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And Yisroel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; they took holding in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly. (Bereishis 47:27)
We are aware that that the Torah is divided into various sections. Some sections begin on a new line and some in the middle of line after a blank space equivalent to nine letters. These divisions are called by Chazal pisuchah and stumah. These sections are part of the oral tradition given at Har Sinai. In addition to these sections Chazal have also divided the Torah into portions that we read publicly each week. The goal of these divisions is so that we conclude the reading of the Torah annually. This is what we call “the week’s parsha” or “sidrah.” It is noteworthy that each week’s sidrah concludes with a parsha stumah or pisuchah. However there is one exception, that being, parshas vayigash. This sidrah mysteriously concludes in the middle of a section. From the perspective of the pisuchah or stumah it would appear that parshas vayigash and vayechi are one long unit. We may thus ask why do we not read them together. This is especially difficult considering that the theme of both relate to the Jewish people’s descent to Egypt. Furthermore, according to our calendar, many years have more parshious than weeks. In these years we improvise by reading multiple parshious. Why not join vayigash and vayechi instead of joining other unrelated parshious?
Chazal teach us that the events that happened to our forefather are a sign for us. The Jewish people’s descent to Egypt foreshadows our exile. By studying the Egyptian exile we may learn how to conduct ourselves in our current exile. It is noteworthy that the exile of Egypt may be divided into two parts. The first part relates to the good years of exile. This refers the period of time where Yaakov and his children were alive and guided the Jewish people according to the ways of Torah. During this era the Jewish people lived in peace, tranquility and prospered. This epoch is related in parshas vayigash. Indeed the last posuk of parsha summarizes this era with the words “and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” In addition to its simple meaning it may also be interpreted homiletically as meaning spiritual growth.
However, beginning with parshas vayechi the harsh yeas of exile begin. Yaakov dies and suddenly the Jewish people were cast in darkness. Indeed, Chazal tell us that when Yaakov died the eyes of the Jewish people we closed. Soon thereafter they were enslaved and persecuted.
Chazal tell us that the there is a predestined time when our present exile will end. At this time Moshiach will come and usher in a new world order. However, if we wish we have the ability to hasten the redemption and bring the era of Moshiach before its time. This is only if we perform Hashem’s Mitzvos and sincerely desire the coming of Moshiach.
We may suggest that Chazal purposely chose to cut short parshas vayigash and conclude with the posuk that summarizes the good years of exile. It is as if they are reminding us that it is within our power to end our exile here. If only we would perform good deeds, distance ourselves from sin and repent the exile would end here and there would be no need for the unpleasantness of parshas vayechi.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002