Leaving B’reshit…staying strong 1- 13-17
I can not believe we are already leaving sefer B’reshit. Before we do there is Parasha (Vayechi וַיְחִי -and he lived) to look at, which bezrat Hashem we will do. We should also think about the overarching ‘story’ B’reshit had to tell and how that will lead us into sefer Sh’mot.
Let’s go back before we go forward and think a little bit about creation. This was ‘God’s world’ the garden, a special place for a man with a mission. His task was simple and profound. The plan A situation would have been for mankind to live forever with Hashem serving as a priest in His garden, guarding and watching over His testimonies and teaching it to the children he was commanded to create and share this ideal life with. In “God’s world” – God plants, God creates, man is in a way more subservient in an animal kingdom, man and animal are both bidden to eat vegetation, there is no death.
B’reshit 1; 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
The fall of man leads to a strain of humanity’s becoming overly involved in their creative power. It is when that creative power is exercised without restraint that the world becomes corrupted. It is a corruption which extends even into the animal and ‘plant life’. Even the eretz is defiled.
B’reshit 6; 11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. 13 Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.
God is caused to grieve having created man for he has become completely corrupted yet there was one man whose name means “rest”, Noach, whom God choses to pick up where fallen man left off after recreation. The flood waters are immense, from above and below the water…like creation, then on a certain day dry land appears (like creation), and a wind [ruach elohim] from God passes over the earth ( like the ruach in the beginning- hovering above the waters ). Vegetation is retrieved by the dove, just as that day of creation wherein the vegetation came forth. Then living things come forth from the Teivah-Ark, just as the ‘beasts’ and man came forth on the 6th day of creation. Noach and his family along with all that with the breath of life that were preserved in the Ark are the plan B for Hashem. This time, in re-creation, it is ‘man’s world’. Man is now permitted to kill and eat, even as much as an animal might consume the grass. Man is in charge and this world is a little bit darker, even at its conception. Knowing this God lays out specific commands regarding the eating of blood, murder, and the acknowledgement of seasons (another tie back to creation- sun, moon, and stars for lights and for knowing the Moadim- appointed times/Feasts of the Lord).
B’reshit 8; 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. 22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” 9;1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, its blood. 5 Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.
Plan A, God’s world…He has a universal focus, God relating to mankind. There is the hope that all creation will become a part of His perfect plan in harmony. Plan B, Man’s world…the universal vision is over. Now there are different nations (all coming forth from the sons of Noach- Shem, Cham and Yapeth) different perspectives- it is not one family anymore. Then we come to another shift. The tower becomes the embodiment of man’s obsession with his own creative power. Man is plotting, building, making a name for themselves. They won’t be known any longer by being in the image of God but their name shall be made by what they have created, “we’re the tower builders.” The danger is the lack of restraint and the obsession with ‘my creativity is the only thing that makes me – me”, therefore there is no place for recognition of the sovereign creator in whose hand all destiny is established and He brings ultimate good to fruition.
B’reshit 11; 3 They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” 5 The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.
The Torah then takes us ten generations ahead to Avraham avinu. This is God’s plan C. He can no longer relate to man under His own perfect conditions (God’s world- garden). He can no longer relate to man as one unified family (Man’s world- recreation). Now God finds a way to relate His truths, His Oneness, His perfect eternal mission for humankind through one man. This man (Avraham) will become a nation, the people of Israel. It is through the Jewish people that His word and will for humanity will be communicated, exemplified and translated. This is how God finds the way to relate to a world full of fundamentally different peoples, languages… for the Torah of Hashem transcends those barriers- yet He needed (and appointed) a torch bearer.
B’reshit 12; 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives
And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
John 8; 56 Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see My day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?” 58“Truly, truly, I tell you,” Yeshua declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
So you see, as we are reading the Torah and learning the amazing things God has gifted us in the Hebrew language I desire to glorify His unified plan by looking at the Torah as a whole. Starting with Bereshit we can see the original plan of God and how it was enlarged through the work of Yeshua to include those of us from the nations. But to begin at the beginning we can truly better see our role in the end. These are not just stories for entertainment. The Torah, our bible is not just an object for personal elevation, edification and fascination…it is the very vehicle we need to know how, where,when and why we are to arrive at the ultimate destination.
Yeshayahu 51; 1“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2“Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; when he was but one I called him,then I blessed him and multiplied him.”3 Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody. 4“Pay attention to Me, O My people, and give ear to Me, O My nation; For a Torah תוֹרָה֙ will go forth from Me, and I will set My justice for a light of the peoples.
We have followed Avraham avinu’s family through many challenges and triumphs. We have looked in depth at the interpersonal relationships noticing new perspectives and considering different aspects of accounts we thought we were familiar with. This has led us, via the Hebrew language to Yosef and Egypt. Mitsrayim. Let us get a good sense of this word before continuing.
#6696 (v) tsur – צוּר- to bind together, to press, besiege, to urge, to press upon, to cut (with a knife), to stir up, to divide, to form.
[ 1st context this verbal root is found: Sh’mot 23:20 “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 “Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. 22 “But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries וְצַרְתִּי אֶת צֹרְרֶֽיךָ. ]
#4692 (Masc.N) matsor מָצוֹר – distress, seige,a mound, bulkward, citadel.
[ 1st context of matsor is found : Devarim 20:19 “When you besiege תָצוּר a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged בַּמָּצֹֽור by you? 20 “Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siege-works מָצֹור against the city that is making war with you until it falls. ]
#4714 (adj./Proper locative N) Mitsrayim מִצְרַיִם – Egypt, Egyptians.
It is no wonder that Ya’acov was wary about going to Egypt with his sons. Even if it was for the magnificent reunion with his long lost son Yosef. His father and grandfather had their wives abducted when they went down there, his sons had incurred all kinds of stress and turmoil since their decent. What was he to expect? God answers his fear:
B’reshit 46;1 So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Ya’acov, Ya’acov.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.”
May we know, and understand that God will go down with us into our Egypt places. God will go with us into whatever places of pressing, besieging, cutting, or division we may descend to. His spirit does not desert us in the pits of life. His spirit doesn’t flee from us when we stumble and fail. He will go with us and abide in us. For we are His people and a wild branch as part of Israel. It may also help to know that Mitsrayim was never meant to be a permanent stay. In Mitsrayim we learn our weaknesses and sometimes enjoy periods of peace. But let us never forget where our TRUE HOME is. Let us not allow the pain in the moment to steal for us His ultimate vision.
Haggai 2:5 ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ 6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.7 ‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.
B’reshit 28;1 Ya’acov lived in the land of Mitsrayim for seventeen years, and the days of Ya’acov, the years of his life, were one hundred and forty seven.
The 17 years in Egypt were the only ones during which Ya’acov enjoyed a quiet, undisturbed life. They were important to the life of Ya’acov as an individual. The troubled, depressed, time of testing in the midst of the ‘Jacob-like’ existence, he had to earn the right to bear the name Yisrael. It was during the difficult years that Ya’acov acquired his eternal significance in the history of the nation. The 17 years in Egypt are the happy conclusion & personal reward for him.
B’reshit 31 and he said, “Swear to me.” And he swore to him, and Israel bowed back toward the head of the bed.
Ya’acov’s requirement of Yosef to take an oath that he would not burry him in Egypt but take him to the land of Cana’an tells us several things.
- He is stressing this request with a solemn oath.
- He knows it would not ‘look good’ for the ‘royal family’ to have a burial outside of Mitsrayim, therefore it requires more than Joseph merely agreeing to fill a preference.
- He has noted the powerful influence the acquisition of property has had on his family, they are becoming ‘bound to the land’.
- therefore, Ya’acov’s urgent insistence that they take him to be buried in THEIR TRUE HOME shows: ‘You may want to live in Egypt, but I do not even wish to be buried here.’
- He expresses this wish not as Ya’acov, but as Israel- as the bearer of his nation’s destiny in the form of a stern reminder for that nations future.
Having communicated his last wishes to Yosef, he had now come to the final matter he had been placed on this earth to do. Thus he ‘bends backward’ to thank God for bringing him to this point and to his son.
# 319 (Fem.n) achariyt אַחֲרִית -the latter part, extreme part, end, issue, event, latter time, future time, posterity. (first occurrence is found in our Vayechi context)
* B’reshit 49:1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the בְּאַחֲרִית last days. (The next three occurrences are found in the ‘oracles of Bilam’)
* Bemidbar 23:10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!
* Bemidbar 24:14 And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.
* Bemidbar 24:20 And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. (The next occurrences are all in Devarim, the context of each one is beautiful and stark.)
* Devarim 4:30 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; 31 (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
* Devarim 8:14 Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness,fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; 16 Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; 17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore unto thy fathers, as this day.
* Devarim 11:7 But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the LORD which he did. 8 Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it; 9 And that ye may prolong your days in the land, which the LORD swore unto your fathers to give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 10 For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowed thy seed, and watered it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: 11 But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: 12 A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.
* Devarim 31:29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.
* Devarim 32:16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. 19 And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. 20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. (the last occurrence in Torah is most heart wrenching.)
* Devarim 32:29 O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
** Let us for a moment return to a topic from the last lesson: the brothers’ fear when Ya’akov dies. The brothers fully understood Yosef’s rebuke “I am Yosef; does my father yet live?” Yosef focused not on the suffering he himself endured at their hands, but on their father’s pain and heartbreak. When he uttered those five words, he was saying “I understand that you hated me ? but how can you have been so heartless to your father”?
Prior to Yosef’s rebuke, the brothers had offered themselves as slaves. Yosef rejected the offer. They understood that when Yosef said “I am Yosef ? Is my father still alive?” he also meant: “I would not behave as you did and take revenge and hurt my father.”
Now Ya’akov is dead, so they again offer themselves as slaves. Now, nothing holds Yosef back from exacting his revenge. His father will no longer suffer if the sons hate one another, betray one another, abandon one another. The real tragedy , then, is that while Yosef was clearly motivated by a desire for his brothers to do Teshuva, to repent, they perceived him as petty and vengeful.
Despite Yosef’s various sincere attempts at reconciliation, there is one thing we find lacking in Yosef’s words. He never says, “I forgive you”. Rather, he speaks of God having a plan and he and the brothers being players in that plan ? But he never offers his forgiveness, and perhaps it was the absence of the forgiveness which frightened the brothers, and caused them never to feel completely comfortable with Yosef.
Perhaps Yosef himself was in part also a protagonist because he never forgave his brothers completely. He, too, bore guilt. Had he managed to control himself longer, perhaps he would have been able to arrive at a point of complete reconciliation. Yet we see that the brothers and Yosef lived in Egypt together many more years, and, tragically, they remained afraid of him. Scars from the sale remained, unhealed, and later generations experienced the wrath of those unhealed scars of an incomplete family. (Excerpts from Rabbi Kahn’s Torah Articles) **
B’reshit 48;11 Israel said to Yosef, “I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.” 12 Then Yosef took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. 13 Yosef took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him….
… 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 He blessed Yosef, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16 may the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”…20 So he blessed them on that day, saying, “With you, Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh,’ ” and he placed Ephraim before Manasseh.
Ephraim and Manasseh are a different essence of BROTHER. Although there was a ‘switching’ of distinction upon their blessing (inheritance) they didn’t illustrate any jealousy or strife between them. Ephraim and Manasseh are half Egyptian. Although they are ‘Torah people’, taking the baton and upholding the Abrahamic destiny they still represent that union of God’s people and the nations through their preservation of the covenant. This is the portion of text that parents all over the world bless their sons with at Shabbat. Placing our hands on their heads we repeat these words. The last line does indeed speak of the infinite and ‘impossible’, the beyond. May they go forth and abundantly do the impossible for the sake of Kavod Elohim- God’s glory…like a day when fish proliferate on the land. Again we are reminded that the pursuit of Torah, although it is impossible to perfect…the attempt at perfection is something God tells us we are meant to pursue. By His spirit, according to His will and testing all things against His standard. His Torah.
B’reshit 49;1 Then Ya’acov summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. 2 “Gather together and hear וְשִׁמְעוּ, O sons of Jacob; and listen וְשִׁמְעוּ to Yisrael your father.
Ya’acov’s last words to his sons are to be their blessings. But what he states he is going to do is tell them about the end. The end, the ultimate, the goal, the tikun- Get together. Come together as brothers, as a nation of priests, as a holy nation. Come together and Shema! Son’s of Ya’acov who each are human and ‘struggle’ with God and man…come together as sons of Ya’acov but Shema Yisrael.
#6908 (v) kavats קָבַץ- to collect, to congregate, to be gathered, to take with the hand, to take hold of, to recieve, to draw in, to gather selves together.
The first two contexts of kavats are for gathering the food in the good years, the very thing which Hashem had designed to bring brothers back together.
The next is from above. The third context is from: Devarim 13:16 “Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt.
This physical act will pronounce Israel’s desire to completely demolish any and everything under God’s ban from their lives. This they do in order to allow Him to keep His promises to them. The final two contexts will perhaps enlighten us as to what God was showing Ya’acov at the time of his death (why he uses this rarely occurring term):
Devarim 30:1 “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, 2 and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather וְקִבֶּצְךָ you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 “If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather יְקַבֶּצְךָ you, and from there He will bring you back. 5 “The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.6 “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.
Rashi explains that the Twelve Sons of Yakov before their fathers “death” were instructed by their father about the manner in which he wants his coffin carried out of Mitsrayim. The instruction was that precisely these particular three sons of the Twelve Tribes\Twelve Sons of Jacob would be on this side of Jacob’s coffin and so on, completing all of the four sides of Jacobs coffin. Jacob then exclaimed to his twelve sons that this will also be the ex act formation of how your families, The Twelve Tribes, in the future will encamp around The Holy Mishkan.
This can also illustrate that the Mishkan itself the center of the formation of the Tribes, can represent their father Yakov himself. This is a beautiful picture of the coming together of brothers after a long and trying ‘journey’.
The blessings of Ya’acov will serve for the tribes a reminder of the past, a look into the End, and as sustenance that will keep them going for a long period of lean years- enslavement which will by God’s plan end in the good. A nation called to come together and Shema Israel in the wilderness. May you be filled with strength and encouragement knowing that you too are a part of keeping the flame of the Abrahamic destiny lit. This is the destiny assigned to each one of us through life in Yeshua, the way by which God chose to relate to humanity after the fall. You too are a part of this tikun.
Zechariah 10;6 “I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back,because I have had compassion on them; and they will be as though I had not rejected them,for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. 7 “Ephraim will be like a mighty man, and their heart will be glad as if from wine; Indeed, their children will see it and be glad, their heart will rejoice in the LORD. 8 “I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them; and they will be as numerous as they were before. 9 “When I scatter them among the peoples,they will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back.
Chazak Chazak v’nitchazek- be strong be strong and may we be strengthened.
sources: see homepage and “Resources”entry for all the sites and sources I use to compile these entries.