The Seeds of Today's World have been Sown; The Stage
Jacob called for his sons and he said to
them: Come together and I will tell what will happen at the
end of days
This weeks Torah portion Genesis 49:1
Dont be afraid, said Joseph to them
[his brothers], shall I then take G-ds place? You might
have meant to do me harm, but G-d made it come out good. [As
a result of my ending up in Egypt] I am enabled today to preserve
the life of a great nation. Dont worry, I will fully
provide for you and your children. He thus comforted them
as he spoke to their hearts
Joseph remained in Egypt
to his family: I am dying. G-d is sure to fulfill his promise
and bring you out of this land, to the land that he promised
to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joseph then bound the Israelites
by an oath: When G-d fulfills this promise, you must bring
[elevate] my remains [bones] out of this place. Joseph
died at the age of 110 years. He was embalmed and placed in
a casket in Egypt
Conclusion of the book one, Genesis 50:22-26
Jacob never died
just as his children are alive
so too is he alive
Talmud Taanit 5b
As the solar year comes to a close with America
searching for Bin Laden and an uncertain future looming ahead
of us, we read the concluding chapter of the first book of
the Torah. Endings require summations - sort of an accounting
of where we stand and where we are headed.
Fifteen weeks have passed since September 11.
If you were truly living with the times both the physical
times and the spiritual ones you were living not only
with world shaking events of these times but also with the
spiritual events of these times as related in the weekly Torah
portions that we have been reading these last three months.
During these fifteen weeks we have traveled
through Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, we have read
the first eleven portions of the book of Genesis (Bereishis),
and are now reading the twelfth and final chapter: Vayechi,
which begins and Jacob Lived.
Jacob, his twelve sons and Joseph are now all
living in Egypt. Pharaoh has provided them with the best of
the land. Indeed, Jacobs last seventeen years in Egypt
are his best years. The theme of this weeks Torah chapter
is about Jacobs last days and his burial. Jacob gives
his final instructions to his children, he blesses each of
the tribes, and finally asks that they bury him not in Egypt,
but in Israel, together with his parents (Isaac and Rebecca)
and grandparents (Abraham and Sarah) in the Cave of Machpela
burial plot in Chebron.
Our weekly portion seems to be overly preoccupied
with death and burial. Besides the detailed narrative of Jacobs
burial, we also learn about Rachels burial as Jacob
explains to Joseph the reason he buried Rachel on the roadside.
And finally we read at the end of the chapter how also Joseph
is consumed with the plans for his burial.
Another unusual twist to this is that the word
death is never mentioned in regard to Jacob. The
Talmud point this out and explains that Jacob our father
never died. The Talmud continues and asks: But
didnt they eulogize and bury him?! And answers:
Just as his children are alive, so too is he alive.
What is the story and what is its relevance
As we conclude the first book of Torah, a chapter
the first chapter in history comes to a close.
The book of Bereishis aka Genesis is exactly
that: A book that lays out the genesis and the framework for
all of existence. It is a blueprint for life that sets the
stage for all the events to come. The chapters in the Book
of Genesis from Bereishis to Vayechi tell a
sequential story that spans a period of 24 generations:
Chapter one the story of creation and
of Adam and Eve.
Chapter two the story of Noah and the flood 10 generations
Chapters three, four and five the story of Abraham,
ten generations after Noah.
Chapter six the story of Isaac.
Chapters seven through nine the story of Jacob
Chapters ten through the end and twelfth chapter the
story of Joseph and his brothers.
As we discussed in our previous articles, Abraham,
Sarah, Ishmael, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Joseph are all
the pivotal characters that will shape history to come.
Eating from the Tree of Knowledge creates the
first distortion: The universe and its higher purpose separate.
The dichotomy between spirit and matter begins. The Tree of
Knowledge experience creates the split between fruit and peel,
light and vessel, energy and container, spirit and matter
between the inner soul and the outer shell. Life is
aligned as long as the shell is aware of its role as protector
of the fruit within. But when the shell perceives itself as
an end in itself - that I am it - then all problems
A confusion of roles begins to emerge. This
first identity crisis is the root of all role confusions throughout
history: Who am I?
This alienation process deteriorates from generation
to generation. Abraham is the first to reverse the disorientation
process; he reintroduces G-d into life. Yet he is faced with
a daunting challenge, to refine a world that is unreceptive
and even antagonistic to anything G-dly.
Once the balance has been upset, it takes an
extraordinary amount of effort and clarity to reclaim balance.
After the balance has been lost it takes more effort to recreate
harmony within chaos than it does to create harmony in the
first place. Once the shell (kelipah) has taken control, it
does not easily relinquish it. Once the cat has been let out
of the bag and the universe feels that it is independent,
it no longer wants to dance with G-d.
Abraham passes on his faith to his children.
But living in an unbalanced world, this faith is difficult
to integrate into regular daily life. Each progressive generation
of Abrahams children continues the work of integrating
spirit and matter, and each respective generation is faced
with its unique challenges in achieving these goals.
Heres a brief map of the Book of Genesis
the building blocks of existence.
Abraham is chesed the right flank.
Ishmael is chesed to its extreme, unbridled chesed.
Isaac gevurah the left flank.
Esau gevurah to its extreme.
Jacob tiferet the spine in the middle, balancing
the previous two.
These elements define the world of vision
the vision of how life is to be lived and how we fulfill the
purpose of existence.
Joseph and his brothers actualize the vision
in the material world. They enter into Egypt and begin the
process of refining the land. Joseph, as leader of Egypt,
turns the country into a wealthy superpower.
Now the nation is ready for its first great
challenge: Overcoming slavery to barbaric Egypt and thereby
elevating and refining the sparks within. Egypt (Mitzrayim)
is the archetype of the shell existence, where
the material dominates and enslaves the spiritual.
As difficult as the task maybe, the people are
well armed. They come with an arsenal consisting of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob; they are equipped with the seasoning of the
forefathers, who pass on their battle experiences to their
children. They have seen the traps of faith, the extremes
of Ishmael and Esau; and now they are ready to face materialistic
What gives humans the power to overcome formidable
challenges that defy mortal strength? The answer is one word:
Hope. Faith in the process, trust in G-d and His promises,
gives us superhuman hope and confidence that we will prevail.
Our connection to the past is our guarantee for the future.
Hence, the strong emphasis on the burial of
Jacob, Rachel and Joseph. Honoring and remembering the lives
of our patriarchs and matriarchs and the promises told to
them, give their children the power to endure all. Furthermore,
our connection to the pioneers that came before us and paved
the way bring them alive. They live on through their children.
Thus the word death is never associated
with Jacob. As his children live so too he is alive.
When children perpetuate the spirit of their parents they
show how their parent, whose inspiration lives in them, is
truly alive. Hence the name of this weeks portion: Vayechi
Yaakov Jacob lives. Though the chapter discusses his
death and preparations beforehand, the entire chapter is named
and epitomizes that Jacob lives.
Yet, Jacob is still part of a higher world.
He was a shepherd like his father and grandfather, insulated
from the harsh business world our there. Joseph is the one
that bridges the two worlds of sanctity and secularism, of
spirituality and the material world. Thus, Joseph insists
on being buried not in Israel, but in Egypt.
Joseph wants to serve as a reminder to the people
during their long hard labor years in Egypt, that they should
always remember via his remains, the promise that they will
leave this place, and their oath that they would leave together
with Josephs bones.
Like his mother Rachel, who is buried at the
roadside to console the Jewish people as they leave Israel
in exile (Rachel cries for her children), Joseph
too ensures that he remain with the people.
The lesson of hope is relevant today more than
ever. As civilizations wage war it would be wise to remember
that these battles began many years ago. They were foretold
together with the promise that we will prevail. The Egyptian
exile is the archetype of all the battles to come. Jacob and
Joseph always remind us that we can overcome any challenge
and they give us the power of eternity through them
we never die and through us they never die. When we connect
and hold onto our faith in G-d and His promises, then we will
win any war and always prevail.
A chapter ends. A new and very difficult chapter
is about to begin. But the seed of redemption has been planted.
In the throes of the Egyptian exile and persecution Joseph
remains as a standing declaration that we will leave this
place. Abrahams vision and G-ds promise will be
fulfilled. We will prevail and we will leave with great wealth.
Richer and greater than we were before we arrived.
And we will leave with the power to bring freedom
to the entire world.
The book of Genesis concludes with Vayechi Yaakov
and Josephs casket being placed in Egypt. Never have
deaths been more alive.
Vayechi Yaakov Jacob lives. The promise
lives. The vision lives. Joseph reminds us throughout the
harshest periods that it all continues to live.
Hold on to the vision. Hold on to the generations
past that have been there. Hold on and see it through
we will be free. That is a promise.
© Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2001.
May be reproduced in print media with permission of the author. May
be forwarded as e-mail as written, without editing.
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More about our work at The Meaningful Life Center
This life skills article is one of many services
that we are providing in response to September 11th.
We want you to know that all of us here at The Meaningful
Life Center are working overtime to provide clarity and direction
in these trying times. As people everywhere are undergoing
a new soul search, we are redoubling our dedication to our
mission to help us all appreciate the deeper meaning of our
lives and build security with all the uncertainty brewing
If you or anyone you know has any specific needs or questions,
please call on us. We are committed to doing everything we
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Our ability to bring you more such vital services
is entirely dependent on your financial support. We have established
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the unique needs of our times. We urge you to make a donation
to this fund and help us reach as many people as possible
with insight and direction. Some of the programs we have provided
so far include:
- Special classes and workshops, both in New York and
around the country
- A special series of weekly articles addressing the
- Syndicated articles in the national and local press.
- TV and radio commentaries.
- Special life skill tools to deal with fear and uncertainty,
to build security in your life.
- Personal comforting sessions.
- Healing workshops
Special September 11 section on
our website, www.meaningfullife.com.
We need to join together as never before to nourish
the grass roots awakening that has consumed this nation
and its gravitation to faith and G-d, and transform
it into a permanent spiritual transformation. Our calling
today is to demonstrate leadership and light up the
way in which to forge ahead amidst this tragedy, and
these new, challenging times.
Our sages teach us that by intensifying our charitable
acts we open up new channels of blessings. In this spirit,
may your commitment be a source of blessings in all
aspects of your life.
We look forward to working together with you in this
divine cause. Through our joint effort we can grow through
this process and build a better world a world
where there is no evil and destruction because it is
filled with Divine knowledge as the waters
cover the sea.
Phillip, Jason, Neria, Shoshana, Chani, Sarah, Yael,
and of all us at The Meaningful Life Center
Helping You Redefine What Truly Matters
Our hearts, condolences and prayers go out to all
the families directly affected by this calamity, and
to all New Yorkers, Americans and the entire human race
against whom this atrocity was perpetrated.
WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL THING YOU CAN
DO IN RESPONSE TO SEPTEMBER 11?
Join us in creating a passionate spiritual
revolution for the good.
As passions of violence have been released
against humanity, our most powerful response is to counter
with a passionate revolution of purpose.
This is our mission at the Meaningful