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Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

For the last three portions, we have seen the story of Joseph unfold. Up until now, we have learned the main events of Joseph’s life. We learned about Joseph’s descent into Egypt through the seemingly unfortunate circumstances initiated by his brothers’ hatred toward him. But then we saw how God used this for His own purposes, placing Joseph in a strategic position to be the savior of not only his own family but also the world. We read about the reunion of Joseph and his family, and how he moved his father and all of his brothers down to Egypt so that he could take care of them. Now, in our final portion from the book of B’reisheet (Genesis), we learn about the final days of Jacob and his desire to bestow his blessings upon his children before his passing. The focal point of this portion is the individual blessings he gives to each of his sons, with the adoption and blessing of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, being an unexpected turn of events.

Parashat Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)

After several months of playing cat and mouse with his brothers, the moment of truth arrived for Joseph and his brothers. Joseph’s plan of ensnaring Benjamin worked to put his brothers in a vulnerable position where he was able to put them to the test. Joseph had laid the bait, set the trap, and it had sprung upon his brothers. Would they abandon their father’s favored son as they had done to him, or had these twenty-two years given them time to think over their actions and have a change of heart?

Parashat Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)

At the end of last week’s parashah, we were left with a cliff hanger. Pharaoh’s royal baker was executed and his chief cupbearer was restored to office just as Joseph had told them, based on their respective dreams. The very last verse, however, left off by telling us, “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (Genesis 40:23). Although the royal cupbearer was restored to his position, Joseph was forgotten and left in prison.

However, our parashah picks up two years later when God orchestrated that Pharaoh have two disturbing dreams. They would trouble Pharaoh enough for him to make a ruckus among his royal court searching for an interpreter for them. Finally, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and brought him before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams. The result was that Pharaoh installed Joseph as the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to himself:

Parashat Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

Our parashah begins by telling us, “Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings” (Genesis 37:1). This statement contrasts the actions of Jacob with that of his father, Isaac. Whereas Isaac was only able to sojourn through the land of Canaan, Jacob was able to take up residence there. It seems to imply that Jacob did not have the hardships of his father, Isaac. However, the very next verse begins, eileh toldot Ya’akov Yosef, “These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph” (verse 2). What does this mean? It means that Jacob’s life was wrapped up in Joseph. Therefore, the essence of his life was robbed when Joseph was taken from him in the following verses. Let me explain.

Parashat Vayishlach (Genesis 32:3-36:43)

When Jacob and his family were leaving Laban in Paddan-aram and heading back to Canaan, Jacob began preparing for the inevitable. He would undoubtedly have a run-in with his brother Esau once they got nearer to home. Although twenty years had passed since he left with Esau’s birthright, Jacob was preparing his family for their encounter with his brother. He prayed to the Almighty, “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children” (Genesis 32:11). He knew that, although time and distance were between them, there was no guarantee that Esau would allow bygones to be bygones. He seriously believed that Esau might attempt to exterminate his entire family, so he devised a plan for the survival of at least some of them.

Parashat Vayeitze (Genesis 28:10-32:2)

Our parashah begins with Jacob leaving Beersheba and setting out toward Paddan-aram in order to search for a bride from among Abraham’s family. On the way, however, he spends the night in Luz, a city he ends up calling “Bethel,” which means, “House of God.” During the night Hashem appears to Jacob in a dream. He sees angels ascending and descending on a ladder extending into heaven. In this dream the LORD appears to Jacob and makes him a promise. As part of that promise He tells Jacob:

Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 28:14)



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