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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 The Haftarah Commentary, Gunther Plaut/Chaim Stern UAHC Press 1996 p.115
Connection of haftarah and sidra:
In the sidra, Jacob delivers his last charge to his children, and in the haftarah, David leaves instructions with his son Solomon, who will succeed him on the throne.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/vayechi
By: Rabbi Stacy Rigler
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
For Torah Study, instead of the portion from the Book of Genesis that is read on this Shabbat, we will read the Haftarah (a selection from the prophets) following this portion, I Kings 2:1-12. You can read this week’s Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.47.28-50.26 and the Haftarah we will be studying at https://www.sefaria.org/ https://www.sefaria.org/I_Kings.2.1-12
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
Another View – by Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, p. 297
ATHOUGH IT IS NAMED VA-Y’CHI (“he lived”), this parashah details Jacob’s death rather than his life. Here Jacob insists on being buried in the cave of Machpelah, near Hebron, where his ancestors and his wife Leah are already buried (49:29–32).
To flesh out the role of the dead in Israelite society, biblical testimony can be combined with archeological evidence. According to Jacob’s statement, his family buried its members together: all the matriarchs and patriarchs were interred in the Cave of Machpelah, with the exception of Rachel. That tomb both substantiated the inheritance claim and served as a boundary marker; through his purchase of the field and cave, Abraham had established Israelite claim to territory near Hebron (Genesis 23).
Burial in a cave conforms to actual interment practices in the Hebron region from pre-Israelite times to the fall of the Davidic kingdom (ca. 1800–586 B.C.E.). The local residents indeed buried their family members–including children–together in either natural caves or roughly hewn chambers. Alongside their deceased, they placed ceramic vessels for food and drink, lamps, tools, and personal items. In the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.E., they occasionally provided also a clay female figurine–crudely formed, with little distinguished besides a head (sometimes schematic) and prominent breasts.
Grave goods suggest that the dead were considered to continue some form of existence. Many scholars–but by no means all–identify the female figurines with the fertility goddess Asherah, speculating that perhaps a figurine conveyed the wishes of the living for the dead to intercede on their behalf with God (and Asherah) to promote lactation for children’s welfare. Biblical passages likewise attribute ongoing benevolent powers to the deceased. Repeated admonitions not to consult the dead–rather than God–on behalf of the living (Deuteronomy 18:11), the woman of En-dor conjuring up the deceased Samuel to foretell the future (I Samuel 28), and the Israelite householder’s annual declaration that no tithed food had been given to the dead (Deuteronomy 26:14) are just three examples of belief in the continuing powers of the dead and the practices of reaching out to them.
Post-biblical Interpretations – by Dvora E. Weisberg, pp. 297-299
“treat me with faithful kindness” (47:29). In giving his burial instructions, Jacob asks to be treated with chesed v’emet. The Midrash asks why Jacob uses this expression–is there really such a thing as unfaithful kindness? Rather, Jacob’s words come to teach that truly faithful kindness is that which the living show the dead (B’reishit Rabbah 96.5). Consider that when a person shows kindness to someone living, no one knows for certain what that person’s motivation is; perhaps there is a hope for a favor in return. Furthermore, the outcome of that action is uncertain; while intended to be kind, it may result in harm or pain. But the kindness shown to a dead person–in the form of burial and a eulogy–is always true kindness. In addition, it is disinterested; one expects no favors from the dead (Itturei Torah).
“Rachel died … on the road” (48:7). Jacob had once before pressed Joseph to bury him in his ancestral burial plot (47:28–30), The commentators ask why Jacob only now–and not in that earlier scene–discusses his decision to bury Rachel at the roadside (rather than in the cave of Machpelah). One commentator argues that there was room in the cave of Machpelah only for Jacob and one of his wives. Up until now, Joseph had accepted the fact that Leah–as Jacob’s senior wife and the mother of his oldest sons–was entitled to that place. However, Jacob has since adopted Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, saying that they “will be to me as Reuben and Simeon” (48:5). With his sons recognized as the equals of his father’s oldest sons, Joseph then must have inquired why his mother should not henceforth be viewed as Jacob’s senior wife–and so be entitled to burial by his side. Therefore, Jacob now explains his decision to bury Rachel near Ephrath (Itturei Torah).
In defending his decision, Jacob explains that Rachel is destined to be an intercessor for her descendants (and, in fact, for all Israel). When the Israelites are conquered by the Babylonians, they will pass Rachel’s tomb on their way into exile. Rachel will then mediate on their behalf, beseeching God to have compassion on her children (a rabbinic understanding of Jeremiah 31:15–17). Rachel, rather than any other matriarch, is chosen as Israel’s intercessor because of her compassion for her sister, and her willingness to overcome her jealousy, when Leah married Jacob by subterfuge (Itturei Torah, citing Rashi and Eichah Rabbah, proem 24; see parashat Vayeitzei at 29:25,…).
“Rachel died.” Heb. metah alai Rachel, literally “Rachel died on me” or “…upon me.’ According to Rut Rabbah 2, the preposition indicates that Jacob sees Rachel’s death as a “greater grief than all his other misfortunes.” Another rabbinic tradition construes the preposition as a reminder that a woman’s death is painful especially to her husband (BT Sanhedrin 22b). The same teaching meanwhile derives the parallel lesson–that a man’s death pains his wife more than anyone else–from Ruth 1:3, “And Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died…” because that verse identifies him in terms of her.
“By you” (48:20). In his commentary on this parashah, Rashi cites this verse as the source for the custom of blessing sons with the words “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”
blessing each one (49:28). How could Jacob have “blessed” Simeon and Levi, given the harsh words he directed toward them (49:5–7)? One interpreter of this verse suggests that Jacob’s rebuke of his sons was, in fact, a blessing. In cursing their anger specifically–rather than his sons–Jacob sought to temper it, and to encourage them to distance themselves from their inappropriate behaviors. In this sense, his criticism was intended as a blessing, offering his sons a chance to renounce their past actions and become better people (Itturei Torah).
“Please … forgive … your brothers” (50:17). Given that the narrative did not mention Jacob’s having dispatched this exact message, Rabbi Eleazar son of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai sees this verse as proof that one may alter another person’s words for the sake of peace (BT Y’vamot 65b); the brothers’ claim made it easier for them to approach Joseph and easier for him to respond positively.
“I will provide” (50:21). Commentators wonder why Joseph promised to care for his brothers’ children. The brothers believed that the compassion Joseph had shown them since their arrival in Egypt reflected his duty to them as his older brothers. They feared that when they died, Joseph’s anger at them for selling him into slavery would emerge and be directed at their children. Joseph reassures them; not only does he have no intention of harming them, but he plans to care for their children even after their death (Itturei Torah).
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, January 6, 2023. For the next few months we will read and discuss the Haftarah, each selection from the prophets following the weekly Torah Portion.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Haftarah Vay’chi: I Kings 2:1-12
Time: Jan 6, 2023 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jan 6, 2023 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/Gut Shabbos
PS – About the Book of Kings:
From Jewish Encyclopedia
From Jewish Virtual Library
Timelines from Wikipedia