Vayechi – Rishon

The 59ers

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Yaakov lived in Egypt for 17 years. When he saw that he wouldn’t live much longer, he sent for Yoseif. Yaakov asked his son to use his royal privilege to ensure that he be buried in the Machpela cave, alongside his fathers; Yoseif promised to do so.

Some time later, Yaakov took a turn for the worse. Yoseif ran to see him, bringing his sons, Ephraim and Menashe. Yaakov gathered his strength and sat up in bed. He told Yoseif how G-d had appeared to him in Canaan and promised that his descendants would be a consortium of nations (i.e., the Tribes of Israel) and that they would inherit the land. Yaakov said that the two sons born to Yoseif in Egypt would be treated like Yaakov’s own sons and have their own Tribes. (Instead of a Tribe of Yoseif, there’s a Tribe of Ephraim and a Tribe of Menashe. By making him the father of two Tribes, Yaakov was conferring upon Yoseif the double portion of the first-born, which had been forfeited by Reuven.) Yaakov continued that this deal only applied to Ephraim and Menashe; if Yoseif had any more sons, they would be considered like Yaakov’s other grandchildren in this regard.

Yaakov then saw Yoseif’s sons with him and he asked who they were. (As we will see in the beginning of the next aliyah, Yaakov’s vision had gone bad.) Yoseif replied that they were the sons that G-d had given him in Egypt. Yaakov called them to him so that he might confer the blessing upon them.

Here’s something kind of cool: The Talmud in Nedarim 39b says that one who visits a sick person alleviates 1/60 of his suffering. Verse 3 here says that Yaakov sat up in bed, “al hamitah.” The word “hamitah” (“the bed”) has a numerical value of 59. That verse can also be read as Yaakov sat up “because of the 59.” Since Yoseif came to visit, it removed 1/60 of his suffering. Having only 59 portions of his pain remaining, Yaakov felt a little better and was able to sit up.

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