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Vayechi (He lived — ויחי)
The last reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayechi (ויחי), which means “and he lived.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, “Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years” (Genesis 47:28). In this Torah portion, Jacob prepares for his death by securing a double portion of inheritance for Joseph and then blessing each of his sons with prophetic blessings. The book of Genesis ends with the death of Jacob, followed shortly by the death of Joseph and a promise of redemption from Egypt.
- Genesis 47:27 The Last Days of Jacob
- Genesis 48:1 Jacob Blesses Joseph’s Sons
- Genesis 49:1 Jacob’s Last Words to His Sons
- Genesis 49:29 Jacob’s Death and Burial
- Genesis 50:15 Joseph Forgives His Brothers
- Genesis 50:22 Joseph’s Last Days and Death
- 1 Kings 2:1 David’s Instruction to Solomon
- 1 Kings 2:10 Death of David
- 1 Peter 1:1-9 A Message of Living Hope
First reading — Genesis 47:28–48:9
Genesis 47:28-48:9 (TLV)
Joseph’s Promise to Jacob
28 Now Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years, so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years. 29 As the time of Israel’s death drew near, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please put your hand under my thigh and show me faithful kindness. Please do not bury me in Egypt. 30 When I lie down with my fathers, you must carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.”
So he said, “I myself will do according to your word.”
31 “Swear to me,” he said. So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed down in worship on the head of his staff.
Blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh
48 After these things, someone told Joseph, “Behold, your father is sick.” So he took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, with him. 2 When someone told Jacob, saying, “Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel summoned his strength and sat up in the bed.
3 Then Jacob said to Joseph, “El Shaddai appeared to me in Luz, in the land of Canaan, and blessed me.” 4 He said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and multiply you and turn you into an assembly of peoples, and I will give this land to your seed after you as an everlasting possession.’ 5 So now, your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, they are mine. Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just like Reuben and Simeon. 6 Any descendent of yours whom you father after them will be yours; they will be identified by the names of their brothers for their inheritance. 7 “Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died along the way, in the land of Canaan, while we were still a distance from entering Ephrath. And I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”
8 Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons and said, “Who are these?”
9 Joseph said to his father, “They’re my sons, whom God has given me here.”
Then he said, “Please bring them to me, so I may bless them.”
Second reading — Genesis 48:10–16
Genesis 48:10-16 (TLV)
10 Now Israel’s eyes had grown heavy with old age—he could not see. So he brought them near to him, and he kissed them and hugged them. 11 Then Israel said to Joseph, “To see your face, I didn’t expect—and look, God has let me see your offspring as well!”
12 Then Joseph took them from his knees and bowed with his face down to the ground. 13 Then Joseph took the two of them—Ephraim with his right hand across from Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand across from Israel’s right—and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and placed it upon Ephraim’s head (though he was the younger), and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands (though Manasseh was the firstborn). 15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
- “The God before whom my fathers
- Abraham and Isaac walked,
- The God who has shepherded me
- throughout my life to this day,
- 16 The Angel who redeemed me
- from all evil,
- May He bless the boys,
- and may they be called by my name,
- and by the name of my fathers,
- Abraham and Isaac.
- May they multiply to a multitude
- in the midst of the land.”
Third reading — Genesis 48:17–22
Genesis 48:17-22 (TLV)
17 When Joseph saw that his father placed his right hand upon Ephraim’s head, it was wrong in his eyes. So his took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not like that, my father, because this one’s the firstborn. Put your right hand upon his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also will become a people, and he also will become great. But his younger brother will become greater than he and his seed will be the fullness of the nations.” 20 Then he blessed them that day saying,
- “In you shall Israel bless by saying:
- ‘May God make you
- like Ephraim and like Manasseh.’”
Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Look, I am about to die. But God will be with you and will bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 Now I myself give you one portion more than your brothers, that which I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
Fourth reading — Genesis 49:1–18
Genesis 49:1-18 (TLV)
Jacob Speaks Over His Sons
49 Jacob called his sons and said to them:
- Gather together so that I can tell you
- what will happen to you in the last days.
- 2 Be assembled and listen, sons of Jacob,
- and listen to Israel your father.
- 3 Reuben, my firstborn are you,
- my vigor and firstborn of my power,
- endowed with extra dignity,
- endowed with extra strength—
- 4 like water boiling over
- you will not have extra,
- for you got up into your father’s bed,
- when you defiled a maid’s couch.
- 5 Simeon and Levi are brothers,
- instruments of violence are their knives.
- 6 In their secret counsel
- may my soul not enter.
- In their contingent may my honor
- never be united.
- For in their anger they slew men,
- and in their self-will they maimed oxen.
- 7 Cursed be their anger for it was strong
- and their rage for it was cruel—
- I will disperse them in Jacob,
- I will scatter them in Israel.
- 8 Judah, so you are—
- your brothers will praise you:
- Your hand will be on your enemies’ neck.
- Your father’s sons will bow down to you.
- 9 A lion’s cub is Judah—
- from the prey, my son,
- you have gone up.
- He crouches, lies down like a lion,
- or like a lioness—
- who would rouse him?
- 10 The scepter will not pass from Judah,
- nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
- until he to whom it belongs will come.
- To him will be the obedience of the peoples.
- 11 Binding his foal to the vine,
- his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
- he washes his garments in wine,
- and in the blood of grapes his robe.
- 12 His eyes are darker than wine,
- and teeth that are whiter than milk.
- 13 Zebulun will dwell by the seashore,
- and be by a harbor for ships—
- his distant border reaches Sidon.
- 14 Issachar is a strong-boned donkey,
- lying down between two saddlebags.
- 15 He saw that a resting place was good,
- and that the land was pleasant.
- He leaned his shoulder to bear a burden,
- and became a forced laborer.
- 16 Dan will judge his people,
- as one of the tribes of Israel.
- 17 Let Dan be a serpent beside a road,
- a viper beside a path,
- who strikes a horse’s heels,
- so that its rider falls backward.
- 18 For your salvation I wait, Adonai!
Fifth reading — Genesis 49:19–26
Genesis 49:19-26 (TLV)
- 19 Gad—attackers will attack him,
- but he will attack their heels.
- 20 Asher—rich is his food—
- he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
- 21 Naphtali is a doe let loose,
- who offers words of beauty.
- 22 A fruitful son is Joseph,
- a fruitful son beside a spring—
- daughters walk along a wall.
- 23 The archers were bitter and shot arrows
- and were hostile towards him.
- 24 Yet his bow was always filled,
- and his arms quick-moving—
- by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.
- From there a Shepherd,
- the Stone of Israel,[a]
- 25 from the God of your father
- who helps you,
- and Shaddai who blesses you,
- with blessings of heavens above,
- blessings of the deep that lies below,
- blessings of breasts and womb.
- 26 The blessings of your father surpassed
- the blessings of the ancient mountains,
- the desire of the everlasting hills.
- May they be upon Joseph’s head,
- upon the crown of the one set apart from his brothers.
Footnotes: Genesis 49:24 cf. Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16; 1 Pet. 2:6-8.
Sixth reading — Genesis 49:27–50:20
Genesis 49:27-50:20 (TLV)
- 27 Benjamin is a ravening wolf—
- in the morning he devours spoils,
- and in the evening divides plunder.
28 These are the tribes of Israel, twelve in all, and this is what their father spoke to them. He blessed them, each one he blessed with a suitable blessing. 29 Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, that is next to Mamre in the land of Canaan—the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a property for burial. 31 There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field was purchased along with the cave in it from the sons of Het.”
33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, then breathed his last and was gathered to his peoples.
Lamentation for Jacob
50 Joseph fell upon his father’s face, wept over him and kissed him. 2 Then Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father, so the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 They took 40 days for him, because that is how long embalming takes, and Egypt wept 70 days.
4 When the days of formal weeping passed, Joseph spoke to Pharaoh’s house saying, “If I’ve found favor in your eyes, please say in Pharaoh’s ears, 5 “My father made me take an oath saying, ‘Behold, I am about to die. In my tomb—which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan—there you must bury me.’ So now, please allow me to go up and bury my father, and then return.”
6 Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father just as he made you swear on oath.”
7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. Also all of Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt went up with him, 8 along with all of Joseph’s house, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and cattle were left in the land of Goshen. 9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him—it was a very impressive company.
10 When they came to the threshing floor of the bramble on the other side of the Jordan, they mourned there—a very great and solemn lamentation. He observed seven days of mourning for his father. 11 When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning ritual at the threshing floor of the prickly bush, they said, “A solemn mourning ritual this is for the Egyptians.” That is why it is named Abel-Mizraim, which is on the other side of the Jordan.
12 So Jacob’s sons did for him just as he commanded them. 13 His sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, the field that Abraham bought as a property for burial from Ephron the Hittite, next to Mamre.
14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all those who went up with him to bury his father.
Joseph Comforts His Brothers
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father had died, they said, “Maybe Joseph will be hostile towards us and pay us back in full for all the evil we showed him. 16 So they charged Joseph saying, “Before his death, your father gave a command, saying, 17 “Thus you must say to Joseph: ‘Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin because they treated you wrongly.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”
Then Joseph wept when they spoke to him, 18 and his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your slaves!”
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. For am I in the place of God? 20 Yes, you yourselves planned evil against me. God planned it for good, in order to bring about what it is this day—to preserve the lives of many people.
Seventh reading — Genesis 50:21–26
Genesis 50:21-26 (TLV) 21 So now, don’t be afraid. I myself will provide food for you and your little ones.” So he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
22 Joseph remained in Egypt—he and his father’s household—and Joseph lived 110 years. 23 Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons. Also the sons of Machir, Manasseh’s son, were born upon Joseph’s knees.
24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m about to die. But God will surely take notice of you and will bring you up from this land to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made Israel’s sons swear an oath saying, “When God takes notice of you, you will bring my bones up from here.”
26 So Joseph died at 110 years old, and they embalmed him and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Genesis 49:1-27 Birchat Ya’akov (the blessings of Jacob)
- The bechor status was revoked for his interference in Jacob’s marital life; despite being the firstborn, he will not be leader of Israel.
- Rebuked for the massacre of Shechem, Simeon will be scattered in Israel (the tribe ended up absorbed in Judah); he also will not be leader of Israel.
- Rebuked for the massacre of Shechem; will be scattered in Israel (shevet Levi ended up in the Cities of Refuge); he also will not be leader of Israel.
- Will be praised by all Israel; the kings of Israel will come from him, and from Judah the Mashiach (Shiloh) would eventually come.
- Shall produce great judges and promote justice in Israel.
- Shall produce beauty and praises in Israel.
- Shall produce victorious warriors of Israel.
- Shall be prosperous and full of olive oil.
- Shall persevere like a beast of burden.
- Shall be prosperous seafaring merchants.
- Shall be blessed with fertility and prosperity.
- Shall produce victorious warriors of Israel.
Genesis 49:18 Jacob (Israel) waits for Yeshua (Salvation)
Jacob exclaimed, “For your salvation (yeshu’ah, ישועה) I wait, O LORD” (Genesis 49:18). Yeshua’s name means “salvation.” The sages understood Jacob’s exclamation to reflect his longing for Messiah, the true judge of Israel and ultimate salvation. The daily prayer for the coming of Messiah borrows language from Jacob’s expression. Observant Jews pray the blessing three times a day. Notice how the name of Messiah finds its way into the blessing:
Cause the branch of your servant David to blossom forth speedily, and lift up his horn through your salvation (yeshu’ah, ישועה), for we await your salvation (yeshu’ah) every day. Blessed are you LORD, who causes the horn of salvation (yeshu’ah) to blossom forth. (Shemoneh Esrei 15)
The Hebrew word translated as “wait (kavah, קוה) can also means “hope.” In that sense, Jacob says, “I hope for your Yeshu’ah.” Messiah is the “hope of Israel.” We wait for Yeshua, and hope in Yeshua. He is our hope of salvation.
Maimonides says that a person who does not believe in Messiah and await His coming denies the Torah.
Rabbi Yitzchak said, “Everything is bound up with waiting. Suffering is bound up with waiting, martyrdom with waiting, the merit of the fathers with waiting, and the desire of the World to Come with waiting. Thus it is written [in Isaiah 26:8], “Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O LORD, we have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls.” (Genesis Rabbah 98:14)
Believers wait and hope for the one called Salvation. In Him we place our hope in suffering, in persecution, in the covenants of the forefathers, and in the World to Come. We hope in Him for grace and forgiveness. We agree with our forefather Jacob, and we say with him, “For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.” May the hope of Israel come speedily, soon, and in our lifetimes.
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