Parshat Vayechi 5780: “Yaakov is Alive” — Relevance in the Moment?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Vayechi is being sponsored by Yitzchak and Leyla Gross of Wynnewood, PA to commemorate the Yarhtzeit of Yitzchak’s Mother: Chaya Yita Sarah Bat Aharon. To Mishpochat Gross, many thanks for your sponsorship, your kindnesses through the years in helping facilitate Sefer Torah recycling and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Vayechi 5780: “Yaakov is Alive” — Relevance in the Moment?

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides context and a thought in discussing the end of Yaakov’s life in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Breish’t (pages 265-266):

As Yaakov’s life nears its end, he turns to his son Yosef with the following request: “Do not bury me in Egypt. For I will lie with my fathers, and you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their tomb [Cave of or Ma’arat HaMachpeila]. ” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 42, posukim 29-30)

After Yaakov’s death, Yosef moves to fulfill his father’s wishes.

In beautiful yet sorrowful fashion the patriarchal era comes full circle with Yaakov’s request. The era that optimistically began with Avraham’s passage to Canaan now ends with a very different journey on the part of his grandson, Yaakov, to the very same land. In death, Yaakov points the way for his children. His desire to rest in his homeland is clearly meant to serve as a cautionary message…:Egypt is not your home.

Yaakov’s poignant wish, however, confronts the hard reality of diaspora existence.

Many years ago, this author was zocha to have been handed a little Chabad booklet “Dvar Hamelech” dated in 5760 with Divrei Torah from the Lubavitcher Rebbe for the Torah Sedras leyned during Chodesh Tevet. The Rebbe makes a point (Dvar HaMelech 5760 Chodesh Tevet, Parshat Vayechi, pages 18-23) which should be self-evident to all of us; basically that “Yaakov is Alive” for “His Descendants are Alive.” Yaakov is alive because his people, who bear his name, Yisrael lives.

Our Parsha opens (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 47, posuk 28):

“Vayechi Yaakov…” = “And Yaakov lived…”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe cites Talmudic gemura tractate Ta’anit, page 5b which states:

“Yaakov, our ancestor, did not die.” When a protest is raised, “Was it in vain that he was eulogized, embalmed, and buried?”, the gemura replies [citing Sefer Yirmiyahu Perek 30, posuk 10]:

It is written, “‘Do not fear, My Servant Yaakov,’ says Hashem, ‘Do not become dismayed, O Israel, I will save you from afar and your descendents from the land of captivity.'” An equation is established between Yaakov and his descendents.

Thus, Rashi explains [in tractate Ta’anit] “And Yaakov lived,” “Yaakov lives forever.”

The booklet explains the above:

The interdependence between Yaakov and his descendants is…emphasized by the fact that our Sages derived the concept that Yaakov did not die from the equation between him and his descendants, and not from the verse: “And he expired and was gathered unto his people.” (Sefer Breish*t Perek 49, perek 33) Rashi (in his commentary on that verse, and… Tosafot in their commentary to Tan’anit…) notes that in contrast to the verses that describe the passing of the other Patriarchs, this verse does not say “And Yaakov died.” This omission teaches us that “Yaakov, our Patriarch did not die.” The fact that the Talmud… derives it from the equation that exists between Yaakov and his descendants, implies that Yaakov’s ongoing life is dependent on that of his descendants.

This concept of continued life is mentioned in regard to Yaakov and not in regard to Avraham and Yitzchak, because in a complete sense, the concept that “his descendants are alive” applies only to Yaakov. As the Sages expressed it [Rashi’s commentary on Sefer Breish*t Perek 49, perek 31], “Yaakov’s bed was perfect”, i.e., all his sons were righteous and their offspring became the Jewish people. In contrast, Yishmael descended from Avraham and Eisev from Yitzchak. [cited from Pesakhim page 56a] Thus, the concept that he is “alive” because “his descendants are alive” is appropriate only for Yaakov. (Maharsha commentary to Ta’anit].

….Therefore, all of Yaakov’s descendants (including those born in every generation) are alive: they reveal the eternal dimension of Yaakov’s life in this world.

….Therefore, the Torah teaches us that “Yaakov is alive,” because “his descendants are alive,” since he is connected with the “Torah of life.” Regardless of his present conduct, he has the potential — through turning to the path of Teshuvah, and subsequently through the observance of the Torah and its mitzvot — to reveal his true self. The awareness of this potential strengthens and encourages one to express this essential “life” in an open and revealed manner in his daily conduct.

These excerpts from a sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, as well as these citings from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on Sefer Breish’t might help us gain perspective and clarity during our current state of wrapping our brains around our loss, not only for this author’s community but, for the entirety of Am Yisrael, of a true Torah Giant.

HoRav Chaim Zev Malinowitz, z”l (HoRav Chaim Zev ben Avraham Aharon HaLevi was niftar 23 Marcheshvan 5780) became our Rav of Kehillat Beit Tefillah Yona Avraham some eighteen years ago, back when the Shul consisted of a few garages strung together in the driveway in back of Rechov Nachal Dolev in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. He has led us in our permanent Shul location on Rechov Nachal Refaim, while being editor of the Artscroll Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi Gemara tractates, and as a Dayan who was often called upon to adjudicate difficult cases in Batei Dinim in Chutz L’Aretz. Rav Malinowitz mastered Kol Torah Kulah — upside-down, inside-out, sideways and whatever other directions are possible, first learning in Philly Yeshiva and then in Monsey were he learned in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Aba Berman, z”l and then, later became a Rosh Kolel in Monsey. Rav Malinowitz represents a paradigm of both humility: always shirking kavod, and knowing the world in all of its myriads and myriads of aspects. The Rav’s tireless, relentlessness in teaching us and encouraging us all in learning has been such that post-shiva, the Shul put out a flier with Rav Malinowitz’s picture which was found on all the tables in the Beit Medrash which cited Yevamos 97a:

“When people recite the Torah teachings of the deceased, the Rabbi’s lips move in the grave.”

When this author viewed the abovementioned flier, thoughts immediately hearkened back to the above sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

“Yaakov is alive,” because “his descendants are alive,” since he is connected with the “Torah of life.”

During a hespid for his Dad, Rabbi Nechemia Malinowitz spoke of how Rav Malinowitz felt the need for he and his family to leave the United States and to come to live in Eretz Yisrael in order to fulfill his full potential in Torah learning, closeness to Hashem and the Torah way of life. The family lived first in the Sorotskin neighborhood, before moving to the Sanhedria section of Jerusalem.

Just as Yaakov’s poignant wish, not to be buried in Mitzrayim, confronted the hard reality of diaspora existence, so too Rav Malinowitz felt the need to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Malinowitz loved Eretz Yisrael — so much so, that he stood up with tens of thousands of his fellow Jews against the expulsion of the 9,000 Jews from Gush Katif and the Shomron towns. The expulsion pained him to his core as it did many of us. And he spoke to the kehillah passionately about it. Either during the run-up to the expulsion, or just after, Rav Malinowitz initiated the minhag in Shul, to this very day, that immediately after each Aleinu, before Kaddish, we say “Al Tera”:

Do not fear sudden terror, or the holocaust of the wicked when it comes. Plan a conspiracy and it will be annulled; speak your piece and it shall not stand, for G’d is with us. Even till your seniority, I will remain unchanged; and even till your ripe old age, I shall endure. I created you and I shall bear you; I shall endure and rescue.

And so, just as in the above excerpt from a sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: “Yaakov is alive,” because “his descendants are alive,” because they are connected with the “Torah of life,” the spirit of HoRav Chaim Zev ben Avraham Aharon HaLevi is alive through us, through our learning, our humility, our menchlicheit — our connection with the “Torah of life.”

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — which can only occur when he is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.