For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years, and Jacob's days, the years of his life, were a hundred and forty seven years." (Gen. 47:28)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: "And Jacob lived",
Why is this section [completely] closed?

[Siftei Chachamim: Even though a "closed" parasha usually has an empty space 9 letters long preceding it, here there is only a space of a single letter separating the opening word "Vayechi" from the word before it. Nonetheless. we have a tradition from Ezra the Scribe that Vayechi is the beginning of a new section and not one parasha together with Vayigash.] soon as our father Jacob passed away, the eyes and the heart of Israel were "closed"...

Because, as soon as our father Jacob passed away, the eyes and the heart of Israel were "closed" [i.e., it became "dark" for them] because of the misery of the slavery, for they [the Egyptians] commenced to subjugate them. Another explanation: That he [Jacob] attempted to reveal the End [of the exile] to his sons, but it "closed off" [concealed] from him.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: "seventeen years"
corresponding to the seventeen years that Jacob raised Joseph, Joseph provided for Jacob for seventeen years.

"And the days of Jacob were",
Whenever the Torah uses the expression "for the days of so and so were" the intent is that the person did not live as long as his father did. For example "the years of Enoch were" and "the years of Lemech were."

The name Israel was an additional name reflecting spiritual highs...

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ohr HaChayim: "And Jacob lived",
Here the Torah calls him again as Jacob. I have explained that Jacob's Nefesh had not changed. The name Israel was an additional name reflecting spiritual highs that Jacob achieved from time to time....Jacob strove to achieve a high degree of sanctity, one reflected in the name Israel. These highs are attainable only when one frees himself of human concerns as pain, anguish and anger.

The kind of sanctity Jacob strove for was based on the attainment of a degree of serenity in his earthly life, something that we nowadays only experience on Shabbat, a day embued with Menucha/rest. G‑d gave us an additional soul to experience that day in full and to disregard the depressing phenomena of the week. This is why G‑d calls Shabbat Oneg/delight. Whenever Jacob experienced that kind of spiritual serenity, his name was qualified for Israel. When he experienced worries, this serenity departed from him, kind of like the extra soul for every Jew does at the end of Shabbat. At such times the Torah refers to him as being merely "Jacob."

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Vayechi 216: It is considered that "Jacob lived"; all his life [until now] it was not said of him, 'Jacob lived', for his life was that of sorrow. Of him it is written, "I had no repose nor had I rest nor was I quiet yet trouble came" (Job 3:26). But after he went down to Egypt, it is said of him "And lived." He saw his son a king, he saw all his sons pure and righteous, living in pleasure and luxury, and he dwelt in their midst as good wine resting on its lees. Then it is said: "And Jacob lived."There is no separation between "And grew and multiplies exceedingly" and "And Jacob lived," and so it should be.

...what does living really mean?

BeRahamim LeHayyim:

How many of us are living, really? And what does living really mean? Perhaps it means mindfulness, the ability to make each moment count. That is the beauty of the Halachic life, one in which one tries hard to comport oneself with the Divine will, whether it regards the way to tie one's shoes, the way to behave in a bathroom, the use of our speech, the way to walk in public, etc. There are many questions, but there too are many answers.

Perhaps, maybe, the trick is to fulfill the wish of the Psalmist: "I have placed [in Hebrew, Shiviti] [the Name of] G‑d before me always,"which the Baal Shem Tov interprets the word Shiviti to mean that I have Hishtavut/balance or equipoise before my Life-giver at all times. That if one tries to put G‑d in the picture, at that moment one is really "alive". Who knows why Jacob could have been so depressed that he lost his prophetic powers for 22 years when Joseph was gone? Where was G‑d in the picture in his mind train? The Torah is silent. But we do know that after he found out about Joseph,"his spirit was revived."

For the next 17 years, G‑d was placed before him always. For us, though, "The day is short, the work is much, the workmen are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing" (Pirke Avot 2:15).

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.