Commentary on Parashat Vayechi, Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
Provided by the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, exploring Torah through the original sources.
1. How old was Jacob when he came down to Egypt? How long did he live in Egypt?
2. Describe the events of Jacob’s blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim. Why did he bless Ephraim first?
3. Name at least five other instances where the younger brother is preferred over the elder.
4. What are two possible meanings of the following statement of Jacob to Joseph: “And now thy two sons, who were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine”?
5. When Jacob gave prophecy to his sons, he said that Reuben was unstable as water and would not excel. Why did Jacob say this?
6. How did Jacob describe Simon and Levi and why?
7. Describe the relationship between Zebulun and Issachar.
8. What was Jacob’s prophecy for Dan?
9. Which brothers are compared to animals, and which animals?
10. Jacob asks to be buried in the cave in the field of Mahpelah. Who is already buried there? Who is not buried there and where is that person buried?
11. After Jacob died, what lie did Joseph’s brothers tell?
12. What was Joseph’s response to this lie?
13. How old was Joseph when he died and what was his last request?
1. Jacob was 130 when he came to Egypt. He stayed there for 17 years.
2. Joseph put Jacob’s right hand toward Manasseh’s forehead and his left hand toward Ephraim’s. When Jacob switched his hands, placing his right hand which should be for the eldest on the youngest, Joseph protested. Jacob explained that the younger would be greater and his seed would become a multitude of nations (48:17-20).
3. These are five instances where the younger was preferred over the older: Abel (Cain), Isaac (Ishmael), Jacob (Esau), Moses (Aaron), Joseph (Reuben).
4. The first possible explanation of this verse is “And so Joseph brought them out from between his (Jacob’s) knees” is that this was the symbol of adoption. Jacob adopted the two boys and they each received an equal portion of Jacob’s estate. The second possible explanation is that they were to be considered sons of Canaan like Jacob, not sons of Egypt (48:5).
5. Jacob said this because Reuben went to his father’s bed with Bilhah and defiled it (49:3-4).
6. Jacob described Simon and Levi as weapons of violence, because they slaughtered Shehem who had raped Dinah, plus all of the men of his tribe (49:5-7).
7. Jacob described Zebulun as a seaman and merchant, and Issachar as a student. Zebulun financed Issachar’s Torah study and both benefited thereby (49:13-15).
8. Jacob’s prophecy for Dan was that he would judge (and defend) his people as one of the tribes of Israel (49:16-17).
9. These brothers were compared to animals: Judah to a lion (49:9); Issachar to a large-boned ass (49:14); Dan to a snake (49:17); Naphtali to a hind (49:21); Benjamin to a wolf (49:27).
10. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah are buried in the cave of Mahpelah (49:31). Rachel is buried near Bet Lehem.
11. Joseph’s brothers lied and said that Jacob had commanded Joseph to forgive his brothers for their transgressions and the evil they had done him (50:15-16).
12. Joseph told them not to be afraid; that while they meant evil against him, God meant it for good, to save many lives (50:20).
13. Joseph was 110 years old when he died (50:26). His last request was that his bones be buried in Canaan (50:24-25).
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.