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ויראו אחי יוסף כי מת אביהם

Yosef’s brothers perceived that their father was dead… (50:15)

Yosef’s brothers felt that now that their saintly father, Yaakov Avinu, was gone, their protection from what they felt would be Yosef’s wrath had also come to an end. It seemed to them that Yosef’s attitude toward them had abruptly changed. No longer were they the beloved family whom he invited to dine with him in the palace. They feared that it was all because their father had been alive. Now that he was gone, Yosef’s lingering animosity toward them was becoming apparent. (This was in their perception. It was not true.) Indeed, Yosef had a reason for everything he…

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ויעברו ימי בכיתו

When his bewailing period passed. (50:4)

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 100:4) distinguishes between the mourning /weeping for Yaakov Avinu and the mourning for Moshe Rabbeinu. Concerning Yaakov, the Torah writes: “When his bewailing period passed,” while, regarding Moshe, it writes: Vayitmu yemei bechi eival Moshe, “Then the days of the tearful mourning or Moshe ended” (Devarim 34:8). The Midrash comments: Yaakov had those who mourned and bewailed him; therefore, it says that the bewailing period passed (not ended, simply passed). Moshe did not leave a grief-stricken following; therefore, it says that his mourning period came to an end. Clearly, this statement requires elucidation. Moshe was the…

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בן פרת יוסף בן פרת עלי עין

A charming son is Yosef, a charming son to the eye. (49:22)

Chazal (Berachos 20a) teach that the progeny of Yosef, like Yosef HaTzaddik, were not affected by the power of ayin hora, evil eye. This is in connection with the above pasuk, “A charming son is Yosef, a charming son to the eye.” Yosef never sought to enjoy that which was not his (such as Potifar’s wife, who made every attempt to seduce him), thus, the evil eye affected neither him nor his descendants. Why should one suffer because another person is envious of what he possesses? Should one conceal himself and his good fortune from the public eye, just because…

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יששכר חמר גרם ... וירא מנוחה כי טוב ואת הארץ כי נעמה ויט שכמו לסבול

Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey… He saw tranquility that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant, yet he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured servant. (49:14,15)

Rashi interprets the metaphor of a strong-boned donkey and the reference to the land as alluding to Yissachar’s relationship with the Torah. Yaakov Avinu points out Yissachar’s spiritual role as bearer of the yoke of Torah and cultivator of the spiritual treasures of our people. Why does the blessing include “his seeing tranquility and it was good”? The significance of the blessing is Yissachar’s relentless commitment to bearing the yoke of Torah, even if it might be a challenging task at times. His ability to rest while standing up, without having to remove his parcels, demonstrates that regardless of the…

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קחם נא אלי ואברכם

Bring them to me, if you please, and I will bless them. (48:9)

Yaakov Avinu wanted to bless Yosef’s sons. We do not find him blessing any of his other grandchildren. Perhaps, since it was his plan to grant Menashe and Ephraim Shevet/Tribe status, it was necessary to meet in order to bless them. Chazal give many explanations for Yaakov’s decision to make Menashe and Ephraim the paradigms of Jewish blessing: “Yesimcha Elokim k’Ephraim v’k’Menashe. Something was special about these two young men and the manner in which they were raised, special enough that Yaakov wanted every Jewish father throughout the millennia to bless his children in a similar manner. Why? The continuity…

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קברו אתי אל אבתי אל המערה אשר בשדה עפרון... שמה קברו את אברהם ואת שרה אשתו שמה קברו את יצחק ואת רבקה אשתו ושמה קברתי את לאה

Bury me among my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron… there they buried Avraham and his wife, Sarah; there they buried Yitzchak and his wife Rivkah; and there I buried Leah. (49:29,31)

The Meoras HaMachpeilah (as explained by Rashi, Ibid 23:9) was called machpeilah, which means double. Chazal gave it this name either because it contained upper and lower chambers or due to the fact that zuggos, couples, that were buried there. It was the burial site of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, couples united in life and death. Thus, Yaakov Avinu concluded his request to be buried there next to his “wife,” Leah. If Yaakov’s only reason for burial in the cave was to be buried next to his wife, he could have been buried next to Rachel Imeinu on the road…

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ראובן בכורי אתה... פחז כמים אל תותר

Reuven, you are my firstborn… water-like impetuosity – you cannot be foremost. (49:3,4)

The Midrash (Yalkut Shemoni Mishlei 15, remez 953) teaches, “Because Reuven, Shimon and Levi accepted the rebuke of their father, Yaakov Avinu, they merited to have their lineage enumerated together with that of Moshe and Aharon” (Shemos 6:14). The first three sons of Yaakov achieved an enviable pinnacle of spiritual merit by accepting their father’s rebuke. The fact that Hashem rewarded them indicates that accepting rebuke is a challenging feat, a battle which they won, and one that apparently from which others not as strong as they might not have successfully emerged. There is no question that no one looks forward…

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ועשית עמדי חסד ואמת

And do kindness and truth with me. (47:29)

Rashi explains that the kindness performed towards the dead is the kindness of truth, altruistic kindness. Every act of loving kindness carries with it the possibility of reciprocity or of some form of recompense. When one performs kindness for the deceased he has no hope for any return. This is pure altruism, ie, truth. Rashi seems to be describing the acts of chesed as consisting of two levels: plain chesed; and chesed infused with emes. Yaakov Avinu was asking Yosef to commit to an act of kindness which reflected truth, an extraordinary act of kindness, unlike any other: kindness characterized…

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ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים

Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt. (47:28)

There is a general rule concerning the placement of a new parshah/sidrah in a Torah scroll: The new Sidrah either: begins on a new line, or it is separated from the previous parshah by a nine-letter space. Parashas Vayechi is unique in that no extra space exists between it and Parashas Vayigash – the preceding parshah. Thus, Rashi calls Parashas Vayechi a parshah setumah, closed parshah. Since nothing happens in a vacuum, Rashi explains why Vayechi is “closed.” It teaches us that at the time of his passing, the mood of Yaakov Avinu’s children was “closed.” They were acutely aware…

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ויקרבו ימי ישראל למות

And the days of the death of Yisrael drew near. (47:29)

The “days” of Yaakov’s death drew near.  A person does not die over a period of days; he dies in a moment. The Zohar wonders what is the meaning of the “days of death”? The Zohar explains that when the time for a person to pass from this world arrives, all of his days (which he has lived) are calculated and assessed. Each day that was spent in the service of Hashem, committed to mitzvah observance, Torah study and performance of acts of lovingkindness – is considered a day worthy of being counted. Other days, which are found lacking in…

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