By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
Why does this week's Torah reading (Bersishis [Genesis] 47:28 - 50:26) - which describes the end of Jacob’s life, his death and his funeral -- carry the title Vayechi, "And He Lived"?
Let me be faithful to Jewish tradition and try to answer one question with another question. Interestingly, the Torah never actually states that Jacob died. It simply says that "he expired and was gathered unto his people”. This prompted one of the Talmudic sages to expound that "our father Jacob never died." Whereupon his colleagues challenged him and asked, "Did they then bury Jacob for no reason? Did they eulogize him in vain?" To which the Talmud answers: "As his descendants live, so does he live."
Life does not end with the grave. The soul never dies and the good work men and women do on earth continues to live on long after their physical passing. More particularly, if there is regeneration, if children emulate the example of their forbears, then their parents and teachers live on through them.
When Jacob was about to breathe his last, he called his children to gather round his bedside. Our Parshah recounts what he told each of them. But the Midrash gives us a behind-the-scenes account. Apparently, Jacob was anxious to know whether all his offspring were keeping the faith and he put this concern to them at that time. They replied, Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad--"Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One." They were saying that the G-d of Israel, their father, would always be their G-d, too. Jacob was comforted and responded, Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'olam Va'ed--"Blessed be the Name of the glory of His Kingdom forever and ever"3 (or in plain English, Baruch Hashem! Thank G-d!)
When all of Jacob's children remained faithful to his tradition, that was not only a tribute to Jacob's memory but the ultimate gift of eternal life bestowed upon him. His spirit lives on, his life's work continues to flourish and he is still present in this world as his soul lives on in the next.
In following his path, Jacob's children immortalized him. Such a Parshah is aptly entitled Vayechi, "And he lived." Ultimately, our children make us immortal. And so do our students, our spiritual children. May we each be privileged to raise families and disciples who will be true children of Israel, faithful to our father Jacob and the G-d of Israel.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Yossy Goldman)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!
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please contact Rabbi Shusterman at firstname.lastname@example.org.