Vayehi 5763

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Josh Nason

Parshat Vayechi deals with some very interesting issues regarding the ancient connection of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael. At the beginning of the Parsha, Jacob is living out his last years in Egypt. He has been settled peacefully for 17 years there, but he calls upon Joseph for one last wish. Jacob makes Joseph take a solemn swear that he will bury him in the land of Israel, and not in Egypt. This connection to the land inspires Joseph so much that he not only buries his father in Israel, but upon his own death, Joseph also makes the request that he be carried out of Egypt and in to Israel.

Parshat Vayechi deals with some very interesting issues regarding the ancient connection of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael. At the beginning of the Parsha, Jacob is living out his last years in Egypt. He has been settled peacefully for 17 years there, but he calls upon Joseph for one last wish. Jacob makes Joseph take a solemn swear that he will bury him in the land of Israel, and not in Egypt. This connection to the land inspires Joseph so much that he not only buries his father in Israel, but upon his own death, Joseph also makes the request that he be carried out of Egypt and in to Israel.

The major part of the Parsha recounts Jacob’s commands to each of his son’s. Most notable are his words on Simeon and Levi. Simeon and Levi are most known for their aggresive warlike tendencies. Jacob says, “my will must not enter into their council, my glory must not join in their assembly, for in their anger they murdered men.” (Bereshit 49:6) This sets up a precedent among the Jewish people for Sanctity of Human Life. In Judaism, it is of the utmost importance to do whatever it takes to preserve human life. It is one of the primary pillars of the IDF Doctrine: “Human Life – The IDF servicemen and women will act in a judicious and safe manner in all they do, out of recognition of the supreme value of human life. During combat they will endanger themselves and their comrades only to the extent required to carry out their mission.” While it may be difficult to keep this in mind at times, during the heat of the current violence, we must remember that in every IDF action, they are striving to preserve life. In Judaism, we cannot get caught up in an ends justify the means style of living. It is our duty to not allow people to hurt the sanctity of human life. Even in the time of Jacob, this was a pillar of our people’s belief system.

The Parsha ends with the death of Jacob, and subsequent burial in the Cave of Machpelah in Israel, and then skips ahead many years to the death of Joseph, who also requests burial in Israel (although not immediately, Joseph would rather have his coffin buried in Egypt, and then brought to Israel at a later time, possibly during the Exodus). This then ends the book of Bereshit (Genesis), and prepares us for the story of the Israelites slavery in Egypt during the upcoming book of Shemoth (Exodus).