Shabbat Shalom! – Parashat Vayechi

The Joseph story comes to its dramatic close this week in Parashat Vayechi. Brash young Jacob who stole his father’s blessing has become dying Jacob, blessing his own children. Foolish young Joseph has become an older, wiser, sadder man, finally reunited with his family.

Our darshanim this week:

Vayechi: Our life is given to us so that we can learn how to die by Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

What Makes Torah Leadership Possible? by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper

Vayiggash & Vayechi: Forgiving? by Maggidah Melissa Carpenter

Surviving Failure by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

A Time of Oaths by Anita Silvert

Shabbat Shalom! – Vayechi

The Joseph story comes to its dramatic close this week in Parashat Vayechi. Brash young Jacob who stole his father’s blessing has become dying Jacob, blessing his own children. Foolish young Joseph has become an older, wiser, sadder man, finally reunited with his family.

Change is the constant in human experience. This can distress us if we try to cling to the past, because no matter how hard we try, we cannot stop time. But we can find hope in the inevitability of change: very little, other than death itself, is as final as it seems.

Our darshanim this week:

No Matter Where We Think We Are, We Are Still in Egypt by Rabbi John Rosove

Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt by Rabbi Marc Katz

Bilhah and the man who mistook his wife for a bed by Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

Jewish Time by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Theology defines… by Rabbi Kari Hofmeister Tuling, PhD

Make Meaning of the Past by Rabbi Seth Goldstein (VIDEO)

End of a Cycle by Anita Silvert

 

 

 

A Last Lesson from Jacob & Joseph

"The time drew near for Jacob to die. (1984 illustration by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing)
“The Time Grew Near for Jacob to Die” – Jim Padgett

The end of the book of Genesis offers us two end of life accounts, those of Jacob and Joseph. In their deaths, they leave a legacy not only for their immediate descendants, but for all Jews.

Both are models for us in that they are clear about their wishes while they are still able to convey those wishes. Jacob calls Joseph to him, as the son with executive power, and specifies exactly what he wants long before he needs it: “Bury me with my ancestors, not in Egypt.” Joseph takes an oath to carry out that wish.

Later, when Jacob knows that he is actually near death, he calls all his sons together. First he blesses them. Then he informs them of his wish to be buried in the cave of Machpelah, this time with great specificity: “with my ancestors… in the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre, in the land of Canaan.” He then lists his ancestors and kin who are buried there, teaching them the mitzvah of burial in a family plot.

In his great specificity, and in choosing to speak with the brothers as a group, he is a role model for end of life instructions. Even though he had already spoken with Joseph, Jacob gave his disharmonious sons the gift of certainty about his wishes. That way, when the time came, Joseph could direct that Jacob’s body be embalmed in the Egyptian fashion for transport to Canaan. He and his brothers traveled together to the Cave of Machpelah without unnecessary arguments – they all knew exactly what their father had wanted.

Later Joseph followed his father’s example, gathering his family and blessing them with a reminder of the covenants God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He then made his own request: “Bring my bones up from this place.”  He prophesied that someday they would leave Egypt, and in fact, Moses remembered:

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.” – Exodus 13:19

In our own days of advanced medical technology, there are many more things about which we should be specific with family. It is important to have the proper documents prepared: advanced health care directives, valid wills, and instructions for executors. However, those documents are limited unless we also take the time to talk about these matters with our loved ones in such a way as to minimize conflict and confusion at a difficult time.

Our ancestors Jacob and Joseph teach us the value of these conversations, a value that has only grown over time. If you have not had such conversations, if you have so far not created those documents, do not delay!

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