This Week’s Torah Portion

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs every Monday at 7pm PST on my live cam and YouTube.

This week’s parsha is Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26).

* This week’s parsha contains many verses on the death of Jacob. The Torah dispatched Avraham in four verses and Isaac in two. So why does Jacob need so many? Because he is the only patriarch to die outside of the land of Israel. When you are not living in a Jewish community, life becomes much more complicated. Jacob is terribly concerned with his burial arrangements, for instance, a matter that would be self-evident and simple if he spent his final days in Israel.

When I shop at Ralphs, I have to pay much more attention than when I shop at Glatt Mart, where everything is kosher. I hear it is hard to find anything kosher at McDonalds or a swinger’s party. I’ve dated girls where they practically nail 99 theses to your door before you can do anything fun.

* Jews are back to their old tricks. Jacob requires Joseph to put his hand under his thigh and swear. (Gen. 47:29) If Rabbi Rabbs ever tries this with me, I swear I will punch him, even if he just wants assurance that I will bury him in the Holy Land accompanied by 72 virgins to entertain him on his long trip to paradise.

* Seventeen years after moving to Egypt, Jacob still does not know his grandsons. (Gen. 48:8)

* Did it hurt Menashe’s self-esteem when Jacob puts Ephraim before him?

* Gen. 48:16 Nobody prays to angels in the Hebrew Bible. God alone should be prayed to. I gotta remember this on dates and stop whining and begging and praying. Oh, please, I’m gonna die without your love.

* Sing “We are Family” by Sister Sledge.

* Pretty cool how Jacob can give his final speech in poetic form. Not many people on their deathbed are able to stay in perfect iambic pentameter.

* Are Jacob’s statements on tribal history predictions or retrojections?

* If God wrote the Torah, why isn’t it in first-person? As in, When I created the Heavens and the Earth. God speaks a lot in first person in the Torah but the Torah is not narrated by God.

* Does Rabbs believe what the Artscroll commentary says on Gen. 47:28-31: “Those who are buried outside of Eretz Yisrael will not come to life at the Resurrection until they roll through the earth to Eretz Yisrael.”

* Gen. 49:1 Jacob tells his sons what will happen at the End of Days. What the hell? This sounds Christian.

* Where would Rabbs like me to stick him when he croaks? I hope there will be some helpful gentlemen walking by on that fearful day making the cheery refrain, “Bring out your dead!”

* When my mom was carrying me, she was seized with a premonition that I would grow up to do something wonderful for God.

My parents told me this story many times to encourage me, but when I became an adult, they feared they had created a narcissist.

* Isaac was monogamous. Was he the happier for it? Abraham and Jacob had lots of wives and concubines, which, on one level, sound very tempting. I fear that if I had many wives and concubines, I would not be as spiritual as I am today.

* It is a shame we don’t use the “strong-boned ass” compliment more today (as the Torah does for Issachar in Gen. 49:14).

* Gen. 49:18. When Jacob prays for Dan’s salvation, does he mean Samson or does he mean that he longs for Dan to be in heaven with him?

* Jacob appears to have died without knowing what the brothers did to Joseph because he does not mention it in his final speech. I suspect Jacob did not want to know what happened to Joseph.

* Midrash says Joseph, after Jacob’s death, stopped inviting his brothers over for Shabbat dinner because of protocol concerns. (Artscroll, Pg. 287)

* Jews are a merciful people.

* Why were Joseph’s brothers were very nervous about what Joseph would do to them when Jacob died? Did they have a guilty conscience? Notice how they sent Joseph a message and said, “Your father”, not “our father”. Did they make up Jacob’s message?

* Do you think of God more as the king of kings or as the queen of queens?

* Do Jews have a mission to humanity? If so, what is it? Can Jews have a mission to humanity and still live separately?

* There is no constellation of the stars that determines human fate. You are free to do good or to do bad. You can’t say your environment caused your moral downfall.

* Why don’t Jews embalm? The body is supposed to return to the earth. Judaism is intense about acknowledging death. We don’t talk much about the body continuing its journey to the next world.

* Where was Rabbs during the summer of ’69? Were those the best years of his life? Playing that old six-string, young and restless, needing to unwind. I guess nothing can last forever.

* What is your favorite boy band? Mine is Libera. They have voices like angels.

* I enjoy listening to Christian hymns. Is that a sin? What if I listen to them and sing them aloud while rolling around my hovel with a married shiksa who doesn’t believe in God?

* Would you rather be alone on a desert island with Oprah or with me?

* How does Rabbs feel about trading land for peace?

* Will 2011 be the year that Jennifer Aniston finally finds lasting love?

* Why can’t one of us excel in commerce? Why do both of us have to be Torah scholars? Why can’t we be like Issachar (who excelled in Torah learning) and Zebulun (who excelled in commerce)?

* How much value do you put on yichus (ancestry)? America is a country of immigrants and Americans seem to care less about ancestry than any other people aside from Jews. Jews and Americans are the two peoples, the two nations, based on ideas. If Japan and Germany had won WWII, the two most powerful countries on earth would have been obsessed with blood aka ancestry.

* The different tribes seem to have different missions. Could this also be true of the different races and religions in the world?

* Artscroll: “The more materially lustful a person is, the less he can bear to part from this life to the holier one awaiting him.” (Gen. 49:29-32) Pg. 284

* What do you think people will say about you at your funeral? Do you think about this?


* Rabbi Rabbs posts: I asked why isn’t the messiah here already? In response:

On the first night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, if liberal Jews would embrace Judaism instead of Islam, the messiah might be here already.

On the second night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, if Republican Jews would embrace Torah and Mitzvahs instead of Tea Party rallies and Glenn Beck, the messiah might be here already.

On the third night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, if Aish HaTorah and Modern Orthodox Jews would believe in G-d and Torah instead of in evolution and dinosaurs, the messiah might be here already.

On the fourth night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, if Chabad members would worship Judaism instead of worshiping a dead man, the messiah might be here already.

On the fifth night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, if Zionist Jews would worship Judaism instead of worshiping Bolshevik nationalism, the messiah might be here already.

On the sixth night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, if Reform and Conservative congregations would worship Judaism instead of worshipping Darfur, intermarriage, and lesbian rabbis, the messiah might be here already

On the seventh night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, if Rabbi Rabbs and Levi Ford would worship Judaism instead of worshipping hot Persian chicks and Monday Night Football, the messiah might be here already.

And, finally,

On the eighth night of Chanukah, my true love said to me, Jews should stop doing rap, and stop trying to act like schvartzers. It may have no effect on the messiah being here or not, but “Jewish” rap is just freaking embarrassing and needs to stop.

About Luke Ford

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