11 January 2017
This week’s parasha is entitled, Va-yechi, “and Jacob lived.” But this last portion of the Book of Genesis is really about how Jacob died. He does so with dignity, preparation, humility and focus. One commentator notes that Jacob’s approach to death is exactly the opposite of Dylan Thomas’: “Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Instead, Jacob accepts his fate and gets his affairs in order by extracting a promise from Joseph that he will be buried in his homeland and then blessing his children and grandchildren. It is a natural process, a fitting close to the Genesis story, which was all about creation and the lives of our forefathers and foremothers. When his time comes, the Torah refers to Jacob’s death with the beautiful phrase: “He is gathered to his people.” He dies surrounded by family (in contrast to the lonely death of Moses) and in death, we are told he returns to family as well.
Va-yehi, Genesis and Judaism are all life affirming.