Parashat Vayechi – Erev Shabbat 1 January 2021
Week of December 27-31/January 2, 2021
Torah portion: Genesis 47:28 – 50:26 Haftarah: 1 Kgs 2:1-12
Theme: Last Days and final actions of famous ancestors
In this sidra we find Jacob and Joseph, preparing for their death and burial. Each one calls their families together for a suitable blessing and instructs them what to do after they are “gathered to the ancestors.” Jacob wishes to be buried in the cave of Machpelah (Hebron of today), along with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and Leah, his wife and the mother of 6 of his 12 sons and his only daughter, Dinah. For some of his sons, their lives are called into question and they most likely don’t see their father’s testament as a blessing. (46:1-7) We do see the supremacy of the tribe of Judah which will be fulfilled in the Davidic dynasty. As for Joseph, after calling together his 11 brothers and forgiving them, he asks for his bones to be carried back to Egypt. “He is embalmed and laid to rest in a coffin in Egypt”. (50:26) This concludes The Book of Genesis.
In the Haftarah, after a reign of 46 years, King David appoints his son Solomon to be his successor. He also asks Solomon to settle a few old scores but be kind to Barzillai of Gilead who had supplied him and his troops with food during the rebellion of Absalom. (117) David was a complex personality: generous and vengeful, spiritual and lustful, desiring peace but waging war. His contemporaries, however, remembered him with admiration and affection and saw no need to hide his faults. (119) He is still seen as the “greatest King” of Israel. And in this season of Christmas, we are reminded that Jesus the Christ came from the house of David
These readings are appropriate as 2020 ends. It has been a year of last days and final wishes for so many around our world who have died from Covid-19. I suspect we all know some who have died and even have lost dear ones. In many cases, unlike these ancestors who seemed to live long lives and have time to prepare to leave our reality, so many this year were not prepared. They were not able to be with loved ones to share final hours and say “goodbye”. This pandemic has indeed been most terrible and one we have never experienced in our lifetimes. I have come to love the phrase “joining with the ancestors or gathering with them”. It gives a deep sense of connection and a joy-filled “coming back together” a true coming home to LOVE and SHALOM~ May 2021 bring renewed hope for all of us and those we love.
Reflection and Discussion: 1) What preparations have I made for my death: a will, funeral plans, and burial? 2) Are there ones who need forgiveness from me or from whom I need forgiveness? 3) What blessings do I plan to bestow on family or close friends before I too “join the ancestors” – words, gifts, and memories?
Bibliography: Plaut, The Haftarah Commentary (NY,c1996, pp 115-121).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by:
Mary Louise Chesley-Cora, Delaware, USA, Bat Kol Alumna 2001