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Want to live forever?

Friday, 10 January, 2020 - 12:56 am

 

“Our forefather Yaakov never died.” That’s a direct quote from the Talmud and you read it correctly. Strange?

The Talmudic sages found it strange as well and asked the obvious questions. Did the Egyptians embalm Yaakov for naught? Wasn’t there a funeral procession that attracted the attention of the world stretching from Egypt to Hebron?

In answer the Talmud declares, “Just as his descendants are alive, so to Yaakov is alive.”

This statement does not merely imply that Yaakov’s memory continues to live on through his descendants. This can be said about every human being. Rather Yaakov’s life today is as tangible and relevant in our world as the lives of his descendants walking on planet earth. What does this mean?

This week we conclude the first book of the Torah “Bereishis” with the story of Yaakov’s death in Egypt, which paved the way for the Israelite enslavement by the Egyptians. It is striking that although the theme of the parsha is the death of Yaakov on foreign soil, the name of the parsha is “Vayechi - and he lived.” This is so because Yaakov’s 147 years of life on earth only became truly meaningful after the events following his passing unfolded.

Yaakov’s life was never defined by his physical or material needs and successes. It was all about living each moment to the fullest in the service of G-d and educating and inspiring his children to do the same. The fact that this continued to happen in the morally depraved land of Egypt serves as the greatest testimony to the fact that the morals and ethics Yaakov represents transcend the boundaries of time and space.

In preparation for his passing Yaakov focused on his children and the future. Instead of reminiscing on his accomplished past, he blessed each one of his twelve sons, defining their respective paths of divine service and how they will each uniquely impact the future of Judaism.

The story of Yaakov’s legacy continues to be written today. So long as there is an unbroken chain of generations living life as he expects, regardless of the circumstances, he is palpably here because this defined his life all along.

This awareness empowers us to realize that each time we do a mitzvah or learn a passage of Torah we are embodying the presence of all of Jewish history linking us to our roots. And just as Yaakov succeeded in imparting such an important legacy to us, we must do the same for our children, continuing the everlasting life of Yaakov (also named Yisrael) and then we are able to proudly proclaim Am Yisrael Chai!

 

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