Torah Portion:  Vayechi(He Lived) (B’resheet) Genesis 47-50

Haftorah Reading: I Kings 2:1-12

This is the last Torah portion of the book of B’resheet/Genesis. In it we read of the death of both Jacob and Joseph. Yet, interesting the portion is titled, “And He Lived”. Always in Torah when we come across something like this we can be assured that G-d ‘s making a spiritual point for us.


Genesis 47:28 reads, “And Ya’acov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years.” In Hebrew there are several words that can be read as “live.” However here we see the word we probably have heard before, the word is “chai”. We often hear it in phrases like, “Am Israel chai” (The people of Israel live) or in the toast “L’chaim” (to life). In these phrases as well as in our verse the word means more than to just exist, or to get through the day. It carries the meaning of living our lives to their fullest, especially spiritually. Here we see Jacob living in the exile. It would have been easy to just accept where he was, especially at his age. However he and also Joseph were not satisfied with living in exile. They looked toward G-d’s promise and inheritance for them. They did not give up or give in to their situation.

My point is neither must we. G-d has a plan for each of our lives. Until we breathe our last He expects us to push forward, to accomplish what we can even if our bodies are failing. We still can do everything He gives us the strength to do.  My sincere prayer for each of us is that everyday it can be said, “We lived.”

Staying with this first part of the portion we see Jacob blessing the two sons of Joseph. I am sure we are all familiar with the story. Israel seems to make a mistake when he puts his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left on Manasseh’s head. Joseph seeks to correct the error but Jacob tells him he has it right.

I asked you in my question this week why do you think Jacob chose this order? If we look at the names of the boys we may be able to see why. Names mean something. When we look back at the birth of these two boys their names say a great deal about their father and about them. In Genesis 41:51 and in verse 52 we read of the reasoning behind Joseph’s decision on their names. In verse 51 w read, “it is because G-d has made me forget all my troubles and all my father’s household.” Where was Joseph when he named his firstborn? He was glad to be rid of his painful past and to settle into his new role in life. After all he was the second in command in Egypt, a definite step up from prisoner or slave. Yet, when we see the second son come along, verse 52, we sense a change in Joseph. He is no longer comfortable where he is. He remembers who he really is and where he belongs.  G-d has given him children but he is not where he should be. Now he sees Egypt as the land of his affliction. This is quite a turn around from the time when he named his first son. This should speak volumes to us. We must never become comfortable in the land of our affliction. G-d has a call for each of us in our lives and it is not to become satisfied living in the world. We are all meant for more than that. Our goal should be to fulfill our spiritual role in life.

When Jacob comes to bless his grandsons and to tell the people how to bless their sons and grandsons in the future, he, through the leading of G-d, puts Ephraim before Manasseh. We may live in exile physically but it should never become our home. We have more than that to live for. We have the leading and calling of G-d to realize that life is more than being satisfied with forgetting our Father but we should seek to be spiritually fruitful in the land of our affliction. So Jacob put that spiritual principle before the people for all generations to come.

This also may explain the placing of the hands. In this time and culture they saw the right hand as the symbol of strength, therefore when blessing someone the right hand and its symbolism of strength was used to give extra meaning to the blessing.  In conclusion, we might say the same idea runs throughout this Torah portion. We are to live life, and life is so much more than things, or jobs. Life, real life, is found in following the leading of G-d and never getting stuck in the land of our affliction.