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Parashat Vayechi - 5778

Dear friends,

As we come to the last Shabbat in the year 2017, we also come to the last Parasha in the Book of Genesis. It is the end of the era of the Founding Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

Vayechi begins with the description of the death of Jacob. He lived 17 years in Egypt and now, just before he dies, he calls upon his son Joseph and asks him to make sure that he will take his body back to Canaan, and bury him in the Cave of Machpelah, where Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are buried. Before dying, Jacob blesses his children one by one.

This portion begins with the death of Jacob and ends with the death of Joseph. Joseph also has his brothers promise him that, when they leave Egypt, they should take his remains with them and bury him in Canaan.

The last four portions of the Book of Genesis dealt with Jacob and Joseph. While Jacob was born in Israel and spent the last 17 years of his life in Egypt, Joseph was born in Israel but spent most of his life (93 out of 110 years) in Egypt. Joseph begins a new era for the Jewish people. He and his brothers and a few generations to come will spend their years in exile, in Egypt.

There is a saying in the Talmud - 'Maassei Avot Siman Labanim' - 'The life of our ancestors is reflected in the life of their descendants.' For close to two thousand years our people will live in exile, never forgetting where we came from, with the hope of returning to our homeland in Israel. While in Egypt we became fruitful and successful - so did our people in every land of their dispersion. In Egypt, a new king took over and did not recognize the contributions made to his country by Joseph and his people. He enslaved them and embittered their lives for may centuries until the Exodus and the Return to Israel. The same happened to almost every Jewish community in the 2000 years of exile. First, they were welcomed. They made new lives for themselves and significant contributions to their host countries. But then they were turned against to be discriminated and oppressed.

As we complete the Book of Genesis and the year 2017, let us hope that this new era will bring an end to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel efforts in so many parts of the world.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram