Saturday, December 25, 2004

I-12 Vayechi Ephraim and Manasseh

I-12 Vayechi Ephraim and Manasseh 25 December 2004

I-12 Vayechi " And he lived" 24 Dec 04

Torah: Genesis 47:28- 50:26
Haftorah: 1 Kg 2:1-12


1. Gn 47:28-48:9
2. Gn 48:10-16
3. Gn48:17-22
4. Gn 49:1-18
5. Gn 49:19-26
6. Gn 49:27-50:20
7. Gn: 21-16


Parasha Vayechi ends the First Book of Moses with the Blessing of Jacob on his children. Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob for his final blessing. Jacob switches hands, blessing the younger, Ephraim with his right hand and Manasseh with his left. The Blessing of Jacob provides the spiritual inheritance of Israel.

In Focus:

" When Joseph saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim's head, he thought it wrong; so he took hold of his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's. "Not so, Fatehr," Joseph said to his father, "for the other is first-born; place your right hand on his head." Genesis 48:17-18

Joseph expects Manasseh would receive the blessing of inheritance over Ephraim. Jacob blesses them not by birth, but respective of their qualities. Names often give insight to character. Manasseh's name means "forgetting," referring to Joseph's struggle to live in an alien country as a slave. Joseph wishes to forget the bitterness of his brothers's betrayal. Ephraim means "fruitful" reflecting the development of Joseph's life as he ascended out of prison to take his place as a Vizier of Egypt. Ephraim represents the productiveness of his life arising from hardship. The sons also represent two aspects of Joseph's personality: desire for total assimilation within society, and his ability to overcome intense hardships, using his spiritual insight to assist others in need. He became a Vizier, not because of magical powers, but his ability to apply a pragmatic solution derived from a dream that spared lives. One looks back over the past; the other into the unknown future.

Jacob places his right hand onto Ephraim's head and rebukes Joseph gently, " I know, my son, I know. He, too, shall become a people, and he,too, shall be great." (Gn 48:19)

If you are burdened or pre-occupied with the past; you cannot move to the future. The longing holds you captive. To advance, one has to leave the baggage behind. Only a little luggage can be carried on the back through life.

The blessing also reflects Jacob's own youth with his conflicts with Esau. Although Esau was the eldest, Jacob cheated him of his birthright and his paternal blessing, incurring long-term rancour, splitting the family into two parts inimical of each other. In his old age, Jacob sees the repercussions and understands the burden of an ill-fitting inheritance. As educators, parents and well-wishers, we often impose burdens on those we love, without recognizing their limitations or aspirations. We see the external characteristics of a person without perceiving inner desires, not realizing we are trying to make the gazelle into an elephant or vice versa. Jacob identifies the brothers individually, each having his own skills and potentials. Giving the cookie-cutter blessing, only adds a curse to their lives since neither fits the mold.

Moreover, the paternal blessing for leadership skips to Judah, "You, Oh Judah, your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the nape of your foes; your father's sons shall bow low to you. Judah is like a lion's whelp..." (Genesis 49:6-12)

Why? Judah has changed. In Vayeishev, Judah participate with the older brothers, putting Joseph into the pit and stripping him of his clothes. Judah suggests his slavery, "What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do away with him ourselves." (Gn 37:27) He doesn't want to sully his hands directly in the sale of his brother or his murder, but complies with the deceit played on his father. In Vayigash, Judah pledges his life for the safe return of Benjamin. He matured to leadership, a person willing to risk his own life for the safety of others. He is the son of Leah, Jacob's first marriage, rather than Rachel, the beloved, balancing the two parts of the family. If life is dominated only by emotions, represented by Rachel, then there is not the discipline to succeed. Jacob understands from the hardship of his own life, that dedication and self-discipline are often the requisite qualities to survival. A leader must be able to act from his knowledge and do what is right, regardless of his emotional involvement or his fear. It is not a criticism of Joseph or of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, but deep understanding of social leadership. The executive director, is not usually the dreamer, but the hard-nosed pragmatist, relying on the company dreamer to move his company into the future.

Often leadership is chosen, not by the internal qualities that a person possesses, but through appearance. The class president is the cute guy wearing Brooks Brothers clothes. Political candidates are voted on by their superficial appearances and the amount of money spent on the advertising campaign rather than their leadership abilities. Jacob, sees beyond this although his eyes are dimmed with age.

Vayechi is also called a "closed" parasha. The ending of Vayigash and beginning of Vayechi are on the same line, separated only by an extra space. Usually, the parasha portions are separated by nine spaces or letters when one parasha ends and another begins within a paragraph. Commentaries ask why, noting the singular occassion in the Torah.

One explanation is that although Jacob dies, his faith passes on through the younger generations. Human life transcends physical existence, involving our spiritual and psychological influence on others. As we pass on genetic characteristics, so we transfer spiritual characteristics. An Olympic skater identifies with a previous skater, inspired by his or her performance. We speak of role models. The Blessing of Jacob is not a legal writ, enuciating the distribution of family properties; but an ethical will. We need also a spiritual inheritance from our parents and elders. Through their examples, we find the courage to pursue our own lives. We need not only the financial and material support and protection of our parents and teachers, but their psychological and emotional support as well. Stories abound of people overcoming poverty and obstacles to achieve recognition because of the faith and encouragement of a parent or teacher. Similarly, stories fill newspapers of "lost souls" coming from financially sound families, but lacking of emotional security. Balance is needed between the physical and spiritual. The spiritual inheritance will endure long after the physical inheritance is gone. Consider the pride of anyone who has received the confirmation from a geneologist that his family is descended from nobility. Five hundred years of geneology is crowed from the rooftops—but think of the sweetness of recognition by bringing healing goodness into the world.

Although nearly blind with age, Jacob saw the internal characteristics of his grandchildren.

Union of Reform Judaism Vayechi 5764 : Ephraim and Menasseh

"Khazak, Khazak, V'Nitkhazek!"

to say upon the closing of a book of Torah: from strength to strength, let us be strengthened (let us strengthen one another)


I-8 Vayishlach Meeting of Jacob and Esau
Genesis 33:1-11

1-5 Toldot Isaac and Esau, sons of Abraham
Genesis 25:1-34, Genesis 27: 1-38


Yankel Tauber, Miketz- Menasseh and Ephraim,
based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M Schneerson

Yankel Tauber, Vayeishev- Joseph and His Brothers
after the teachings of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M Schneerson

Chancellor Ismar Schorsch, Va-Yehi 5764 10 Jan 04

Kolel VaYechi 5765

Kolel, VaYechi 5764

Kolel, VaYechi 5762

David Hoffman, Lifeline, Vayechi 5758
"He [Yosef] comforted them [his brothers] and spoke to their hearts." [50:21]

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights, Vayechi 5762 May You be like Ephraim and Menashe


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