BETWEEN LIGHT AND DARKNESS
From the D’VAR TORAH BY: RABBI KARYN D. KEDAR
We are all Jacob, we are all Joseph, trying to live in the truth and splendor of who we are. Yearning to forgive, to be forgiven. To come to our final moments with the sense of having lived with purpose.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/va-ychi
Vayechi (וַיִּגַּשׁ — Hebrew for “[Jacob] Lived”) – Gen. 47:28-50:26
Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years; Jacob’s days—the years of his life—were 147. – Genesis 47:28
- Jacob blesses his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh. (48:1-20)
- Jacob’s twelve sons gather around his deathbed, and each receives an evaluation and a prediction of his future. (49:1-33)
- Joseph mourns his father’s death and has Jacob embalmed. Jacob is buried in Hebron in the cave of the field of the Machpelah in the land of Canaan. (50:1-14)
- Joseph assures his concerned brothers that he has forgiven them and promises to care for them and their families. (50:15-21)
- Just before he dies, Joseph tells his brothers that God will return them to the Land that God promised to the patriarchs. The Children of Israel promise Joseph that they will take his bones with them when they leave Egypt. (50:22-26)
The Book of Genesis ends here. Upon completing a book of Torah Ashkenazi Jews shout “Chazak! Chazak! Venit-chazëk!”, which is translated as “Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!” The Sephardic custom is to say “Chazak U’baruch” (“strength and blessing”) at the end of every single individual Torah reading; the response is “Chazak Ve’ematz” (“be strong and have courage” from Deut. 31:23) or “Baruch Tihiye” (“may you be blessed.”)
I Kings 2:1-12
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaychi
The parashah and haftarah both report the testaments of seminal leaders of Israel to their sons, the parashah of Jacob (in Genesis 49) and the haftarah of David. Both the parashah and the haftarah precede the testament with the phrase “the time drew near that [the leader] must die.” Both the parashah and the haftarah employ the word “va-yetzav,” “he instructed.” A Midrash notes that both the parashah and the haftarah use language reflecting the leader’s diminution of authority: the parashah reports Jacob entreating his son, “If now I have found favor in your sight . . . I pray thee”; the haftarah describes David simply as “David” instead of the title of honor “King David” used a chapter before in 1 Kings 1:1. In both the parashah and the haftarah, the leaders brought up unpleasant slights that haunted them to their last days: Jacob brought up that his son Reuben defiled Jacob’s bed and that his sons Simeon and Levi slew men and beast in their anger; David brought up that his nephew Joab killed Abner and Amasa and that Shemei insulted David on the way to Mahanaim. In so doing, both leaders complained of subordinate family members who acted too zealously on what might be viewed as the leader’s behalf: Jacob with regard to Simeon and Levi and David with regard to Joab.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Women of Reform Judaism.org
D’VAR TORAH BY: RABBI STEPHANIE BERNSTEIN
Parashat Vayechi, the last parashah in Genesis, marks the end of the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs and foreshadows the Exodus narrative of slavery and freedom. In this portion, Jacob—the last of the patriarchs—nears the end of his life and concerns himself with his legacy and the continuity of his family. Prior to his death, Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and he bestows a deathbed blessing to his twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. Ten of his sons, together with Ephraim and Manasseh, will go on to become the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob’s focus on the future extends to the land, as seen in his instruction that he be buried with his ancestors in the cave of Machpelah in Canaan, rather than in Egypt, where he and his family have been living for seventeen years. Jacob’s blessing of his sons and instructions for his burial in Canaan suggest a future in which the family will be united in the Promised Land.
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaychi
Vaychi (וַיְחִי — Hebrew for “and he lived”) – Gen. 47:28-50:26
In Modern Interpretation
[The late modern biblical scholar] Nahum Sarna identified three literary genres in Genesis 49:1–27: a deathbed blessing like that in Genesis 27:27–29 and Genesis 28:1–4 [Isaac to Jacob]; a farewell address like that in Joshua 23:1–24:15 [Joshua] and 1 Kings 2:1–9 [David]; and a tribal poem like that in Deuteronomy 33 and Judges 5.
The 20th-century Reform Rabbi Gunther Plaut considered it likely that at a time when the tribes were already in Canaan, although not yet a nation, the author of Genesis 49:1–27 collected old tribal songs and memories, wove them into a poem, and incorporated the product into Jacob’s life story. Plaut argued that this author composed Genesis 49 in the same general epoch as the song of Deborah in Judges 5, at a time when the tribe of Levi fell short of the priestly importance that the blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy 33 assigned to it, when the tribe of Simeon (not named in Deuteronomy and later absorbed into the tribe of Judah) was still worth mentioning.
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
ויחי Va-y’chi – Genesis 47:28-50:26
Intimations of the Exodus: the Death of Jacob, the Birth of Israel by Adele Berlin, p.281
Parashat Va-y’chi (“he lived,” referring to Jacob’s residing in Egypt) serves as a transition between the stories in Genesis about the patriarchs and Joseph, and the narrative in Exodus of the Egyptian slavery and exodus. It is both a conclusion and a foreshadowing. As the end of Jacob’s life draws near, he wants to ensure the continuity of the family. Consequently, in this parashah the present points to both the past and the future. The past is represented by the patriarchal blessing, which features the divine promises of progeny made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; the future, by Jacob’s blessings for his own and for Joseph’s sons.
Along with the concern for the family is the concern for the land, since both are part of the patriarchal blessing. In making arrangements for his own burial, Jacob insists that he must be laid to rest in the family plot established by Abraham in Canaan, in the cave of Machpelah purchased from Ephron the Hittite (see Genesis 23). Although the entire family now resides in Egypt, this will not be their final resting-place. The parashah foreshadows the Exodus: Jacob’s burial procession from Egypt to Canaan anticipates the Israelites’ march out of Egypt. But the family’s return to Egypt, and Joseph’s temporary burial there, show that the real exodus is yet to come.
Joseph plays the leading role among the brothers. He has matured, and he now takes responsibility for his family. He is the one first charged with Jacob’s burial instructions, and he is the one who makes sure they are carried out. He also assures his brothers that he bears them no enmity for past deeds. With the death of their father, the brothers are now a reunited family.
The matriarchs are the only women mentioned in this parashah, and only in reference to their place of burial. Jacob recalls Rachel’s death on the way to Canaan (48:7). While instructing that he be buried in the cave of Machpelah, Jacob mentions that Sarah (along with Abraham), Rebekah (along with Isaac), and Leah are already buried there (49:29-32). Rebekah’s and Leah’s deaths have not been mentioned previously, whereas Sarah’s death received close attention (Genesis 23).
In death and burial, the matriarchs and patriarchs represent the uniting of the family in the Promised Land. Eventually, all Israel will reside in the land. But it will remain for the book of Exodus–where women once again will be very much in the foreground–to continue the story.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 14 Tevet through 20 Tevet, we lovingly remember:
TKH Memorial Board
Friend of TKH Member Iris Adler
Esther Zelby Caron
TKH Memorial Board, mother of Temple President Dr. Sam Caron
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, December 17, 2021.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this Friday evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Vayechi (triennial part) Gen 49:27-50:26
Time: Dec 17, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Dec 17, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!