Archive for December, 2023

From The Rabbi – Parshat Vayechi 5784

This week we conclude the book of Bereshit – Genesis, with the sad words describing the passing of Joseph and his internment in Egypt, a rather morbid ending to a book filled with so many amazing stories of the founding fathers and mothers of humanity and the Jewish people. In Judaism we have a principal that we don’t conclude anything on a negative note so, how come, the very first book of the Torah, which is supposed to inspire us and teach us about life, concludes with Joseph’s passing and burial? What makes this question even stronger is the fact that the name of the Parsha Torah Portion is ‘Vayechi’ – ‘and he lived’. Why in the world would a Parsha about life and the blessings bestowed by Yakov upon his beloved children, end with death.

This question becomes stronger upon considering the Jewish custom that when we conclude each of the Five Books of Moses, the entire congregation proclaims loudly in the Synagogue : Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazak! “Be strong! Be strong! Let us be strengthened!”

As always, we look for guidance and inspiration from our Torah and, here too a subtle and powerful message is being conveyed to us that we need to take to heart, particularly during these challenging times for Israel and the Jewish people.

In the second book of the Torah, which we commence next week, the Jewish people are about to become enslaved and subjugated to a tyrannical government that will attempt to destroy the Jewish nation, the first genocide of the Jewish people.

What will give the people of Israel the resolve they will desperately need? The knowledge that one day they would be liberated and the knowledge that evil will not reign forever? Indeed, this is what Joseph told the Jewish people before his passing, recorded in the second-to-the-last verse of Genesis: “Joseph told his brothers: ‘I am about to die, but G-d will indeed remember you and bring you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob… You will bring my bones up out of here with you.”

Joseph remains in the grit and gravel of depraved Egypt, he remains etched deeply in the earthiness of Egypt, together with his beloved people.

“He was placed in a coffin in Egypt”—that is the culmination of Genesis. The Jew may be entrenched in Egypt and all that it represents, but Joseph is right there with him, in the midst of his condition, giving him strength, blessings, and fortitude.

The same is true in our own lives as well. In each generation G-d plants such “Joseph’s” in our midst, the Tzaddikim and Rebbes, who are there with the Jewish people in their pain and agony. Sometimes, even after their passing, if we open our hearts, we can feel the touch of their soul, the richness of their spirits, the faith of their lives. We may be stuck in the quagmire of “Egyptian” oppression, yet “Joseph” is present with us. Thus, even in the midst of a dark and horrific exile, we can hold each other’s hands and thunder aloud: Chazak! Chazak! Venischazak! “Be strong! Be strong! Let us be strengthened!”

Thus the passing of Yosef, rather than being viewed as a negative, constitutes a great source of inspiration for a nation about to endure challenging times ahead, in the knowledge that ultimately all of their future upheavals, will lead to an uplifting redemption, as prophesied by Yosef just prior to his passing.

May we all be uplifted and strengthened by the above message, in the knowledge that Israel will please G-d very soon emerge stronger, materially and spiritually, and may we merit enduring peace in Israel and throughout the world.

Kol Hakavod and thank you to everyone who is making a special effort to attend services, especially during the quieter holiday period, when we typically struggle to secure a Minyan. 

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Levi & Dvorah Jaffe

Thank you Rabbi YY Jacobson for the above message