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Parashas Vayechi


"This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or fewer."

Jacob and his sons had finally arrived in Egypt, where Jacob would spend the last 17 years of his life.

Jacob asked Joseph to bury him in Eretz Israel, in the Cave of Machpelah.

Towards the end of Jacob's life, Joseph asked him to bless his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe.

When Jacob blessed them, he reversed the position of his hands, putting his right hand onto Ephraim's head his left hand onto Menashe's head, even though Joseph intended the blessing of the first born for his first born son Menashe and the other one for his second son Ephraim and presented them with Menashe on his left and Ephraim on his right, so that it would be more natural for Jacob to use his right hand to bless Menashe and his left hand to bless Ephraim, since Jacob was facing Joseph.

The Torah then continues with Jacob's blessings for his other sons that came to Egypt with him:

"Reuben you are my firstborn, my strength and my initial vigor, foremost in rank and foremost in power. Water-like impetuosity – you cannot be foremost, because you mounted your father's bed; then you desecrated Him Who ascended my couch." (Chumash Art Scroll Mesorah)

Jacob blessed Reuben by saying that Reuben is his firstborn – he should be foremost in rank and foremost in power. But he cannot be because of his water-like impetuosity because he mounted his father's bed.

"Simeon and Levi are comrades, their weaponry is a stolen craft. Into their conspiracy, may my soul not enter! With their congregation, do not join, O my honor! For in their rage they murdered people and at their whim they hamstrung an ox. Accursed is their rage for it is intense, and their wrath for it is harsh; I will separate them within Jacob, and I will disperse them in Israel."

Jacob continues by blessing Simeon and Levi, saying that their weaponry is a stolen craft and wishes for his soul, (and his honor?) not to enter their conspiracy. He apparently wants them to be separated and dispersed.

"Judah – you, your brothers shall acknowledge; your hand will be at your enemies nape; your father's sons will prostrate themselves to you. A lion cub is Judah; from the prey, my son, you elevated yourself. He crouches, lies down like a lion; and like an awesome lion, who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a scholar from among his descendants, until Shiloh shall arrive and his will be an assemblage of nations. He will tie his donkey to the vine; to the vine branch his donkey's foal; he will launder his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes. Red eyed from wine, and white toothed from milk." (Chumash Art Scroll Mesorah)

The sages say that Judah was quite anxious about what blessing he would obtain from his father Jacob, considering that Jacob had scolded his prior children. In his blessing, Jacob promised the tribe of Judah kingship.

"Zebulun shall settle by seashores. He shall be at the ship's harbor, and his last border will reach Zidon."

Jacob gave Zebulun a blessing that he would be successful merchant. His business would fund his brother Issachar's Torah studies. It is interesting to note that Zebulun was blessed before Issachar, which, some say, shows how high the reward is for people who fund Torah scholarship.

"Issachar is a strong-boned donkey, he rests between the boundaries. 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 laborer."

Just like Avraham, or any "Ivrit", Issachar apparently rested between the boundaries of the spiritual and the mundane. A big chunk of members of the Sanhedrin would issue from this tribe, showing just how great Torah scholarship was with Issachar.

"Dan will avenge his people, the tribes of Israel will be united as one. Dan will be a serpent on the highway, a viper by the path, that bites a horse's heels so its rider falls backward. For your salvation do I long, O Hashem!"

Jacob alluded to Dan's descendant Samson in his blessing.

"Gad will recruit a regiment and it will retreat on its heel."

Jacob blessed Gad so that his tribe would help successfully with the conquest of Eretz Israel.

"From Asher – his bread will have richness, and he will provide kingly delicacies."

Jacob blessed Asher with what his tribe would be associated with: Great olive oil among other kingly delicacies.

"Napthali is a hind let loose who delivers beautiful sayings."

Jacob blessed Naphtali, saying that he would be like a quick doe. Some sages take this to mean that in the territory of his Shevet beautiful fruit would grow and fruit would ripen quickly.

"A charming son is Joseph, a charming son to the eye; each of the daughters climbed heights to gaze. They embittered him and became antagonists; the arrow-tongued men hated him. But his bow was firmly emplaced and his arms were gilded from the hands of the Mighty Power of Jacob – from there, he shepherded the stone of Israel. [That was] from the G'd of your father and He will help you, and with Sh'dd'i – and He will bless you with blessings of heaven from above, blessings of the deep crouching below, blessings of the bosom and womb. The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my parents to the endless bounds of the world's hills. Let them be upon Joseph's head and upon the head of the exile from his brothers."

Some say Joseph is compared to a plant by a spring. The same way a plan has many branches, Joseph's children would also have many children.

"Benjamin is a predatory wolf; in the morning he will devour prey and in the evening he will distribute spoils."

Some say this refers to Benjamin's tribe fighting ability, they would fight their enemy just like a wolf.

Jacob, and his sons all died at the end of the Parashas.

Even today people bless their children saying "May you grow up like Ephraim and Menashe".

It is interesting to note that just with E'sav and Jacob, the younger brother Ephraim got the higher blessing than the older brother Menashe. Disregarding that the younger brother got the higher blessing, we can note that since both of them managed to keep their values in exile when surrounded by people that did not share their values, we still do so today.

So even though Ephraim received the higher blessing, since according to Jacob he would surpass his younger brother, children are blessed in both brother's names.

I can't see I'm sure on this, but intuitively it seems like Noachides, who are often surrounded by people who do not share their faith, should be able to say this blessing as well, keeping in mind that their children will grow up as Noachides and not as Israelites, as were Ephraim and Menashe. This is something that deserves further research and clarification.

If the intention is for the children to grow up like Israelites, the parents should most likely do perform the conversion themselves first.

Normalita Cubelo
Jeffery  C.


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