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Home » Vayechi

Vayechi: Food for Thought at your Dinner Table

Submitted by on December 16, 2007 – 12:01 amNo Comment | 2,560 views

Sunday: Jacob Lived

Many Torah commentaries have concluded based on the verse, “And Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years,” that Jacob’s best years, the years that he truly lived, were the ones he spent in Egypt. How did Jacob, a man devoted to G-d, enjoy living in so depraved a land?
The Torah reflects the supernal will and wisdom of the divine. Just as G-d is eternal, omnipresent and transcends all manner of limitation, so does the Torah. The Torah’s sacred energy prevails in all places; even a spiritual void like Egypt. Before embarking to Egypt Jacob sent Judah to establish a house of Torah study. It was through his study in this house that Jacob transcended the depravities of Egypt and lived to the fullest and holiest measure. Likutei Sichos

Monday: Jacob / Israel

Why did the Torah refer to our third patriarch as Jacob when he blessed his own children and as Israel when he blessed his grandchildren? The name Israel, minister of the divine, denotes transcendence and elation. The name Jacob, heel of the divine, denotes struggle and difficulty. Accordingly, the Torah refers to him as Israel in his moments of success and as Jacob in his moments of anxiety and concern.
When Jacob blessed his own children, who were born in Israel and fated to live the rest of their lives in Egypt, he was anxious because these children represented the pending exile. When he blessed his grandchildren, who were born in Egypt and nevertheless remained loyal to the Torah, he grew confident that his children would indeed survive the exile. Ohr Hachayim

Tuesday: Who is Paramount?

Menashe was the elder son, but Ephraim received the greater blessing. Who was paramount?
Joseph named his first son Menashe because his stay in Egypt caused him to forget his father’s home. He called his second son Ephraim because G-d made him prosperous in Egypt. Menashe connotes a yearning for liberation and Ephraim connotes remaining loyal to Torah even in exile. These two are interdependent. To be successful in the Diaspora one needs to yearn for Israel and thus maintain a connection with Israel. Joseph therefore named his first son for his yearning for Israel and his second son for his success in Egypt.
Jacob, whose blessing would fortify his children for the long exile, blessed Ephraim first. When it comes to tenacity and fortitude in exile Ephraim is paramount. Likutei Sichos

Wednesday: Struggle and Hope

Jacob intended to reveal the date of the eventual liberation from Egypt, but G-d prevented him from doing so. Why did Jacob desire to reveal this date and why did G-d prevent it?
Living under the yoke of exile, but knowing that we will soon be redeemed and that, furthermore, our positive behavior will hasten our redemption, invigorates us. It gives us strength to carry on. This is why Jacob desired to reveal the date of liberation. On the other hand, there is an advantage to being sorely tested. When we enter the arena of true despair and nevertheless maintain our faith we become truly deserving of redemption.
Jacob, our father, hoped to inspire us in our despair and illuminate our darkness. G-d our creator, knew our true abilities. He gave us the full scope of the challenge, knowing that we would overcome and succeed. Likutei Sichos

Thursday: True Wealth

Jacob blessed his son Asher with prosperity. “From Asher’s land will come rich food and he will provide royal delicacies.” Rashi explained that Asher’s portion was rich with olive trees. The olives would fill to the brim and leak rivulets of oil across the land.
A closer look at the blessing will yield an even deeper understanding of Asher’s wealth. He will not only have aromatic oils and rich culinary delights, he will also share his wealth with others. He will not share his wealth sparingly, but will “provide royal delicacies.”
Hoarded wealth is a sign of poverty. Hoarders are dissatisfied; they are afraid of losing their wealth, they don’t have enough and constantly desire more. Shared wealth is a sign of wealth. It indicates that we are satisfied with our lot and that our means exceed our needs. So much so, that we are happy to share it with others.  Taam Vadaas

Friday: War and Peace

Our sages taught that when Jacob’s funeral procession arrived to Israel they were greeted by the armies of Canaan, but when the armies saw Joseph’s crown atop Jacob’s casket they too placed their crowns on the casket and joined the procession.
After destroying the city of Shechem many Canaanite tribes made war against Jacob. Despite their superior numbers they were unable to triumph and many Canaanites died in battle. When Jacob moved to Egypt, the Canaanites they were relieved at their enemy’s departure. When Jacob returned to be buried in Israel, they were dismayed. They came to exact revenge.
When they saw the Egyptian crown atop Jacob’s casket they realized how highly revered Jacob was in Egypt. It dawned on them that Jacob’s presence augured divine blessing to his country of residence. They further realized that Jacob’s return to Israel would bring blessing to Canaan. Wishing to become recipients of Jacob’s blessing they paid homage by placing their crowns atop his casket and joining the procession. Toras Moshe – Alshich

Shabbat: The Guarantee

Before he passed away, Joseph proclaimed, “Behold I shall die, but G-d, remember He shall remember you and redeem you from this land.” Joseph was the protector of the Jewish colony in Egypt. His passing would surely spark despair in the Jewish camp. He encouraged them by saying that though he would perish, their hope would not, nay, could not, perish with them.
When Jews are exiled, G-d’s presence is with them. Should the Jews remain in Egypt, the divine presence would also remain in that impure and G-dless land. To Joseph, this was inconceivable. Joseph reminded his brothers that the divine presence among them was their guarantee of redemption. This is why Joseph said, “remember He shall remember.” First G-d will remember you on account of His own presence in exile and then He shall remember you for your suffering in exile. Toras Moshe Alshich