There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
This week’s Torah Portion is Vayigash: Genesis 44:18-47:27. The focus of this “Aliyah by Aliyah” will be the second aliyah.
Aliyah 2 – Genesis 48:10-16
Genesis 48:10 Now Isra’el’s eyes were dim with age, so that he could not see. Yosef brought his sons near to him, and he kissed them and embraced them.
When Jacob came to his father to deceitfully take the blessing of the Firstborn, Isaac was blind.
Genesis 48:11 Isra’el said to Yosef, “I never expected to see even you again, but G-d has allowed me to see your children too!”
Isaac never physically saw his grandchildren through Jacob, though he was able to be with them for some time before his death. Jacob had a relationship with all his grandchildren and saw them all, even Joseph’s sons, before he became unable to see.
Genesis 48:12 Yosef brought them out from between his legs and prostrated himself on the ground.
The boys would have been young men of at most 27 and 28 years men by the time Jacob died at 147. He would have met them 17 years prior to that when they were perhaps 9 and 10 years old. Why would the Torah describe them as if they were hiding like little children between their father, Joseph’s legs?
Genesis 48:13 Then Yosef took them both, Efrayim in his right hand toward Isra’el’s left hand and M’nasheh in his left hand toward Isra’el’s right hand, and brought them near to him.
I wonder if Joseph favored Menasheh or if he sought to avoid sibling rivalry like he had experienced by presenting them so that Jacob would bless the older with the greater blessing, presumably the blessing of the Firstborn like the one Jacob had seized for himself.
Genesis 48:14 But Isra’el put out his right hand and laid it on the head of the younger one, Efrayim, and put his left hand on the head of M’nasheh — he intentionally crossed his hands, even though M’nasheh was the firstborn.
Why is Jacob blessing one of Joseph’s sons as Firstborn at all? Why isn’t Joseph blessing them? Shouldn’t Jacob bless one of his 12 sons as Firstborn instead, maybe even Joseph?
Genesis 48:15 Then he blessed Yosef: “The G-d in whose presence my fathers Avraham and Yitz’chak lived, the G-d who has been my own shepherd all my life long to this day,
So he is blessing Joseph, by blessing Joseph’s sons. Is that right?
Genesis 48:16 the angel who has rescued me from all harm, bless these boys. May they remember who I am and what I stand for, and likewise my fathers Avraham and Yitz’chak, who they were and what they stood for. And may they grow into teeming multitudes on the earth.”
Who is this angel? Isn’t it the LORD? Why call the Almighty a Messenger or Agent, instead of the LORD himself?
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
1. Why was Jacob blind?
2. Why are the boys treated so young?
3. Why did Jacob bless Joseph’s sons?
That concludes my journey through Vayechi for the year 5783.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.