Torah Reading for Vayechi
November 17-23, 2019
Jesus himself said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the Law of Moses [Torah] and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled…” (Luke 24:44). With this in mind, let us look at this week’s Torah encoded reading, Genesis 47:27-50:26. In the Hebrew language (God’s sacred tongue) from which our English Bible translation was taken, this week’s Torah encoded reading is called,
“Vayechi,” translated, “And he lived,” see Genesis 47:27
To understand this, one has to first of all identify the double references in the text. On a simple linguistic level which is what we refer to as the first layer of the text’s meaning, the reading focuses on the code “Vayechi,” translated, “And he lived.” Thus, in the opening part of the reading, we are told that Jacob lives the final 17 years of his life in Egypt. In the main part of the reading, just before his passing, Jacob asks Joseph to take an oath that he will bury him in the land of the Holy One. Please note that Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, elevating them to the status of his own sons as progenitors of tribes within the nation of Israel. Jacob, then, desires to reveal the end of days to his children, but is prevented from doing so. He blesses his sons, assigning to each his role as a tribe: For example, Judah will produce leaders, legislators and kings; priests will come from Levi, scholars from Issachar, seafarers from Zebulun, schoolteachers from Simeon, soldiers from Gad, judges from Dan, olive-growers from Asher, and so on. Naphtali is granted the swiftness of a deer, Benjamin the ferociousness of a wolf, and Joseph is blessed with beauty and fertility. A large funeral procession consisting of Jacob’s descendants, Pharaoh’s ministers, the leading citizens of Egypt and the Egyptian cavalry accompanies Jacob on his final journey to the land of the Holy One, where he is buried in the Machpelah cave in Hebron. Joseph, too, dies in Egypt, at the age of 110. He instructs that his bones be taken out of Egypt and buried in the land of the Holy One. The reading ends with Joseph conveying to the children of Israel the testament from which they will draw their hope and faith in the difficult years to come.
On a deeper theological level, this week’s Torah reading, “And he lived” has a profound message to us, the Church, the Body of Christ. This becomes increasingly clear when the reading is interpreted in the context of this sixth week of the Providence season. And that is, our God is a great and awesome God. Why, because our God is faithful and truthful to carry out his promise given to us, namely, that when we come to the end of our journey of faith we will not die because our souls will return to God to live with Him forever. How do we know that? Listen, again, to this week’s encoded message. “Thus Israel lived…” The word “vayechi” means to live without death, (Gen. 49:27). It is, therefore, clear that the greatest expression of the fulfillment of our mission on earth is eternal life. What precisely is the mission that God dispatched our souls from their spiritual birth-place in heaven to the earth for? Isaiah responded, saying, “For the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….” (Isa. 61:1-4). It is no wonder why David said, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord…O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together,” (Psalm 34:1-3). Jesus himself, therefore, put it this way, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God and believe also in me…” (John 14:1-3).
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