The Weekly Parsha: A New Dimension

by Rabbi Heshy Grossman

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PARSHAS VaYECHI

"We have mentioned that the descent of Ya'akov to Mitzraim is our exile, today, at the hands of the fourth beast [in the vision of Daniel], which is Rome."

"It was the children of Ya'akov who brought about this descent, with the sale of their brother, Yosef. Ya'akov descended because of the famine, and thought to save himself in the home of his friend, for Pha'aroh loved Yosef, who was as a son to him. He planned to leave there when the famine in Canaan ended. But, he never left, and the exile was drawn out. He died there, and his bones went up. It was the elders of Pha'aroh, and his officers, who brought him up, and it was a period of great mourning for them."

"Similarly, we, with Rome and Edom. Our brothers brought about our falling into their hands, for they made a pact with the Romans. Aggripas, the last king, of the second Temple, ran to them for assistance. As a result of the famine, the people of Jerusalem were captured, and our exile has been very drawn out. Unlike the previous exiles, its end is unknown."

"And [in this exile], we are as corpses, our bones have dried, [hope] cut off. They will bring us up from the nations, an offering to G-d, and they will mourn greatly when they see our honor. We will see G-d's revenge, He will cause us to rise, so that we live before Him." (Ramban, 47, 28)

The deeds of the fathers are an omen for the children. Indeed, this is the theme of Sefer B'reishis. The death of Ya'akov in a strange land, and his subsequent interment in the land of Canaan, parallels the long exile of the Jewish people, who will someday be returned to the land of their fathers.

This comparison is quite strange. How can the death of Ya'akov allude to the future Geulah? His death is a sad occasion, certainly not a cause for rejoicing.

In our shiur we will explain this anomaly, describing as well an idea that is often misunderstood, the process leading to our redemption.

1

"Said [Rav Yitzchak] to him [Rav Nachman]: So said Rebbe Yochanan: Ya'akov Avinu never died....But, was it for naught that he was embalmed, eulogized, and buried?....I am interpreting a verse, as it says, 'And you, do not fear, my servant Ya'akov, and do not be afraid, Israel, for I will redeem you from your distant land, and your descendants from the land of their captivity....'. He [Ya'akov] is being compared to his descendants, just as his descendants are living, so too, he is alive." (Ta'anis 5b)

The Gemara is disturbed by a question. How can it be said that Ya'akov is alive, when the verse states clearly that he was embalmed, and subsequently buried? Rav Yitzchak provides evidence: he interprets a verse in a manner that supports his position. How does this resolve the problem? How can he be alive? Wasn't Ya'akov buried in the ground?

Let us begin by explaining the comparison of Ya'akov and his descendants - "Just as his descendants are living, so too, he is alive."

Ya'akov Avinu invests his entire self in the future of the Jewish people. He transposes his life into the existence of his children. It is in that sense that Ya'akov never dies. No aspect of his life goes to waste, it merely changes shape. Ya'akov lives on in the form of his children. The dispersion of Klal Yisrael through time and space is merely the diffusion of the life-force of Ya'akov Avinu, whose essence extends throughout eternity.

Let us now try to explain how even the physical death of Ya'akov, and the return of his bones to Eretz Yisrael, are an important stage in the history of the Jewish people.

2

In a Torah scroll, Parshas VaYechi is unique. While other Parshios are separated from the section that precedes it, there is no space between VaYigash and VaYechi. It is a 'Parsha Stumah', concealed, hidden between the lines.

"Why is this Parsha closed? Once Ya'akov left this world, the eyes and hearts of Israel were closed, a result of the suffering of servitude, for they had begun to be enslaved. Alternatively: he wanted to reveal to his sons the end of time, but it was concealed from him." (Rashi 47, 28)

Ya'akov wants to reveal to his children the secret of their redemption, but is unable to do so. Is it a date that he planned to disclose? If so, what happened? Did he suffer a sudden memory loss?

Let us analyze the Talmudic description of this incident.

"What is the reason that we say [Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuso L'Olam Va'ed]?.....Ya'akov wished to reveal to his children the end of days, yet the Shechina left him. He said: 'Perhaps, Heaven forbid, there is something wrong with my offspring?'.....His children said: 'Shma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad... Just as in your heart, there is only One, so too, in our hearts, there is only One.' At that moment, Ya'akov responded: 'Boruch Shem K'vod Malchuso L'Olam Va'ed'."

Unlike the present period, where good and evil fight for supremacy, the end of days is an era where the unity of G-d will be revealed to all mankind. When Ya'akov encounters difficulty in revealing this vision to his children, he suspects that they do not share his unified perception of truth.

Upon hearing their response of 'Shma Yisrael...', he recognizes that his worries were unfounded. Klal Yisrael will bear the truth that was his mission, reflecting the unity of G-d. The problem therefore, lies elsewhere.

He realizes this: Redemption is something that is inherently hidden, locked far away from a world where G-d's dominion is barely noticed.

It is not a calendar date that Ya'akov tries to transmit. Rather, it is the process of redemption that he hopes to illuminate. His discovery that this is impossible teaches us this: The Geulah cannot be understood before its time. Redemption is far-removed from events of the natural world, disassociated from the political upheavals and societal changes that mark history. There is no gradual process evolving towards redemption. While the world plays on, G-d's Hand remains unseen, hidden forever, but true to itself.

As we say in our daily prayers, "Teetain Emes L'Ya'akov", truth is the particular trait by which Ya'akov achieves his honored status. Truth stands on its own, with no need to reassure itself. It does not need to be reinforced, nor to witness the actualization of its claims. Truth is unconvinced by the facts on the ground.

Herein lies the fallacy of our generation's false messiahs, those who are lulled by their apparent success, dreaming of a slow evolution towards utopia. They forget the blessing of Ya'akov - "L'Yishu'asecha Kivisi Hashem" - "I hope for Your salvation". The Jew is enjoined to be ever-hopeful, anticipating always G-d's redemptive Hand.

The man who anticipates salvation has no need for physical evidence to validate his faith.

It is the children of Ya'akov, those who carry their father's truth, whose acceptance of G-d's reign paves the way for His ultimate revelation. As their heart was One, so too, the heart of all Jewry is One. Unbeknownst to a disbelieving world, it is this inner truth, and this alone, that marks the onset of our redemption.

3

The Torah grants space between one Parsha and the next. Man is reminded to reflect upon what he has learned, instilling its wisdom in his heart, and applying its message to his daily life.

A Parsha is not a mere reading selection, a few columns in a Torah scroll. Each Parsha is a subject unto itself, an area of life clarified by the Torah's directives.

The chapter of redemption is closed. While every Parsha plays itself out in the course of Jewish history, this undecipherable book gathers dust on the shelf, hidden from the perception of mortal man.

In the mind of man, Ya'akov Avinu died long ago, leaving nary a trace in a world that understands only what it sees. Our Sages reveal however, that there is more to a book than its dusty cover. "Ya'akov Avinu Lo Meis." How do we know? "Mikra Ani Doresh" - "I have interpreted the verse". His death is only the surface, the basic P'shat. The Drasha delves between the lines, unlocking the hidden Parsha, key to our redemption. Ya'akov Avinu lives on, his truth embodied by his children, bearers of eternity.

Ever since Ya'akov Avinu left this world, the heart and mind of Israel remains closed, worn weary by the long-suffering exile that has wrested all life from its tired bones. But, there is no aspect of Ya'akov's life that went to waste. Even his bones were carried back home, to the land of man's redemption.

Today, as well, the Jewish people have come back home.

In a coffin.

Dried-out bones in a body without a soul.

But, at this funeral we don't mourn.

While the nations of the world return our ravaged body to its final resting place, G-d plans his revenge. These dried-out bones will come back to life once again.

"The Hand of Hashem was upon me,and carried me out in the spirit of Hashem, and set me down in the midst of a valley, which was full of bones.....And He said to me: 'Ben Adam, can these bones live?' And I answered: 'Ad-nai, Hashem, You know'....."

"Then He said to me: 'Ben Adam, these bones are the entire house of Israel, behold, they say: our bones are dried, and our hope is lost, we are cut off. Therefore, prophesize and say to them: Thus says Ad-nai, Hashem: Behold, My people, I will open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel...."

"And I shall put My spirit in you, and you will live, and I will place you in your land, then you will know, that I, Hashem, have spoken and performed, says Hashem."

(Yechezkel 37,1-14)

Any questions or comments? Please address them to grossman @actcom.co.il

This shiur is now available on the internet at:
http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/dimension/index.htm


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