Family Corner: Parshat Vayechi

Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Posted by: Family Corner

Family Corner is a space to offer interactive and thoughtful ideas for family engagement with the Parshat Hashavua (weekly Torah reading). 

This week in the Parsha we encounter themes of faith, taking responsibility, reconciliation (making up)respect for the dead, blessing people.

Parsha Summary

  • Jacob blesses his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh. (48:1-20) 
  • Jacob's twelve sons gather around his deathbed, and each receives an evaluation and a prediction of his future. (49:1-33) 
  • Joseph mourns his father's death and has Jacob embalmed. Jacob is buried in Hebron in the cave of the field of the Machpelah in the land of Canaan. (50:1-14) 
  • Joseph assures his concerned brothers that he has forgiven them and promises to care for them and their families. (50:15-21) 
  • Just before he dies, Joseph tells his brothers that God will return them to the Land that God promised to the patriarchs. The Children of Israel promise Joseph that they will take his bones with them when they leave Egypt. (50:22-26) 

Torah Thought

The following is a comment of Ovadiah Seforno (Italy 1475 – 1550) to Genesis 49:13-14 - Jacob’s blessing of his children. 

זְבוּלֻ֕ן לְח֥וֹף יַמִּ֖ים יִשְׁכֹּ֑ן וְהוּא֙ לְח֣וֹף אֳנִיֹּ֔ת וְיַרְכָת֖וֹ עַל־צִידֹֽן׃  

Zebulun shall dwell by the seashore; He shall be a haven for ships, And his flank shall rest on Sidon. 

יִשָּׂשכָ֖ר חֲמֹ֣ר גָּ֑רֶם רֹבֵ֖ץ בֵּ֥ין הַֽמִּשְׁפְּתָֽיִם׃  

Issachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching among the sheepfolds.  

“Yaakov mentioned Zevulun before Issachar although he was the one who would earn his livelihood as a merchant whereas Issachar would be the one studying Torah. Interestingly enough, Moses did the same thing when he blessed the Jewish people before his death. (Deut. 33,9) The reason is that one cannot devote one’s life to Torah study before first having secured an economic base providing one’s necessities. This is what the sages said in Avot 3,17 אם אין קמח אין תורה, “when there is no flour Torah cannot flourish.” However, when one person extends a helping hand to his fellow man helping him to sustain himself so that he can carry out his dream to devote himself to Torah, this is even a greater deed than studying Torah oneself 

Seeing that Zevulun did just that, sharing the profits of his demanding lifestyle with his brother Issachar, he deserves to be mentioned even before his brother who, but for Zevulun, would not be able to achieve greatness in Torah. Zevulun shares at least equally in Issachar’s accomplishments.  

Basically, what Zevulun did voluntarily for his brother Issachar, the Jewish people were commanded by the Torah to do for the Levites and the priests, who, because they have been assigned the tithes and various other gifts were able to devote themselves to being teachers, performing the service in the Temple, and generally to provide spiritual guidance without receiving any other remuneration for this. Moses assigned this task to the Levites when he said: (Deut.33,10) יורו משפטיך ליעקב, “they shall teach Your laws to Yaakov.” As compensation they will all have a share in the life of the hereafter as we have been taught in Sanhedrin 90 that all Jews have a share in the hereafter.” 

This statement is referring to the teaching of the Midrash (Gen. Rabbah 99:9) that says:  “Zevulun and Yissachar entered into a partnership. Zevulun would dwell at the seashore and go out in ships, to trade and make profit. He would thereby provide food for Yissachar, who would, in turn, sit and occupy themselves with the study of Torah.” 

The claim that supporting those who study Torah “is even a greater deed than studying Torah oneself” can be used to start a family discussion about the importance of supporting synagogues and Jewish schools – places where Torah is studied.  

It also can propel a conversation how salaries reflect society’s views of certain jobs. During the pandemic we have heard about the plight of essential workers (often at greater risk to contracting COVID). 

  • Who do you think are essential workers?  
  • Does their salary reflect their importance? 
  • How is their importance acknowledged in our community? Are there other ways to do so? 

Activities, Videos, Crafts and More!  

  • Music – Jacob forgives his brothers.  If you need some inspiration for forgiveness, check out this Spotify Playlist - Be Sorry and Forgive

  • Craft – Jacob blesses his grandsons before he dies. Part of his blessing includes this passage called “Hamalach” which is traditionally sung at bedtime along with the Shema. Create a pillowcase with the words of “Hamalach” that will enhance this beautiful bedtime ritual.                   

PJ Library Recommendation

Are We Still Friends? By Ruth Horowitz
Ages: 4 to 5 Years
Synopsis: Beatrice and Abel are the finest of friends -- until a misunderstanding gets in the way. How will they reconcile in time for a fresh start in the new year? Every young child (and many grownups!) will relate to this dilemma.  

Devash (Published by Hadar): Devash is a weekly parashah magazine that makes learning Torah sweet. By engaging directly with texts and taking kids seriously as Jews, Devash helps children and grownups discover new ideas, values, and sweet morsels in the weekly Torah portion. Devash is designed for kids aged 7-11 to read independently, or together with families and teachers. 

Israel Corner

This week, 72 years ago (December 13, 1949) The Mossad was established under the leadership of David Ben Gurion (Israel's first prime minister) and Reuven Shiloah (foreign ministry adviser for special projects). The Mossad is the Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Functions. The Mossad is in charge of gathering human intelligence, intelligence missions outside the country, secret diplomacy, special roles and capabilities of enemy civilians, and more. 

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Category: Family Corner