"ויחי יעקב"
“And Yaakov lived.” (47:28)

QUESTION: Why does the parshah which discusses the death of Yaakov start with the words "ויחי יעקב" — “And Yaakov lived”?

ANSWER: The word “vayechi” (ויחי) — “And he lived” — has the numerical value of 34. Yaakov was in this world a total of 147 years. Of these, “he lived” and enjoyed most 34 years: the 17 years from the birth of Yosef till the time he was sold to Egypt, and another 17 years when he was in Egypt reunited with his cherished son Yosef.


"ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים שבע עשרה שנה"
“Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years.” (47:28)

QUESTION: We already know that Yaakov was 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt. We also know that he died there at the age of 147. Why is it necessary to state that he lived in Egypt for 17 years?

ANSWER: When the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe) was a young boy, his teacher taught him this pasuk and explained it to mean that the best years in Yaakov’s life were the 17 years he lived in Egypt. (The word “tov” (טוב)means good and has the numerical value of 17.)

When he came home he asked his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi), “How can we say that Yaakov’s best years were the years he lived in the sinful land of Egypt?” The Alter Rebbe explained: Before Yaakov arrived in Egypt, he sent Yehudah to build a Yeshivah so that the children of Yaakov would have a place to devote themselves to Torah study.

When a Jew learns Torah, he comes closer to Hashem. Therefore, since the family of Yaakov learned Torah, even in the sinful land of Egypt,“Vayechi Yaakov” — Jacob’s life was vibrantly ‘alive,’ full and rewarding.

(היום יום ח"י טבת)

"ויקרא לבנו ליוסף ויאמר לו... שים נא ידך תחת ירכי"
“And he called to his son Yosef and said to him: ‘Please place your hand under my thigh.’” (47:29)

QUESTION: Why did Yaakov want Yosef to place his hand under his thigh?

ANSWER: During Yaakov’s sojourn in Egypt, Yosef generously supported him and the entire family. As he lay on his death bed, he began to worry about the future relationship between Yosef and his brothers.

Yaakov thought that though Yosef was a great tzaddik, his mortal feelings might prevail. Possibly, after his demise, Yosef might not treat his brothers so nicely because of what had occurred to him.

Out of concern for his children’s welfare, Yaakov said to Yosef, please put “yadecha” — “your hand” (your generous support) — “tachat yereichi” — “under my thigh — my family who will survive me and live together with you in Egypt.” [When the Torah enumerates the family of Yaakov that descended to Egypt, they are referred to as “yotzei yereicho” — “the people who emanated from his thigh” (46:26)].

* * *

Upon returning from Yaakov’s funeral, the brothers feared that Yosef would have resentful memories of his past suffering, which would lead to hostile thoughts. Therefore, they sent a messenger to Yosef saying, “Your father commanded before he died, ‘Please forgive the evil your brothers did to you’ ” (50:15-17). Many ask, “When did Yaakov make this request?” (See Rashi.)

According to the above, the brothers might have derived it from the request Yaakov made of Yosef regarding the welfare of his brothers.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי בשם לוח ארז)

"ויאמר אנכי אעשה כדברך"
“I will do as you have said.” (47:30)

QUESTION: Since he said “e’eseh chidvarecha”“I will do as you say” — “anochi“I” — is superfluous?

ANSWER: Yaakov summoned his son Yosef and asked him to promise that his bodily remains would not be left in Egypt. This request made a deep impression on Yosef and he immediately told his father “anochi — “I too” — “e’eseh chidvarecha”will do for myself the same as you wish me to do for you.”

Indeed, at the end of our parshah we read that Yosef took an oath of the children of Israel saying, “G‑d will surely redeem you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (50:25).

(זכרון ישראל)

"הנה אביך חלה"
“Behold, your father is sick.” (48:1)

QUESTION: 1) The word “hineih” — “behold” — seems extra. The text should simply read "אביך חלה" — “your father is sick.” 2) Why is the word "חלה" written without a “ו”?

ANSWER: According to the Gemara (Bava Metzia 87a), up to this time no one was ever sick before dying. When the time would come to leave this world, a person would sneeze and die without any prior illness. Yaakov prayed to Hashem that this order be changed because it is proper that a person first become ill so that he will know he is about to die and he will be able to give his children and family a message before leaving the world.

Therefore, the messenger told Yosef “Hinei” — “Behold, it is a surprising thing” — "אביך חלה" — “your father is sick.”

The word "חלה" — “sick” — is written without a "ו" because it is the acronym for חוץ לדרך הטבע (beyond the laws of nature). The messenger told Yosef, “What is happening to your father is not in accordance to the usual laws of nature.”

(זכרון ישראל)

* * *

When someone sneezes, it is customary to say to him, Tzu Gezunt,” indicating that the sneeze should be for healthy purposes and not, G‑d forbid, the reverse.

Why do some people have a custom to pull their ear when they sneeze?

Death came to the world because Adam failed to listen to Hashem and sinned. Prior to Yaakov’s sickness, when the time would come for a person to leave the world, he would sneeze and his soul would depart.

Therefore, when a person sneezes, he pulls his ear as a reminder that he must “listen” to Hashem so that he will not be punished, G‑d forbid, with the opposite of life.

(אוצר כל מנהגי ישרון סי' ל"ט)

"ויתחזק ישראל וישב על המטה"
“And Yisrael strengthened himself and sat up in bed.” (48:2)

QUESTION: How did Yaakov get this extra strength?

ANSWER: When a ben gilo (one born under the same planetary influence) visits a sick person, he takes away a 60th of the illness (Nedarim 39b).

When Yaakov became ill, the pasuk says "ויאמר ליוסף הנה אביך חלה" — “Yosef was told, ‘Behold your father is sick.’ ” The word ",הנה" which seems extra, has the numerical value of 60, which indicates that Yaakov was seriously ill and had all the 60 parts of illness. Yosef resembled Yaakov in many ways (Rashi, 37:2). Therefore, when he came to visit, Yaakov suddenly felt stronger because Yosef took away one 60th of the illness.

The Torah alludes to this by saying that Yaakov strengthened himself and was able to sit up in bed. The word “hamittah” (המטה) — “the bed” — has the numerical value of 59.


"וירא ישראל את בני יוסף ויאמר מי אלה: ויאמר יוסף אל אביו בני הם אשר נתן לי אלקים בזה"
“And Yisrael saw Yosef’s sons, and said: ‘Who are these?’ And Yosef said to his father: ‘They are my sons, whom G‑d has given me here.’” (48:8-9)

QUESTION: How is it possible that Yaakov did not recognize his own grandchildren?

ANSWER: The Torah states that Yaakov saw “b’nei Yosef” — “the sons of Yosef.” It would appear more precise to state: “And Yaakov saw Ephraim and Menasheh.” Rashi explains that Yaakov was concerned about their descendants Yeravam Ben Nevat, and Yeihu Ben Nimshi. The word “b’nei” (בני) is an acronym of these names (ירבעם בן נבט, יהוא בן נמשי).

Yosef placated his father by telling him: “Why only look at the wicked ones? Why not focus on Ephraim’s righteous descendant, the successor to Moshe Rabbeinu, who will bring the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael. His name is Yehoshua Bin Nun (יהושע בן נון), for whom “b’nei” is also an acronym.”

"ויאמר ישראל אל יוסף ראה פניך לא פללתי והנה הראה אתי אלקים גם את זרעך"
“And Yisrael said to Yosef: ‘I had not thought to see your face; and, lo, G‑d has let me see also your seed.’” (48:11)

QUESTION: The word “oti” seems superfluous; grammatically, instead of saying “her’ah oti Elokim,” Yaakov could have said “herani Elokim.” What was he alluding to?

ANSWER: Yaakov told Yosef: “Upon learning that you were in Egypt and had achieved great fame, many thoughts went through my mind about your loyalty to Judaism and spiritual situation. I began to doubt if your appearance would be the same as when we last saw each other, and I feared that your children had probably assimilated, resembling the young Egyptian boys with whom they associate.

Not only do I see your face the way I would wish it to be, but looking at your children, I see in them a replica of myself. Thus, ‘her’ah oti Elokim’ — G‑d caused me to appear — ‘et zarecha’through your children — due to their similarity to my appearance. They, too, look like young chassidishe bachurim, filled with Yiddish taste and spirit.”

(עיטורי תורה בשם חרש אבן)

"וידגו לרב בקרב הארץ"
“Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (48:16)

QUESTION: Yaakov blessed them to multiply as the fish of the ocean (Rashi). What was his motive in comparing them to fish?

Once the Roman government issued a decree forbidding Torah study. Papus ben Yehudah saw Rabbi Akiva conducting Torah classes and asked him, “Do you not fear punishment by law?” Rabbi Akiva answered with a parable: A fox was strolling along the riverbank and noticed fish swimming swiftly from place to place. He asked, “Why are you running?” They replied, “We are afraid of the net that people set up to catch us.” The fox slyly said, “Perhaps it would be wise to ascend to the shore and live together with me as my parents lived with your parents.” The fish responded, “You speak foolishly; if we are afraid in our native habitat, our fear will be even greater on land, where death will be certain.” Similarly, Torah is our source of life and may save us. Without it we will definitely perish (Berachot 61b).

Yaakov was instructing his children to always remember that just as a fish cannot live without water, so a Jew cannot exist without Torah; and he blessed them to “swim like a fish” in the “Yam Hatalmud” — the ocean of Torah study.

(בהיות הבקר - ר' שאול בראך ז"ל אב"ד קאשוי)

* * *

The life of a fish depends in a large measure on its vitality and ability to swim upstream. If it permits itself to be swept along by the current it will be in danger. It is only because the Creator has endowed the fish with the precious instinct of self-preservation, whereby it is able to swim upstream against the forces of the billowing waves, that it can survive and thrive.

Yaakov blessed his children to be capable and willing to swim upstream and resist the temptation of running with the herd and swimming with the tide.

(הרב דוב ארי' ז"ל בערזאן)

"ויברך את יוסף ויאמר...המלאך הגואל אתי מכל רע יברך את הנערים"
“He blessed Yosef saying... ‘The angel who redeemed me from all evil should bless the lads [Menasheh and Ephraim].’” (48:15-16)

QUESTION: The pasuk begins with Yaakov’s berachah to Yosef and ends saying that he blessed Menasheh and Ephraim. What was the berachah for Yosef?

ANSWER: Yaakov’s berachah to Yosef was that his children, Ephraim and Menasheh should be tzaddikim. When children conduct themselves in a proper way, the parents’nachas is the greatest berachah they can wish for.


"ויתמך יד אביו להסיר אתה מעל ראש אפרים....וימאן אביו ויאמר ידעתי"
“He held up his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head his father refused and said I know.” (48:17, 19)

QUESTION: When Yosef brought Ephraim and Menasheh to Yaakov to receive his blessings, he positioned them so that Yaakov’s right hand should rest on Menasheh and his left hand on Ephraim. Yaakov, however, guided his hands so that the left would rest on Menasheh and the right on Ephraim. Yosef made an attempt to change his father’s hands around, which he resisted.

The Midrash Rabbah (97:4) says that when Yosef held his father’s right hand to remove it from the head of Ephraim, Yaakov said to him, “I want you to know that I am very strong and I conquered an angel. Therefore, do not attempt to move my hands.” Why did Yaakov insist that his right hand be on Ephraim, and why did he have to prove his strength from the fact that he conquered an angel?

ANSWER: In Egypt, Ephraim was occupied primarily with the study of Torah. Yosef was notified of Yaakov’s illness by Ephraim, who frequently visited the home of Yaakov to study (Rashi 48:1).

Though Menasheh indeed studied Torah, he also assisted Yosef and headed his household (Targum Yonatan ben Uziel 43:16). He also acted as the interpreter between Yosef and his brothers (Rashi 43:23). Thus, Menasheh can be credited for performing the mitzvah of kibud av (honoring one’s father) in an exemplary way.

Yosef therefore thought that Menasheh should receive the “right-handed” berachah due to his exemplary fulfillment of kibud av.

Yaakov sensed this and told Yosef “The question in your mind is similar to an issue which took place many years ago and which was long resolved. While I was the prototype of one who dwelled in the tent of Torah, my brother Eisav excelled in the mitzvah of kibud av. As you well know, my father Yitzchak gave the berachot to me. The angel who fought with me was the angel of Eisav. He endeavored to defeat me for taking away the berachot, but I was victorious, and he eventually conceded that the berachot belonged to me. This proves that Torah surpasses all. Your son Ephraim is totally immersed in Torah study. Therefore, he deserves the “right-handed” berachah.

(ילקוט הדרוש)

"...אשר לקחתי מיד האמרי בחרבי ובקשתי"
“...which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.” (48:22)

QUESTION: The Targum Onkelos writes "בצלותי ובבעותי" — “with my prayer and supplication.” How does this fit the words “becharbi u’vekashti” — “with my sword and my bow”?

ANSWER: In the Torah, the letters are not written with vowels. Thus, the words can be read as "בָּחַר בִּי וּבַּקָשָתִי". Yaakov was telling Yosef, he was giving him the city of Shechem, which Hashem gave him because, “He chose me” and “my prayerful supplication.”

(שמעתי מזקני הרב צבי הכהן ז"ל קפלן)

"האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים"
“Assemble yourselves, and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days.” (49:1)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that Yaakov wanted to reveal to them the keitz (קץ), when the Galut — exile — would end, but the Shechinah — Divine Presence — left him. In lieu of saying the Shechinah withdrew, he should not Rashi have said that the knowledge of the ‘keitz’ — the end of the exile — was withdrawn from him?

ANSWER: Hashem is known by many names, and each name represents a form of revelation. Sins have an effect on specific names of Hashem, and thus particular forms of revelation to the Jewish people.

When Moshe was told to go to the Jewish people and tell them that Hashem was preparing to take them out of Egypt, Moshe asked, “Should they ask me what is your name, what should I tell them?” Hashem replied, “You should tell them that 'אהי'ה' — ‘I will be’ — sent me to you” (Shemot 3:14). One of His names is ,"א-ה-י-ה" which has the numerical value of 21.

When the brothers sinned by selling Yosef, their actions affected Hashem’s revelation to us through this name. Nine brothers participated in selling Yosef, and the Shechinah joined with them in the vow not to reveal this to Yaakov (Rashi 37:33). Because a total of ten had a part in the sale which affected the name אהי'ה (which has the numerical value of 21), the Jews remained in Egypt 210 years.

Yaakov was only aware that nine of his children took part in the sale of Yosef, but he did not know of the Shechinah’s part in the act. Therefore, Rashi says ".בקש לגלות את הקץ" His purpose of gathering his children together was to tell them that at the conclusion of 189 years (9 x 21 = 189), on the קץ — 190th year — the Egyptian exile would come to an end. However, Yaakov miscalculated, because "נסתלקה ממנו שכינה" — he did not know that the Shechinah had a part in the sale, and therefore they would have to be in Egypt a total of 210 years.

(ר' שמשון מאסטראפאלי זצ"ל)

"האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים"
“Assemble yourselves, and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days.” (49:1)

QUESTION: Yaakov gathered together his children and wanted to reveal the time of the coming of Mashiach. Suddenly, the Shechinah left him. He began to worry, “Maybe there is some fault in my children.” They immediately responded, Shema Yisrael, you believe in only one G‑d and so do we.” Happily Yaakov exclaimed "ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד" — “Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever” (Pesachim 56a). What did Yaakov mean with his response, “Baruch Sheim...”?

ANSWER: When a Jew finds himself in a troublesome situation, he often cries out, Shema Yisrael.” Yaakov was not surprised to hear his sons pronounce, “Shema Yisrael,” when they stood around his death bed.

However, Yaakov used the opportunity to convey an important legacy: “Do not only express your absolute faith in Hashem in times of anxiety and distress, but at all times and forever and ever, I pray you will remember to bless His glorious kingdom.”

(שמעתי מהרב יעקב מאיר ז"ל כהן)

"האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים"
“Assemble yourselves, and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days.” (49:1)

QUESTION: Yaakov wanted to reveal to his children the time of Mashiach’s coming. However, the Shechinah departed from him, and he began to speak about another matter (Rashi). If it was proper to reveal the coming of the Mashiach, why did the Shechinah leave him? If it was prohibited, why did Yaakov want to do this?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Shabbat 30b) states that the Shechinah reveals itself to a person only when one is in a joyous and happy spirit, and not when one is sad and grieving.

If Yaakov was ready to reveal the time of the coming of Mashiach, obviously it was permissible. However, as he was about to reveal it, he saw chevlei Mashiach — the extreme pains and suffering that the Jewish people will endure in the future, prior to the revelation of Mashiach. This caused Yaakov much grief and thus the Shechinah withdrew from him.

(ר' נפתלי מרופשיץ זצ"ל)

* * *

QUESTION: The Gemara Sanhedrin (97a) says that Mashiach will come “behesach hada’at” — when Jewish people are distracted from thinking about redemption. Had Yaakov revealed the time of Mashiach’s revelation, would not the Jewish people eagerly await him and not cease thinking about him?

ANSWER: Obviously, “hesach hada’at” does not mean, not being mindful of Mashiach. If it did, how could we justify Jews saying daily "אחכה לו בכל יום שיבוא" — “Every day I anticipate his coming,” which is based on Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith?

Therefore, we must conclude that ‘hesach hada’at’ means a state of mind when our limited comprehension and understanding will not be able to find a rationale or worthiness of the generation for Mashiach to reveal himself. Nevertheless, the merit of our strong emunah and faith in the revelation of Mashiach will cause his speedy coming.

(כ"ק אדמו"ר)

"האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים. הקבצו ושמעו בני יעקב"
“Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days. Assemble and hear, sons of Yaakov.” (49:1-2)

QUESTION: The word "יקרא" with an "א" means “calling.” The text should read "יקרה" with a "ה", which means “happen?”

ANSWER: Yaakov called his children and told them he would tell them ",אשר יקרא" what should be the “call” to the Jewish people in the end of days, so they can merit the coming of Mashiach. The rallying cry should be "הקבצו" — “gather together in unity” — and "ושמעו" — “listen and learn the teachings of Torah.” Through this we will merit the revelation of Mashiach.

(עיטורי תורה)

"נפתלי אילה שלחה הנתן אמרי שפר"
Naftali is a deer let loose, He who delivers goodly words.” (49:21)

QUESTION: What are Naftali’s “goodly words”?

ANSWER: The prophet Malachi says in the name of Hashem: “Behold I am sending you Eliyahu the prophet to announce the coming of The Great Day — the revelation of Mashiach.” In his prophecy, the name Eliyahu is spelled without a vav,” because our ancestor Yaakov took the vav from Eliyahu as a pledge that he will herald the coming of Mashiach (Vayikra 26:42, Rashi).

In our pasuk, the word "אילה" can be rearranged to spell the word "אליה" ("אליהו" without the “vav”). The word “Naftali” (נפתלי) can be rearranged to spell the word tefillin (תפלין). Thus Yaakov, wanting to reveal to his children the time of Mashiach’s coming, told them that, through the fulfillment of the mitzvah of tefillin, we will merit Eliyahu’s coming, and he will convey the “goodly words” we all anticipate — the coming of Mashiach.

* * *

Incidentally, this pasuk may also serve as a source for a Bar-Mitzvah boy giving a drashah on the day of his Bar Mitzvah. Namely, the word “shafer” (שפר) — “goodly words” — has the numerical value of 580, which is the same as the word “tefillin” (תפילין). This indicates that when one becomes responsible to fulfill the Torah obligation of tefillin, he should deliver “goodly words.”

(ויאמר אברהם)

"בן פרת יוסף"
“Yosef is a fruitful son.” (49:22)

QUESTION: Why did Yaakov use the term "פרת" for Yosef?

ANSWER: The word “porat” can be read as “parot” — “cows” — and can be rearranged to spell “poteir” — “interpreter.” Consequently, Yaakov described Yosef with the term “porat” alluding to Pharaoh’s dream about cows and Yosef’s interpretation, which earned him fame and glory.

(זכרון ישראל)

"ויברך אותם איש אשר כברכתו ברך אתם"
“And he blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.” (49:28)

QUESTION: Superficially, do not the words of Yaakov to Reuven, Shimon and Levi seem like rebukes rather than blessings?

ANSWER: Man is mortal and thus subject to failure. He must work to overcome personal imperfection. Often, a person does not realize or refuses to acknowledge his shortcomings and, therefore, there is no striving for change. The greatest blessing is awareness of personal weaknesses.

Yaakov made his children aware of their flaws and encouraged correction, so his admonishment was indeed a great blessing.


"ויאמר פרעה עלה וקבר את אביך כאשר השביעך"
“And Pharaoh said, ‘Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.’” (50:6)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that Pharaoh told Yosef, “Were it not for the promise, I would not have permitted you to go.” However, Pharaoh did not tell Yosef to violate his promise because he was afraid that Yosef might tell him that he would also break the promise he made to him (not to reveal that he knew the language of Lashon Hakodesh — Hebrew — and Pharaoh did not).

Pharaoh knew Yosef was a G‑d fearing man: Why then did he fear that if he forced Yosef to break one promise, Yosef would also break another?

ANSWER: There was a law in Egypt that a king had to know all languages. When Pharaoh met Yosef, he became frightened, because Yosef, in addition to knowing all the languages, also knew Lashon Hakodesh, which Pharaoh did not know. Pharaoh made Yosef promise that he would not reveal to anyone that he knew Lashon Hakodesh and in return, he would appoint him to the position of viceroy, though he was once a slave.

Pharaoh was hesitant to tell Yosef to break his promise, because he feared that Yosef might say to him, “If I have to break a promise, I would rather break my promise to you, and thus, I will become king. As king I will no longer need your permission to be able to fulfill my promise to my father.”

(ילקוט האורים)

"וישב יוסף מצרימה הוא ואחיו וכל העולים אתו לקבר את אביו אחרי קברו את אביו"
“Yosef returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father, after he buried his father.” (50:14)

QUESTION: The words “acharei kavro et aviv” — “after he buried his father” — are superfluous? Obviously, if they all went to Eretz Yisrael for the burial, they returned after the burial.

ANSWER: The Jerusalem Talmud (Ta’anit 4:2) says that the Patriarchs are interred in accordance with the way they were accustomed to recline [at a meal].

To explain, in the olden days it was customary to recline on couches while eating a meal. The Gemara (Berachot 46b) says that “when there are only two couches to be occupied the prominent person reclines on his couch first, and the second to him in prominence reclines on the couch below him. (So that when they converse with each other, the prominent one does not have to get up from his reclining position (Rashi). When there are three couches to be occupied, the most prominent one reclines first. The second to him in prominence reclines on the couch above him, and the third to him in prominence reclines on the couch below him.” Hence, in the Cave of Machpelah, Avraham is buried in the middle of the row. Yitzchak is above him and Yaakov below him.

Now, when Yitzchak expired, Yaakov was there to bury him (35:29). Yaakov knew that he too would ultimately be buried there. However, since presently only Avraham was buried there, he laid his father Yitzchak below (with his head to feet of) Avraham. This was actually the place where he (Yaakov) would ultimately be buried.

Twenty seven years later, when Yaakov expired, and there were three who would be occupying the spaces, it was necessary to follow the rule of etiquette when three couches are occupied. Consequently, it was first necessary to disinter Yitzchak from his position below Avraham and dig a new grave for him above Avraham and bury him in it. Then Yaakov was laid to rest in the empty grave below Avraham.

Thus, the pasuk says that Yosef and the entire entourage returned from the burial of his father (Yaakov) [which took place] achar kavro et aviv — after [first] burying his father [i.e. Yaakov’s father — Yitzchak].

(צפנת פענח – ר' יוסף ז"ל ראזין, ראגאטשאוו)

* * *

This also explains Yosef’s telling Pharaoh that his father adjured him, saying, “Behold, I am about to die; [bury me] in my grave asher karati li” — “which I have dug for myself” [in the land of Canaan].

When Yitzchak died, Yaakov actually dug his future grave [below Avraham’s] and temporarily interred his father, Yitzchak, there.

"אביך צוה לפני מותו לאמר כה תאמרו ליוסף אנא שא נא פשע אחיך וחטאתם"
“Your father commanded before he died saying: ‘Thus shall you say to Yosef: O please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin.’” (50:16-17)

QUESTION: When did Yaakov tell them to ask for forgiveness?

ANSWER: The sale of Yosef into slavery was a terrible thing. Fortunately, the brothers’ evil act ultimately benefited him. Through a remarkable sequence of events, Yosef emerged as viceroy of Egypt.

Indeed, the brothers felt regret. Nevertheless, since Yosef benefited from their iniquity, they thought an apology unnecessary.

After careful analysis of their fathers ways, they realized that even in such an instance, an apology is due and proper.

When Yaakov became ill, he called Yosef and apologized for burying his mother on the road to Bethlehem and not in the Cave of Machpeilah (see 48:7, Rashi).

In reality, however, the Jewish people benefited from this, for when they were exiled by Nevuzaradan, they passed Rachel’s grave. She pleaded before Hashem to help them, and received a promise: “And children shall return to their boundaries” (Jeremiah 51:16).

Yaakov’s behavior served as a message to his children and future generations to ask forgiveness, even if the initial suffering later results in goodness and blessing.

(הרב מאיר ז"ל שאפירא מלובלין)

"אל תיראו כי התחת אלקים אני"
“Do not be afraid, am I like G‑d?!” (50:19)

QUESTION: Yosef should have said, “Do not be afraid, I will do you no harm!” Why did he say that he was not like G‑d?

ANSWER: The brothers originally wronged Yosef, but Hashem converted it to good. Yosef said to his brothers, “If I should want to repay you, I would also have to do a bad thing which would later turn into good. The only one who can do this is Hashem. I am not like G‑d and, therefore, you have no reason to fear me.”

(ילקוט האורים)

"וישב יוסף במצרים"
“And Yosef dwelt in Egypt.” (50:22)

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Pesachim 119a) Rabbi Chama says that Yosef hid three treasures in Egypt. One was revealed to Korach, the second to Antoninas, and the third is hidden for tzaddikim till Mashiach comes.

Why haven’t archeologist searched for the third treasure?

ANSWER: Is it possible that the words of Rabbi Chama are an allegory. He may not be referring to monetary treasures, but rather three invaluable lessons to be learnt from the life of Yosef:

1) No one can interfere with a person’s destiny.

Yosef dreamt of leadership and Hashem wanted him to be a ruler in Egypt. Despite his brothers’ efforts to destroy him by throwing him into the pit and selling him as a slave and his subsequent arrest in Egypt, he ultimately became the ruler of the land.

Korach declared war against Moshe and Aharon, hoping that Elitzafan the nasi of their tribe would be demoted, so that he could take over. Moshe, Aharon and Elitzafan were all destined to leadership and Korach’s actions only brought about his own downfall.

2) It is a myth that the only way to succeed in the secular world is by compromising on Torah and Yiddishkeit.

Yosef proved this approach to be erroneous. He rose to the highest position in the government of Egypt, yet remained a tzaddik from beginning to end.

The closest confidant of Antoninas king of Rome was Rebbe (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi). Regardless of his proximity to the king, he remained a tzaddik and attained the title of Rabbeinu Hakadosh — Our Holy Teacher.

3) Though, unfortunately, brothers quarrel at times, their animosity and hatred is not everlasting. Eventually, they make up and love each other.

This was evident with Yosef and his brothers. While in the beginning “vayisne’u oto” (37:4) — “they hated him” — at the end he forgave them and they lived in harmony. This will also be experienced in the Messianic Era.

Throughout history there has been much strife and fragmentation in the Jewish community. Prior to Mashiach’s coming, however, all Jews will do teshuvah (see Rambam, Teshuvah 5:7) and be tzaddikim. The Rambam in the concluding halachah of the Mishneh Torah writes that “in that time” (when Mashiach will come) there will be no more jealousy and rivalry, and the entire world will be involved in comprehending G‑dliness.

(ילקוט הדרוש)

"גם בני מכיר בן מנשה ילדו על ברכי יוסף"
“Also the children of Mochir, the son of Menasheh, were born upon Yosef’s knees.” (50:23)

QUESTION: Yosef was the sandek at the brit of his great grandchildren (Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel). Why did Yosef not follow the custom not to have the same person to be a sandek at the brit of two brothers (Yoreh Dei’ah 265:11, Rama)?

ANSWER: The reason for this custom is that being a sandek is equivalent to offering the incense (ketoret) in the Beit Hamikdash. The incense each day was offered by a Kohen who had not previously done it (Yoma 26a). Exempted from this rule was the Kohen Gadol, who was at liberty to offer the incense on whatever day he wished (Rambam, Klei Hamikdosh 5:12).

Based on this analogy, while it is customary to limit the honor of sandek to one person per family, it would not apply to a very prominent person (“adam chashuv”) such as the spiritual leader of a community.

Since Yosef was a viceroy, and ruled over Egypt (32:6), it was perfectly acceptable for him to be the sandek at the brit of his great-grandchildren born to Machir the son of Menasheh.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"כ, ועי' חת"ס או"ח סי' קנ"ח וספר אוצר הברית ע' ק"ל הערה ו')

"ויאמר יוסף אל אחיו אנכי מת ואלקים פקד יפקד אתכם"
“Yosef said to his brothers, ‘I will die; G‑d will remember you and take you up from this land.’” (50:24)

QUESTION: What is the reason for the doubled expression of the word “remember” — “pakod yifkod”?

ANSWER: Egypt had both a physical and spiritual effect on the Jewish people. They were enslaved physically and forced to do strenuous labor. In addition, they sank spiritually to the lowest level. Yosef told his brothers, “Ultimately Hashem will liberate you from Egypt;you will be freed physically and elevated spiritually.” Thus, with this doubled expression, Yosef alluded to both the physical and spiritual redemption.

When the true redeemer, Moshe, arrived he indeed made reference to the two-fold redemption by conveying Hashem’s message starting with the words “pakod pakadeti” (Shemot 3:15, Midrash Rabbah 3:8). Ultimately, Moshe freed the Jewish people from the physical bondage of Egypt and also gave them the Torah, which elevated them to the highest spiritual level.

(הדרש והעיון)

"וימת יוסף בן מאה ועשר שנים"
“Yosef died at the age of 110 years.” (50:26)

QUESTION: Yosef died 10 years earlier than he was supposed to because he heard the brothers referring to Yaakov as “avdecha” — “your servant” — and he did not protest (Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer 39). If one carefully checks how many times the brothers used the expression “avdecha” in their conversations with Yosef, one will find only five times?

ANSWER: When Yosef spoke to his brothers he pretended not to understand Lashon Hakodesh — Hebrew. The brothers did not speak Egyptian and, therefore, it was necessary for Menasheh to act as an interpreter. Thus, whenever the brothers referred to Yaakov in Lashon Hakodesh as “your servant,” he then heard Menasheh repeat it to him in Egyptian. Consequently, Yosef actually heard his father being referred to as “your servant” 10 times.

(ידי משה מדרש רבה ק:ג, ועי' בביאור הרד"ל על פרקי דר' אליעזר)

"וימת יוסף בן מאה ועשר שנים"
“And Yosef died at the age of 110 years.” (50:26)

QUESTION: A few pesukim earlier it is written, “vayechi Yosef mei’ah va’eser shanim” — “Yosef lived 110 years.” Why does the Torah repeat that Yosef died at the age of 110?

ANSWER: When Yosef was 30 years old, he was appointed viceroy over the land of Egypt. Pharaoh changed the name of “Yosef” to “Tzafnat Panei’ach.” However, nowhere do we find that Yosef used this name. Moreover, in the same pasuk it is written, “vayeitzei Yosef al eretz Mitzraim” — “And Yosef went out over the land of Egypt” (41:45).

Yosef knew very well that one of the things that would help him maintain his identity and keep him close to Yiddishkeit was his original Jewish name. Therefore, despite Pharaoh’s giving him an Egyptian name, he made every effort to be called “Yosef.” The Torah emphasizes that up to the very last day of his life, he lived and died with his Jewish name — “Yosef.”

* * *

To show that Torah has no end, it is customary to connect the last pasuk with the first pasuk. The first word of the first pasuk in this Chumash is “"בראשית which can be read as an abbreviation for "ברא שם ישראל תקרא" — “give your child a Jewish name.” All Jews should know and use their beautiful Jewish names.

(שער בת רבים)

"ויקרבו ימי דוד למות"
“And the days of David drew near that he should die.” (Haftorah, Vayechi)

QUESTION: What is the connection between the passing of David and Parshat Vayechi?

ANSWER: Originally, King David was destined to die at the time of his birth. The 70 years he lived were a gift from Yaakov and Yosef.

Yaakov lived 147 years, while his father Yitzchak lived 180 years, and Yosef lived only 110 years.

Thus, Yaakov lived 33 years less than his father, and Yosef lived 37 years less than his father. These 70 years were given as a gift to King David so that he might live and be King of Israel.

Therefore, it is most appropriate to read about the passing of David in the week we learn of the passing of Yaakov and Yosef.

* * *

According to another opinion, Adam gave 70 years to King David reducing his own life from 1000 years to 930 years.

Thus, Chumash Bereishit, which starts with the life of Adam, is concluded with the Haftorah of the passing of King David, because in reality this was the culmination of Adam’s lifespan.

(עי' זהר בראשית, קס"ח ע"א)