Parashat Vayechi וַיְחִי

The numerical value of the opening word “Vayechi” (“וַיְחִי”) is 34. This number alludes to two sets of seventeen years in Yaakov’s life. The first seventeen years represent the number of years Yosef lived with Yaakov in Israel (Canaan); the second set of seventeen years represents the number years Yaakov lived with Yosef in Egypt. We learn about these two sets of lives from the words “Sheni Chayav” (“וַיְהִי יְמֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵי חַיָּיו”), the two periods (sets) of lives. The Midrash says that this number of thirty-four years is what Yaakov truly considered his life to be, just as Sarah considered her true life only after having her son Yitzchak (37 years, from the word “ויהיו”). Yaakov was such a Tzadik (“צדיק”) righteous person, that in his merit many miracles were bestowed upon the Egyptians and the Hebrews in Egypt. The Midrash says that no woman ever miscarried or gave birth earlier than intended. Throughout the seventeen years no one suffered any tooth ache, or any other sickness. The famine was postponed and land of Egypt prospered, during the period of time Yaakov lived in Egypt.  unparalleled

As we learnt in the last Parasha (Va’Yigash) that Yaakov lost thirty-three years from his original one hundred and eighty years (as his forefathers lived) and he is now one hundred forty-seven years old. Yaakov lost thirty-three years of his life, due to the same number of words Yaakov used to complain and describe his “misfortunes” to Pharaoh (see verse 47:8-9 “מְעַט וְרָעִים, הָיוּ יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיַּי, וְלֹא הִשִּׂיגוּ אֶת-יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי אֲבֹתַי, בִּימֵי מְגוּרֵיהֶם”). The Torah writes that “Yaakov lived seventeen years in Egypt”; these words teach us about the prophecy of exile that would begin seventeen years later from the moment he came down to Egypt. Yaakov called his son Yosef to bless him and most importantly to get Yosef to make a vow and promise to bury Yaakov in the land of Israel. He specifically described the place where he must be buried; in “Mearat Hamachpela” (“מערת המכפלה”) in Hebron (“חברון”), the same burial place as Leah and his forefathers. Yaakov knew that only him and none of his brothers could fulfill this request.

We notice here a very odd use of Yaakov’s names. In the opening verse the Torah writes Yaakov, and in the second verse it uses the name Yisrael. This comes to teach us about the prophecy of exile and redemption of Bnei-Yisrael in the future. It also teaches us that when he came to Egypt he was Yaakov, alluding to the physical needs he came for as food. When he left Egypt his name was Yisrael alluding to the spiritual needs as Torah and Heaven, he asked from HaShem now that he is dying. He also assured his sons that the true spiritual needs of Bnei-Yisrael will be provided, alluding to the Torah, Beit-HaMikdash and the Holy land upon his passing.

This Parasha is called “פרשה סתומה” “Parasha Stuma”, which means “closed”, unfinished or misunderstood. Our Sages say that “פרשה פתוחה” “parshiya ptucha” (open Parasha) usually indicates a major change of topic, while a “parshiya stumah” indicates a more subtle one. Our Parasha is a continuation of last week Parasha (VaYiegash). First it speaks of Yaakov’s life and immediately afterwards it speaks of his death, then of his life again. This teaches us that Yaakov saw the misfortunes of both his sons and Bnei-Yisrael when they will be “closing their eyes” in the future. When we “close our eyes” and we stray further from HaShem, we noticing major changes in society mostly against Jews (like the holocaust and other disasters against the Jews). As we know in several occasions the Torah writes that HaShem “closes his eyes” and we suffer disproportion sufferings. The entire people of Yisrael could not see when Yaakov died; their “eyes were closed” and their hearts were closed too, as the Midrash says.

Yosef was seventeen years old when Yaakov “lost” him (sold to Egypt); Yaakov also lost his ability to “see” Navua, the ability to receive prophecies. He could not see the future as “his eyes were closed”. In the absence of Yosef, Yaakov gave lots of “Tzedakah” (“צדקה”), lots of prayers and he extended his life even without the ability to receive prophecy from HaShem. Hence he didn’t know that Yosef was still alive all these years.

We learned that Yaakov gave Eisav his entire fortune he amassed while living with Lavan as a “gift”. The Talmud (Masechet Shabbat) teaches us that (“צדקה תציל ממוות”) “Tzedakah saves one from death”; charity will prolong one’s life and will save one from death. When Yaakov saw Yosef again he gained back the ability to receive prophecy and future events became clear. That is when Yaakov “saw” that two letters were missing in his twelve sons’ names; the letters “Chet” and “Tet” (“ח-ט”), which spell the word “Chet” (“חטא”), a sin. He also “saw” two other letters that were missing in his twelve sons’s names were “Kuf” and “Tzadik” (“ק- ץ”), which spell the word “Ketz” (“קץ”), an end. Yaakov refrained from telling his sons about this prophecy of exile and of the “end of days”. Yaakov could not see the days of Mashiach (“משיח”), and kept to himself.

Yaakov approached Yosef to ensure that he would only have him buried in Israel, and he made Yosef make a vow. Yaakov knew that none of the other brothers could fulfill such holy task, and since Yosef was the viceroy of Egypt he would be the only one Pharaoh would allow performing this duty. It is worth mentioning here that originally when Yosef asked Pharaoh to leave Egypt and take his father to be buried in Israel, Pharaoh refused.

He was afraid that Yosef would stay in Israel and that he would lose the thrown, since Yosef “ran” Egypt for the past twenty-two years. Yosef asked for only two weeks, to leave Egypt for the burial. When Pharaoh refused, Yosef threatened him with exposing the secret that Yosef knew one language more than Pharaoh. This exposure would be detrimental to Pharaoh as he would have to be removed from his thrown, as the rule in Egypt was that whoever knew more (languages), ruled.

The pyramids were built with seventy levels and each one who knew more languages, stood above the rest in the pyramid. Pharaoh knew seventy languages and he was on top of the pyramid, but Yosef knew seventy-one languages; he knew Hebrew, a language Pharaoh did not know. The Midrash tells us that Yosef recited the “ASHRI YOSHVAY BAITECHA” (“אשרי יושבי ביתך”) after he demonstrated to Pharaoh the languages he knew the night he was taken out of prison and became a viceroy, which was the night of Rosh HaShanah.

Yosef swore to Yaakov that he will bury him in Israel and says “Anochi” (“אנוכי”), meaning “I am”, saying that I will keep my promise. Yosef was hinting to his father, that he too will be buried in the land of Israel. Yaakov knew that when Mashiach comes, the first dead to rise will be the ones buried in Israel, and assured his resurrection among the first ones. The Midrash tells us that when Mashiach comes, HaShem will create tunnels underground that would lead all the dead from outside of Israel into the Holy Land and then they will resurrected. The Zohar says that the Synagogues outside of Israel will be relocated into Israel as well. Yaakov also wanted to make sure that his descendants knew that they too must go back to Israel, and he assured the redemption of Bnei-Yisrael by not buried in Egypt. Yaakov also “saw” the prophecy of the ten plagues in Egypt and did not want the lice to touch his body. Most importantly Yaakov said to Yosef that when Mashiach comes he wanted to “wake-up” in the company of his wife and his forefathers. Another reason Yaakov did not want to be buried in Egypt, was so the Egyptians would not use his tomb as a place at which to pray as this would be like idolatry.

The method used to secure the promise by Yosef to his father was to have his hand placed under Yaakov’s thigh. This teaches us that everyone who came to Egypt were Yaakov’s children, including the women. He guaranteed that they were all part of his blessings and this obligation. Yaakov used two words in his request to Yosef saying, “do for me a CHESSED and EMET (Mitzvah and truth), as the verse says: “וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת”. This comes to teach us that when a person dies he cannot repay us and therefore we perform this Mitzvah out of true kindness. Yaakov made this covenant with Yosef also to ensure that upon his passing, Yosef would not take revenge on his brothers for what they did. He knew all about the brothers’ sin and had kept it to himself for the past twenty-two years. Yosef promised his father that he would bury him (and himself) in Israel. Yaakov bowed to Yosef, but he did not really need to on the account of Yosef. The Midrash tells us that Yaakov felt that this deed would secure his wish. He made Yosef take an oath to secure Pharaoh’s commitment and not Yosef’s as he know that the king must obey an oath.

We notice in verse 48:1 that it “was told” (“וַיֹּאמֶר לְיוֹסֵף”) to Yosef that his father was sick. The Midrash tells us that Efraim was the one to tell his father about Yaakov’s final moments. Efraim was studying Torah with Yaakov and was the messenger to deliver such news. The pasuk has an extra word, “Heine” (“הנה” – here), which means here is something you should know. This comes to teach us that in the past people died without any sickness and only sneezed prior to their death, that is why we say “to your health” (“לבריאות”). The Midrash says that Yaakov asked HaShem to let a person know about his time to die, in order to allow for allocations of will, inheritance, and testament. The numerical value of the word Efraim used “here” (“הנה”), is 60, which equals the sixty parts of sickness. When Yosef came to Yaakov, he (Yaakov) sat on the bed (“וַיֵּשֶׁב, עַל-הַמִּטָּה”); the numerical value of the word “HaMita” (“הַמִּטָּה” – bed) is 59. This comes to teach us that as Yosef visited Yaakov, he took off one part of the sickness.

We are always obligated to visit a sick person and while doing so, we take away one part of their sickness. The acronym of the word “Chol’e” (“חולה” – sick) is “Chutz Lederech Hatevah” (“חוץ לדרך הטבע”), outside of normal nature. It is also written that Yaakov gained his strength in order to bless his children, as he was fully aware of each blessing, and never regretted any of it.

Yosef took his two sons to see his dying father, in order to pay his final respects and to receive blessings for him and his children. Yaakov heard that his son Yosef was on his way and he became “stronger” and sat on the bed. Yaakov wanted to first show his son that he still has the Shechinah (“שכינה”) with him, and also to pay respects to his son, the viceroy. Yaakov also wanted to make sure that he was strong to bless Yosef’s sons, Efraim and Menashe (Menashe was firstborn). In verse 48:20 we see the blessings of Efraim and Menashe “יְבָרְכֵם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, לֵאמוֹר, בְּךָ יְבָרֵךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל”. We notice that there is an extra word “Becha” (“בְּךָ” – by you) which has a numerical value of 22, the same number of years that Yosef was absent from Yaakov, and he still remembered all the Torah he was taught. Yosef kept all the Mitzvot while in Egypt and away from Yaakov.

Yaakov told Yosef that HaShem “was revealed” to him and that they would have two more tribes who will be born, but it did not happen in Israel. He understood that one tribe must be split in order to get their portion in the land of Israel. Yosef’s sons were born in Egypt and Yaakov considered them as his own sons even though they were his grandchildren. Yaakov compared them to the same portions as Reuven and Shimon, as he promised Rachel that Yosef, her firstborn, will inherit two portions, as Yaakov states to Yosef (verse 48:5) that his sons would be equal to Yaakov’s sons, “אֶפְרַיִם, וּמְנַשֶּׁה–כִּרְאוּבֵן וְשִׁמְעוֹן, יִהְיוּ-לִי”. Yaakov explained to Yosef that his mother Rachel was not buried in the same place as the rest of our forefathers in but rather she was buried in Bait-Lechem on the way to Efrat (Efraim’s land). The question is why wasn’t she buried with the rest of our forefathers and foremothers? There are few explanations for this: the land of that burial place was not part of her son’s portions originally, as it was part of Yehuda’s portion. Also, when she died Eisav still disputed his share of that burial place, and only after Yaakov paid him for it, he gave up the claim, but Rachel already died. Another explanation is that due to Yaakov’s words to Lavan, claiming that “whoever stole his idols shell die”, Rachel did. Most importantly Yaakov did not want to be buried with two sisters as he knew that in the future this will be forbidden to Bnei-Yisrael. The main purpose of Rachel’s burial location was for a Divine purpose in the future. She was destined to help and guide Bnei-Yisrael on their way back to Jerusalem in the days of redemption. The Zohar says that Yaakov forgot to donate the double “Ma’aser” he vowed to give HaShem upon a safe return from Lavan to Israel (as he vowed); one lack of “Ma’aser” brought the death of Rachel and the second lack of “Ma’aser” brought upon the rape of Dinah.

Yaakov elaborated about Rachel’s death on his way back from Padan and saying that it was his fault, “וַאֲנִי בְּבֹאִי מִפַּדָּן, מֵתָה עָלַי רָחֵל בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן בַּדֶּרֶךְ, בְּעוֹד כִּבְרַת-אֶרֶץ, לָבֹא אֶפְרָתָה; וָאֶקְבְּרֶהָ שָּׁם בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְרָת, הִוא בֵּית לָחֶם”. Yaakov said to Yosef that Rachel died due to his words, using the word “עָלַי” (on me) to teach us about three of his misfortunes he suffered. The word “עָלַי” represents:

The letter “עָ” Eyien for Eisav

The letter “לַ” Lamed for Lavan

The letter “י” Yud for Yosef

Interestingly enough Rivkah used the same word when she ordered her son Yaakov to receive the blessings from Yitzchak. Yaakov wanted to ensure that his burial place will not be “on the road”.

It is important to mention that Yaakov was buried on the 10th of Tevet (a fast day). Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tevet, in the year 3336 from Creation (425 BCE), the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later—on 9 Tammuz 3338—the city walls were breached, and on 9 Av of that year the first Holy Beit Hamikdash was destroyed.

Rachel burial attests to her being the “guardian angel” to her children (the entire people of Israel). There are few documented miracles of this specific prophecy of Rachel saving and helping our IDF soldiers from being hurt heading towards disasters. A week after former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu confirmed the miracle story sweeping Israel – which the embodiment of the Matriarch Rachel saved the lives of soldiers in Gaza – as spiritual leader.

Mara”n Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ZT”L also declared that the Jewish foremother came to the aid of the IDF. Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu revealed that despite his frail health, he had prayed three times at the tomb of the Matriarch Rachel prior to the Gaza war, asking the beloved wife of the Patriarch Yaakov to beseech HaShem to protect the Jews in the wake of an impending war. An old woman appeared to an IDF troops as they searched houses looking for Hamas terrorists.  Appearing in a matter of moments in three separate buildings, the woman – who called herself Rachel – warned soldiers not to enter buildings which were later discovered to have been “booby trapped”.

Yaakov blessed Yosef with receiving the Land of Israel just as was promised by HaShem to his forefathers, and with the blessing that he will multiply as the world’s nations. The Zohar says that Yaakov also told Yosef that his sons will be great Tzadikim, righteous people. Yosef brought his sons Menashe (the firstborn) and Efriam and he placed them in front of Yaakov, so that Yaakov’s right hand will be placed on Menashe’s head (as the firstborn) and Yaakov’s left hand on Efriam’s head. To Yosef’s surprise, Yaakov crossed his hands and placed his right hand on Efraim and his left hand on Menashe. Yosef got upset over it, and clarified to his father that Menashe was the firstborn and so his right hand should be placed upon him.

Yaakov said, as the Torah wrote, “VaYomer Yada’ati Beni, Yada’ati” (“וַיֹּאמֶר יָדַעְתִּי בְנִי יָדַעְתִּי”), “and he said, I know my son, I know”. The word “my son” (“בְנִי”) comes to teach us about the future. Yaakov saw a prophecy concerning their offspring which tells that from the young son Efraim, the leader of Bnei-Yisrael will emerge. He will teach them the Torah and lead them into the Holy Land. His name will be Yehoshua Bin Nun, as the acronym of the word “בְנִי”. Yaakov saw three offspring with the same acronym: Yerovam Ben Nevat and Yehu Ben Nimshi (both were wicked men). However, Yosef urged Yaakov to focus on the good offspring who will build the Bait HaMikdash and lead Bnei-Yisrael into the land of Israel – Yehoshua Bin Nun.

To this very day we use the blessing “May HaShem bless you like Efraim and Menashe”; every Friday evening, this teaches us that we first bless the young ones and then the older ones. The blessings are as follows: first the Torah blessings then the fortune blessings, just like the blessings of Yitzchak and Ishmael, Yaakov and Eisav, and Efraim and Menashe; first the young then the old. Following the blessings of Yosef’s children, Yaakov revealed the prophecy of redemption from Egypt and the end of the Exile. This teaches us that HaShem said “First Torah then “Kemach” (flour); the strong will always help the weak as HaShem always helps us.

Yaakov reminded Yosef his oath and vow to bury him in Israel. Yaakov then asked to have his ten sons gather around him for blessings. The Midrash says that Yaakov lost his ability to receive prophecy, since they weren’t united at first. He could not bless them at first with the best of blessings; he was worried that the brothers were divided and that had a direct impact on his ability to bless them. Yaakov blessed Yehuda with kingship, the word Yehuda (“יהודה”) in Gematria is 30 same as the 30 prerogatives (exclusive rights) a king has.

Yaakov asked his ten sons if they are united, using both of his names, Yaakov and Yisrael. He did that to bring back the ability for both kinds of physical and spiritual blessings. He asked them if they are all united as one nation under one God, HaShem? The ten brothers answered in unison:

“שמע ישראל אדוני אלוהינו אדוני אחד”

Sh’ma Yis’ra’el (Yaakov), Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, O’ Israel (Yaakov), the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Yaakov was pleased and answers them:

“ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד”

Barukh shem k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
Upon hearing that, Yaakov’s partial Shechinah returned and he blessed each one of the brothers with a specific and unique blessing that carried a meaningful prophecy till today. It is worth mentioning that Yaakov still could not see when Mashiach would come. He also blessed them with a special blessing of success in exile, and as we witness throughout the generations this blessing and prophecy is fulfilled. Bilam, who was hired by Balak to curse Bnei-Yisrael actually transformed all his curses into blessings and one is fulfilled the most, just as Yaakov predicted and blesses Bnei-Yisrael with.
“מה טובו אוהליך יעקב מישכנותיך ישראל”
Ma tovu ohalecha Ya-akov mishkenotecha Israel
How good are your tents O’ Yaakov your dwellings O’ Israel

The book of Beresheet spans on a time period of about 2400 (a bit less) years and twenty generations. Parashat Beresheet alone spans about 1440 years period. Chaz”al- our Sages say HasShem created the world to exist for 6000 years divided into three phases. The first 2000 years is called Tohu Vavohu – Void and Desolation combined with certain geographic order. The second 2000 years is called Torah, spiritual order. The third 2000 years is called Mashiach the ultimate “marriage” of physical and spiritual existence.

ואני ברוב חסדיך אבוא ביתך
“חזק חזק ונתחזק”

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