Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah#12: Vayechi (He lived) Genesis 47:28-50:26
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 2:1-12
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Kefa (Peter) 1:3-9; 2:11-17
This parashah begins with the narrative between Jacob (Israel) and Yosef. Note the interplay throughout the narrative interchanging the name Ya’akov with Israel. As we discussed in previous parashiot, the use of the name is significant. First, we see the name Ya’akov used with a human application to the man whose name Ya’akov means supplanter. But when we see the use of Israel instead of Ya’akov, we now know that this is in reference to the future of the People Israel and a more spiritually mature Ya’akov. This beautiful and important insights can only be found by dissecting the scripture and examining the Hebrew throughout the entire Torah. In the beginning paragraphs of this parashah, G-d explains how He is about to usher the Children of Israel into a new chapter in their history. Once again, I remind you that this refers to all true believers (Israel), and not necessarily biological Israel. As we will learn in future parashot, Jew and Gentile were described in G-d’s plan from very early on in the Biblical narratives, yet most people are not taught to research the Hebrew Bible in which these clues are revealed.
G-d was about to move Israel completely out of Egypt that naturally implies that if we are to consider ourselves true believers, we too, must abandoned our “Egyptian” lifestyle and embark on our own wilderness journey whereby G-d will lead us through His mercy AND justice. The destiny of true believers was and is safely in the hands of YHVH/Yahshua, even though we do not know what tomorrow, or even the next second will bring. However, the Israelites, of which all true believers are a part if they choose to “leave Egypt” and follow the ways of G-d were and are told by G-d that the final destination for those who follow His Torah through love and obedience will ultimately lead to the Promised Land in the New Jerusalem in which we shall reside with our G-d forever. It has always been an “if” “then” proposition. We have not been given a “golden ticket” that automatically forgives us for our sins that include bad attitudes, willful ignorance, or total disregard for G-d’s commands and designated times to name a few, from the time we accept Yahshua as our L-rd as taught by Christian clergy. The Bible does not support that idea in any form. The earthly example given us in the Torah of the journey from Egypt (the world) to the Promised Land (Israel) provides us an excellent example of pitfalls experienced by a people who lived in the presence of Moshe and other Biblical greats who had a most intimate relationship with G-d. It is arrogant for us to believe we are not subject to the same sins and errors as we learn to emulate Yahshua and follow His instructions (G-d’s Torah). Joseph was given great insight into this reality as he blessed the tribes as we shall soon see.
Interestingly, it is difficult to locate the beginning of this parashah in a Torah scroll, but there is a reason for it. The usual spacing cues are missing. All other parashot are indicated by an empty space either nine letters wide or one complete line high. However, there are no space marks to indicate the start of this new section. Called a stumah (closed section), it is as if the last parashah (Vayigash) drew near to this parashah. This is quite poetic; one draws near in order to live on! Another point of interest is that Ya’akov lived 17 more years in Egypt under Yosef’s care before moving on to the next world. Yosef lived his first 17 years with Ya’akov (Gen. 37:1-2).
The end of the book of Genesis is the beginning of an extended grand tour for Ya’akov’s offspring. In this parashah we find all 12 tribes settled in the best land in all Egypt in the land of Goshen. Nevertheless, it is still in Egypt which represents the world. This is a perfect illustration of G-d providing for His own as they and we must live in the world but remain separate in our beliefs and actions. Since the beginning scripture in Genesis, the journey of those who seek and choose to follow G-d has involved leaving one place under G-d’s direction in some form or another and learning to live wherever G-d places them. A valuable lesson emerges for us. We are not to become too comfortable in our own “Egypt” in this world, and we must be willing to move wherever and whenever G-d prompts us through the Ruach HaKodesh. We must learn to bloom where we are planted, and this means to be content and glorify G-d no matter our circumstances. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden due to the sin of pride and lust of the flesh. They had everything except equal status of G-d and they still wanted more. “More is better” is the hallmark of our society and we can easily see the results of a greedy, self-gratifying attitude. I submit many of our problems are self-inflicted. If we followed the Biblical model for living as exemplified by Yahshua, many of us would not be driven to work long hours or two jobs to pay for all the “toys” we think we must possess for ourselves or our children and grandchildren. Is giving them more and more really teaching them what Yahshua taught us? Planning ahead would prevent anxiety caused by being caught by surprise for unanticipated events in whatever form they may take. Trusting G-d to provide for what we cannot prepare for independently, such as ultimate protection and optimal outcomes for our lives would release us from the fear and anxiety that so many people, including believers experience. We have the Torah to which we can refer and find the answer to any problem we face in this training phase of our lives.
One example of many is found in the narrative of Abraham, who was told to pack up and move to a place to which G-d would direct him, but of which Abraham had no knowledge. Also, Ya’akov’s extended family left Canaan for the unforeseeable future. Although we do not know what will happen tomorrow, we do know the end of the story for believers and unbelievers. But G-d is our Judge and will decide who fits which category in the end. We must forge ahead just as Abraham in obedience and trust. Yes, Avraham faltered a couple of times when he feared for his life and that of Sarah, but this is all part of the journey. The kind of trust and faith we have the potential to develop may never be realized because of our human fears. It is indeed difficult to take off the proverbial lifejacket and jump into the arms of the Father who assures us he will catch us. Yet, this He promises those who follow His ways and He will never fail us or leave us (Deut. 31:6).
In the case of Yosef, he had to function in new culture and way of life. However, he never abandoned his faith in or loyalty to G-d. This is another lesson for us. No matter where we find ourselves, we must remember wherever G-d places us we can glorify Him. Yosef was the only one among his siblings who was given this mission. His brothers were living in Goshen where they could follow their own occupation and freely worship their G-d without Egyptian interference.
Ya’akov’s family presence in Egypt and Yosef’s behavior after his capture is so important an example for us that it is the very last word in the Book of Genesis: “Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Gen. 50:26). This ending word is highly significant and a special pearl in the Torah. The last word of Genesis is a bridge to Exodus, a reminder that much of the book is set outside of Canaan and that Israel’s beginnings belonged to a nomadic or seminomadic past. I am reminded of this fact whenever I see the plant called the “Wandering Jew,” named for its quick-wandering nature and ability to thrive in a variety of environments. It is extremely interesting that put together, the last words of each book of the Torah provide the grand tour of the Israelites journey; Egypt, Journeys, Sinai, Jericho, Israel. This is a “virtual summary of the Torah’s narrative about the people of Israel, from slavery to Sinai to the Promised Land” (Etz Hayim Commentary, p. 310). The journey begins with the 430-year-long “gap year” that transformed the clan of people and a nation. It is no coincidence that there is a 4-month gap between Chanukkah and Pesach!
The conclusion of the patriarchal epoch is by no means the end of the story. The history of the Israelites to this point established the precedence, the nucleus of the future “nation of priests” mentioned in 1 Peter beyond that of the Levites to Mecezeldeck hypothesized to be Yahshua. Interesting to realize this concept completes a circle whereby Avraham paid tithes to Mecezeldeck before the Levites were born and became a priesthood. Yosef who delivers his own family by providing for the Egyptians, finds himself between two cultures as we do today. Yosef had to function in Egypt as we have to function in the “Egypt” of our sinful world. He had to take on their dress and customs such as being embalmed and placed in a coffin. Yet, he never forsook his faith in and obedience to G-d. He made the sons of Israel swear to take his bones out of Egypt (Gen. 50:25).
Even more than Yosef, his children are raised in an environment that develops adaptive traits. Before Ya’akov died, he blessed his two grandsons saying “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh” (Gen. 48:20). From the silence concerning these boys in the Torah, commentators claim they were the first two brothers in the Torah that didn’t fight with each other! However, what we know of their background provides a more substantial reason to make them the source of the traditional blessing for boys said every Shabbat. These boys had an Egyptian mother and an Israelite father who was one of the most powerful men in Egypt. They were born in the Diaspora, not only Egyptian but also Israelite- children living in two worlds just as did Yosef. This begs the question of why our sons are blessed in their names. Could it be because they grew up in the Diaspora and still remained faithful to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, like so many true believers throughout history?
Sandwiched between Yosef and Moshe, Ephraim and Manasseh who, by the way are two separate tribes of their own in the Book of Revelation, represent the qualities we depend on for continuity: versatility, adaptability, and maneuverability surrounding a core of fervent conviction. All of us face the ever-present challenges of living a Torah-observant life in a non-Torah, antinomian world. Ya’akov was given the insight to know his grandsons had the ability and desire to meet these challenges. This is the reason he considered them equal (one stick) to his sons. This provides us insight into how YHVH/Yahshua views true believers. It matters not whether our parents were Egyptians, Israelites, or Martians. If we guard the commands of HaShem and carry the testimony of Yahshua as Yahshua defines the true believer or Israelite (Seven-fold witness in Revelation), we become partakers of the covenants of Israel. This grafting in of the half-sons is symbolic of the grafting in of the two sticks Ephraim Israel and Judah Israel described in the book of Ezekiel.
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 2:1-12
In this week’s haftarah, King David delivers his last message from his deathbed to Solomon. This reflects back on the section in our parashah that addresses Ya’akov’s parting instructions to his sons and his blessings upon them. David encourages Solomon to be strong and remain faithful to G-d, just as G-d encourages us to be strong and courageous. He assures Solomon this is the key to being successful in everything he does as well as for the continuation of the Davidic Dynasty. We can say the same for believers today. Again, it is that trust in G-d that will allow us to remove our perceived security blankets and step into the unknown that will assure our success in all we undertake. Remember, this is an active trust and not simply a professed self- faith. Then, David imparts some of his insight and experience in tactics pertaining to some of the people who deserved punishment or reward for their actions during his reign. This may serve as a reminder to us that we will be held accountable for our actions at some point; either in this world or in the next, perhaps both. Reward and punishment will be justly administered by G-d (Matt. 12:36; Rom. 14:12). Rewards or the withholding thereof will occur at the first judgment (Rev. 20:6). Punishment for those destined for the lake of fire will occur at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 21:8; Jude v.12). The haftarah concludes with the death and burial of David in the City of David. King Solomon assumes the throne and his sovereignty established.
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Kefa (1 Peter) 1:3-9; 2:11-17
The first passage reminds us of what we learn in this week’s parashah through the narration of Yosef’s life. That is, we are destined to endure various trials and testings as a life-long litmus test of our love for and faith in YHVH/Yahshua. Kefa (Pete) tells us these testings may be likened to the refining of gold whereby the dross is continually brought to the top and skimmed off in the refining process. It is G-d’s purpose for us that we be found genuine in our desire to spend eternity with YHVH/Yahshua through our obedience and perseverance in rejoicing no matter our circumstances. The last verse in this first passage (1 Peter 1:9) proves once again that we are in the process of being saved and delivered: “And you are receiving what your trust is aiming at, namely, your deliverance.” Note these verbs are progressive and not written in the past tense. We have not arrived; we are not saved yet!
The second passage reminds us of something many of us would like to ignore. We read in 1 Peter 2:11-17 “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens (no we are not re-incarnated ancient aliens) and temporary residents not to give into the desires of your old nature, which keep warring against you; but to live such good lives among the pagans that even though they now speak against you as evildoers, they will, as the result of seeing your good actions, give glory to G-d on the day of his coming. For the sake of the L-rd, submit yourselves to every human authority- whether to the emperor as being supreme or to the governors as being sent by him to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do what is good. For it is G-d’s will that your doing good should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Submit as people who are free, but not letting your freedom serve as an excuse for doing evil; rather, submit as G-d’s slaves. Be respectful to all- keep loving the brotherhood, fearing G-d and honoring the emperor.”
This passage is filled with evidence that we are not free to eat the forbidden foods, change the Shabbat, or assimilate with family and friends who celebrate pagan holidays as is taught as “freedom in Christ.” Evil is any action or speech not consistent with G-d’s Torah. Like Yosef, we are to submit to earthly authorities stopping short of disobedience to G-d’s Torah. Yosef never disobeyed G-d even as he lived in Egypt and submitted to the pharaoh of the time. G-d blessed him and his family for his obedience.
The old nature spoken of in the beginning of this passage that we war against on a daily basis is the yetzer hara. This is a spiritual war between the ideas and lifestyles exhibited physically by Esau and Jacob; Isaac and Ishmael; David and Goliath. I mention Goliath to whom I compare the majority of the world who subscribes to and encourages a non-Torah observant life. The remnant of true believers are the “Davids” who must learn to follow G-d’s Torah with courage, trust, and obedience as our defense. The only way we can achieve such resolve is to diligently study G-d’s Torah, internalize and act upon it, and pray for wisdom from above to understand the new knowledge G-d allows us to obtain and act upon it as a way of life.
Rabbi Tamah Davis