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

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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.

* 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?

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.

* 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, racially and religiously. If you had a religion, it was 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 it was white, Christian and homogeneous. I cannot recall one British Prime Minister getting assassinated.

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!”

* Why do Jews like Joseph keep rising to the top of gentile societies?

* I wonder if Jews in ancient Egypt ran the banks and the media. Did they develop the Egyptian dream? Did they lecture on the meaning of Egyptian identity? Did they write op-eds about how as Egyptians, they supported this or that? Did they push multiculturalism? How did the Egyptians feel about all this?

* It is an important exercise to try to see things from the other person’s point of view. For instance, for me to try to see my life from the perspective of my father or mother or sister or ex-gf or ex employer, etc. What about seeing the Torah from the perspective of Egyptians or Amalekites or other non-Jews? What is good for one group is often bad for other groups as all groups are competing for scarce resources. Luke Ford talks to Robert Stark about the following:
* If I Were A Gentile White Nationalist, How Would I Feel About Jews?
* If I Were A Black Gentile, How Would I Feel About Jews?
* If I Were Born An Orthodox Jew, How Would I Feel About Converts Like Luke Ford?
* If you were a Muslim, how would you feel about Jews?

* Chapter 49 is Jacob’s revenge on his kids as he lets loose what he really thinks.

* After Joseph dies, he is “gathered to his people.” If you said a Christian was gathered to his people, what would that mean?

* Casey: “Why is Jacob too good to be buried in Egypt? When he prophesies that Judah will tie his donkey to the finest vine or whatever… is that a sycophantic thing, or by merit? Historical question: what year was all this happening–I’m wondering if it coincides with the diminishing of Egypt–that is, did welcoming the Jews into their society turn out to be a bad move (if not, why did the next pharaoh start killing them all?)”

Luke: Because blood and soil matter. Jews have a special relationship with a certain section of land — Israel. Jacob wanted to remind his children that Egypt was not their home. The Jewish commentator Meshech Chochmah wrote of the assimilated Jews of the 19th Century: “They substituted Berlin for Jerusalem.”

Judah is praised for his merits.

Wikipedia: “Judah offers himself to Jacob as surety for Benjamin’s safety, and manages to persuade Jacob to let them take Benjamin to Egypt. When the brothers return, Joseph tests them by demanding the enslavement of Benjamin. Judah pleads for Benjamin’s life.”

Egypt declined about 3000 years ago:

It’s strange to think that during Egypt’s New Kingdom period 3,500 to 3,000 years ago, this same nation was one of the most advanced on the planet. Egypt was an ancient superpower whose reach extended from Sudan in the south to the edge of modern Turkey in the north, with a powerhouse economy and masterful builders and artists. Historian Amelie Kuhrt has described the Egypt of that time as “unrivaled in wealth and pomp.”

Empires decline when they bring people into them who are of different genetic stock than those who made the empire great.

Dennis Prager says that Jews are alive and that the Egyptian empire is dead because Judaism has God and ancient Egypt did not. A genetic explanation would say that Jews have been more careful about who they let into their gene pool than the ancient Egyptians.

* In Egypt, if you interpreted a dream correctly, you were credited with not just predicting the future, but with helping to carry it out.

* Torah is clear that the land of Israel belongs to the people Israel.

* What shapes moral character? What happens when your religious faith grows or declines? I think faith binds and blinds. It strengthens your in-group identity.

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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