Parshat VaYechi

This week’s Parsha is Parshat Vayechi. Yaakov lives the final seventeen years of his life in Egypt. There, he blesses his sons and Yosef’s two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. When he dies, he is taken back to Israel, where he is then buried in Ma’arat Hamachpeila in Chevron. Today, we could still visit Yaakov’s tomb.

In Bereishit Chapter 48 line 1 it says “חולה אביך הנה ליוסף ויאמר” – “And [the messenger] said to Yosef ‘behold your father is sick’. Unfortunately, many people hear others say this phrase daily. Why was it so shocking that someone came from Goshen and reported this news to Yosef? According to Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, this is the first recorded illness. Back then; people would pass away very suddenly, without proper advanced notice to the loved ones’ family and friends. Yaakov was the one who davened to HaShem, and asked him to put illness into the world so people would have time to prepare. When the messenger came he passed over extra-ordinary and amazing news.

In the Sefer Chayei Olam, it describes the wonders of HaShem. It explains that one of the many wonders of HaShem is the ability to get sick, and not pass away without warning. This wonder was because of Yaakov’s Tefilot in this week’s Parsha.

This year in Israel we were faced with the unfortunate circumstances of terrorism. There are many reasons terrorism is emotionally distressful. I believe that one of the reasons is because there is no warning. One moment someone could be acting normally, and the next moment dead, killed, stabbed. When Yaakov davened to HaShem for illness, he essentially davened for no surprise or no sudden death. Sadly, many of the deaths from terrorism were young and middle aged Israelis and Americans who died before their time. They did not even have time to give their loved ones a last remark, a last loving word.
A main part of this week’s Parsha is the bracha that Yaakov gives to his sons and to Ephraim and Menashe. I read a source that mentioned how Yaakov blessed his children on his deathbed. If Yaakov hadn’t fallen ill, he would not have been able to bless his future generations in this way because he wouldn’t have known he was about to die. He blessed children individually without comparing them to each other.

My mother is a palliative care nurse. As part of her job, not only does she care for the dying patient, as well, she cares for and gets the patients’ families ready to deal with the loss of their loved one. It is because of Yaakov’s prayer that they receive this prior notice. They are given time to see into the future, plan, and get ready for the upcoming event so it doesn’t strike them by surprise.
We are quick to judge HaShem and question all that he does. When we find out people are critically ill we question HaShem and ask why he puts evil and bad into the world. Of course illness is hard and painful, but we must try to see the full picture. HaShem is not evil. He is only good and only does good. Once we realize this we could live a happier life. There are always two sides of the same coin. In this case, one side could see HaShem as evil and doing evil. One could see the other side of the coin and see that yes, illness is tough, but they could see that illness is there in order to prepare others and prevent a sudden death or surprise.

Student studying in Tiferet