Parshas Vayechi - How To Survive Exile

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 12/28/17

Our Sages teach us that there is an intricate correlation between two Parshiyos that are in sequence in the Torah. This also applies to one Sefer (book) of Chumash that is juxtaposed to another; there is a deep message being communicated by Hashem by one nest to another, one that can teach a profound lesson (see the first Ramban in Parshas Shemos and the first and last Baal HaTurim in Parshas Chayei Sarah)*.

What then, is the connection between this week's Parshah (Vayechi), the final Parshah in the Book of Bereishis, and the Parshah/Book of Shemos?

As the Romans were executing R' Akiva (1 of the 10 martyrs), even the Angels themselves questioned Hashem. Hashem responded by saying that if they persisted in questioning Him, He would bring the world back to nothingness and to the very state that it was in before the first day of creation! The Vilna Gaon asks: was this intended to be an answer to their question? If yes, how did Hashem answer it? Additionally, was it really necessary for Hashem to threaten to bring the world back to nothingness? He answers that Hashem’s response was indeed a holistic answer and explains with a parable:

A king searched the globe for the most expensive and exquisite material that he could find, for a royal robe. He located a merchant that sold such a material, but due to the material's rareness, he charged a large fortune for it. Unperturbed, the king purchased all of the extremely rare material that the merchant possesed. The king then gave this extremely expensive material to his tailor to create a royal robe. The tailor worked tirelessly, and after weeks of meticulous work, he presented it to the king. The robe was simply marvelous and the tailor was very proud of his achievement. When the king asked the tailor for the leftover fabric, the tailor explained that he used every bit of it to make the royal robe; there was no leftover material. The queen was not convinced and accused him of having kept some for himself. After all, the material was priceless, and even a small amount of it was worth a small fortune. Despite the tailor’s cries, the king consequently ordered him to prove his innocence or else he would be put to death. The tailor explained that because there were so many badges and metals on the robe, there was only one way to do this. Slowly, the tailor began unraveling the entire robe, taking off the many accessories that were sewn into it, until there was just thread. At that point, the material was weighed and it was confirmed that indeed every ounce of thread given to the tailor had been used for the robe. Similarly, Hashem explained to the Angels, everything He had done from the very first day of creation was vital for trillions of other acts of kindness in His Master plan to come to fruition. Throughout history, even the minutest occurrence was carefully orchestrated by Him for an infinitely significant purpose that would sometimes not bear results until hundreds or even thousands of years later. Indeed, all events are intertwined in His Master Plan. Therefore, If Hashem would want to explain the beneficial reasons behind that day's events (of the 10 martyrs) to the Angels, it would require “unraveling” all of history and explaining every moment of creation from the very beginning of time (from the very first day of creation, when the world was nothingness) - something that they were not entitled to be privy to. Although it is sometimes hard to see it in our short 120 of life, everything Hashem does is for our benefit and is the result of infinite foresight. One day, Hashem will unravel all the events of history for us to see so for ourselves.

Yaakov worked 7 long years to earn Rachel's hand in marriage. When Lavan tricked Yaakov on his very wedding day and had the audacity to switch his intended wife Rachel for Leah, Yaakov could have been crushed. He justifiably could have felt that Hashem allowed an evil act to befall him and that there couldn't possibly have been Divine Providence in such a heinous crime.

Yet, in this week's Parshah, we are granted a rare glimpse of Hashem's Master Plan and after the events become “unraveled”, it instantly becomes clear that EVERY single "mishap" was really orchestrated by Hashem all along and was not only necessary but even extremely beneficial. You see, in this week's Parshah it all became clear that the act of Rachel being switched for Leah was really for the very best and orchestrated by Hashem's kindness all along. For, in our Parshah, Yaakov explained to Yosef that he knew through prophecy that one day the Jews would sin so terribly that they would have the audacity to bring an idol into the Bais Hamikdash itself! At that point, Hashem would consider utterly destroying them. All of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs would try to dissuade Hashem's decision but to no avail. Finally, Mama Rachel would come before Hashem and give the following powerful plea: "Hashem, I had mercy on my sister and allowed her to become a rival wife in the home that I was destined for. If I could have mercy and allow a rival to enter my home, how could you not have mercy on your children despite the fact that they allowed a rival into Your home?". It was only after Hashem heard this winning plea that He promised to Rachel that the Jewish nation would be saved. In our Parshah, Yaakov concluded that in the end, the "evil" act of Lavan had been orchestrated by Hashem all along in order to afford the Jewish nation one of the most incredible eternal merits of their national history (see Rashi 48:7 and Be'er Yosef parshas Vayeitzei).

Living Inspired

One can only imagine the feeling of despair that Yaakov must have felt after working 7 long years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, only to be tricked by his evil father-in-law. It must have seemed like Hashem wasn’t involved and must have appeared to Yaakov that, at least occasionally, evil triumphs. After all, how could Hashem allow him to be cheated in such a terrible way and allow Lavan to win? A tough question to answer. But then, in our Parshah, it became clear that that hardship was really the greatest gift and cause for the greatest merit in history. It is for this reason that Hashem purposefully placed our Parshah before the Parshah/Book of Shemos - the Parshah/Book that discusses and represents Jewish exile. By doing so (by connecting our Parshah, which reveals that even what looks bad is really for our good and was all orchestrated by Hashem, to the next Parshah, which discusses exile), Hashem is sending us a message: the very nature of exile is to be extremely challenging and difficult. When in exile, we will have challenges and ultimately we may question Hashem. We might wonder whether He is involved in every challenge and hardship that we face and how it could possibly be beneficial. Sometimes we will think it is simply IMPOSSIBLE for every difficulty to be for our best. Each time this happens though, we should utilize this week's Parshah and recognize that Yaakov could have felt the same way. Yet, as we read our Parshah that unravels the mysteries and are afforded a very rare glimpse of "the big picture", we should take to heart how suddenly it becomes clear that Hashem was guiding EVERY single detail all along, all to ensure our nation’s greatest benefits and accomplishments**. When we see this, we should understand that so too within each and every circumstance that we find ourselves in during exile, there is a similarly intricate spider web of details and history connecting it all.
May we utilize the juxtaposition of this week's Parshah and Parshas Shemos for its intended purpose: to supply us with the knowledge that even during the darkest periods of exile Hashem is intimately orchestrating EVERY detail solely for our benefit - and one day all will become clear as Hashem unravels history for us.

Gut Shabbos


*- The Torah is not a history book, but rather an instruction manual for life. Even when something happens chronologically, Hashem didn't place those events in the Torah next to each other simply for the "story to flow better", but rather to teach us a significant message - as explained by the commentaries ibid.

**- There were other episodes as well that seemed terrible and “impossible” to be beneficial, yet were revealed to us in our Parshah that they were really for the best all along:

1. After Yehuda was ousted from power by his brothers, he fell victim to the story with Tamar and, through admitting his connection with her, was publicly humiliated to the highest degree. Can you imagine what people must have said when Yehuda, one of the leaders of the city, admitted that his daughter-in-law was bearing his child? Yehuda probably felt that this was the worst fate that could possibly befall a man! But, in this week's Parshah, Yaakov explains to Yehuda that the act of admitting his guilt in public was his life's greatest accomplishment and that in the merit of this very act of integrity, Yehuda earned the right for all of his descendants to be the kings of the Jewish nation! The very event that caused him to be publicly humiliated was what earned him eternal greatness! Additionally, because Yehuda had displayed such incredible honesty despite even the toughest of circumstances, Yaakov blessed Yehuda that every Jew would associate themselves with their heritage via his name by calling themselves "Yehudee" (Jew) (Targum Yonasan ben Uziel).
2. When Yosef was sold by his brothers and reported to his father as having been killed, he and his father must have thought it was the very worst tragedy in the world. How could Hashem have allowed such an evil act to take place? However, in this week's Parshah, as Yaakov and Yosef sat peacefully in Goshen finally reunited, and with Yosef as ruler, they realized that EVERY aspect of those challenges was an act of kindness from Hashem. They now understood that Yosef being sold as a slave was integral to the survival of the entire Jewish nation (Seforno 50:19,20).