Any internal desire is expressed through an external act as we know. and the external form reflects the internal desire. Jacob’s act and desire was to gather his children together. His final act was to unite them all, because only when unite the hidden knowledge can reappear and educate us.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazak“ the Shabbat of reinforcement” because of the custom of declaring, Chazak, Chazak, Vinischazaik (“Be strong, be strong, and may you be strengthened”) we say this the conclusion of the Torah reading, in acknowledgment of the completion of the Book of Bereshit.
The awareness nurtured by the reading of Vayechi generates strength, because it is in Vayechi portion that we have Jacob’s blessings that takes us to the era of Redemption. The era in which we would be strengthened the most. In this portion, Jacob calls all his sons to him in order to tell them what will happen to each of them in the future. And Jacob called to his sons and said: Gather yourselves together and I will relate to you what will happen to you in later days.’’ Our sages comment on this verse, that Jacob wished to reveal to his sons the end of days, but the Divine Presence (the Shechinah, which gave him his power of prophecy) departed from him. However, we see that in his blessings to his sons, Jacob makes many prophecies, implying that the Divine Presence was still with him.
When calling upon his sons to gather themselves together, Jacob asks them to united themselves, in the deepest sense of the word and this for us is coming as a lesson. By this act Jacob is doing – by gathering his sons, The Torah teaches us that only when gathered and worthy by union, a concealed knowledge is able to appear. And since the Torah is eternal, the continuing effect of Jacob’s actions in this request – to Gather (unite) the brothers together, in this he is actually giving us as his descendants the key to the power of reaching a state of revelation – to revel the unknown – the end of days, or if you prefer – the continuance of our story.
Now let us look at this confusing situation, on which the Shechina (the divine presence) revealing itself to Jacob and yet at the same time departures from him.
G‑d wants that we should want to know, and that we should indeed know, so that we should be driven by this desire to knowledge. Yet at the same time, He does not allow us to expressly know, so that our deeds should be true and unconditional and that we would feel as if our Journey is not declared by enslavement, but rather it is under a certain freedom. So in terms of knowledge - we live our lives in the dark, deprived of any conscious sense of our place in history or time. But this is only the surface of our lives. Underlying this surface is a knowing soul - a soul attuned to the supernal timetable and sensitive to the moments most appropriate for Revelation and hence redemption - redemption of the state of not knowing
Redemption of the mind (revelation), redemption of the soul, the redemption of knowledge.
So let us start this process of redemption, let us uncover the hidden knowledge that is laying underneath this portion we are reading.
In terms of our part in the biblical story, we are now in Egypt - the place in which we are confronted with our worst desires by own free will. In terms of our soul’s journey through the cyclical year, this is a time of confusion from above and confusion from below, a time in which we are placed under spiritual and physical famine. When in Egypt, meaning now, just like the children of Israel – who lived in the land of Goshen and was able to work, learn and live their lives without any interruptions, we too are given Spiritual delights in corporeal pleasures. This is important to acknowledge that in our spiritual growth in our spiritual journey we are in Egypt now.
The descent to Egypt happens when we lose our vessels of bestowal, in kabalistic terms our Galgalta ve Eynaim, which are the spiritual parts about us. Those, seems to vanish under the control of the will to receive (which in its worst signifies by the land of Egypt). However, if we engage in weekly Torah study, we can be more aware and alert in terms of our spiritual progress and can actually play our role in creation, under a fine tuned way of observance - of the biblical story and our lives in correlations to is.
In the beginning of Sefer Bereshit, In the beginning of the cyclical study of Torah we were engaging ourselves to the divine services in high spirit, we were peaceful and careless. Speaking to G-d as Abraham, nurtured in the arms of the divine presence as Isaac and ‘floated with angels’ as Jacob. We were feeling the unconditional love of god, still remembering the high holidays uplifting prayers and devotional state of being.
And now as time passes and the story progresses, after a few months we begin to feel otherwise. We began to withdrawal. Spirituality no longer shines as it used to, corporeal obstructions reappear and it seems to us as though the sky or the divine realms are once again closed so that we cannot easily enter to the upper world or to gain again a higher knowledge. We wish to reach again to that divine presence state and the divine intervention feeling that we had in the past. But we cannot, and it is OK. Because this is the process. And this is where we are now in the story.
When in Egypt, we crave for spirituality, but the more we long for it, the more we realizes how impossible it is to attain it. We have everything we need and everything we longed for. Under materials matters we are contempt. And remember, we are still not enslaved - we still live with the presence of Jacob, Joseph and the rest of the brothers. However, in a short while, we would start to be more aware of the Pharaoh inside us, and his controlling ways will lead us to an even much more confusing state of mind, that will lead our will to receive to become even more powerful.
That state of mind starts now as we enter a phase on which a huge screen is starting to appear, preventing us to reach the full presence of the Creator. Out of the marvelous journey we had through our ancestors characters and stories it I time we would recon that we are not in the holy land anymore.. and that it would take us the rest of this cyclical year to return. So we remember the divine presence we had while reading about the stories of our ancestors but we are not really there any longer. This is where the story takes us, to the exact point in time, on which Jacob is under the same feeling – where the divine presence is there with him and yet departed from him at the same time.
So where have we been and where are we now?
Let us try and summing up our journey up until here. When Abraham was in the picture, we felt great love toward the divine. We felt astonishment from the world and wonder from the Creator. We could communicate with him, orally and spiritually. We had few divine interventions, we felt the oneness - we were blessed, we went on a self-exploration journey with a divine promise of blessings and abundance. We traveled the land marveled at its beauty, we won wars and gained property. We had everything we needed and also had a very vivid promise for the future.
When Isaac appeared, the great love we had for the Creator had shifted to awe; the ‘fear of Isaac’ began to take over us. Knowing that everything we gained, and everything we were blessed for was not really ours as well as not really assured - Ishmael came with Isaac too. Out of Abraham's grace and sharing, we began a separation process that brought out the Gevura, the strength we had to build out of nothing.
Then came Jacob, the truth, and with it also came the complexity of living a life of faith and holiness in an idol worshiping and evil environment. We were facing an evil-brother Esau who seeks to harass us, and a wicked uncle Laban who was also a powerful sorcerer - who wanted to trick us. We worked Laban, dealing with the "evil" parts inside us, and met Esau dealing with this “evil” part inside us and in the process, we built a more complex, wider and expended outlook upon life and reality. We created a family, we rescued divine parts of our soul with which we moved on the next level – the level we are in today.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that Jacob’s years can be divided into three general periods, we will take those as three phases we have maneuvered through during the last couple of weeks while reading his story inside us.
The first 77 years of Jacob’s life were spent in the Holy Land, a safe place, in the tents of study where he was sheltered from the outside world and from the entanglements of material life.
These were followed by 20 years in Haran, in the employ of Laban, during which he married and fathered 12 out of 13 children, and amassed much material wealth.
Later he returned to land and following a further period in the Holy Land, Jacob “descended” to Egypt, where he lived for the last 17 years of his life.
The years that Jacob was dwelling in the Holy Land were years of tranquil perfection—years in which nothing alien to his soul interrupted him in the service of G‑d. However the years he spent out – in Haran and in Egypt build him and his family. Making him a nation – no longer only an individual. The years Jacob lived in Egypt were a time of living in extreme Galut and yet, the Torah regards these 17 years as the very best years of his life. We obviously know by now that whatever happening in the portion and to our ancestors in the biblical story comes as a teaching lesson for us. So what does this mean?
Well, just like Jacob we too, experienced during the course of our lifetimes these three states of being: sovereignty, struggle, and subjugation, and we have probably passed through those without really noticing during the last couple of weeks, while engaging and reading Jacob’s story. But what does it mean for us, practically, how does this relates to our day-to-day lives?
We each harbor a vision of a transcendent self—of a soul, pure and inviolable at the core of our being. This self, we are convinced, is not subject to the caprice of circumstance, and remains forever aloof from the shifting dictates of society and convention. And though this core self is not always accessible to us, there come moments in our lives—“moments of truth,” we call them—in which this part in us, our soul is influence us as an are own internal truth. What it means is that just as Jacob knew how to exploit his Galut in Egypt to drive the striving of his soul and further its aims. We are to do the same thing. We are to act from our soul even when we feel departure from it. Because remember that it was in Egypt, in the state of Galut, under the rules and subsequent enslavement of the pharaohs, that Jacob’s descendants were forged into the people of Israel. Forged into a huge and powerful nation.
Just as Jacob, at this point in time, we will be presented with challenges of a different nature than we had experienced previously. And just as Jacob, we have probably anticipated these difficulties and so crated within this environment a place we can learn, live and prosper. Our own land of Goshen.
Jacob and his sons did not accept the values of the surrounding culture, indeed the descent to Egypt represented a radical transition, Yet motivated by the ancestors example and guidance, they were able to extend the holy atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael into Egypt. And this is for us means that our unchanging and uninterrupted commitment to our spiritual progress and growth by the ways of Torah, demonstrates the true life with which we are capable of connection with G‑d no matter where we are. Egypt or the land of Israel.
Vayechi means “And he lived” and the events of this portion reading demonstrates, how life offers us a connection to G‑d that transcends material settings. In place and even in time. Still, although this ability of Jacob and us to create a spiritual center in a foreign environment - in Egypt. The ultimate place for Jacob and his descendants is not in Egypt, but in the land of Israel. Therefore, he called his sons together with the intent of revealing to them about other times in the future, in which they’ll be redeemed from Egypt, promising: “G‑d will be with you, and He will bring you back to your ancestral land.” For it is in Eretz Yisrael and more particularly, in the Eretz Yisrael of the Redemption that Jacob and his descendants will truly flourish.
So we are in a point in time, were we are to remember our true home, the ultimate spiritual environment, our goal – redeemed, as free people in the land of Israel. Well… this beautiful and inspiring scenery is still a theory, because the story of the Book of Genesis ends, with the stage set for the beginning of the enslavement of the next generation of the children of Israel.
When the Jewish people left Israel for Egypt, they left behind their natural context; the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the land where they became a people, where their relationship with God and his covenant was initiated, and would ultimately be played out. However, as long as Jacob was alive, he served as a link to that setting, to that context, and prevented the children of Israel from losing touch with it. Once he passed away, that link was in a way lost, and, although the Egyptians did not yet begin to actually oppress them, their existence became narrower, more straitened, without margin, context, and background. When they looked around them, what they saw was an alien culture, an alien setting, which they had to close their eyes to, to shut out, in order to remain faithful to their inner vision - the vision promised to them by their father, the vision of redemption. And we too now are in an alien setting. Egypt is not our natural place, and what it brings with it is not our preferable state of mind. Jacob, could see no future in Egypt for his children, as their future was, in fact, not really there, but elsewhere. However, as we can leave a place, we never really leave our believe or our tradition. We can never really escape our own soul. The divine is wherever we go to, and our soul accompany us in wherever we are. In each and every state of mind that we encounter
As we are entering a time of enslavement in Egypt – a time of enslavement to our earthly desires, we must remember that under all those layers of desires and wishes there is the higher desire, a desire for the Creator. And so though we are still immersed in the desires of our world, there is always a more subtle and different desire inside us – a desire to be close to the divine. A desire to remain faithful to our soul – to its true essence, a desire to come back to the holy land. We may not always be completely aware of our desires or understand them – but this is the hidden wisdom. How to get closer to the divine presence, How to formulate a true relation and connection to G-d in whatever setting. This is the part of the story that wasn’t revealed to Jacob, but is due to be revealed to us, as his dependence in the end of time.
Any internal desire is expressed through an external act as we know. and the external form reflects the internal desire. Jacob’s act and desire was to gather his children together. His final request we can sat was to unite them all. Because Only when unite the hidden knowledge can reappear and educate us. So in this portion, when we are concluding the first Book of Bereshit, saying the Chazak Chazak Venitchazek. Asking our soul to become stronger
When together we are the strongest. So unite all parts of your soul – unite the children of Israel inside you.
Be aware of the fact that the external Egypt expresses an internal desire we are to be redeemed from. and that even there, when in Egypt. It is very much possible to still spread spirituality through physical acts. Unite your parts, and you will reveal the hidden knowledge that will eventually form within you the physical act as well as the internal desire - to move on and continue the engagement in the Tora’s spiritual journey. You are maybe descanted to Egypt and no longer in the holy land but you are about to create a powerful nation.