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Monday, December 28, 2009

To Life! -- Parshat Vay'chi

This posting will be a summary of the first part of the parsha. I encourage you all to read the parsha but if you are rushing this should help you to follow comments that I make.

Parshat Vay'chi begins in Genesis 47:28 and goes until the end of Genesis.

The end of last week's parsha saw the family of Yaakov being formally accepted into Egypt by Pharoah and the end of the famine. We also saw how Yosef makes a deal with the population which essentially makes them slaves and gives ownership of their land to Pharoah in exchange for food and seed. This establishes a permanent 20% tax to be paid to the crown for them and their progeny. We will revisit this little studied part of the story later when we look at the book of Exodus.

This week's parsha begins by relating some details of the last days of Yaakov. When Yaakov senses he is close to death he summons Yosef and makes the latter swear that he will not bury him in Egypt; rather he must bury him back in the land Canaan with his fathers. Yosef agrees and swears.

Some time after that Yosef is informed that his father is ill and he comes to Yaakov of his volition. Yosef brings his two sons with him in order that Yaakov bless them before he dies. Yaakov relates to Yosef his revelation of God in Luz when he was running away from Esav and how God promised then to make him a great nation and give him that land.

Yaakov then claims Yosef's two sons as his own! He goes on to say that these two sons, Efraim and M'nashe will be to him (Yaakov) like his oldest two sons R'uven and Shimon.

Oddly enough, Yaakov asks Yosef who the two boys are that he brought. Yosef replies that they are his sons. Yaakov proceeds to bless them but he switches his hands and places his right hand on Efraim, the younger of the two, and his left hand on Menashe. Yosef tries to 'correct' his father but his father tells him he is fully aware of what he is doing. He relates that ultimately Efraim will be the greater of the two.

Tomorrow we will examine this last bit in greater detail as no summary can really do it justice. If you take the time to read it inside the Torah, note carefully who is blessed and when. Bear in mind previous blessings from father to son that we read about earlier in the book of Genesis.

Happy learning!

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