temple emanu-el
top border
Torah Commentary
Va-y'chi (December 29, 2012)

Prince H. Davis, Administrative Assistant

VA-Y’CHI IS THE last parashah in the book of Genesis, and as such, our forefather Jacob gives us a final lesson that still is relevant in our Internet-connected, wireless, high-tech world. Jacob, through all his accomplishments, teaches us about how to live in galut — in exile.

After 20 years of living with Laban, Jacob returns to Israel and loses his beloved son Joseph. The years that follow are painful, having to live with the idea that Joseph is dead. (Amazingly, Joseph is alive and serving as viceroy of Egypt.) Because of famine, Jacob is forced to leave Israel and, consequently, to exile in Egypt.

We learned in last week’s parashah that Jacob sends Judah ahead to Goshen, in order to build a settlement for Jacob’s household. Jacob knows the absolute necessity of maintaining a Jewish identity while in Egypt, or all the work of his forefathers in creating a nation devoted to God will be lost completely.

In this week’s parashah, Jacob teaches his children in a final dramatic fashion how one is to deal with galut. No matter how comfortable and home-like galut may feel, in the end, it is not Israel. Jacob tells Joseph that he wants no part of Egypt and that Egypt is not his home in any way. Jacob tells Joseph that he does not want to be buried in Egypt and that his body should be taken to Israel.

We must follow Jacob’s example to build and strengthen our communities, wherever they may be. Our religious centers, day schools, Jewish clubs on campuses, camps, auxiliaries — all of them need support. We need to remember that when leaving to enjoy a vacation, we must conduct ourselves in a way that reflects our ethical teachings as Jews: that is, to spread the ideals of morality, peace and justice.

Many times we travel to places where Jewish life isn’t felt so strongly or is totally non-existent. In that case, bring a little Judaism with you. Pack a book on Jewish history, philosophy, Torah commentary, a book by your favorite Jewish novelist or the Emanu-El Torah commentaries! I firmly believe in the “Torah u’Madda” approach, which is the integration of Torah values with worldly knowledge. While we seek to maintain a harmonious balance of these two ideas, we always must keep in mind a sense of who we are as Jews and the glue that binds us all together.

Join the conversation and post your thoughts.

Back to Torah Study
photo of temple
One East 65th St., New York, New York 10065. Phone  212-744-1400
One East 65th Street, New York, NY 10065    (212) 744-1400 horizontal rule Member Log In | Calendar | Site Map | Contact Us | Text Size [+] [-]