Sight is a major theme of Vaeychi. What is sight? There is literal physical sight, there is understanding, and there is awareness. Physical sight is what Yaakov lacks at the end of his life. He, like his father at the end of his life, was blind when he bestowed his blessings on his sons. But what does this imply for each patriarch? For Yitzchak, that blindness was total. It allowed him to be deceived when Yaakov came to him pretending to be Esav. Yitzchak’s blindness was a weakness. Yaakov, however, seemed to know more about the boys who he gave blessings to than anyone else. Although he was physically blind, he knew that Ephraim, the younger son, should receive the elder’s blessing. When Yosef tried to correct him, Yaakov insisted that he was right:

 

“I know, my son, I know. He (Menasheh) shall also become a people and he shall also be great, but his younger brother shall be greater than he….(48:19)”

 

Rashi indicates that Yaakov’s physical blindness was offset by mystical awareness that showed him the futures of all his children. When Menasheh and Ephraim were presented to him, he asked “Who are these? (48:8)” Rashi says that he asked that question because he foresaw the tyrannical and idolatrous kings of the northern kingdom of Israel who would descend from them. When Yaakov called all of his sons to him from his deathbed, he told them “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the end of days (49:1). Rashi says that Yaakov was tempted to actually tell his sons what was to be at the very end of days, meaning, the meaning of all time. At that moment, the holy spirit was lifted up from upon him, and Yaakov was able only to make pronouncements upon the fates of his own sons.

 

Yaakov showed not only great foresight regarding his individual sons’ descendants, but he also showed deep understanding of their future in the land that God had promised him, his father, and his grandfather. He knew that he needed to be buried in the cave of Machpelah. Perhaps by having himself buried there, he was securing his descendants’ futures in that land. He knew that although the famine that brought his family to Egypt was long over, his family seemed unable or unwilling to leave Egypt. Their prosperity and their position in Egypt was secure as long as Yosef remained in power. Yosef kept his family well protected and well fed. To leave that kind of security would have been difficult. 

 

Yaakov may have known how hard it would be to convince his sons to go back to their homeland. This is the family that Reuven could not convince not to kill Yosef. Shimon and Levi massacred a city while he negotiated the terms of his daughter’s marriage to Shechem, clearly against his wishes. He knew that simply issuing a command might not bring everyone home. He also knew that Yosef could not leave Egypt, and that he himself could not leave Yosef. As long as he lived in Egypt, his sons and grandsons would also. He needed a symbolic reminder of their connection to Canaan, so he gave them a powerful reminder in the form of his own burial.

 

Shabbat Shalom!

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