As we complete the first book of the Torah we are left with a subconscious message hinted throughout the Parasha.
It all begins with the name of this week’s Parasha – Vayechi.
In essence the Parasha relates Yaakov’s last years and final blessing to his children. After passing away and a national mourning, Yaakov is taken up to Eretz Yisrael to be buried. Thereafter the children of Israel return to Egypt, where they continue to flourish. At the end of the Parasha we are told about Yosef gathering his brothers and asking them to ensure his remains will be taken up to Israel at the time of the exodus. They concur and we end the book of Bereishit with the passing of Yosef.
There are two Parshiot in the Torah that are called with reference to life. The first is Chayei Sarah – the life of Sarah, and the second is this week’s Parasha – Vayechi (and he lived).
It seems strange that that the two Parshiot which seem to talk about death are the ones that are named with life? Is there a connection?
Our Sages teach that we should bless G-d one hundred times a day. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 46:4, 284:4, 290:1).
Unfortunately sometimes due to habit, we miss out on the beauty found within so many of our blessings.
The aim is to constantly recognise Hashem in everything we do.
As part of our blessings in the silent Amida there is a special blessing where we praise G-d for being Mechayeh Hametim – resurrecting the dead.
Have you ever noticed how many times within that blessing the words relating to life and death are mentioned?
Although we say this blessing three times a day, many people have not noticed the seemingly repetitive theme of Techiyat Hametim within the blessing. In total this is mentioned five times! (Mechaye Metim Ata, Mechayeh Metim Berachamim, Melech Memit Umechaye, Neeaman Ata Lehachayot Metim, Baruch.. Mechayeh Hametim)
Why the repetition?
The Gemara Avoda Zara 5a mentions that there are four types of people that although they are alive, nevertheless are considered dead.
The first is a poor man.
The Torah relates that Hashem told Moshe that all the people that wanted him harmed had died (Metu Kol ha’Anashim). Our Rabbis explain that this refers to Datan and Aviram, who although were still alive, because they had lost their wealth, were considered dead.
The second is a blind person. This is learnt from a Pasuk which compares a blind man to dead “b’Machashakim Hoshivani k’Metei Olam”;
The third is a Metzora, one who has (spiritual) leprosy. After Miriam received Tsarat for speaking against her brother Moshe, Aharon defended her and asked “Al Na Tehi (Miryam) ka’Met”; Please don’t let Miriam be like a dead person.
The fourth category is a childless person. This is learnt from Rachel’s request from Yaakov to have children “Havah Li Vanim v’Im Ayin Metah Anochi – grant me children otherwise I am (like) dead”.
We all yearn for the Messianic era daily where eventually we will witness ultimate physical and spiritual bliss. All will be healed. The blind, the deaf and the dumb, the lame, whosoever has any blemish or disability, shall be healed from all their disabilities: “The eyes of the blind shall be clear-sighted, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened… the lame shall leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb shall sing…” (Isaiah 35:5-6). Death itself shall cease, as it is said, “Death shall be swallowed up forever and G-d shall wipe the tears from every face…” (Isaiah 25:8)
There will be a life of ease. Our physical needs will be taken care of by others, as it is said, “Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks and aliens shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers.” (Isaiah 61:5)
The time will come when G-d resurrects the dead.
But which ‘dead’ will be resurrected.
Our daily blessing of Mechayeh Hametim is teaching us that all these four categories of ‘dead’ people will be resurrected. Those that are childless will bear children, there will be no poverty, no lepers and all will be able to see. The fifth and final reference to resurrecting the dead refers to the real dead that have passed away being resurrected.
Thus what we think is the end is only a transition period. We are born, we live and pass on, but one day we have faith we will be resurrected.
For the righteous we have a stress on life particularly in the place that death is mentioned.
Sarah lived a fulfilled life, she passed away and the Torah relates, “Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and li’vkotah/to cry for her.” (23:2)
In the Torah, the word “li’vkotah” is written with a small letter “kaf”. In this way, the Torah tells us that Avraham did not cry or mourn excessively for his wife Sarah.
R’ Ovadiah Yosef Z’l explained that our patriarch Avraham was a prophet. When Sarah died, Avraham knew that she was in Gan Eden with other righteous people who had died. Since the sages teach, “One hour in Olam Haba is more worthwhile than all life in This World/Olam Ha’zeh,” Avraham had no reason to cry. Thus his mourning was not excessive.
Then why did he cry at all? Only because of “what people would say.” In reality, though, we all should recognize that the deceased is in a better place. This is why we comfort mourners with the words: “Hamakom ye’nachem etchem . . .”/”May Hashem (who we refer to as “Makom” because He is everywhere) comfort you . . .” The word “makom” literally means “The Place” – thus we are saying, “May your knowledge that the deceased is in a good place comfort you.”
Sarah was the first mother of our nation and taught us this important message.
Hence Chayei Sarah – the life of Sarah teaches us that although she passed away, she lives on.
Perhaps it was taught yet again with Yaakov as he lived a life full of trials and tribulations and represented the Jew in exile. He saw beyond the pain, perceived beyond the troubles, because his life source was Hashem. Yaakov’s inextricable bond to the Almighty was an enduring quality, which he infused in his descendants throughout the generations. Vayechi Yaakov B’eretz Mitzrayim is the catchphrase for Jewish transcendence in the diaspora, for the almost daily confrontation with adversity and pain. This emotion comprises our generative force that keeps us strong and committed despite the overwhelming challenges which confront us at every turn.
Remember everything will be ok in the end, if it’s not, it’s not the end!