SHABBAT: Begins sundown 12/13/2013 to sundown 12/14/2013
Asara B’Tevet occurs on Friday, 13 December 2013
Candle lighting: 4:12pm on Friday, 13 December 2013
Havdalah (72 min): 5:42pm on Saturday, 14 December 2013
Parashat Vayechi / פרשת ויחי
B’resheet (Genesis) 47:28-50:26
M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 2:1-12
B’rit Hadashah Suggested readings for Parashah Vayechi:
Acts 7:9-16 (Specifically vv. 15-16); Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 11:21-22; 1 Kefa (1 Peter) 1:3-9; 2:11-17
Messianic Torah Portion Vayechi “And he lived” by Rabbi Yaakov benYosef
The significance of giving blessings and receiving blessings is not understood in the same context that the fathers of our faith understood it. Today most believers are only taught about receiving the blessings that directly come from HaShem. While understanding the importance of the blessings we receive from HaShem is critical to our faith, it is not the only aspect of blessings. During biblical times, it was also understood that HaShem’s blessings could be passed from one person to another. Many of the, blessings described in the Torah and in the Brit Hadashah are blessings that result from this type of exchange.
Blessings of this nature always require a physical connection between the two individuals. As a result, these blessings require the laying on of hands. The importance of a blessing like this is that it is a public witness of HaShem’s authority to pass a blessing from one person to another. Scripture teaches that these types of blessings are always passed from the person of greater righteousness to the person of lesser righteousness. The writer of Hebrews understood this, as we can see in Hebrews 7:1-7, which states: For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. This passing of HaShem’s blessing from one person to another person demonstrated to the world that HaShem allows His power to flow through His people. Therefore, the passing on of blessings is a clear representation of HaShem’s concern for all humanity.
Yaakov demonstrated this when he blessed the Pharaoh. B’reisheet 47:7-10 states “Yosef brought in Yaakov his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Yaakov blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Yaakov, How old are you? And Yaakov said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. And Yaakov blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.” Blessing others in the name of HaShem is considered an act of holiness. Therefore, blessing another individual with the laying on of hands has the power to transform the individual receiving the blessing. The transforming power of passing blessings to others, can be seen in Vayechi when Yaakov laid his hands on Ephraim and Manasseh and pronounced the blessing.
When Yaakov was preparing to die Yosef brought his sons Ephraim and Manasseh to his father, so that he could bless his grandchildren. In the process of blessing his grandchildren, Yaakov crossed his hands putting his left hand on Manasseh’s head and his right hand on Ephraim’s head. Yaakov then blessed the two children as B’reisheet 48:15-16 states: “he blessed Yosef, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Yaakov’s blessing passed onto his grandchildren five of the most crucial parts of HaShem’s covenant with Yisrael. In the first part of the blessing, Yaakov asked HaShem to be the God of Ephraim and Manasseh. In the second part of the blessing, Yaakov asked HaShem to redeem Ephraim and Manasseh through the messenger of redemption. In the third part of the blessing, Yaakov placed his name on the boys. In the fourth part of the blessing, Yaakov gave the name of his forefathers to the boys.
In the fifth part of the blessing, Yaakov asked HaShem to make Ephraim and Manasseh into a multitude. Yaakov’s blessing encompassed all the promises and blessings given to Yisrael. Yaakov’s blessing on Ephraim and Manasseh was a blessing to bring Ephraim and Manasseh into the same covenant as Yaakov’s natural-born sons. Therefore, Yaakov was fulfilling his promise that is recorded in B’reisheet 48:3-5, which states: “Yaakov said unto Yosef, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” Yaakov’s blessing replaced the Egyptian identity Ephraim and Manasseh inherited when the Pharaoh renamed Yosef and gave Yosef an Egyptian wife. B’reisheet 41:45 states “Pharaoh called Joseph`s name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.” Yaakov’s blessing resurrected the Hebrew heritage that was Yosef’s before he was separated from his brothers. Therefore, Ephraim and Manasseh were grafted into Yaakov’s family and became the natural branches of Yosef’s linage. This gave Ephraim and Manasseh the same responsibilities and rewards that natural-born sons inherit. Yaakov’s blessing transformed children born to Zaphnathpaaneah and his Egyptian wife into children who were Yisraelites. Therefore, when HaShem delivered His people from Egyptian bondage, Ephraim and Manasseh were counted among the tribes of Yisrael. In addition, when HaShem brought the Yisraelites to Mount Sinai, Ephraim and Manasseh received the Torah at the same time as the other tribes. In fact, the grafted branch of Ephraim produced Yehoshua who became a leader and led the Children of Yisrael into the Promised Land. When Yaakov blessed Ephraim and Manasseh they became responsible for the Torah, the covenants and the same responsibilities that HaShem had given to the natural branches.
In Vayechi, we can see that the transfer of Yaakov’s blessing to Yosef’s sons replaced their Egyptian identity with a resurrected Hebrew identity. Yaakov’s actions made Ephraim and Manasseh full brothers with the other tribes. Therefore, Yaakov’s grafting of Ephraim and Manasseh into Yisrael also made Ephraim and Manasseh responsible for worshipping the same way and with the same commandments that HaShem had given to the natural branches. Therefore, as grafted branches, Ephraim and Manasseh’s Egyptian identity died, and they gained the identity of Yisrael. In other words, Ephraim and Manasseh became a new creation. As a result, Ephraim and Manasseh were equal partakers of the root and the fatness of the natural olive tree that Rav Shaul speaks of in Romans 11:17, when he sates: “if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them to partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree” In this present age Grafted believers are comparable to Ephraim and Manasseh. Therefore, all believers should become partakers of the root and the fatness of the olive tree. It is the duty of believers to resurrect the covenants, commandments and responsibilities that HaShem has given to all His people.
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