Food For the Soul
Why does the Torah reading — a Parshah which describes the end of Jacob’s life, his death and his funeral — carry the title Vayechi, “And He Lived“?
Life does not end with the grave. The soul never dies and the good work men and women do on earth continues to live on long after their physical passing. More particularly, if there is regeneration, if children emulate the example of their forbears, then their parents and teachers live on through them.
When Jacob was about to breathe his last, he called his children to gather around his bedside. Our Parshah recounts what he told each of them. But the Oral Tradition gives us a behind-the-scenes account. Apparently, Jacob was anxious to know whether all his offspring were keeping the faith and he put this concern to them at that time. They replied, Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad–“Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G‑d, the L-rd is One.” They were saying that the G‑d of Israel their father would always be theirs G‑d, too. Jacob was comforted and responded, Baruch Shem KevodMalchuto L’olam Vaed–“Blessed be the Name of the glory of His Kingdom forever and ever” (or in plain English, BaruchHashem! Thank G‑d!)
When all of Jacob’s children remained faithful to his tradition, that was not only a tribute to Jacob’s memory but the ultimate gift of eternal life bestowed upon him. His spirit lives on, his life’s work continues to flourish and he is still present in this world as his soul lives on in the next. In following his path, Jacob’s children immortalized him. Such a Parshah is aptly entitled Vayechi, “And he lived.” Ultimately, our children make us immortal. And so do our students, our spiritual children. May we each be privileged to raise families and disciples who will be true children of Israel, faithful to our father Jacob and the G‑d of Israel. Amen.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Kabbalistic Tradition and Shabbat
Kabbalistic tradition greatly emphasizes Shabbat observance. Whether the mystical significance of the 39 prohibited acts of work, meditations on the Shabbat prayers and Kiddush, or candlelighting, Jewish mysticism teaches volumes on the particulars, as well as the general mindset, which can give one access to the spiritual treasure of this most holy of days.
In the worldview of the Kabbalah, Shabbat is more than just a day of rest. It is a gateway for reaching expanded consciousness. By studying the Kabbalistic understanding of the cycle of the weekdays and their prayers, one sees that on Shabbat the entire world becomes spiritually elevated. Engaged in the meditations and the Kabbalistic customs of Shabbat, a person’s ability to rectify their own individual soul, as well as that of all Creation, is greatly enhanced.
Visit Chabad.org for insights into Kabbalistic traditions surrounding Shabbat.
Mind Over Matter
Darkness Is A Lie
Darkness is a lie. There is only light. Darkness lurks ubiquitously, mockingly, as though it is the sober truth—that all is empty, for there is no meaning.
But the truth is that light, not darkness, precedes all things. Endless light is the true canvas upon which reality is conceived, and endless light is its final destination.
Let your soul hold tight to that vision. See beyond the eye’s horizon. Stand firm against the taunts and scorn of this darkness, and allow it to bring out your inner courage. The darkness will be transformed. Your night will shine brightly.
And so Deborah the prophetess sang, “As the sun when it comes out in all its might, so will be His lovers.”
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Carry Me Out from Egypt!”
To be sure, our galut [exile] was decreed by the Almighty. Nonetheless we, on our part, must know that the galut is not the place where we belong. A request or promise eventually to leave Egypt, therefore, is not enough. One must sense, and constantly be concerned, that each additional moment in Egypt is a painful burden. Thus, one will continue to pray and demand from the Almighty “Carry me out from Egypt!”
Even when comfortable in the galut with a materially and spiritually good and pleasant life, one must realize that the galut is not our place. There must be a profound sensing of the exile, of being in an alien place where we do not belong. Just as an oath deprives one from peace of mind until it is actually fulfilled, so we must not cease from crying out and continuously demanding “Carry me out from Egypt!”
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Why G-d Listens to Rachel
I was standing in Bethlehem at the grave of the matriarch Rachel, our nation’s mother. I was praying for myself, my family and our nation. I poured my heart out on this still-sunny morning to a mother I had never met. Swept up in the inspiration of the moment, I visualized my mother looking at me and listening to me. My son, who was barely two years old, was resting comfortably in his stroller beside me, when something stirred him out of sleep and he let out a long wail, “MOMMY!” I nearly jumped out of my skin as his cry penetrated my thoughts—and expressed them too. That was precisely what I had been thinking, Mommy, Mommy, your child has come to see you. Look out for me, listen to my prayers and intercede on my behalf before G‑d.
My son settled peacefully back to sleep, but my equilibrium was not so easily restored. All day, I couldn’t shake the haunting image of a child, shaken from sleep, startled out of complacency, crying instinctively for his mother. And I kept thinking about our mother’s presence in Bethlehem, and how it demonstrates her absolute love and devotion.
When Jacob was elderly and ill, he asked his son Joseph to bury him in Hebron in their ancestral plot. Jacob told Joseph that he was aware he was asking Joseph to do what he did not do for Joseph’s mother, Rachel. When she passed away in Bethlehem, Jacob buried her along the side of the road rather than bringing her to Hebron, and here Jacob was asking Joseph to transport him from Egypt to Israel.
Jacob did not explain why he buried Rachel in Bethlehem, but the question asks itself. Since the burial plot housing Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, had space for only two more, why did Jacob not choose to be buried beside Rachel, his first and true love? Why did he choose Bethlehem? Jacob never answered that question, but our sages taught us something that sheds light on it. When the Babylonian army conquered Israel and destroyed the Temple, they transported many of the Jewish survivors to Babylon in chains. As they trudged along the road near Bethlehem, they stopped at Rachel’s grave and prayed.
At that time, Rachel’s soul appeared before the heavenly throne to pray for her children, but she found herself last in line. Ahead of her were Abraham, Isaac, Moses and her own husband, Jacob. Each begged G-d to forgive the Jewish people, and G‑d turned them all down. If only you knew how grievous their sins were, G‑d told them, you would not ask me to forgive them.
Then it was Rachel’s turn. Dear G‑d, she began. On my wedding night, I watched my father dress my sister in my wedding gown and hide her face behind my veil. I knew that my beloved Jacob would discover the ruse because he had anticipated it and arranged a secret code with me that only he and I knew. Jacob was my true and only love, as I was his. I knew that if he were deceived, he and I would suffer for the rest of our lives.
Yet, I could not allow my sister to be humiliated in public when the ruse would be found out. To protect my sister’s dignity, I betrayed my beloved’s confidence and shared the code with her. I stood by in agony as my sister married my beloved. The next morning, when Jacob discovered the ruse, it was too late. The deed had been done.
Although Jacob married me a week later, I spent the rest of my life playing second fiddle to my sister, who was always jealous of my special bond with Jacob. Yet I accepted my lot because it was the right thing to do. If I could give up my love for the sake of my sister, can’t you set aside your anger for the sake of your children? To which G‑d replied, Rachel, I have heard your cry, you may dry your tears. I will forgive your children, and they shall return to their land. Indeed, 70 years later, Jews returned to Israel and rebuilt the Holy Temple.
This tale provides insight into why Jacob buried Rachel in Bethlehem. If Jacob buried her there, it would have been with her consent. And if it was with her consent, it could only have been because she foresaw that her children would pass through this location in chains and would need a place to find solace. They would need a mother on whose shoulders to cry. They would need a matriarch who could secure a promise of redemption from G‑d. Consider what this mother gave up so that she could become the one to intercede on behalf of her children. That is a true mother. That is why G‑d pays attention to her entreaties, and why I was so moved when my son awakened from sleep at the foot of Rachel’s grave, giving voice to my internal cry.
From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow