This Week’s Torah Portion | January 8 – January 14, 2017 – 8 Tevet – 16 Tevet, 5777


VaYechi (Jacob Lived) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion

Vayechi (ויחי | He lived)

Torah: Genesis 47:28-50:26

Haftarah: 1 Kings 2:1-12

Gospel: Luke 4:31-5:11

From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets. 

We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. All texts are those of English translations of the Scriptures.

The readings for this week January 8-14, 2017 are called VaYechi—“And [Jacob] Lived”:

TORAH: Genesis 47:28—50:26

HAFTARAH: I Kings 2:1-12

This week’s readings bring us to the end of the Book of Genesis. 

They encompass the last seventeen years of Jacob’s life in Egypt, his blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh, his final prophetic Word over his twelve sons, his death, the return of his body to Hebron for burial, and the life of Joseph in Egypt until his death there at the age of 110.

*Genesis 47:29. “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please…deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.”

We have noticed in how many ways Joseph presents a picture of the coming Saviour, Yeshua. Here Jacob requests of him to “deal kindly and truly with me” and “carry me out of Egypt to lie with my fathers”. As we have mentioned before, the words “kindly” and “truly” are chesed and emet—two words we have seen and shall see together often in the Torah. John 1:16-17 tells us, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the Torah was given through Moses, but lovingkindness and truth (Modern Hebrew translation: chesed v’emet) came through Yeshua the Messiah.” As Joseph would in kindness and truth be faithful to take his father out of Egypt and to the Promised Land where his fathers were buried, so Yeshua carries those who entrust themselves to his chesed and emet out of the bondage of death and into the presence of His Father and the resting place of those who have gone before!

*Genesis 47:31b (NASB). “Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.”

The Hebrew word for “bed” (mita) bears the same letters as the word for “staff” (mateh). The translators of the Greek Septuagint used in New Testament times (translated several hundred years earlier), chose the meaning “staff” here. This evidently is what is referred to in the New Covenant Scripture Hebrews 11:21, “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” What is clear is that Jacob had become strong in worship and in faith (notice his attributions to God in 48:3; 48:9,11, 15-16; 48:20-21), and it was this which enabled him to deliver in holy authority the prophetic utterances of chapter 49.

*Genesis 48:5. “And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” In fact, because of Reuben’s sin against his father (see I Chronicles 5:1-2), his birthright was transferred to Joseph, the first-born of Rachel, and thence to his two sons. Of these two sons, already here, even before Jacob delivers his blessing, Ephraim is named first. In the future his name would at times be used as a synonym for Israel, “For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my First Born” (Jeremiah 31:9).

*Genesis 48:7 (ESV). “As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way [from Bethel] to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 

In this brief mention of Rachel’s death, one senses the tenderness which Jacob still felt for her over forty years after her death (49:31 may show an affection which had also grown for Leah). As has been mentioned, this passage, along with 35:19 and I Samuel 10:2, also point towards the location of Rachel’s tomb as being in the area of Benjamin (just northwest of Jerusalem) rather than southward, adjacent to Bethlehem as is held by Rabbinic tradition.

*Genesis 48:20. “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’” 

This blessing is still spoken today by a father over his sons in many Jewish households on Friday evenings before the Erev-Shabbat meal.

*Genesis 48:21 (ESV). “Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.” 

“God will be with you!” Jacob had come to know and trust in Imannu-El.—the “With-Us God”. God had promised this to Jacob at Bethel (“Behold, I am with you and will guard you wherever you go…for I will not leave you…” 28:15), where Jacob promised that if He would be “with him” and guard him, and bring him back safely, he YHVH would be his God. There were many other times within his long life when he would be reminded of God’s presence with him (Genesis 31:3; 31:42; 32:24,28; 35:13). At Beersheba, where Jacob offered sacrifices before going down to Egypt, God again spoke to him, “I will go down with you to Egypt…” (Genesis 46:4).    

*Genesis 48:22. Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.”  

If the last part of these verses refers to an actual battle in which Jacob took part, it is not recorded in Scripture (Might Jacob have yielded up his weapons as a sign of peace, when purchasing the land in 33:19—a peace later violated by Simeon and Levi?). The Hebrew for this passage contains obscurities which continue to puzzle Biblical scholars into our own day. The main difficulties center around the words translated here “mountain slope”. The Hebrew words are shekhem ehad. Ehad means “one” and shekhem may refer to a “shoulder”, or a “shoulder or ridge of a mountain”—or to the town of Shechem (Modern-day Nablus) itself.

Evidently Joseph understood it to mean a portion of land in the vicinity of Shechem, since he would over 400 years later be buried “at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph (Joshua 24:32). Shekhem Echad also forms an idiom meaning “shoulder to shoulder” or “as one man”—and the future territories of inheritance for both Ephraim and Manasseh would come together at this point. This is obviously the meaning when these two words appear again in Zephaniah 3:9 (which some here see as prophesying the rebirth of the Hebrew language precedent to God’s restoring Israel to her land), “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord.

Genesis 49: 1-27

There are great mysteries concerning much of the poetic prophecy released by Israel over his sons in Chapter 49. We shan’t presume to comment on all of these. There are difficulties in the exact meaning of the Hebrew text as we have it today, and there are mysteries regarding exactly what would be the interpretation of some of the prophetic words which Jacob speaks forth. Genesis 49:1 states that they speak of what will befall Israel in the last days. We believe it therefore highly possible that they may have bearing on the identity of the descendants of Jacob and their land today and in days ahead (This in spite of the fact that presently most Jews have no idea from which tribe they are descended). Over 400 years later, they would be supplemented with further prophetic words by Moses (Deuteronomy 33). Perhaps, as with words shown to Daniel (Daniel 12:9), some of these are “words closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” As we read, let us pray that these words, sent forth by the Spirit will not return to God void (Isaiah 55:11), but will indeed accomplish what He pleases, and prosper that for which they were sent out!

*Genesis 49:5. “Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruel violence (Hebrew: hamas) their trade. Let my soul not enter into their secret council, their assembly my presence shun. For in their fury they slaughtered men, at their pleasure they tore down ramparts. Cursed be their fury so fierce, and their wrath so remorseless! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” 

The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20); in the case of these two brothers, it produced senseless slaughter of many innocent men. It would also result in loss or dispersion of much of their future inheritance; Simeon’s territory would be enclosed within that of Judah, and Levi would have no separate territory at all. 

*Genesis 49:10-11. “Judah is a lion’s whelp…The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.” 

There has historically been great mystery surrounding this passage, part of it related to what exactly is meant by the Hebrew word transliterated “Shiloh”. It appears clear, nevertheless, that it is speaking of One who is to come to whom the “scepter” truly belongs, and who will be worthy of “the obedience of the people.” There seem to be further hints in the New Testament: Matthew 21:2-7 refers to a donkey tied with its colt upon which Yeshua would enter Jerusalem; Revelation 7:14 speaks of those whose garments will have been “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb”; and Revelation 19:13 foretells One called “Faithful and True” clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and His name is also called “The Word of God.” 

 PLEASE PRAY: for revelation in Israel that the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David” has come—and is coming again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! (Revelation 5:5; 19:16).

*Genesis 49:29-31. “Then [Jacob] charged them and said to them: I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite…There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah…”   

Something in the way she is mentioned in this passage suggests that by the end of Leah’s life (and the many years following), she who had been hated (Genesis 29:31) had grown in Jacob’s affections, and indeed his love.

*Genesis 50:19-20. JOSEPH (To his brothers after the death of their father Jacob): “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

“For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
The readings for next week (January 15-21, 2017) are called Sh’mot—“Names” 

TORAH: Exodus 1:1—6:1

HAFTARAH: Isaiah 27:6—28:13; 29:22-23

In A Nutshell

In the portion, VaYechi [Jacob Lived], Jacob and his sons join Joseph in Egypt. When the time of Jacob’s death draws near he calls on Joseph and swears him to bury him in the land of Israel and not in Egypt. Joseph asks him to bless his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe before he dies. Jacob blesses them and says that they will be as his sons, Reuben and Simeon. Subsequently, Jacob blesses the rest of his sons and orders them to burry him in the Cave of Machpelah in the land of Israel.

Following Jacob’s death, Joseph receives special permission from Pharaoh to go and bury his father in the land of Israel. Jacob goes to Canaan with his brothers and all the elders of Egypt, arrives at the Cave of Machpelah, buries Jacob there, then returns to Egypt.

Along the way, his brothers fear that he will take vengeance against them for selling him to slavery, but Joseph soothes their fears. He promises them that he will always remain their brother and not their enemy.

Jacob’s blessing comes true and Menashe and Ephraim have many children. Toward the end of the portion Joseph is about to die. He summons his brothers and tells them that the Creator will bring them and his sons out of Egypt, and orders them to take his bones and bury them in the land of Israel.

 Commentary 

The Torah teaches us how to develop our souls. Initially, we have only the point in the heart. It appears when a person begins to ask about the reason and the meaning of life. Through this question, one begins to see that life is not meant only to live here in this world for seventy or so years. Rather, this life was given as an opportunity to develop the soul.

The soul develops from the evil inclination, opposite which is the “light that reforms.” In other words, if we correct the evil inclination using the light that reforms, we thus develop the soul. This is how the evil inclination becomes the good inclination.

This correction does not relate merely to having good human relations. Rather, through the light we also begin to experience the spiritual world, Godliness, as it is written, “You will see your world in your life.”[1]

The portion deals with the three primary forces: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which are Hesed, Gevura, and Tifferet. These forces exist in the soul of each of us, or in the general soul called Adam. Abraham and Isaac are two opposite lines—right and left, Hesed and Gevura—while the Jacob quality in us, the senior patriarch, includes Abraham and Isaac within it, and is the middle line, called Tifferet. Using the quality of Jacob, meaning the two forces that exist in it, directs us for the first time toward the proper manner of the correction of the soul.

The result of using the forces of the quality of Jacob is his sons. The sons are all the qualities that emerge from the quality of Jacob, the middle quality that uses all of Nature’s forces to develop the soul within us, the Godly part of us, the higher part within us. The structure of the Sephirot ends with the quality of Joseph—the foundation that collects within us all the preceding qualities: Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, and Hod.

The righteous Joseph is called Yesod (foundation) because he is a “righteous, the foundation of the world” (Proverbs, 10:25). The world is the structure that operates in relation to Malchut, in relation to the whole of Israel, toward all of our desires.

Our desires are Egypt, the ego within us. If we properly position this upper structure, which contains Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, and Yesod, we can act properly toward the Egypt in us, toward the Pharaoh, the evil inclination, our ego.

The portion describes the beginning of the reciprocal work with our Godly part, which includes the patriarchs up to Joseph, including him. The reciprocal work includes all the qualities of Israel, which descend to the ego and operate in it. In this way the Torah teaches us how to work with ourselves, how to find within us all the sublime qualities of the nine upper Sephirot, which end in Yesod—Joseph—bestowing upon Malchut, the tenth Sephira—Pharaoh.

Jacob is the upper part in the qualities of the Creator—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—which are the upper triangle: Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet. The qualities of Netzah, Hod, and Yesod, however, are the lower triangle. These are the qualities of the house of Jacob and Jacob’s sons, including Joseph. When these qualities operate properly within Egypt, Egypt is granted abundance and everyone is happy and developing.

Jacob’s passing marks the conclusion of the task of the upper part of the structure of the soul, which was carried out through Joseph in Egypt. Jacob is the middle line. When that quality goes down to Egypt, through Joseph, and tends to the Egyptians, Egypt is enriched and everyone, including Pharaoh, is content.

As this takes place, forces of bestowal enter Egypt and gradually develop in the egoistic will to receive, and the force of bestowal understands that it can gain from it, for example, by trading with others or by being considerate toward others. It is similar to today’s international commerce, which is driven by the sensation that we can benefit through each other. This is a development of the qualities of bestowal, which still work with the qualities of reception.

In this way, the quality of Jacob goes down to Malchut, Egypt, to the general will to receive. This quality is like a Trojan horse entering our ego. The will to receive provides the ego with everything for its own delight. The ego enjoys the quality of bestowal working in it for its own benefit, and the sensation that everything is working smoothly. But this continues until we reach today, when we are at a state where we feel that something has ended.

A similar thing happened in Egypt: Jacob passed away and the elders of Egypt, with Pharaoh’s blessing, lead him to the land of Canaan, to the Cave of Machpelah, where he is buried by his sons. The name, Cave of Machpelah, signifies Hachpalah (doubling), since there are two worlds in that cave—Bina and Malchut—joined together.

After a while, when the sons of Jacob return to Egypt, the narrative repeats itself with Joseph. But unlike Jacob, Joseph remains in Egypt and only after some time are his bones brought up from there. That is, the bone, the foundation that is instilled in Egypt—the qualities of bestowal that work with the egoistic will to receive—eventually bring us to a state of despair, to the seven years of famine. Out of all these problems a person discovers and feels that he must part from the ego. This is when the process of exiting from the ego begins.

Two forces emerge from the quality of Joseph, Ephraim and Menashe, who received Jacob’s blessing. They emerge from the upper triangle into the lower one, and operate in Egypt. Prior to his demise, Joseph tells the people around him that in time they will all come out of Egypt and that the reason why they entered it was to take from it all that could be corrected, except for the stony heart. Everything can be brought out of Egypt except for the Yesod of the last evil, which we cannot correct until the end of correction. This is why it is written that they will come out with great substance (Genesis, 15:14).

Joseph passes away so we can achieve the recognition of evil. When we develop egoistically, we grow detached from anything good that the combination between the qualities of bestowal and the qualities of reception might yield. We reach a state of despair, dryness, and finally a state of “And the children of Israel sighed because of the work” (Exodus, 2:23). This is when the exodus begins.

The portion contains a repeating element—the blessing before death. Joseph asks Jacob to bless his sons, then Joseph blesses his own sons. The conclusion of a degree means death. What is the meaning of the blessing of the sons and grandsons?

A degree that has ended becomes the next degree, and the next degree comes in its stead. The new degree is much thicker, with a greater desire and greater achievements. While the patriarchs were great, they were great in their purity. We, however, the last ones, are now doing the biggest work.

Each degree blesses its following degree, giving it all of its Reshimot (recollections), all of its powers, and supports it from within, from below. This is called “the burying of the bones” of the degree. Within the soul are Moach (marrow), Atzamot (bones), Gidim (tendons), Bassar (flesh), and Or (skin), which are five discernments. We bury the Atzamot of the degree, and this is how the next degree is built and continues.

The blessing is actually the light of Hassadim that the lower degree transmits to the upper one. In other words, it is Ohr Hozer (Reflected Light), Masach (screen), and Ohr Hozer. All the qualities of bestowal that one obtained in the previous degree move with the person to the next. In fact, there is nothing more to take from state to state, but only the force of bestowal that has been obtained, the force of love, of relinquishing.

But this does not help with the new Aviut (thickness, will to receive), since the children have a much bigger Aviut, so how does the blessing of the father, who is on a smaller level of Aviut, help with the new desire?

This depends on the sons. There is much more in the father than there is in the sons, but the father cannot actualize this Aviut. Therefore, he gives what he has to his sons, and if they know how to work with it they will use what they received in order to advance.

The sons do not have more than the Aviut they received from the fathers. However, precisely because of their greater Aviut—their bigger will to receive, ego—they can actualize a potential force of bestowal out of that blessing according to who they are.

How does one know that one is about to die, such as with Jacob and Joseph?

When a degree ends. In corporeality, the spiritual state affects the corporeal one. But in spirituality there is a process in a degree called TANTA (Taamim, Nekudot, Tagin, Otiot). The expansion of the light and its departure are gradual. First there is the Bitush (battering) of inner and outer in the Partzuf of the soul, inside the soul.

In that state one feels that one has stopped working due to one’s inability to continue correcting oneself. To proceed with the correction one must start anew, begin a new period, reenter the egoistic will to receive, but more deeply and with greater force.

We all consist of four Behinot (discernments) of Ohr Yashar (Direct Light), or from the name HaVaYaH (Yod–Hey–Vav–Hey). Everything in reality divides into five discernments: root, than the four Behinot HaVaYaH. This is why we have to keep starting anew; why there is life and death—a process of expansion and departure of light. Because we cannot make the correction all at once, in “one day,” but require many actions (days) to achieve the general correction.

Is it we who perform the correction or is it the light that makes the change in us?

The light makes the correction in us, but it happens according to our request and demand. This is called “work” on our part. We haven’t the strength, but we have the power to decide and recognize, and to want it to happen.

From The Zohar: Behold, Your Father Is Ill

It is written, “Joseph was told, ‘Behold, your father,’” belonging to the next world, ZA in Mochin of upper Bina, who is called “the next world,” wanting to do good to His sons so they will come out from their exile. And if, in Your truthfulness, you will not want, meaning you will not find them worthy of it, then the Name with four, “HaVaYaH is one” [“The Lord is one”] will correct you and Divinity will return to her place. This is so because if the sons are not worthy of redemption of their own, ZA will correct them for elevating them to the next world, which is Bina, and by that, the unification of One HaVaYaH will be established.

Zohar for All, VaYechi [Jacob Lived], item 37

All we need to do from the Cave of Machpelah—the connection between Bina and Malchut—is doubling. We must elevate everything that is inside the Malchut, sanctify it in Bina, i.e. the blessing, then combine them in such a way that Bina and Malchut are as one. This is the meaning of connecting heaven and earth. Through these acts we perform between Bina and Malchut we correct ourselves. Finally, when all those actions are done, all the evil in us will be corrected into good.

This portion contains many entrances and exists from Egypt to Israel. Joseph entered Egypt; the brothers departed it then returned; Joseph went to bury Jacob in Israel then returned to Egypt. Is this how the qualities of the upper one connect to the lower one?

Of course. Each and every moment we are performing minuscule corrections between the nine Sephirot, the qualities of the Creator, and the tenth Sephira, Malchut, the quality of the creature, man, the ego. Even the most ordinary person still undergoes corrections through the passing states. This is why there is time in our world. However, these corrections occur without that person’s awareness.

These days, through the despair and frustration over what is happening in the world, beginning from this generation onward, we will gradually realize that we truly must make changes. In this world, these changes manifest in how we relate to one another. We must implement love of others, correct ourselves, the relations between us, and serve as an example for the world, be a light for the nations.[2] If we treat others well we will thus activate the force of Bina, the force of Joseph, or even the force of Jacob and the patriarchs, toward Malchut, meaning toward the rest of the world.

But the will to receive itself does not change, so does it always remain our “engine”?

The will to receive itself does not change, only how we use it changes. It always remains our engine. Using the will to receive we can do as much good as we do harm; it depends how we use it.

But the will to receive is always motivated by the thought that a reward awaits at the end, while in the desire to bestow it is the opposite.

Bestowal is the reward. Previously, we thought we could achieve anything, that we could conquer space and make great achievements in every realm. Today we see that we have everything but it is all empty. From the point of inverting our use of the desire, we find a way to progress favorably. We simply switch the way we use our ego from the evil inclination to the good inclination using the light that reforms.

In other words, all we need is to change our values?

Correct, we only need to change our values. Then, when we all connect as one man with one heart, loving our neighbors as ourselves, in that connection we will discover the spiritual life.

It seems that there is such a process in the world today. There is calm then a blow, then some try to revert to how it was while others are groping in the dark wondering about the future. Is this the connection that is appearing today?

Yes, because we cannot contain all the changes at once. It happens so we can understand, grow accustomed to how it was, and then advance. Our current thinking and way of life, compared to what we were like a thousand years ago, are radically different. We cannot grasp how people lived then. It is not like traveling to a different part of the world; they were completely different people. This is why the process of development takes thousands of years. Although today we are developing much faster, it is still impossible to act at once.

It is the same in mechanics; if we want to transmit large of amounts of data, we need high frequencies, many pulses. This is why it is clear that the crisis will not end at once, but will stretch on, wear us out, and return. But in each return we will understand it more deeply.

Usually, the blows do not come as a single blow that is experienced over a long time. If it did we would get used to it. The will to receive gets used to everything, even to constant pressure. It begins to protect itself and stops feeling it. Only because there are intermissions can we contemplate and understand the reason, and the next time around relate to reality in a completely different way. Each time, our recognition of our own evil deepens, and when it comes we understand it better, connect it with the cause, as well as with the possible consequence, or the desirable one, and this gives us free choice.

[1]Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Berachot, 17a

[2]“ I the Lord have called you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and kept you, and set you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations” (Isaiah, 42:6).