The name of this week's parasha, Vayechi, means "he lived," referring to how Jacob lived the last years of his life in Egypt. We would think that a parasha entitled "He Lived" would be devoted to an account of the major events of Jacob's life. In fact, however, Vayechi is devoted to the exact opposite: the events leading up to and following Jacob's death—Jacob bestows his parting blessings on his children and grandchildren, breathes his last, and is buried by his sons in the Machpelah Cave. All this is then followed by the account of the death of his favorite son and designated successor, Joseph. Parashat Vayechi is thus reminiscent of Parashat Chayei Sarah, whose name means "the life of Sarah" even though it focuses on the events that occurred in the wake of her death.

We only attain true life when our ideals live on in those who come after us. Paradoxically, then, as long as we are physically alive, it is not at all clear if we are truly "alive"; the test of true life comes only after death. If our descendants remain true to the ideals we have imparted to them, it then becomes retroactively clear that we were also "alive" during our lifetimes. If not, then it follows that even while alive, we were essentially "dead."

The fact that the parasha tells us that Jacob lived seventeen years "in the land of Egypt" before he died—years that, as we are told, were the best years of his life, filled with true satisfaction at seeing his children and grandchildren loyal to his ideals—proves that he was truly "alive" during his lifetime. The fact that he succeeded in maintaining his own spirituality in the corrupt and idolatrous environment of Egypt, as well as in raising his children and grandchildren to do the same, testifies to the fact that he was indeed truly "alive" during his lifetime.

In fact, Jacob lived on so tangibly in the lives of his progeny that the Torah does not even employ the term "die" in recording his death; he is only referred to as having stopped breathing, and the Talmud therefore asserts that, in essence, "Jacob did not die!"

Furthermore, as the parasha recounts, Jacob's death signaled the beginning of the descent that would conclude with the physical enslavement of all his descendants. The fact that the Jewish people remained loyal to Jacob's heritage even under such antagonistic circumstances is further proof that his death was the truest indication that not only was he "alive" during his lifetime, but continued to remain so afterwards, as well.

Jacob was the consummate Torah scholar. Together with absorbing the knowledge embodied in the Torah, Jacob absorbed its quality of transcendence, its unchanging, Divine essence that renders it intrinsically, universally, and eternally relevant to all facets of life. This is what enabled him to weather all the vicissitudes of life, to raise all his children to be righteous despite their diverse personalities as well as to ensure that the years he spent in Egypt would be his best. The Torah, being the embodiment of G‑d's will and wisdom, is truth; the study of the Torah is thus the pursuit of truth; and therefore, by extension, devotion to the Torah means uncompromising devotion to truth. The Torah was Jacob's key to eternal life, for truth, by definition, is eternal.

We, too, can weather all the remaining tribulations of exile, raise our children to be loyal to their heritage, and enjoy all the blessings of spiritual and physical abundance-essentially tasting the sweetness of the messianic future—even while still in exile, through studying the Torah and fulfilling its commandments.