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Friday, Tevet 13, 5780 / January 10, 2020


This Shabbat, we read Parshat Vayechi, which is the last Parsha of the first Book of the Torah, Breishis.


Vayechimeans "lived." The Parsha is called "Vayechi" for the Parsha begins with the words, "Vayechi Yaakov,” - "And Yaakov (Jacob) lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; and the days of Jacob, the years of his life were, seven years and a hundred and forty years." The entire Parsha is about Yaakov's blessing his children and grandchildren before his death; his subsequent death and burial. Jacob commands his son, Joseph to bury him in Hebron in the family burial plot.


In addition to wanting to be buried with his parents, grandparents and his wife Leah, Yaakov had other reasons for not wanting to be buried in Egypt. Our sages explain that Yaakov was afraid that the Egyptians would worship him, because of the many miracles that happened as a result of his coming to Egypt. One of the miracles was that instead of seven years, the famine lasted only two years and ended with Jacob's coming to settle in Egypt. Another reason why Yaakov requested to be buried in Israel is explained in the Midrash, "For those buried in Israel will be resurrected first when Moshiach will come and will not have to suffer like those who are not buried in Israel."


The Talmud records a discussion between two Talmudic sages who were walking near the road and noticed coffins being brought to Israel. One sage objected to this practice, "These people didn't want to live in Israel yet they come here after their death!" But the other sage pointed out, "Even to be buried in Israel is great, for it is written, 'and its earth will atone for the sins of its people!'"  Based on this, many Jews have requested that they be buried in the Holy Land.  Even for those who are buried outside of Israel, there is a custom to place Israeli earth in the grave.


There is a great lesson to be learned from the name of this week's Parsha. The Parsha is called "Vayechi Yaakov" - "Yaakov lived." Yet, the entire Parsha deals with the preparation to and the passing of Jacob! The Talmudic sages note that with Jacob the Torah doesn't use the Hebrew word, died because they state, "Yaakov did not die." How is it possible that Yaakov didn't die when the Torah tells us that he was buried? 


The Talmud explains that, although his physical body was buried, he didn't die, "For as long as his children are alive he too is alive."  True life, according to our sages, is measured by the generations and the values of a person. Since all of Yaakov’s children continued in their father's footsteps, he too, is considered alive.  Thus, this Parsha which deals with Yaakov’s passing, is called "Vayechi."


A wealthy man once showed his will to his Rabbi.  In the will, he bequeathed everything to his wife and children. "Why didn't you leave anything in the will for yourself?" asked the Rabbi. 


"What do you mean?" replied the man puzzled.


"I mean, why didn't you make any provisions in your will for charity. This will not only help the needy in this world but your Neshamah (soul) will also benefit in the World-to-Come!"



Montreal candle lighting time: 4:12 / Shabbat ends: 5:21