Let’s talk about life

Between Us

This week’s parasha is entitled, Va-yehi, “and Jacob lived.” But this last portion of the Book of Genesis is really about how Jacob died. Jacob passes away 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 of approaching death with resentment, Jacob accepts his fate and gets his affairs in order by extracting a promise from Joseph to be buried in his homeland and bless his children and grandchildren. It is a natural process, a fitting close to the Genesis narrative about creation and the lives of our forefathers and foremothers. When Jacob’s time comes, the Torah refers to his death with the beautiful phrase:  “he is gathered to his people.”  Jacob 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 and the Book of Genesis are life-affirming, as is Judaism itself.  “To life” we say as we lift a glass and celebrate. To life.