Fear and Forgiveness

Fear and Forgiveness

Dec 17, 2021 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Vayehi

ef; it can also reopen old wounds among relatives. This is what happens at the end of Parashat Vayehi, which is also the end of the book of Genesis, after the patriarch Jacob dies. Following Jacob’s death, his sons fear that things are not fully resolved in their family, and they become worried that their brother Joseph is still angry at them for the ways they mistreated him.

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In Every Place

In Every Place

Jan 1, 2021 By Rafi Cohen | Commentary | Vayehi

Just about anyone who has moved homes will agree that sometimes one place will take on outsize influence in our lives. Indeed, even environments in which we’ve only briefly resided can have a resounding impact on our upbringing and outlook.

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Difficult Blessings and the Love Within

Difficult Blessings and the Love Within

Jan 10, 2020 By Jacob Blumenthal | Commentary | Vayehi

At the age of 90, my mother’s mind was still “sharp as a tack” (she loved those kinds of somewhat anachronistic expressions), even as her body was failing. With the growing realization that the solution to each physical ailment aggravated her other challenges, Bernice, z”l, agreed it was time to engage hospice care. “I want two things,” she said. “I don’t want to be in pain. And I want to see everyone I love before I die.”

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Questions of Life and Legacy

Questions of Life and Legacy

Dec 21, 2018 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Vayehi

This final parashah of Genesis bears a cryptic title: Vayehi, “He (that is, Jacob) lived.” Well, of course he lived, and soon he will die, but how has he lived? What legacy does he bequeath? These are the questions that concern Vayehi. What is the Torah’s final judgment of Jacob, a man who has wrestled, mourned and rejoiced, deceived and been deceived; a man who has been wounded and yet prevails, who has been humbled by his sons and yet manages to retain enough vigor and authority to command them until his dying breath? How has he lived?

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Can We Grow?

Can We Grow?

Dec 29, 2017 By Deborah Miller | Commentary | Vayehi

Family relationships are often complicated, but the family of Jacob is a particularly jumbled mess. In this week’s parashah, the story has hints and echoes of a decades-long, tangled skein of family dynamics. We see these in two particularly problematic scenes in this parashah. Both scenes illustrate William Faulkner’s truism that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And in this story, we see how the past leaks into the future.

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Pictures at a Benediction: Envisioning Jacob’s Blessing of his Sons

Pictures at a Benediction: Envisioning Jacob’s Blessing of his Sons

Jan 13, 2017 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayehi

The Tanakh is notoriously parsimonious when it comes to providing visual details. They are supplied only when they are germane to the biblical narrative. Was Isaac good-looking? We are not told. But we are told that Joseph was, because it explains why Potiphar’s wife cast her eyes upon him. Was Moses bald? We will never know. But it is made clear that the prophet Elisha was; because of this, he was taunted by jeers: “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” This is the beginning of the brief but horrifying story in which Elisha curses the children who mock him, who are then mauled by bears emerging from the forest).

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Blessings From Love

Blessings From Love

Dec 25, 2015 By Joel Alter | Commentary | Vayehi

Given all that’s come before in Genesis, the Torah’s notice that Israel’s days are nearing their end brings dread. This stems not from fear of death, but a dread of blessing. The passing of a patriarch means that a scene of generational blessing is imminent.

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Mourning for Joseph

Mourning for Joseph

Dec 25, 2015 By Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Commentary | Vayehi

Joseph and Zulaykha was written by Jāmī, a Persian poet and adherent of the mystical tradition of Islam (Sufism). It is based on the biblical story of Joseph and the wife of the Egyptian courtier, Potiphar (she is known as Zulaykha in Muslim tradition).

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Final Blessings

Final Blessings

Dec 30, 2014 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Vayehi

One model of family caring for the dying is embodied powerfully in this week’s parashah. Jacob, aware that he is dying, speaks plain words to his sons: “I am about to die” (Gen. 48:21) . . . “I am about to be gathered to my kin” (49:29). By giving voice to the reality that his life is ending, Jacob opens up sacred opportunities with his family. He creates moments to put his blessings into words and communicates his wishes for what will happen to his body: that he be buried with his family in the family cave so that he can be gathered to his kin in all ways. The naming of this truth enables closure and peace.

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The Angel at the Window

The Angel at the Window

Dec 23, 2014 By Lisa Gelber | Commentary | Vayehi

“What’s an angel? It’s a star that comes down from the sky at night to peek in your window . . . to make sure you’re sleeping and give you a little kiss on the head.”

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Honor, Prophecy, and “Mother Earth”

Honor, Prophecy, and “Mother Earth”

Dec 12, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayehi

One of the unsolved mysteries of Tanakh relates directly to Parashat Vayehi.

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The Older Shall Serve the Younger

The Older Shall Serve the Younger

Dec 11, 2013 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Vayehi

By Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky

The Viennese psychologist Alfred Adler theorized that birth order within a family was a decisive factor in shaping one’s personality. Firstborn children tend to be natural leaders, he theorized, because parents tend to shower them with attention, and younger children tend to look up to their big siblings for guidance. However, firstborn kids tend to struggle with a sense of “dethronement” when a younger one comes along, feeling that this new little interloper has knocked them off their pedestals of parental love.

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From Pain to Peace

From Pain to Peace

Dec 20, 2012 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayehi

The response of Joseph’s brothers in the aftermath of Jacob’s death is dramatic: “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong we did him!’” (Gen. 50:15).

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It’s Not What You Say . . .

It’s Not What You Say . . .

Dec 19, 2012 By Deborah Miller | Commentary | Vayehi

We have learned that two trees do not make a pattern—it takes three. So we have to look at a series of events in order to learn about Jacob. What can we discern?

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A Deathbed Blessing

A Deathbed Blessing

Jan 7, 2012 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayehi

This midrash about Jacob’s deathbed scene presents ancient rabbinic wisdom about mortality based on insights from key passages in the Hebrew Bible. By presenting biblical metaphors alongside our patriarchs’ experiences of dying, the text above teaches us to accept our limited lifetimes by acknowledging an uncomfortable reality.

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Was Abe Lincoln Honest?

Was Abe Lincoln Honest?

Jan 7, 2012 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Vayehi

A well-known reading of our Torah portion for this Shabbat finds a source from the story of Joseph’s interactions with his brothers for the idea that the small fib—the white lie—is religiously justified in certain circumstances.

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Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a Legacy

Dec 18, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayehi

What kind of legacy will we leave when we die? Much of our fear of dying is similar to Jacob’s, as described in this week’s Torah portion and further imagined in the midrash above. We worry that our ideals and our values will not survive among the next generation.

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Questions of Life and Legacy

Questions of Life and Legacy

Dec 17, 2010 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Vayehi

This final parashah of Genesis bears a cryptic title: Va-yehi, “He (that is, Jacob) lived.” Well, of course he lived, and soon he will die, but how has he lived? What legacy does he bequeath? These are the questions that concern Va-yehi. What is the Torah’s final judgment of Jacob, a man who has wrestled, mourned and rejoiced, deceived and been deceived; a man who has been wounded and yet prevails, who has been humbled by his sons and yet manages to retain enough vigor and authority to command them until his dying breath? How has he lived?

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Living a Poetic Existence

Living a Poetic Existence

Jan 2, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayehi

For many—if not most—of us, death arouses great anxiety. Much of our emotionality regarding the end of life comes from the way that death changes how we perceive ourselves. This midrash about Jacob’s deathbed scene presents ancient rabbinic wisdom about mortality based on insights from key passages in the Hebrew Bible.

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Realizing Our Blessings

Realizing Our Blessings

Jan 9, 2009 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Vayehi

I want to tell you about a person close to me, whom I think some of you may recognize, not in name but in disposition. Let’s call him Uncle Lenny. 

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