Our reading in the Bible this week (Genesis 47:28 – 50:26) focuses on the last years of our patriarch Jacob’s life in Egypt, with his 12 sons at last reunited and his family settled in Goshen (Raamses), in the Nile delta.
The name of our Torah reading is ‘Vayehi’ (or Vayechi) meaning “And he lived”. However, much of this section focuses on Jacob’s thoughts of what will happen after he dies, to him and to his children, and to future generations of Jews. Thoughts of his legacy.
Jacob left the Holy Land, the Promised Land, to reunite with his lost son Joseph and bring his family to Egypt where there is food during the famine. On the way down they stop in Beer Sheva, and God tells Jacob not to fear going to Egypt (Genesis 46:3). God promises Jacob that he will be buried in the Holy Land (Rashi to 46:4).
Jacob clearly feared leaving Israel, and only left due to the pressure of famine and to reunite his family. He knew Egypt was a temporary stop for the Jewish tribe, not a home.
Now in Egypt he acts to ensure that he will be buried in the holy land. He summons his son Joseph and has Joseph swear that he will bring his body up to Chevron in Israel to be buried with his fathers Abraham and Isaac (47:29-31).
Now you are asking the obvious question: God Himself promised Jacob that he will be buried in the Holy Land (46:4), so why is Jacob making the effort to secure a promise from his son? Doesn’t Jacob of all people trust the Divine Word?
The answer is that yes, Jacob believes God with a level of faith we can barely contemplate, but he fears that the Egyptians will inter him in Egypt temporarily. The ancient Egyptians believed that important people still have power after their death, hence the mummifying and elaborate burials, pyramids, worship of dead.
Jacob is concerned that although due to God’s promise he eventually he will be back in the Holy Land, that may not happen until hundreds of years later, when the Jewish nation leaves Egypt in the Exodus. (The Egyptians later bury Joseph in a coffin in the Nile to bring blessing to the river, and Moses brings Joseph’s body out).
Of course God’s promises will become true, but humans can never know the exact time frame. God is outside of time, His time frame is not comprehensible to mortals. Time itself was a creation along with matter. The Eternal Jewish God has no limitations, rather He preexists and is outside the bounds of time-space.
Jacob is teaching us that even when God promises, you still need to do your part. Jewish wisdom has a concept of predestination in tension tied to a competing concept of free will. Our sages teach that even before you are born there is a field, a house, a woman (at least one) fated for you.
But this fate can change through prayer and actions. This friction is hard to understand at first, we live with this spiritual reality and we get used to it. A practical example my rabbi gave us:
In Heaven they can judge a man that he will be healthy to age 120, but if that man jumps off the roof today he is still dead.
All human beings tread a fine tightrope between fate and free will. We make our plans and put in our efforts, and the Bible teaches that we have to make reasonable efforts, but there are forces and energies out of our control and even beyond our imagination. You don’t have be a religious man to know this. The universe is out of your control.
But not everything is. You control yourself (to some extent) and can get help from others. Jacob takes the steps he can to ensure his legacy, his future burial in the Holy Land, and to accomplish this in the most expedient way.
We need to do what we can for our legacy, while knowing that in actuality the future is completely out of our hands. Jacob relies on God, but he understands that he must do his part.
We Jews have a saying that children require 50% parenting and 50% prayer. As parents we put in immense time and effort to shape and mold our offspring in a positive way. Parents have the most influence over children of anyone in the world. But still, they become their own people. Children will turn out the way that God sees fit. That is where prayer comes in.
You can’t control all the inputs, let alone the output. We just do our part and try to do our best. At the end of the day, the metric of success is did you put in the best effort you could. Not is this child the best person I could make him. You can’t truly control others. You take responsibility only for your effort. Their future is in their hands.
Our patriarch Jacob invested his life in creating and raising his 12 sons, the 12 tribes of Israel. They are his link into the future, into immortality. In our reading this week Jacob on his deathbed is still involved in educating his sons, guiding them into the future, and is even involved with giving inheritance to his grandchildren (48:5-20).
One of the most telling things Jacob does is give each son their own prophetic blessing, and the Torah repeats: “he blessed them, each man according to his own blessing he blessed them” 49:28. Jacob knew his sons were unique, that each had his own individual destiny. They were part of the larger tribe but also each man was his own tribe.
And Jacob succeeded with his sons. How do you know?
There are millions of living descendants of those 12 sons, the Jews, still learning and teaching about Jacob’s life. We are his legacy. We call him our father, Yaakov Avinu. We look up to his example. We want to emulate him, along with his father Isaac and grandfather Jacob.
Can you imagine any other man from over 4000 years ago who has descendants that still care about him and want to be like him*? Jacob has the ultimate legacy.
*While Genghis Khan has more descendants, the vast majority of them do not know or care about their famous ancestor, and have no practical way to emulate him.
Each man is a universe
Jacob understood that his children were his legacy, his connection to permanency. But he also realized that they were not really his, they were their own people. At the end of his life he blesses them, each in their own way (Gen 49). Jacob does not take blame for their mistakes or credit for their accomplishments and good character. He knows their deeds are their own.
Jacob has put in decades of effort in raising the 12 tribes, and now makes the final effort of giving them prophetic blessings and criticisms. He tells them to be responsible. He gives them hints to their eventual tribal roles within the Jewish nation (the Aramaic translation by Onkelus explains this). The future of the Jewish people is now in their hands.
We men understand subconsciously that our children are our real legacy. Most men never accomplish anything that puts them into the history books. By comparison, having a kid or two seems seductively easy. There are other motivations, but a big drive for men to marry is to have children.
So men decide to settle down and start a family. Then, if they’re paying attention, the trouble starts… I’ve heard and read men lamenting how difficult it is to find a wife who is really family minded in our present day mainstream feminist society.
For generations, feminists have been trying to indoctrinate women to think that being a wife and mother is not an admirable lifestyle for women anymore. The mainstream culture teaches women to focus on education and career and having fun over forming a family.
How can you become a modern day patriarch if you can’t find a proper Rachel or Leah, or even a Bilhah or Zilpah? Gentlemen: Jacob wasn’t a patriarch because of his wives. Of course he married the right girls from the right family. Actually they all came from an idolatrous family in an idolatrous city and their father a manipulative liar. Jacob had to gradually wean his women away from that influence, as we explained in Rape, murder. It’s just a shot away.
Still, you have to do your part, like we learned from Jacob. However, it’s not fully in your hands. You make an effort and ask for Divine assistance too. One mistake I have seen is a reliance on vetting. Vetting is basically having a checklist for a woman to become your wife and mother to your children. It simply doesn’t work under most circumstances.
Rian Stone has an excellent serious about vetting explaining this [to Orthodox Jews nivul peh warning]. If a man vets his woman, there is a danger that he thinks he is good to go. After all, he vetted her, he got it right. It’s on lock. From now on it should be smooth sailing with his traditional conservative wife, white picket fence, dog, and 2.3 kids…
We learn from a real patriarch, from our father Jacob, that the work of being a man never stops. First Jacob had to contend with his own brother and trick Isaac to become The Leader for Generations. Jacob had to figure out how to live with four wives and how to respond to the abduction of Dinah, and when he finally thought he had some rest, his 12 sons began a power struggle that divided the family.
Jacob struggled and constantly worked on his life and continued dealing with his wives and children until the day he died. His last act was to give his sons crucial guidance and prophecy, paying individualized attention to each son and sharing insight into what each needed for his own personal growth (49:28).
Even with God’s promise of success, Jacob’s life was never on lock and smooth sailing. Your work as a man never stops, not when you find the right woman (and there is no one right woman), not when you get married, not when you have kids. That is your work just beginning.
However, Jacob also reminds that while you must make your best effort, the future is really out of your hands. God guides the universe, and as much as we can try to create and mold our families, every person is their own world. At the end of the day you can only change yourself (somewhat). Do what you can but don’t have a breakdown if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted.
David and Avshalom
Our haftorah reading for Vayehi is I Kings 2:1-12, King David’s last instructions to Solomon. This echoes the themes of Jacob’s blessing to his sons.
King David also was a big family man (18 wives, dozens of sons). He made dire mistakes with some of his sons, most notably Avshalom. Our sages explain Avshalom was not raised with appropriate discipline and boundaries (see I Kings 1:6 with Rashi). Interestingly, while David was very pained at his son’s rebellion and then his death in battle, David did not blame himself for Avshalom’s rebellion, even though God told David that he would be punished by his own family (2 Samuel 12:11).
David recognized that it was God who had used Avshalom as a tool in his divine plan, and that Avshalom made his own life choices to rebel against his own father (Talmud Brakhot 7b, Mizmor lDavid). David balanced his personal responsibility as father with the fact that Avshalom was a grown man making his own choices and was also guided into rebellion by God.
Now we have completed our journey through Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Hazak Hazak vNithazek! (Each of us strong and together we become stronger)
While I am writing for Jews, You don’t have to be Jewish to benefit from our wisdom.
A quick summary of what we have learned in Genesis, by weekly Torah reading:
|The Genesis of intersexual dynamics
Setting healthy boundaries, man’s role in marriage
|בְּרֵאשִׁית||In the beginning||Gen. 1:1-6:8|
|Noah – be fruitful and multiply… With a side of abortion and castration
relative morality and birth control
|Are Jewish women different?
Sarah vs hypergamy, polygyny
|לֶךְ-לְךָ||Go for yourself!||12:1-17:27|
|The first family
Faith and the husband’s role in family, “headship”
|וַיֵּרָא||And He appeared||18:1-22:24|
|Sarah and Isaac, Isaac and Rebecca
A woman’s first love is for her children. “Debt-Free Virgin Without Tattoos”
Jewish definition of love. Vetting
|חַיֵּי שָׂרָה||Life of Sarah||23:1-25:18|
|The Leader for Generations
Alpha in appearance only vs taking responsibility
|Rachel and Leah, the first Sister Wives
Rachel and hypergamy
Women’s struggle with emotions
|וַיֵּצֵא||And he went out||28:10-32:3|
|Rape, murder. It’s just a shot away. The abduction of Dinah
influence of family and culture on women.
|וַיִּשְׁלַח||And he sent||32:4-36:43|
|Brothers and Power, Kings and Harlots
Awareness of power dynamics.
Frame. Play hard to get
|וַיֵּשֶׁב||And he settled||37:1-40:23|
Rules of Power, sensitivity to power. managing your emotions. harnessing emotional energy
|מִקֵּץ||At the end of||41:1-44:17|
|Responsibility to brothers
True responsibility vs socially imposed “man up” narratives. Equal Agency
|וַיִּגַּשׁ||And he drew near||44:18-47:27|
|Legacy, faith, parenting||וַיְחִי||And he lived||47:28-50:26|
Genesis features a lot of polygyny, for a primer check out Kosher Polygamy and Kosher Polygamy, part 2 for modern aspects of poly in Jewish law.
We can summarize Genesis from a Red Pill aware perspective:
Women become our Matriarchs by overcoming hypergamy, putting family and faith above personal emotional needs.
Men become our Patriarchs through awareness of power dynamics and taking appropriate responsibility for the family. These two powers allow the nascent Jewish people the emerge from our ancestors and grow from a small family into an eternal nation.
Because we continue to honor our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, conventional Jews value these same traits that they displayed and retain these spiritual abilities that our forefathers achieved.
Humble thanks to God Almighty who has enabled me to learn His wisdom in order to share it with my fellow men. Hazak Hazak vNithazek!
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