Parasha Vayechi (Gen. 47:28-50:26)

Listen here and here and here.

Watch. This week’s Torah portion concludes the Book of Genesis: “The parashah tells of Jacob’s request for burial in Canaan, Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob’s blessing of his sons, Jacob’s death and burial, and Joseph’s death. The parashah constitutes Genesis 47:28–50:26. It is the shortest weekly Torah portion in the Book of Genesis.”

* Should a Jew say Merry Christmas? Christmas memorializes the birth of Jesus, the Messiah according to Christianity.

* It is vitally important to Jacob in this week’s parasha that he be buried in the Holy Land, and yet many Jews are appalled by blood and soil ideologies as nationalistic. Judaism is nationalism of the blood and soil variety.

Wikipedia: “Blood and soil (German: Blut und Boden) is a slogan expressing the nineteenth-century German idealization of a racially defined national body (“blood”) united with a settlement area (“soil”). By it, rural and farm life forms are not only idealized as a counterweight to urban ones, but are also combined with racist and anti-Semitic ideas of a sedentary Germanic-Nordic peasantry as opposed to (specifically Jewish) nomadism. The contemporary German concept Lebensraum, the belief that the German people needed to reclaim historically German areas of Eastern Europe into which they could expand, is tied to it.”

* “Anti-Semitism is as natural to Western civilization as anti-Christianity is to Jewish civilization, Islamic civilization and Japanese civilization.”

* Why the Jews? The Reasons for Anti-Semitism. Jews as unpopular middlemen.

* Sholom Rubashkin of Agriprocessors is free thanks to a sentence commutation by President Trump. Is this good for the Jews? For the goys? Samuel Freedman writes for the Washington Post: “Yet too many Jews have one set of ethics for their own kind and another for gentiles.”

Isn’t dual morality the most common form of morality in the world? There’s one standard for how you treat your own kind and another standard for how you treat outsiders? Isn’t dual morality the essence of all tribal morality, including Judaism? Does not the Torah explicitly endorse dual morality in that it sets different standards for how you treat your fellow (such as do not lend at interest) versus the outsider?

I have many reactions to Sholom Rubashkin’s going free. One is tribal. This is a member of my tribe. Even if I am not fond of him, there’s universal rejoicing throughout the Orthodox world over his freedom. Who am I to set myself apart from the community and be a Debbie Downer?

As a member of the tribe, I understand the impulse that you don’t want your own kind languishing in the goy’s justice. On the other hand, if you don’t respect the goy’s justice, you don’t truly want to be an equal member of his society. You can’t just take all you can from the goy and simultaneously disrespect the goy and not expect there will be negative consequences.

As one Jewish professor put it: “American Jews want to maintain a distinct identity and on the other hand want to be fully integrated into broader society and don’t want the distinctiveness to come at a price.”

Until recently, I would have felt chauvinistic and primitive for rooting for my tribe’s interests against my universalist principles. What are more important? Principles or interests?

* Tweet: I’d say that somewhere around 1/3-1/2 of US Jews actually are basically regular white people.

Reply: Yeah but the Jew lies within them, latent and waiting to be activated. Some sequence of events or code words can activate them at any moment.

Luke: Judaism’s perspective lies with the reply. Judaism regards Jews as having a special soul and a special connection to the divine that can be activated at any moment. The word “holy” in Hebrew — kadosh — means separate.

My rule of thumb is that when anti-semites and philo-semites agree, they’re probably right.


Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

* Dennis Dale blogs:

I deleted my Twitter account yesterday, exhausted by the pointlessness of it all. I saw a tweet of mine, something I thought clever, had been retweeted by one of my dozens of followers to his dozens of followers and I was plunged into an oh-so-familiar bout of mediocrity-induced depression. It’s not fun to suck. I’m not going to suck anymore–not on Twitter, at least.

I’m not wasting any more time on it. What I’d like to do now is a podcast. Looking for a partner.

I will continue to participate in Torah Talk with Luke Ford of course, until they wise up and throw me out. The idea is to do a short one of my own as well once a week. Two guys talking in a humorous fashion about things.

* Philip Weiss writes:

The Palestinian experience today is a lot like the Jewish experience of pogroms 100 years ago and more in eastern Europe. As Jews were beaten and killed by marauding gangs with the blessing of the state — American Jews were not silent. Jews acted. Our leaders went to the White House. Important Jewish organizations were formed. The most powerful Jew in the world, the banker Jacob Schiff, supported the Russian revolution because he so hated the czar. The most brilliant Jew in the world, Franz Kafka came out of his office in Prague to see Jews being beaten and he went to Zionist meetings.

Today millions of Palestinians under occupation are being humiliated, deprived of freedom, their children given no chance to dream of a better life… and the leftwing Zionist organization says a 16-year-old Palestinian woman whose cousin was maimed and who slapped a soldier in the courtyard of her house is carrying out a stunt.

Peace Now urges separation: “the occupation corrodes Israel and its image, and will continue until Israel extricates itself from the Palestinians.”

Jewish separation from Palestinians is a delusion. It is like whites separating from blacks in the U.S. Israel is 20 percent non-Jewish; and it rules territories containing 5 million Palestinians; and though the world has resolved to “extricate” the Jews from the Arabs for 70 years now, the communities are intertwined more than ever, as Israeli Jews flood the West Bank and build more and more Jewish-only colonies.

These Jewish colonies and their military escort have inflicted endless trauma on the subject population.

* I watched the movie Darkest Hour recently. “During the early days of World War II, with the fall of France imminent, Britain faces its darkest hour as the threat of invasion looms. As the seemingly unstoppable Nazi forces advance, and with the Allied army cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the leadership of the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman). While maneuvering his political rivals, he must confront the ultimate choice: negotiate with Hitler and save the British people at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight on against incredible odds.”

One thing that struck me was that the England of 1940 was incredibly unified. If you had a religion, it was likely Christianity. I believe Churchill only had one bodyguard (by contrast, there’s a ten-part TV series on Hitler’s Bodyguards). He moved around London freely because, perhaps, it was dominantly white, Christian and homogeneous. I cannot recall one British Prime Minister getting assassinated. What created the feeling of social cohesion in the Britain of then as opposed to now?

Churchill’s famous speech in the House of Commons on June 4, 1940: “… we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

It’s a shame England doesn’t have that same fighting spirit today. Could multiculturalism have anything to do with it?

William Blake:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s[b] mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

There used to be a distinct English and Australian physiognomy. The English were always more racially united and enjoyed closer bonds and higher social trust than did the more diverse, litigious and violent Americans.

* Gen. 48: 20 So he blessed them on that day, saying:
By you shall Israel give-blessings, saying:
God make you like Efrayim and Menashe!
Thus he made Efrayim go before Menashe.
By thee shall Israel bless.

Rabbi Hertz: “To this day, every pious Jewish father on Sabbath eve places his hands on the head of his son, and blesses him in the words: ‘God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh’ (Authorised Prayer Book, p. 122). Ephraim and Manasseh would not barter away their ‘Jewishness’ for the most exalted social position, or the most enviable political career, in the Egyptian state. They voluntarily gave up their place in the higher Egyptian aristocracy, and openly identified themselves with their ‘alien’ kinsmen, the despised shepherd-immigrants. Every Jewish parent may well pray that his children show the same loyalty to their father and their father’s God as did Ephraim and Manasseh.”

* Most of these blessings to Jacob’s grandchildren are not really blessings. This is Jacob’s revenge (Dennis Prager). The anti-semite could read many of these blessings and receive confirmation of his anti-Jewish views. He could easily say, “I know Jews like this!”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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