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Friday, 2 January, 2015 - 1:00 pm

Gladiators are a thing of the past. So are mummies.

History is rich with traditions, cultures and lifestyles that are essentially dead.

Relics of the past, they exist only in our history books and imaginations. When something dies, it hopefully is remembered but is no longer capable of actively contributing to society.

Taken in this context the name of this week’s parsha is rather strange. It’s called Vayechi, meaning, “And he lived,” referring to Yaakov, the Patriarch Jacob. However, the parsha is devoted almost entirely to his demise and the events surrounding it. In fact, it is the closing of the book of Bereishit (Genesis). It is the end of the era of the Patriarchs. Death and transition would seem more befitting titles.


However, there is a deeper While his body was no longer alive, his mission and life’s accomplishment continued to live on. Not only was his spiritual soul continuing its journey, but even his physical impact on earth continued.  The fact that the Jewish people remained loyal to his heritage, teachings and way of life even under such antagonistic circumstances as they eventually faced in Egypt is proof that his death was the truest indication that not only was he was "alive" during his lifetime, but continued to remain so afterwards, as well.  When his ideals outlived his body, the truest meaning of life emerged.

The final portion of Bereishit serves to remind us that the Book of Genesis is not simply history, a sentimental recounting and laudable tribute to our ancestors who, impressive though they may have been, are dead and gone and therefore no longer relevant. No, they are alive, truly alive, and it is only by identifying with their aspirations and by internalizing and remaining loyal to their heritage that we, too, can be truly alive.

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