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Parasha of the Week - Vayechi

Torah portion of VaYechi ("And he lived") appears unusual in a hand written Torah scroll. Usually, there is a space between chapters - but there is no empty space between VaYechi and the previous chapter.

Our sages teach that the space between chapters (do you notice the space between paragraphs here) is to allow the opportunity to pause and contemplate what is being revealed.

Even though the title of this chapter is "And he (Jacob) lived" - it ironically focuses on his passing. It has been suggested that while Jacob was alive, he and his children were aware that Egypt was not their true home and that it was a place whose values were antithetical to theirs. Their eyes were fully open to this reality.

But once Jacob was no longer alive, his descendants got caught up in the glitzy materialistic culture of Egypt. They became blinded to the spiritual and moral perversion that engulfed them. This inability to see what was happening to them is reflected in the lack of space between the chapters. (Sefer Taam V'Da'as)


Rabbi Michael Skobac:

This week's Torah portion of VaYechi ("And he lived") appears unusual in a hand written Torah scroll. Usually, there is a space between chapters - but there is no empty space between VaYechi and the previous chapter.

Our sages teach that the space between chapters (do you notice the space between paragraphs here) is to allow the opportunity to pause and contemplate what is being revealed.

Even though the title of this chapter is "And he (Jacob) lived" - it ironically focuses on his passing. It has been suggested that while Jacob was alive, he and his children were aware that Egypt was not their true home and that it was a place whose values were antithetical to theirs. Their eyes were fully open to this reality.

But once Jacob was no longer alive, his descendants got caught up in the glitzy materialistic culture of Egypt. They became blinded to the spiritual and moral perversion that engulfed them. This inability to see what was happening to them is reflected in the lack of space between the chapters. (Sefer Taam V'Da'as)


Rabbi Chaim Coffman:

Video: Vayechi and Shemos: A New King Arises and What is G d's Name

Video: Yaakov gives the Blessings to Menashe and Ephraim and what Makes a Jew a Jew


Parshas Vayechi: G-d Runs the World!

"His brothers themselves also went and flung themselves before him and said, 'We are ready to be your slaves.' But Yosef said to them, 'Fear not, for am I instead of G-d? Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good in order to accomplish it is as clear as this day that a vast people be kept alive" (Genesis 50:18-20).

After everything that Yosef has been through, he realizes where everything comes from and that even if we don't understand why we go through certain things, G-d knows what he is doing! He reassures the brothers and tells them not to worry because G-d makes everything happen even though we are not privy to the why's about it!

We go through life making decisions while everything is being orchestrated above. We have free will and are not robots but our actions are guided from above and we just put things into motion. We certainly can make mistakes and there will be repercussions for our actions.

One of the essential tenets of Judaism is Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence) whereby G-d runs the world and interferes in history. Since we have no Temple today, G-d's ways are truly hidden and it is very difficult if not impossible to try and fathom why He does what He does. We often also don't understand how things we do turn out the way it does but if G-d is truly good, then everything has a purpose which one day we will merit to truly understand.

The way we know that G-d interferes in history and has a role guiding it is because the mitzvah to believe in G-d is from the first of the 10 commandments. "I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out o of the land of Egypt" shows just that role. The commentators ask why we don't learn it out from the fact that G-d created the world. After all, that would seem to be a greater proof.

The reason is that no one was there to witness it. When the Jews came out of Egypt there were 600,000 men not including women and children who witnessed the miracles of the plagues. That means with women and children there were over 3,000,000 people altogether who could give testimony as to G-d's role in what happened. Pretty amazing!

Not only that but this has been passed down through all future generations based on the mitzvos we keep because of coming out of Egypt. All the laws of Passover come from the deliverance from Egypt, the whole evening service we pray, the last paragraph of the Shema...so many things attached to one event in history!

Even though it seems that enslavement to the Egyptians was a bad thing (considering according to some opinions 80% of the Jewish did not come out of Egypt) nonetheless we received the Torah as a result! Nothing short of incredible. This is just a mere example of looking into things where we see G-d's role but in many ways it is unfathomable to us unless we are able to see the whole picture!

This is a lesson for our everyday life being able to see where we have been and what has led us to where we are now. We don't always have the answers to the important why question but there is that guiding hand always!


Parshas Vayechi: In the end it will be good

"But Yosef said to them, 'Fear not, for am I instead of G-d? Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good: in order to accomplish it is as clear as this day that a vast people be kept alive" (Genesis: 50:19-20).

As we have seen from the story of Yosef and the brothers, it is clear that when Yosef told over the dreams, he was giving over prophecy of what would happen in the future. The reason Yosef had to tell these dreams even at the risk of his brothers hating him more was because these were not ordinary dreams but actually prophecy and when a prophet receives prophecy he has to tell it over!

This led Yosef to be sold and eventually live in Egypt. While he was there, he rose to be second-in-command to Pharaoh where he told him the answer to his enigmatic dreams whereby there would be years of plenty and famine. "Coincidentally" the famine reached the land of Israel and Yaakov told his children to go get food from Egypt otherwise they would die of starvation.

The brothers go down to Egypt and we have our story. The Torah does not waste words on telling us things we don't need to know or are irrelevant. The purpose of the story of Yosef and his brothers is these two verses. The brothers realized their mistake in mistreating Yosef and showed their true remorse for their actions.

This is when Yosef reveals himself and wishes to see his ailing father. After Yaakov dies, the brothers are still worried about their mistreatment of Yosef and the repercussions that may occur now that Yaakov is no longer alive. Yosef assures them that they have nothing to fear because everything is under control by G-d and the purpose of everything was so that he could save them from the famine.

This is what occurs in our everyday lives even if we don't understand it. This means that people have many trials and tribulations throughout their lives. We see them as something bad and difficult to deal with but in the end they help us become the people we are; we just have to know how to look at it.

Even if the end result is bad, the purpose of it could be to save the Jewish people from something much worse. As the Jewish people prayed for the recovery of the three boys that were taken captive and subsequently killed, they did not die for nothing.

The Israelis searched high and low for these boys and in the end attacked many positions of Hamas in the Gaza strip. This lead to the discovery of a complex network of tunnels where there could have even been a worse catastrophe as the plans of the Hamas were foiled.

While the death of the three boys was indeed tragic, the end result was that they saved hundreds perhaps thousands of lives with the discovery of these tunnels! This is but one example that even though the boys died, we know that everything comes from above. Here they were the sacrifice which in the end saved thousands of lives!

Yosef is telling us a lesson for all generations. G-d is the designer of the world. He orchestrates everything down to the last minutia running the world. We think that the world runs on auto-pilot through nature; isn't G-d really behind nature?

We need new glasses in which to view the world. G-d has many messengers at His disposal which can cause good or bad things to happen. In reality everything G-d does is good; we just have to step back and view the world that way even if things don't seem like that.

This is what Yosef is showing us in speaking with his brothers. G-d runs the world; even if you think you are doing bad things to me G-d sees it otherwise and continues to put his plan into action whereby in the end it will be good.

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