Shabbat Shalom Weekly: Vayechi 5759
click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




Vayechi(Genesis 47:28-50:26)

Vayechi 5759

GOOD MORNING! Ever wonder why you do not maintain a sense of happiness after finally obtaining a material goal? Mel Fisher, the treasurer hunter who recently passed away, spent 14 years searching for sunken treasure and then found it! After the immediate joy, he felt depressed and ... immediately started another search. Why do we continue to strive to obtain more and more things in our life, but often don't find them satisfying? Below is an excerpt from Dearer Than Life -- Making Your Life More Meaningful shared with permission of its author, Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. I think it gives some insight.

"Much of Western culture appears to consider happiness as the ultimate goal in life, and defines ideal happiness as freedom from all distress and enjoyment of all pleasures. This is certainly not the Torah concept, which considers human life to be mission-oriented, with every person having a reason for his existence and a specific assignment to complete on earth. If being content were all there is to seek in life, then endowing man with the capacity of intelligence was counterproductive. Cows in the pasture are undoubtedly far more content than sophisticated humans. Seeking meaning in merely being content hardly befits an intelligent person.

"In order for a person to have self-esteem and a feeling of value, life must have meaning. In fact, meaning and value are inseparable.

" 'Esteem' comes from the Latin word that means to evaluate or to appraise. Let us look at what is the basis of self-esteem and how we ascribe value to anything.

"If we look around at all the objects in our homes, we will find that with the exception of items that have sentimental value only, we value things for one of two reasons: aesthetic or functional. Thus, you may have a handsome grandfather clock whose mechanism has broken and cannot be repaired. You nonetheless keep the clock because it is an attractive piece of furniture and it beautifies your home. However, if your can opener broke, you would undoubtedly get rid of it, because it has no aesthetic value, and since it can no longer serve its purpose it has no value at all.

"Let us now apply these criteria to ourselves. There may be a few people who are so attractive that they can consider themselves ornamental, but most of us cannot really think of ourselves as having great aesthetic value. This leaves us only with function as a basis for value, and raises the question: Just what is our function? What purpose do we serve?

"While the hedonist may at least, temporarily, gratify his physical desires, can he really find purpose in being content? What can the hedonist do when the existential question of finding meaning and purpose in life intrudes itself into his consciousness? Too often his only recourse is to try and distract himself from such thinking, and not infrequently he may render himself oblivious to the tormenting feeling of worthlessness by numbing his mind with substance abuse." (end of excerpt)

So, if there is no ultimate meaning in comfort, how does one fill his life with real meaning? If one asks himself what is worth dying for he will have a better understanding of what is worth living for. Ultimately it will be a spiritual goal -- to transform oneself from an earthy creature to a spiritual entity, to emulate the Almighty, to perfect the world, to do kindness. Rabbi Twerski's book explores the pieces of the puzzle and clarifies the path for making one's life more meaningful and more satisfying. It is available from any Jewish bookstore or toll-free from 877-758-3242.


Torah Portion of the Week
Vayechi

The parasha, Torah portion, opens with Jacob on his deathbed 17 years after arriving in Egypt. Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons, Manasseh (Menashe) and Ephraim (to this day it is a tradition to bless our sons every Shabbat evening with the blessing, "May the Almighty make you like Ephraim and Manasseh" -- they grew up in the Diaspora amongst foreign influences and still remained devoted to the Torah). (The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is "to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.") He then blesses each of his sons individually with blessings. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary.

A large retinue from Pharaoh's court accompanies the family to Hebron to bury Jacob in the Ma'arat Hamachpela, the burial cave purchased by Abraham. The Torah portion ends with the death of Joseph and his binding the Israelites to bring his remains with them for burial when they are redeemed from slavery and go to the land of Israel. Thus ends the book of Genesis!

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "And the days of Israel (Jacob) drew near to die; and he called his son Joseph, and said to him: If now I have found favor in your eyes, please ... deal with me kindly and truly; bury me not in Egypt." (Genesis 47:29). What does the phrase "kindly and truly" come to teach us?

Rashi enlightens us as to the meaning of "kindly and truly." Kindness which is shown to the dead is true kindness, for one who does chesed (kindness) for a dead person certainly does not look forward to any payment. When someone does something for another person so that the person will in turn do him favors, the action cannot be considered true kindness. Rather, it is a form of bartering in which the merchandise is not objects, but favors.

Whenever you do something for others have their benefit in mind, not your own. If a person thinks to himself: "What will I gain from this?" when he does favors for others, it shows that he lacks a feeling of love for his fellow man, for his love is only for himself.

This especially applies to taking care of children. Children rarely appreciate what their parents do for them (until, perhaps, they have children of their own). So, it is a real chesed shel emes (true kindness) to care of small children. If one has the opportunity to perform these tasks for someone famous, he would certainly be happy to do them. It is no less a chesed (kindness) for one's own children!

Published: January 31, 2000

Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub