Parshas Vayechi

Vayechi, Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

The parasha, Torah portion, opens with Jacob on his deathbed 17 years after arriving in Egypt. Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh (Menashe) and Ephraim (to this day it is a tradition to bless our sons every Shabbat evening with the blessing, “May the Almighty make you like Ephraim and Manasseh” — they grew up in the Diaspora amongst foreign influences and still remained devoted to the Torah. The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is “to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.”) He then individually blesses each of his sons. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary.

A large retinue from Pharaoh’s court accompanies the family to Hebron to bury Jacob in the Ma’arat Hamachpela, the burial cave purchased by Abraham. The Torah portion ends with the death of Joseph and his binding the Israelites to bring his remains with them for burial when they are redeemed from slavery and go to the land of Israel. Thus ends the book of Genesis!

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Parshas Vayigash Judah

Parshas Vayigash Judah makes an impassioned plea to the powerful Egyptian ruler (Joseph, still in disguise) for Benjamin’s life, claiming that Jacob would surely die from sorrow if he lost Benjamin. Judah offers to remain in Egypt as a slave in place of his younger brother. Unable to restrain himself any longer, Joseph reveals his identity to his stunned brothers and forgives them for selling him into slavery so many years before. Joseph then sends his brothers back to the land of Israel, laden with gifts, to bring Jacob and their families down to Egypt where they will live in the province of Goshen. Before Jacob leaves home, G-d appears to him in a ‘vision of the night’, reassuring him that He will be with them and that they will eventually return to the land of Israel as a great nation. After 22 years of separation, Jacob is reunited with his beloved son Joseph. Joseph embraces his father and weeps, overflowing with joy, and then brings his father to meet Pharaoh. The portion concludes by describing how Joseph uses his vast power to amass nearly all of the wealth of Egypt for Pharaoh’s treasury.

Parshas Mikeitz

Parshas Mikeitz – Pharaoh has a two-part dream about seven scrawny cows devouring seven robust cows, followed by seven thin stalks of grain swallowing seven healthy, good ones. When his advisers are unable to adequately interpret the dream, Pharaoh summons Joseph, who had been in prison for a total of twelve years. Ascribing his power of interpretation solely to G-d, Joseph tells Pharaoh that Egypt will first experience seven years of abundant crops, and then will be ravaged by a devastating famine. Pharaoh appoints Joseph as viceroy of Egypt, making him the second most powerful man in the land (this is a source for the sport of tennis in the Torah — we see that Joseph … served in Pharaoh’s court). Joseph’s wife Asnat gives birth to two sons, Menashe and Ephraim, and the years of plenty and famine unfold just as Joseph had predicted. With the famine devastating the land of Canaan (Israel), Joseph’s brothers descend to Egypt to purchase food. When they don’t recognize their royal brother, Joseph sets in motion a plan to determine if the brothers have fully repented for their sin of selling him almost twenty-two years before. Joseph acts detached, accusing them of being spies, and holds Simeon hostage. Joseph then allows the rest of the brothers to go with food to their father on the condition that they return with their youngest brother Benjamin. With great reluctance, Jacob agrees to this condition. Mikeitz concludes with the looming threat that Benjamin will be made a slave to the Egyptian ruler.

Parshas Vayeshev

Parshas Vayeshev

Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph incites his brother’s hatred. Their jealousy increases when Joseph tells them about two dreams which indicate that they will one day be subservient to him. Jacob sends Joseph to check up on his brothers, and upon seeing him approaching they plot to kill him. Reuben convinces the brothers not to kill Joseph, but is unable to totally save him as the brothers sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. …After dipping Joseph’s coat in blood, they return to their father who assumes that his beloved son was torn apart by a savage beast. The Torah then digresses to relate the story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. The narrative then returns to Joseph in Egypt, where he becomes an extremely successful slave and is placed in charge of his master’s household. His master’s wife repeatedly tries to seduce Joseph, and when he refuses he is thrown into prison. Ten years later, Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker are placed into the same prison. One night they each have a perplexing dream that Joseph accurately interprets, setting the stage for his release from prison.