> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Brainstorming with Baars


Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )

by Rabbi Stephen Baars

The Parsha, and the Book of Genesis, ends on a bitter-sweet note. The brothers worry that Joseph still holds a grudge against them and that despite claims of the opposite, will take revenge on them for selling him into slavery.

As such, they concoct a story that their father, Jacob, gave clear instructions on his death bed to tell Joseph to forgive his brothers.

Upon receiving this message, Joseph breaks down and cries, because he realizes that not only do the brothers not trust each other, but this mistrust will be the Jewish People's undoing throughout history.

It has become the sad joke about the Jewish shipwreck who shows his rescuers around the island he has made home for the last twenty years. "This" he tells them, "Is the synagogue I pray in every day. And that one over there, is the one I won't step into!"

Still, the brothers do have a point. They did sell their Joseph into slavery, not something the average Joe could overlook. How do they know Joseph really does not bear a grudge?

More importantly, did this not occur to Jacob? Surely he too wondered whether Joseph was big enough to let it go.

More than that, how exactly did Joseph know that Jacob really did not send that last will?

The answer is, because Jacob did wonder, and he did ask Joseph, and Joseph knew it - therefore this must have been a lie, sent by the mistrusting brothers.

Where did Jacob ask?

Let's go back a little in the story.

Jacob, before he dies, blesses his grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe (Genesis 48:12-20). In the process, he deliberately gives the younger son the greater honor. This is something that previously was the cause of tremendous sibling battles. This time however, it ends beautifully well and Jacob gives them and Joseph an even greater blessing.

Now, this has to be the question. If Jacob wants to give Ephraim the greater blessing, and Menashe is the older brother, why does Jacob have to do it in front of Menashe?

Why rub it in his face?

When Jacob's own father, Isaac, was giving out the blessings, did Isaac do it in front of each brother (Jacob and Eisav)?

Certainly not! So why did Jacob?

Because he wanted to see if Joseph still bore a grudge against his brothers?

How did this prove it?

Because you can't raise children to get along with their siblings, if you resent yours!

When Jacob gave the younger more, and saw that the children were cool with this, he understood they could only do that, that which no previous generation could do, love each other like brothers, unless they learned it from their father.

Being great is good, living to your potential is wonderful, but living together in peace is better. In other words, it doesn't matter how smart you are, living together in love and friendship will achieve much more.

Or, put another way, if you want your children to succeed in life, teach them how to get along. And the way to teach them that, in fact the only way to teach them that, is to show them how it is done.

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity." (Psalms 133:1)

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