It could be this insight was late in coming for Yaakov. As we look back over his life, from the first his life had been filled with tension and many sorrows and disappointments. Think back to his answer to Pharaoh when asked how old he was. His response was telling, “few and troubled have been the days of my life.” Genesis 47:7-10
He struggled from the beginning, with his struggles with Esau, taking advantage of his father’s failing sight when he received the blessing, running for his life from Esau, being taken advantage of by Laban when he was given Leah (weak eyes) as a wife, instead of Rachel He had to labor for over 20 years before returning home and Rachel died on the way, never reaching home. Then Joseph was reported as being killed by animals and finally Yaakov came to Egypt because of the world wide famine. In the mention of eyes in these stories it seems the Torah is saying something here to Yaacov and to us. Maybe it is saying that Jacob, and us sometimes, have less than 20/20 vision spiritually. How often do we misjudge people or situations because our vision is clouded. We quickly judge, as a result of our own filters rather than looking with clear eyes as G-d sees individuals. However here in our Torah portion we see Yaakov’s eyes being cleared. He sees his grandsons but does not recognize them. Why? They looked like Egyptians in their dress and maybe even in their language. Then his sight clears and he sees them for who they are, how G-d had created them, two young boys included in the Covenant between G-d and Israel. He in effect adopts them and blesses them as he does his own children. Yaakov sees clearly and shows us that we can rise above our blindness and see people and situations through G-d’s eyes and then we can make a difference in the world.
In my first question to you this week I asked why did Jacob switch his hands when blessing Joseph’s sons? Why did it matter, a blessing is a blessing. In fact why touch them at all? G-d created the world with two realities, a physical and a spiritual world. G-d’s purpose is that as we live each day in this physical world we, by our actions, bring the spiritual world into our lives. As we properly use our spiritual capacity we bring change into the physical world. Yaakov, with his improved sight, could see that Ephraim, although the youngest, was destined by G-d to be above his brother. So Yaakov uses his strong hand to bless him. If we allow ourselves to live only in the physical world we sink into sin. It is only when we conduct our physical lives according to G-d’s Word that we are able to access the spiritual strength G-d has given to us as believers. Every physical act we do, in worshiping G-d, gives us spiritual strength and insight. As it was with Yaakov, may it be with us.