Vayechi: Adjusting our focus
Contrary to the plethora of bartering and financial transactions that have taken place up to this point in The Book of Genesis, the final chapters bring a fresh approach to the measure of wealth.
Our Torah portion of Vayechi, highlights Yaakov’s last will and testament to his children, and delineates words of wisdom (and caution) for the unique path that each is destined to take. It’s remarkable that there is no mention of how (or if) he divides up his material possessions. This, despite the Torah describing at great length how he accumulates – and leaves the house of Lavan with – great wealth. Similarly, we can only imagine the wealth that Yosef had accumulated, and yet his sole expressed wish before he too dies is to be buried in Israel. As the curtain falls on our parsha and Sefer Breishis, this wish is almost 200 years away from being realized. Uncertainty also surrounds the fulfillment of the one wish that the brothers ask of Yosef, namely their desire to be granted forgiveness. His response is ambiguous, leaving us to wonder whether Yosef really was able to forgive them.
Our portion teaches us not to wait until it’s too late. It challenges us to emulate Yaakov and Yosef, by focusing on the important things in life, and not being afraid to show affection and appreciation to those around us. “Yaakov never died,” teaches the Talmud; through the love, wisdom, and blessings that he imparted, and his life-story that we review and learn from each year, his values and legacy live on in each successive generation into perpetuity.
The famous adage that weaves its way through sefer Breishis teaches: maaseh avos siman l’bonim – the narratives of the matriarchs & patriarchs are an indication of what will happen to their descendants. Families are complex and drama abounds – some things never change. Let’s remain open to the possibilities of asking for and granting forgiveness. Let’s count the blessings they give us and not hold back from blessing and thanking those closest to us. More than our monetary wealth, this “spiritual wealth” will be a truly lasting legacy.