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My Torah Tidbits this shabbat told me that Vayigash is the only Parsha in the Torah to end before a "paragraph break". (Is this true?)

This got me to look more closely at the beginning of Vayechi, and how it connects to the end of Vayigash.

The ending of Vayegash says:

And Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests alone became not Pharaoh's. And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they got them possessions therein, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly.

The Begining of Vayehi says:

And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were a hundred forty and seven years. And the time drew near that Israel must die; and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him: 'If now I have found favour in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt. But when I sleep with my fathers, thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place.' And he said: 'I will do as thou hast said.' And he said: 'Swear unto me.' And he swore unto him. And Israel bowed down upon the bed's head.

The next "paragraph" reads:

And it came to pass after these things, that one said to Joseph: 'Behold, thy father is sick.' And he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And one told Jacob, and said: 'Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee.' And Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. And Jacob said unto Joseph: 'God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,

Then, near the end of Vayechi it says:

And he charged them, and said unto them: 'I am to be gathered unto my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying-place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave that is therein, which was purchased from the children of Heth.' And when Jacob made an end of charging his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and expired, and was gathered unto his people.

I'm asking many questions here, but really they are all the same question, but I don't know how to phrase/word it. So I would appreciate if answers incorporated all questions.

The begining of Vayechi is the death of Yaakov. The rest of Vayechi, are acts and deeds that Yaakov does. At the end of Vayechi, we are told of the death of Yaakov. Why does Vayechi start with his death, to then go on as if he was not yet dead?

After the "paragraph break", the parsha continues, "And it was after these things that Yaakov etc.." Obviously it can't mean after the death of Yaakov, but it does fit nicely with the ending of Vayigash as we break it up. So what is going on here?

Lastly, Rashi says that Vayechi starts with a "closed parsha", but does not at all comment on Vayigash ending in the middle of a "paragraph" (nor does anyone else) Yet it's Vayigash that seems to be unique in its "bizzare" ending. In fact, if Vayigash ended with the death of Yaakov, it wouldn't be all that strange to then say 'And it was after these things", where "these things" refer to all of Vayigash. But now that it is split this way, the parsha makes little sense. So why does Rashi, and other commentators only mention this oddity in Vayechi, and not mention it in Vayigash?

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Where at the start of Vaychi do you see that Yaakov died? I'm not seeing it. –  msh210 Jan 1 '12 at 16:44
    
Re: the closed parasha, the point is that we have a tradition to start a new parasha despite the absence of a space. This question only starts when that new parasha happens w/o the space, not before. Do we know if the lack of spaces tell us that this parasha is connected to the last? Perhaps as a separate parasha it is darshaned on its own, including a reason for its lack of spaces. –  YDK Jan 1 '12 at 16:56
    
@msh210: the fact that it gives his age. With Avraham and Yitzchak (and just about everyone else whose age is given in the Torah), this is done immediately before recording their death. –  Alex Jan 2 '12 at 2:33
    
@Alex, yes, before. It lists his age, then spends most of the rest of Vaychi describing his death. By other people who die, it says their age and that they died. –  msh210 Jan 2 '12 at 7:25
    
@msh210 it lists his years, it says he is about to die, he makes Yosef promise him, and then he rests his head on the bed. The Torah never explicitly says that he dies, even at the end of Bereshit. But it does use the same language of laying in his bed. –  avi Jan 2 '12 at 7:52

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Maskil LeDavid (47:28) discusses how we can know it is a new Parsha. He says that verse 47:27 already says "And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt". If 47:28 was a continuation of the same Parsha, it would have been enough to just start the next verse with "וַיְהִי יְמֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵי חַיָּיו--שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, וְאַרְבָּעִים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה.", since we would already know that Yaakov lived in Egypt, together with all the Jews, mentioned in 47:27. Why repeat the same idea, "And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years"?

So, the Maskil LeDavid explains, why did the Torah repeat "And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years"? To let us know that this is a new Parsha.

It's not until we reach verse 47:28 that we realize that it is a new Parsha. Until then the question doesn't arise, and therefore the commentaries don't mention it until then.


"And it came to pass after these things" (48:1) is obviously referring to what is recorded before, that Yaakov made Yosef swear to bury him in the Holy Land. (and not referring to the end of Vayigash)


I don't see any indication in the verses that 47:28 is talking about the death of Yaakov. However, an argument may be made that (at least according to Rashi) the Torah does jump backwards in time between 47:28 and 47:29.

  • 47:28 places Yaakov in the last year of his life.

  • Rashi (According to the Mizrachi) to 47:29 interprets " וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לָמוּת" not that Yaakov was actually about to die, but that he would not reach the years of his father.

  • Quoting the Midrash, Rashi in Bereshit 15:1 says that Wherever the term אַחַר is used, it signifies immediately afterwards; אַחִרֵי signifies a long time afterwards. If you want to say "a long time afterwards" means years after, then Yaakov making Yosef swear that he would not be buried in Egypt (47:28) would have had to happen before the 17th year that Yaakov was in Egypt, before 47:27. This is because 48:1 says: "וַיְהִי, אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, וַיֹּאמֶר לְיוֹסֵף, הִנֵּה אָבִיךָ חֹלֶה"

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Thanks. However I don't understand the Maskil LeDavid. Verse 47:27 is talking about Israel in the plural, not in the singular, so there is no repetition. –  avi Jan 2 '12 at 7:53
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@avi: The Maskil LeDavid is saying that we already know that Yaakov lived in Egypt because the previous verse told us that all the jews now lived in Egypt. If so, the verse should have started "וַיְהִי יְמֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵי חַיָּיו--שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, וְאַרְבָּעִים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה." It didn't to show us that this is a new parsha. I'll try to clarify this in my answer –  Menachem Jan 2 '12 at 20:44

To address your last question first, many people are confused by what is meant by the phrase "closed parsha". The word 'parsha' here does not mean the weekly Torah portion as we commonly call it (which from now on I will refer to as the sedra to avoid confusion), it means a section - what we would call a paragraph. And just as we indicate the beginning of a new paragraph by leaving a gap, the Torah usually leaves a gap between one section and another, but here there is no gap and so it is called a closed parsha.

Thus the previous sedra did not end in the middle of a paragraph, the paragraph finished at the end of posuk (47,27), but the Torah did not put a gap there in order to allude to the closing of the eyes and heart of Yisrael immediately after Yaakov's death, as Rashi explains.

And with regards to the question why the Torah seems to write about the death of Yaakov twice, the באר יעקב explains that since it says at the beginning of the sedra "And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years", and then says "and the days of Yaakov, the years of his life, were a hundred forty and seven years", that is, his days and years were now completed, this is the place where the Torah is actually telling us about his death, and thus it is the appropriate place to make the allusion of the closed parsha.

Then afterwards the Torah relates in detail how when his days were drawing near to die he called Yosef and commanded him to bury him with his fathers, and how when he was sick he called to Yosef and his sons and blessed them, and that he blessed all of his sons before he died, because all of this is the details of what he did prior to his death. But the actual end of his days and life was written at the beginning of the sedra.

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