2002Do you ever ponder what is the connection between end and beginning, how interconnected are the two, and did you ever wonder how one's end is another's beginning? Here is what our texts have to say about Jacob and the end of his life:
Know Where You Are Heading, And Do Something About It!
Genesis Chapter 47:28-49:1
And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen Years. And Jacob's days, the years of his life were a hundred and forty seven years. When the time drew near for Israel to die he called his son Joseph and said to him "If I have now found favor in your eyes now place your hand beneath my thigh and you shall deal with me with loving kindness and truth. Do not bury me now in Egypt I will lie with my forefathers and you shall carry me out of Egypt and you shall bury me in their grave. And [Joseph] said' "I will do as you say" And [Jacob] said, "Swear to me" So he swore to him' and Israel prostrated himself on the head of the bed. Jacob called for his sons and said: "Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days."
Your Torah navigator
1. What would you do with 147 years of life?
2. How can one know when it is his/her time to die?
3. Why does Jacob insist on being buried with his forefathers?
4. What is the point of the swearing?
5. Why did Jacob want to tell his sons about the End of Days, and what is the meaning of "The End of Days"?
One of our most famous commentaries, Rashi, addresses one of these questions.
Rashi Genesis 49:1
I will tell you: he (Jacob) wished to reveal the End (of the exile) and the divine presence departed from him and he began speaking about other things.
Your Rashi navigator
1. Way did Jacob try to tell his sons about the end of exile?
2. What is the benefit of knowing when is the end of the exile?
3. What is the divine presence?
4. Why did the divine presence stop Jacob from telling his sons about the End of Days?
There is at least one experience in everyone's life that is difficult to overcome without hardship - the act of moving from the past to the present; from the old to the new; saying goodbye and creating a new beginning. This experience occurs quite often - when we change our location, job, and other times in our life. Often it is accompanied by feelings of fear, nervousness, and sometimes anger. Sometimes it very hard to see where we are going and when something looks like it is coming to an end. Like Jacob and his sons, we have the responsibility to know when it is the end and when it is the beginning.
Jacob tells his sons that he is about to leave them, and at the same time hints about their future. He gives them hope by connecting the past - his life - with the future. We too have the power within us to look and search for ways to link the past to the future.
When things seem bleak, and we don't know what life has in store for us next, we need to remember to have hope and to trust that we are going to have a promising future. It is in our best interest to remember this and to create the link between the past and future! When we trust that a promising future will come, we can overcome any kind of problems that lie in our way! Good luck to all in your new future!
Prepared by Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, Campus Rabbi/Jewish Educator, University of Maryland, College Park.
Additional commentaries and text studies on Vayechi at MyJewishLearning.com.