Vayechi is the conclusion and seal of the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Torah. Genesis is also called "Sefer Hayashar", "Book of the Upright". This part of the Torah is primarily about our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were called "upright". Since the "activities of the forefathers are an indication for the children", the Book of Genesis, and especially its concluding sections, is an eternal guide for every member of the Jewish people. A blessing is a transfer of energy…

It is fitting, therefore, that the portion opens with the words "And Jacob lived" (Gen. 48:28) which can be also translated as "And Jacob is alive". Jacob, called "the choicest of our forefathers", is the conduit for spiritual strength that we can always draw upon. This is why the content of the parasha is focused on the blessings that Jacob gave to his descendants - a blessing is a transfer of energy.

This is what the Rabbis meant when they wrote in the Talmud, "Jacob did not die!" - "If his offspring are alive then he is alive". (Taanit 5b) Jacob is alive in us as long as we, his children are studying and keeping the Torah and thereby drawing his strength into us. We poignantly see this when Joseph brought his sons, Ephraim and Menashe, to be blessed by Jacob. (Gen. 48:8-9) Menashe and Ephraim were born and raised in Egypt and are thus the first of Jacob's descendants to grow up without his direct involvement. Only when Jacob moved to Egypt did Ephraim and Menashe have the opportunity to learn from him. Nevertheless, when it came time to bless these same grandsons, we may be puzzled by Jacob's question, "Who are these?" (Gen. 48:8) Jacob meant if these children were raised in Egypt, not in his own home, how can they be fit for a blessing? Joseph answered, "They are my children". (Ibid. 48:9) In other words, "What I learned from you growing up in your home, I have passed on to them". This was the answer that Jacob desired, and he blessed Joseph's sons.

The above applies to each of us as we continue the chain of Jewish life. Each of us wants to create the kind of home where positive influences are so vital, they are kept alive in each succeeding generation. It is impossible for the reality of the days of Mashiach to come about while there is unwarranted hatred…

In the middle of the parasha, Jacob prepares to bless his twelve sons. Just before he does, he says something incredibly dramatic: "Join together and I will tell you what will happen at the end of days". (Gen. 49:1) The Shelah writes that in order for Jacob to reveal the date of Mashiach to his children, he instructed them, "Join together", because it is impossible for the reality of the days of Mashiach to come about while there is unwarranted hatred. Jacob focused on this because it pointed to a specific negative trait that he saw in his children - that of slanderous speech, expressed in all of the arguments that they had between them.

Just as the first exile happened because of the arguments between Joseph and his brothers, so also the destruction of the Holy Temple as well as this final exile came about through unwarranted hatred among Jews. The only way to prepare ourselves for the redemption is to train ourselves to love fellow-Jews.

Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum1, the first Satmar Rebbe, quoted the Talmud in the name of Elijah the prophet that Mashiach can't come until every peruta (the smallest denomination of coin) is gone from the pocket. Simply read, it means when there will be no money left, or that we have given all our resources away for tzedaka. But he explained it: Mashiach can't come until all "pratiut" (literally "private concern", a play on words with "peruta") - every self-indulgent detail that a person worries about for himself rather than worrying about his fellow man, is dispensed with. When each of us will have concern for our neighbor like we have for ourselves, this will unite us, and we will merit the arrival of Mashiach.

When Jacob blessed Joseph's sons, he reversed his hands, putting his right on the younger son, Ephraim, and his left on the older, Menashe. When Joseph intervened, second-guessing his father's actions, Jacob countered by saying, "I know...He will also be a nation...but his younger brother will be greater". (Gen. 48:19) The Noam Elimelech writes that Jacob wished to teach us proper behavior even with a youngster. Jacob could have rearranged the boys but instead switched his hands so not to embarrass Menashe. Good to keep in mind!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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