12) Parshah Vayechi וַיְחִי
Parshah in a Nutshell for Vayechi
Jacob lives the final 17 years of his life in Egypt. Before his passing, he asks Joseph to take an oath that he will bury him in the Holy Land. He blesses Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, elevating them to the status of his own sons as progenitors of tribes within the nation of Israel.
The patriarch desires to reveal the end of days to his children, but is prevented from doing so. Jacob blesses his sons, assigning to each his role as a tribe: Judah will produce leaders, legislators and kings; priests will come from Levi, scholars from Issachar, seafarers from Zebulun, schoolteachers from Shimon, soldiers from Gad, judges from Dan, olive growers from Asher, and so on. Reuben is rebuked for “confusing his father’s marriage”; Shimon and Levi for the massacre of Shechem and the plot against Joseph. Naphtali is granted the swiftness of a deer, Benjamin the ferociousness of a wolf, and Joseph is blessed with beauty and fertility.
A large funeral procession consisting of Jacob’s descendants, Pharaoh’s ministers, the leading citizens of Egypt and the Egyptian cavalry accompanies Jacob on his final journey to the Holy Land, where he is buried in the Machpeilah Cave in Hebron.
Joseph, too, dies in Egypt, at the age of 110. He, too, instructs that his bones be taken out of Egypt and buried in the Holy Land, but this would come to pass only with the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt many years later. Before his passing, Joseph conveys to the Children of Israel the testament from which they will draw their hope and faith in the difficult years to come: “G*d will surely remember you, and bring you up out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Torah reading for Vayechi
28. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years, and Jacob’s days, the years of his life, were a hundred and forty seven years. 29. When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have now found favor in your eyes, now place your hand beneath my thigh, and you shall deal with me with lovingkindness and truth; do not bury me now in Egypt. 30. I will lie with my forefathers, and you shall carry me out of Egypt, and you shall bury me in their grave.” And he said, “I will do as you say.” 31. And he said, “Swear to me. ” So he swore to him, and Israel prostrated himself on the head of the bed.
1. Now it came to pass after these incidents that [someone] said to Joseph, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took his two sons with him, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2. And [someone] told Jacob and said, “Behold, your son Joseph is coming to you.” And Israel summoned his strength and sat up on the bed. 3. And Jacob said to Joseph, “Almighty G*d appeared to me in Luz, in the land of Canaan, and He blessed me. 4. And He said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and cause you to multiply, and I will make you into a congregation of peoples, and I will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting inheritance.’ 5. And now, [as for] your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt, until I came to you, to the land of Egypt they are mine. Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine like Reuben and Simeon. 6. But your children, if you beget [any] after them, shall be yours; by their brothers’ names they shall be called in their inheritance. 7. As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died to me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a stretch of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.” 8. Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and he said, “Who are these?” 9. Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom G*d gave me here.” So he said, “Now bring them near to me, so that I may bless them.”
10. Now Israel’s eyes had become heavy with age, [to the extent that] he could not see. So he drew them near to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11. And Israel said to Joseph, “I had not expected to see [even] your face, and behold, G*d has shown me your children too.” 12. And Joseph took them out from upon his [Jacob’s] knees, and he prostrated himself to the ground. 13. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim at his right, from Israel’s left, and Manasseh at his left, from Israel’s right, and he brought [them] near to him. 14. But Israel stretched out his right hand and placed [it] on Ephraim’s head, although he was the younger, and his left hand [he placed] on Manasseh’s head. He guided his hands deliberately, for Manasseh was the firstborn. 15. And he blessed Joseph and said, “G*d, before Whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked, G*d Who sustained me as long as I am alive, until this day, 16. may the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”
17. And Joseph saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, and it displeased him. So he held up his father’s hand to remove it from upon Ephraim’s head [to place it] on Manasseh’s head. 18. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, Father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” 19. But his father refused, and he said, “I know, my son, I know; he too will become a people, and he too will be great. But his younger brother will be greater than he, and his children[‘s fame] will fill the nations.” 20. So he blessed them on that day, saying, “With you, Israel will bless, saying, ‘May G*d make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh,’ ” and he placed Ephraim before Manasseh. 21. And Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am going to die, and G*d will be with you, and He will return you to the land of your forefathers. 22. And I have given you one portion over your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.”
1. Jacob called for his sons and said, “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days. 2. Gather and listen, sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel, your father. 3. Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the first of my might. [You should have been] superior in rank and superior in power. 4. [You have] the restlessness of water; [therefore,] you shall not have superiority, for you ascended upon your father’s couch; then you profaned [Him Who] ascended upon my bed. 5. Simeon and Levi are brothers; stolen instruments are their weapons. 6. Let my soul not enter their counsel; my honor, you shall not join their assembly, for in their wrath they killed a man, and with their will they hamstrung a bull. 7. Cursed be their wrath for it is mighty, and their anger because it is harsh. I will separate them throughout Jacob, and I will scatter them throughout Israel. 8. Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father’s sons will prostrate themselves to you. 9. A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah. From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him? 10. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples. 11. He binds his foal to a vine, and to a tendril [he binds] his young donkey. [He launders] his garment with wine, and with the blood of grapes binds his raiment. 12. [He is] red eyed from wine and white toothed from milk. 13. Zebulun will dwell on the coast of the seas; he [will be] at the harbor of the ships, and his boundary will be at Zidon. 14. Issachar is a bony donkey, lying between the boundaries. 15. He saw a resting place, that it was good, and the land, that it was pleasant, and he bent his shoulder to bear [burdens], and he became an indentured laborer. 16. Dan will avenge his people, like one, the tribes of Israel. 17. Dan will be a serpent on the road, a viper on the path, which bites the horse’s heels, so its rider falls backwards. 18. For Your salvation, I hope, O L*rd!
19. [As for] Gad, a troop will troop forth from him, and it will troop back in its tracks. 20. From Asher will come rich food, and he will yield regal delicacies. 21. Naphtali is a swift gazelle; [he is one] who utters beautiful words.22. A charming son is Joseph, a son charming to the eye; [of the] women, [each one] strode along to see him. 23. They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; yea, archers despised him. 24. But his bow was strongly established, and his arms were gilded from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob; from there he sustained the rock of Israel, 25. from the G*d of your father, and He will help you, and with the Almighty, and He will bless you [with] the blessings of the heavens above, the blessings of the deep, lying below, the blessings of father and mother. 26. The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my parents, the ends of the everlasting hills. May they come to Joseph’s head and to the crown (of the head) of the one who was separated from his brothers.
27. Benjamin is a wolf, he will prey; in the morning he will devour plunder, and in the evening he will divide the spoil.” 28. All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them and blessed them; each man, according to his blessing, he blessed them. 29. And he commanded them and said to them, “I will be brought in to my people; bury me with my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30. in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which field Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for burial property. 31. There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebecca, and there I buried Leah. 32. The purchase of the field and the cave therein was from the sons of Heth.” 33. And Jacob concluded commanding his sons, and he drew his legs [up] into the bed, and expired and was brought in to his people.
1. Joseph fell on his father’s face, and he wept over him and kissed him. 2. And Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel. 3. And forty days were completed for him for so are the days of embalming completed and the Egyptians wept over him for seventy days. 4. When the days of his weeping had passed, Joseph spoke to Pharaoh’s household, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, speak now in Pharaoh’s ears, saying, 5. ‘My father adjured me, saying, “Behold, I am going to die. In my grave, which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.” So now, please let me go up and bury my father and return.’ ” 6. And Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father as he adjured you.” 7. So Joseph went up to bury his father, and all Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt went up with him, 8. and Joseph’s entire household and his brothers and his father’s household; only their young children and their flocks and cattle did they leave in the land of Goshen. 9. And chariots and horsemen also went up with him, and the camp was very numerous. 10. And they came to the threshing floor of the thornbushes, which is on the other side of the Jordan, and there they conducted a very great and impressive eulogy, and he made for his father a mourning of seven days. 11. The Canaanite[s], the inhabitant[s] of the land, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of the thornbushes, and they said, “This is an intense mourning for the Egyptians.” Therefore, they named it Abel Mizraim (Egypt mourns), which is on the other side of the Jordan. 12. And his sons did to him just as he had commanded them. 13. And his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and they buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which field Abraham had bought for burial property from Ephron the Hittite before Mamre. 14. And Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father. 15. Now Joseph’s brothers saw that their father had died, and they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us and return to us all the evil that we did to him.” 16. So they commanded [messengers to go] to Joseph, to say, “Your father commanded [us] before his death, saying, 17. ‘So shall you say to Joseph, “Please, forgive now your brothers’ transgression and their sin, for they did evil to you. Now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the G*d of your father.” ‘ ” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18. His brothers also went and fell before him, and they said, “Behold, we are your slaves.” 19. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for am I instead of G*d? 20. Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] G*d designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.
21. So now do not fear. I will sustain you and your small children.” And he comforted them and spoke to their hearts. 22. So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years. 23. Joseph saw children of a third generation [born] to Ephraim; also the sons of Machir the son of Manasseh were born on Joseph’s knees. 24. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am going to die; G*d will surely remember you and take you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25. And Joseph adjured the children of Israel, saying, “G*d will surely remember you, and you shall take up my bones out of here.” 26. And Joseph died at the age of one hundred ten years, and they embalmed him and he was placed into the coffin in Egypt.
Haftorah In a Nutshell for Vayechi
I Kings 2:1-12
In this week’s haftorah, King David delivers his deathbed message to his son and successor, Solomon, echoing this week’s Torah reading that discusses at length Jacob’s parting words and instructions to his sons.
King David encourages Solomon to be strong and to remain steadfast in his belief in G*d. This will ensure his success in all his endeavors as well as the continuation of the Davidic Dynasty. David then goes on to give his son some tactical instructions pertaining to various people who deserved punishment or reward for their actions during his reign.
The haftorah concludes with David’s death and his burial in the City of David. King Solomon takes his father’s place and his sovereignty is firmly established.
Haftorah Reading for Vayechi
1. And the days of David drew near that he should die; and he charged Solomon, his son, saying: 2. “I go the way of all the earth; you shall be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man; 3. And keep the charge of the L*rd your G*d to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do, and wherever you turn; 4. That the L*rd may continue His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you,’ said He, ‘a man on the throne of Israel.’ 5. Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, (and) what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace and put the blood of war upon his girdle (that was) about his loins, and in his shoes that (were) on his feet. 6. And you shall do according to your wisdom, and do not let his hoary head go down to the grave in peace. 7. But show kindness to the children of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at your table, for so did they befriend me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8. And, behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim, and he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the L*rd, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9. And now hold him not guiltless, for you are a wise man, and you will surely know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his hoary head down to the grave with blood.” 10. And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. 11. And the days that David reigned over Israel (were) forty years, seven years he reigned in Hebron, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years. 12. And Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.