28 Dec 2017 Parshas Vayechi – The End of the Beginning
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayechi, the curtain closes on the book of Bereishis. As we read the final verses of the first book of the Torah, we marvel at the passage of time. Did we not just read “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth?” (Bereishis 1:1).
Have we reached the end, once again, of the masterful, all-encompassing, prophetic and far-reaching book of Bereishis? וַיָּמָת יוֹסֵף, בֶּן-מֵאָה וָעֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים; וַיַּחַנְטוּ אֹתוֹ, וַיִּישֶׂם בָּאָרוֹן בְּמִצְרָיִם – And Yosef died at the age of one hundred and ten years, and they embalmed him, and placed him in a coffin in Egypt (Bereishis 50:26).
From creation of a world through the creation of a nation… Bereishis… In the Beginning.
We have cringed with our own personal shame as Adam and Woman ate the fruit from the forbidden tree – for have we not (proverbially) done the same? Do we not know the commandments of G-d, yet allow the (proverbial) cunning serpent to overtake us, as we fail, fall and sin? Do we, too, not attempt to “hide from G-d”, keviyachol (as if it were possible), when He comes looking for us, post sin? אַיֶּכָּה – Where are you? G-d asks (3:9). Ummm…we say to G-d… I was hiding, I sinned, I was afraid, I thought perhaps, that I could run away from You.
We have been silent with Noach, dutifully fulfilling what G-d requires of us, which is good – while turning a deaf ear to the plight and suffering of others. צֹהַר תַּעֲשֶׂה לַתֵּבָה – Make a window for the Ark (6:16 w/ Rashi there), said G-d, so that you can look out and remember that just because you are warm, dry and safe, others are suffering around you! Noach did not utter even one word of prayer, of action, of sympathy, for the suffering people of his time, who were slated to be destroyed. Perhaps his prayers and their repentance may have averted the disaster of the deluge (see Rashi to 7:12).
We have walked with Avraham to the Promised Land, full of hope and faith (12:1-9) … Only to arrive in the Promised Land and discover that there is a famine in the land (12:10).
Well, G-d, which is it? we may wonder. Will it be good for me here… or not? No questions, says R’ Soloveitchik zt’l. Had Avraham Avinu asked questions, he would have lost the right to become the father of the Umah Yisraelis (The Jewish nation). For faith, the Rav explains, means not only to believe, but not to ask.
And so, as children of our father, Avraham, we too hold onto our faith when life is full of contradictions.
We have ascended Mt. Moriah with Avraham, and his son Yitzchak in tow, as Yitzchak was bound on altar, a sacrifice for the sake of G-d (Chapter 22). We too have sacrificed with the Binding of Isaac. We have buried 19 year old IDF soldier, Ron Yitzchak Kukia HY”D, who stabbed to death at the end of November in Arad.
We have cried bitter tears over the murder of Reuven Schmerling, aged 70, who was killed on Erev Succot, HY”D.
We have been numbed by the killing of 23 year old Hadas Malka HY”D, in June, as she was serving as an officer in the Border Police unit, maintaining security at the Damascus Gate. In a moment, her life – a young life full of promise – was cut short.
We have buried Elchai Teharlev, 20; Yosef, Chaya and Elad Salamon; Or Arish, 25 and St.Sgt. Solomon Gavriya…HY”D.
וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּ֤ה הָאֵשׁ֙ וְהָ֣עֵצִ֔ים וְאַיֵּ֥ה הַשֶּׂ֖ה לְעֹלָֽה – And Isaac said to his father: here is the fire and wood for the sacrifice, but where is the sheep for the offering? And Abraham replied, G-d will show us the sheep… לְעֹלָ֖ה בְּנִ֑י – my son, you will be the sacrifice (22:7-8).
With Yaakov Avinu…! We have run away from those who seek to kill us (end of Chapter 27); we have dreamt of better times and Divine promises (Chapter 28); we have married and birthed children (Chapters 29,30); we have worked diligently and honestly to amass possessions so that we may live (Chapter 30); we have navigated the turbulence of life, witnessed sibling rivalry, desired tranquility that escapes us (see Rashi to 37:1), buried loved ones who died along the way (35:16-21), hoped for children lost and refused to be comforted.
We have wondered about the fate of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who have been MIA (and declared dead by the government of Israel) for 3 1/2 years… וַיְמָאֵן לְהִתְנַחֵם, וַיֹּאמֶר, כִּי-אֵרֵד אֶל-בְּנִי אָבֵל שְׁאֹלָה – and he refused to be comforted, and he said, I will go down to the grave mourning for my son (37:35).
With Yosef we have learned that the salvation of G-d comes in the blink of an eye, and that what may seem initially bad is actually the hand of G-d directing our destiny and fate. וְאַתֶּם, חֲשַׁבְתֶּם עָלַי רָעָה; אלקים חֲשָׁבָהּ לְטֹבָה, לְמַעַן עֲשֹׂה כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה, לְהַחֲיֹת עַם-רָב – And you thought upon me for bad, Yosef reminds his brothers, yet G-d meant it for good; as it is like this day, to sustain a great nation (50:20).
From Yosef we learn the great power of faith, come what may, and despite all odds. For Yosef the orphaned boy, the hated brother, the kidnapped, the slave, the prisoner, the viceroy, the son once again, Yosef the ruler, teaches us that no matter what life may bring, an Ivri (39:14,41:12) remains steadfast in his faith, knowing and believing that all is truly from G-d: שֵׁם שָׁמַיִם שָׁגוּר בְּפִיו – the name of Heaven (G-d) was always and familiar in his mouth (Rashi to 39:3).
It is not for naught that the Book of Bereishis is known as Sefer Ha’Simanim, the Book of Omens (or foreshadowing), for all that happened within its sacred verses – from the beginning, בראשית ברא אלקים, to the end, וַיִּישֶׂם בָּאָרוֹן בְּמִצְרָיִם – happens to us.
May we merit that the final promise of Bereishis be fulfilled in our day and our time, with the ultimate, everlasting and peaceful redemption:
וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל-אֶחָיו, אָנֹכִי מֵת; וֵאלקים פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֶתְכֶם, וְהֶעֱלָה אֶתְכֶם מִן-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב – And Yosef said to his brothers, I am going to die. And Hashem will surely remember you again one day and take you up from this land, to the land that He promised to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (50:24).
חזק חזק ונתחזק – May we be strong, may we be strong, and may we be strengthened!
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,