Parshat Va-Yiggash, Parshat Va-Y’hi
In the interest of end-of-year ease I am posting one image and two d’vars at the same time. (Read: like most people I know am frantically running back-and-forth between Barnes and Noble and Starbucks for those last-minute thank-you gift cards for teachers/tutors/et. al.)
This week’s parsha, Va-Yiggash, brings a dramatic, poignant and joyous conclusion to the story of Joseph and his dysfunctional family. Judah pleads with Joseph not to punish Benjamin for stealing the goblet that was found in the youngest brother’s sac because “‘of the woe that would overtake my father!’... “Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone withdraw from me!’ So there was no one else about when Joseph himself known to his brothers.” And just like that, Joseph forgave them for selling him into slavery, telling the fearful brothers that his journey from slave to leader was part of G-d’s plan and thus they should not be blamed. “‘...It was to save life that G-d sent me ahead of you.’” The brothers return to Jacob with the miraculous news about his lost son Joseph, bringing Jacob and all their households back to Egypt with them. “Thus Israel settled in the country of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; they acquired holdings in it, and were fertile and increased greatly.”
In Va-Y’hi, next week’s parsha, Jacob has Joseph swear that he will ultimately bury Jacob “with my fathers” in his ancestral grave, and not in Egypt. Joseph brings his sons Manasseh and Ephraim to see his dying father. Jacob tells Joseph that he will claim these two boys born in Egypt to Joseph as his own and they will receive their inheritance from Jacob. “‘I never expected to see you again,’” Jacob tells Joseph. “‘And here G-d has let me see your children as well.’” Jacob begins to bless the boys, crossing his hands to put the right one on the head of Ephraim, the younger, and the left on Manasseh, the elder, a reversal of the custom; Joseph had tried to correct him by positioning Manasseh on the right. “I know my son, I know. He too shall become a people, and he too shall be great....So he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’” We Jews use these words in the blessing of our children (on Friday nights) until this day. Jacob promises Joseph an extra portion more than his brothers and then Jacob blesses each of his sons in turn before he dies. When Joseph himself is near death many years later, he, too, begs his family to swear that some day the Jews “shall carry up my bones from here” and bring them back home. Shabbat Shalom!