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    Starting a new life – Vayyechi

    Joseph & Jacob reunite, by Charles Foster

    Jacob was 130 when he migrated to Egypt (Gen. 47:9). He spent 17 years there, which means that he died at 147 (Gen. 47:28).

    It’s elementary mathematics to work out that 130+17 = 147, but the Torah seems to find it important enough to record the calculation.

    It’s partly because Jacob’s arrival marked the beginning of a new era for the tribe: their history reached a high with the patriarch’s coming even though soon afterwards it plunged into the depths of depression and despair.

    Probably more likely is the effect of the Egyptian phase on Jacob himself. He told Pharaoh that he had had a sad life (Gen. 47:9) and this was no exaggeration.

    One crisis after another, one catastrophe after another – hardly ever do we find Jacob enjoying a happy phase in which (to borrow a phrase from the laws of the sukkah) there is more light than shade.

    But now the family is together again, with the now aged patriarch at the head of the table and the generations around him.

    The text could have said Vayyeshev Yaakov, “And Jacob dwelt in the land of Egypt”, but it chose to say vayy’chi, “And Jacob lived”… at long last he truly lived!

    Dare we hope that this is an omen for his descendants in our own generation, for whom the nights of darkness are over and the days of joy and fulfilment have dawned?

    With one exception – where Jacob’s family after his death found themselves in the darkness again, may our own generation experience the words of the Siddur, Or chadash al Tziyyon ta’ir – “May a new light shine in Zion” – and may the light never darken but grow greater year by year and usher in the messianic redemption of all mankind.

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