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Vayechi 5775 ~ ויחי
Jacob, after 17 years in Egypt, acknowledges that his 147-year life is drawing to an end. He makes Joseph promise to bury him in Hevron. Joseph brings his two sons, Efraim and Menashe, to Jacob for his final blessing. Joseph, in preparation for the Patriarchal blessing, positions Menashe (the elder) under Jacob’s right hand and Efraim (the younger) under Jacob’s left hand. Jacob gives the final blessing. Joseph, thinking his father is infirm, tries to correct the placement of Jacob’s hands so he would honor the eldest properly, however, Jacob rationalizes his reasoning and actions.
Jacob blesses each of his other eleven sons by identifying their character strengths and weaknesses: Reuven is compared to unstable water, Shimeon and Levi cannot control their anger, Judah shall always be the powerful ruler, Zevulun shall live by the sea, Yisaachar is a hard menial worker, Dan shall judge his brothers and be dangerous as a snake, Gad shall gird himself well for battle, Asher will happily wax fat, Naftali will acquire the gift of eloquent speech, Joseph, the Prince among Israel, shall grow and be blessed mighty beyond his brethren and Benjamin shall be a glorious warrior.
Jacob again instructs his family to bury him in the Sepulcher in Hevron. After giving these last instructions Jacob expires. Joseph asks Pharaoh’s permission to accompany his father’s body to Canaan for burial and receives a royal escort. The ten brothers inform Joseph that Jacob’s final request was for him to forgive them for selling him into slavery; Joseph repeats he already has. Joseph assures his brothers that he will continue to sustain them; their father’s death does not affect his true love for them. Joseph dies at the age of 110, but lived to see his great, great, great-grandchildren. Joseph’s final request is to have his bones finally brought to rest in the Land of Israel.
MAFTIR Genesis 50:23-26 ~ pages 190-191
HAFTORAH I Kings 2:1-12 ~ pages 191-192
At the end of his life, King David gives his final blessing to Solomon (as Jacob did to his sons) telling him to be courageous and to be true to the Laws of G-d. Furthermore, Yoav’s previous acts of treachery (the murders of Avner and Amasa) must not go unpunished. Shimei, who insulted David and acted contemptuously, must also be punished. Barzillai, who befriended David when he was in need and took care of him, must be likewise rewarded. After reigning for 40 years, King David dies and Solomon succeeds him.
Parashah Study Questions
1. The mitzvah of burial is called “Chesed shel Emet”– the one, true act of kindness. Why is this so and what is its origin in v. 47:29?
2. What are the similarities between Jacob’s last meeting with Joseph and his two sons, and the story of Isaac’s last seeing of Jacob (v. 48:10-22)?
3. How many animal references are made in Jacob’s blessings? Are they good or bad metaphors (49:3-27)?
4. Why did Shiva start 40 days after Jacob’s death (50:10)? What halachic observance has its foundation in this biblical reference?
5. Which ritual is alluded to in verse 50:23? Hint: Rabbi Pearlson is very sensitive to this mitzvah this week!