Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Parshat VaYechi

Yoseph's Inheritance

At three points in this parsha, Yaakov is lying on his deathbed. The first time Yaakov calls for Yoseph who pledges that he will bury him in Canaan. The second time Yoseph hears of Yaakov's illness and goes to him with his two sons who are adopted by Yaakov. The third time Yaakov calls for all his sons and he procedes with his last testament.

While Yaakov awards Yoseph the bechora, i.e. two portions of the inheritance (Ephraim and Menashe are on a par with all of Yaakov's sons), he confirms that Yoseph is not the sole inheritor and therefore not the fourth patriarch. Yaakov seems to stress this to Yoseph by his usage and non-usage of the term "E-l Shaddai".

E-l Shaddai is used when the Abrahamic covenant is being invoked:

At the Brit Milla: "I am E-l Shaddai; walk before Me and be perfect" (Bereshit 17:1).

From Yitzchak to Yaakov: "May E-l Shaddai bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and you shall become an assembly of peoples. May He give you the blessing of Abraham" (ibid 28:3-4).

From G-d to Yaakov: "I am El-Shaddai; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a multitude of nations shall come into existence from you, and kings shall come forth from your loins" (ibid 35:11).

This term is used again when with Moshe when the time to fulfill the promise comes: "I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov with [the name] E-l Shaddai, but My name YHWH, I did not make known to them" (Shemot 6:3)

Yaakov uses this term in conferring the first born inheritance to Yoseph, "E-l shaddai appeared to me in Luz, in the land of Canaan, and He blessed me..." (Bereshit 48:3). However he uses it only as an explanation of his whole family's destiny and for the adoption of Ephraim Menashe, and not as a special bestowment upon Yoseph.

Was Yaakov perhaps teasing Yoseph when he said: "Et Shaddai will bless you [with] the blessings of the heavens above, the blessings of the deep, lying below, the blessings of father and mother" (ibid 49:25)?

It seems that Yaakov was trying to dampen any hopes Yoseph may still have had, that his dreams were of a patriarchal nature. Yoseph continues to act as the father of the nation: he promises to support the whole family, assures them of future redemption and like his father, asks them to bury him in Canaan (see 50:24-25). However, Yoseph never hears the divine voice, indeed, it is not heard again until Moshe is eighty years old and is facing the burning bush.


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