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    A will & a way – Vayyechi

    Jacob’s life ended with 17 good years.

    Having settled in Egypt he derived pleasure from his son Joseph, whose high position in the Egyptian government gave him nachas.

    These 17 years paralleled another 17 years in which, so long before, he had derived nachas from Joseph as a child and young teenager.

    The father’s dream had come true. After the years of agony came the ecstasy of seeing all his children together, united in shalom bayit.

    But there was still a worry at the back of Jacob’s mind. What would happen after his death? Would the idyll be shattered? Would the family survive? Would they compromise the values and standards he had tried so hard to teach them?

    He tried three things as his final endeavour on behalf of the family and the future.

    1. He pleaded with Joseph, “Bury me not in Egypt”.
    2. He called upon all his children, “Gather yourselves together and listen, O Children of Jacob”.
    3. He urged, “Listen to Israel your father”.

    The three statements all conveyed important messages: the first, “Know that Israel is your homeland”; the second, “Do not let family unity disintegrate”; and the third, “Remain true to the teaching of your forebears”.

    What a contrast to the contents of so many last wills and testaments today. Money, material assets, tangible things – that is what most people are concerned with.

    Apart from the tragedies that come when the disposition of material things leads to friction in the family, where are the deeper spiritual, cultural, human dimensions?

    It is very nice to be grateful for a handsome yerushah, but isn’t it more important in the long run to remember your parents for their words, their ideas, their visions, their standards?

    When there is a crucial moment requiring a decision, is it not good to see father or mother in your mind’s eye and know which option they would prefer you to take?

    The message for parents while they are alive is to remember Jacob and ensure that they leave their children not only things that are tangible, but also the type of message that will ensure that their life’s experience will not have been in vain.

    (This D’var Torah is partly based on an idea of Rav Shmuel Becker in “Shabbat b’Shabbato”, 28 December, 1990).

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