Parshas Vayechi

Words in bold represent changes to the traditional translation based on the Aramaic translation/commentary attributed to Onkelos the Ger.

Parshas Vayechi

Chapter 47

Rishon

28. Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years. The days of Yaakov, the years of his life, were 147 years.

29. The time for Yisroel to die drew near so he called his son Yoseif and said to him, “If I have now found mercy in your eyes, place your hand under my thigh and do me goodness and truth: please don’t bury me in Egypt.

30. When I lie down with my fathers, take me out of Egypt and bury me in their grave.” He said, “I will do as you have said.”

31. He said, “Swear to me,” and he swore to him. Yisroel bowed on the head of the bed.

Chapter 48

1. It was after these things, Yoseif was told, “Behold, your father lies ill.” He took his two sons with him – Menashe and Efraim.

2. Yaakov was told and he said, “Behold, your son Yoseif has come to you.” Yisroel was strengthened and he sat up on the bed.

3. Yaakov said to Yoseif, “El Shaddai was revealed [1] to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and He blessed me.

4. He said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you prolific and increase you; I will making you a community of tribes [2] and I will give this land to your descendants after you as an eternal possession.’

5. And now, your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you, to Egypt, are mine; Efraim and Menashe will be like Reuven and Shimon before me. [3]

6. Offspring that you father after them will be yours; they will be called by their brothers’ name in their inheritance.

7. And I, in my coming from Padan, Rachel died to me, in the land of Canaan, on the road, while there still some to come to Ephrat. I buried her there on the road to Ephrat,” – which is Bethlehem.

8. Yisroel saw Yoseif’s sons and he said, “Who are these?”

9. Yoseif said to his father, “They are my sons, whom Hashem has given me here.” He said, “Bring them to me now and I will bless them.”

Sheini

10. Yisroel’s eyes were heavy from age; he couldn’t see. He drew them near to him, he kissed them and hugged them.

11. Yisroel said to Yoseif, “I never thought to see your face and behold, Hashem has shown me your children, too!”

12. Yoseif took them from before him [4] and he bowed with his face to the ground.

13. Yoseif took the two of them – Efraim with his right hand to Yisroel’s left and Menashe with his left hand to Yisroel’s right – and he drew (them) near to him.

14. Yisroel sent forth his right hand and placed it on Efraim’s head, and he was the younger, and his left hand on Menashe’s head. He guided his hands intentionally, [5] for Menashe was the firstborn.

15. He blessed Yoseif, and he said, “Hashem, before Whom my fathers served [6] – Avraham and Yitzchak – Hashem Who supported [7] me from my birth until this day,

16. the Angel who redeemed me from all evil will bless the lads. Call them by my name and the names of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak. May they proliferate like fish of the sea among the people of the land.”

Shlishi

17. Yoseif saw that his father had placed his right hand on Efraim’s head. It was wrong in his eyes and he held up his father’s hand to move it from upon Efraim’s head to place it upon Menashe’s head.

18. Yoseif said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn. Place your right hand upon his head.”

19. His father refused and he said, “I know, my son, I know. He will also become a nation and he will also be great. However, his younger brother will be greater than he and his descendants will rule nations.” [8]

20. He blessed them on that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May Hashem make you like Efraim and Menashe.’” He put Efraim before Menashe.

21. Then Yisroel said to Yoseif, “Behold, I am dying. The word of Hashem will help you and will return you to the land of your fathers.

22. And I, I give you one portion [9] more than your brothers, which I took from the Amorites with my prayer and my supplication.” [10]

Chapter 49

Revii

1. Yaakov called his sons and said, “Gather together and I will tell you what will happen to you in the end of days.

2. Assemble and listen, sons of Yaakov; listen to instruction from Yisroel your father. [11]

3. Reuven, you are my firstborn, my strength and first of my might. You were fit to take three portions – the birthright, the priesthood and the kingship.

4. Because you went to accommodate your moods, behold like water, you will not benefit. You will not receive an extra portion because you ascended the place of your father’s bed and then you defiled my bed. You disqualified yourself, my son!

5. Shimon and Levi are brothers, men of might in the lands where they dwell. [12] They performed (feats of) strength.

6. My soul wasn’t part of their counsel, In their assembly to go, I didn’t descend from my honor, because in their anger they surely killed, and with their will they broke the enemy’s wall. [13]

7. Cursed be their wrath because it is mighty and their anger because it is harsh. I will divide them in Yaakov and I will scatter them in Israel.

8. Yehuda, you confessed and weren’t ashamed; your brothers will praise you. [14] Your hand will overpower your enemies; your foes will be broken. They will turn their backs [15] before you. Your father’s sons will precede you to seek your peace.

9. There will be authority at the beginning, and a king will be raised from Yehuda’s house at the end, because you removed your soul from a judgment of death, my son. He will rest and dwell with strength like a lion and a lioness. No kingdom will agitate him.

10. One who wields authority will not depart from the house of Yehuda, nor a scribe from his children’s children, forever, until Moshiach comes because the kingship is his and nations will heed him.

11. He will lead Israel to his city; the nation will build his Temple. There will be righteous ones all around him and will uphold the Torah that they study with him. Let his clothes be of good purple (fabric) and his cloak full of wool, red and colorful.

12. His mountains will be red from his vineyards; his vats will overflow with wine. His valleys will be white with grain and with flocks of sheep.

13. Zevulun will dwell on the coast of the sea; he will conquer harbors [16] with his ships and eat the goodness of the sea. His boundary will reach to Tzidon.

14. Yisachar is wealthy with possessions. His inheritance is between the boundaries. [16]

15. He saw that his portion was good and that the land produced fruit. He conquered the territories of nations and destroyed their inhabitants. From those who remain he will have servants and (people) carrying (in) taxes.

16. From the house of Dan a man will be chosen and will arise. In his days, his nation will be redeemed and in his years the tribes of Israel will rest as one.

17. The man who will be chosen and who will arise from the house of Dan will have terror of him cast upon the nations. His smiting will be powerful upon the Philistines. Like a venomous serpent he will lie on the road; like a viper he will lie in wait on the path. He will kill the mighty of the Philistine camp – those mounted and those on foot. He will uproot horses and chariots, and throw their riders backwards.

18. I hope for Your deliverance, Hashem!

Chamishi

19. From the house of Gad, armed camps will cross the Jordan ahead of their brothers to war. They will return to their land with many possessions.

20. Regarding Asher, his land will be good. He will produce royal delicacies. [17]

21. Naftali’s lot will fall in a good land and his inheritance will bear fruits. They will give thanks and blessings over it.

22. My son who will be prolific is Yoseif, my son who will be blessed like a vine that was planted by a spring of water. Two tribes will issue from his sons; they will receive a portion and an inheritance.

23. They treated him bitterly and took vengeance on him. Men of might – those who quarreled with him – persecuted him.

24. His prophecy was returned upon them because he fulfilled the Torah in secret and placed his trust in (God’s) strength. Therefore, gold was placed on his arms. He inherited royalty and became powerful. This was from before God, the Mighty One of Yaakov, Who, through His word, sustains fathers and sons, the offspring of Israel.

25. The word of the God of your father will help you. The Almighty will bless you with blessings that come down from the dew of Heaven above, blessings that flow from the deep of the land that lies below, blessings of your father and your mother.

26. The blessings of your father will be added to the blessings with which my fathers blessed me, that the great ones eternally desired. [18] All these will be on Yoseif’s head, and the man separated from his brothers. [19]

Shishi

27. Binyamin – in his land the Shechinah (God’s presence) will reside and in his inheritance the Temple will be built. In the morning and afternoon, priests (kohanim) will offer sacrifices, and in the evening they will divide the remaining portions from the rest of the holy (offerings).”

28. All these are the 12 tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them and blessed them, he blessed each man according to his blessing.

29. He commanded them, saying to them, “I am being gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Efron the Hittite,

30. the cave that is in the field of Machpeila, facing Mamre, in the land of Canaan, that Avraham bought the field from Efron the Hittite as burial property.

31. There Avraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Yitzchak and his wife Rivka were buried, and there I buried Leah.

32. The field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the Hittites.”

33. Yaakov finished commanding his sons. He drew his feet into the bed, he expired and was gathered to his people.

Chapter 50

1. Yoseif fell on his father’s face. He cried over him and kissed him.

2. Yoseif ordered his servants the doctors to embalm his father; the doctors embalmed Yisroel.

3. It filled 40 days, for such are the full days of embalming. The Egyptians cried for him 70 days.

4. The days of crying for his passed. Yoseif spoke to Pharaoh’s household, saying, “If I have now found mercy in your eyes, please speak before Pharaoh, saying,

5. ‘My father had me swear, saying, “Behold, I am dying. “In the grave that I prepared for myself in the land of Canaan – bury me there.” Now, I would please go up, bury my father and return.’”

6. Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he had you swear.”

7. Yoseif went up to bury his father. With him went up all of Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

8. and all of Yoseif’s household, his brothers and his father’s household. Only their infants, their sheep and their cattle were left in the land of Goshen.

9. Chariots, too, and also horsemen went up with him. It was a very extensive camp.

10. They came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is on the other side of the Jordan. They eulogized there a very great and extensive eulogizing. He observed for his father a mourning of seven days.

11. The Canaanite residents of the land saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad and they said, “This is extensive mourning for Egypt.” Therefore, they called its name Eivel-Mitzrayim, which is on the other side of the Jordan.

12. His sons did for him as he had commanded them.

13. His sons carried him to the land of Canaan and they buried him in the cave of the Machpeila field that Avraham bought the field as burial property from Efron the Hittite, facing Mamre.

14. Yoseif returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father, after he buried his father.

15. Yoseif’s brothers saw that their father had died. They said, “Perhaps Yoseif will keep hatred against us and fully return upon us all the evil that we did to him!”

16. They commanded (a message) to Yoseif, saying, “Your father commanded before his death, saying:

17. Say thus to Yoseif, ‘Please forgive now the sin and of your brothers and their transgression, for they have treated you badly.’ Now, please forgive the sin of the servants of the God of your father.” Yoseif cried as they spoke to him.

18. His brothers also went to him. They fell before him and said, “Behold, we are as servants to you.”

19. Yoseif said to them, “Don’t fear, for I revere Hashem. [20]

20. You intended evil for me, from Hashem it was intended for good, in order to do as this day, the keep many people alive.

Shevii

21. Now don’t fear. I will sustain you and your infants.” He consoled them and spoke comforting words to their hearts.

22. Yoseif dwelled in Egypt, he and his father’s household. Yoseif lived 110 years.

23. Yoseif saw the third generation of Efraim’s children. The children of Menashe’s son Machir were also born and Yoseif raised them.

24. Yoseif said to his brothers, “I’m dying. Hashem will surely remember you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov.”

25. Yoseif had the sons of Yisroel swear, saying, “When Hashem remembers you, you shall bring my bones up from here.”

26. Yoseif died at the age of 110 years. They embalmed him and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

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Notes

1. Less anthropomorphic than the Hebrew “appeared.”

2. Rather than “nations.”

3. As opposed to “to me.”

4. Rather than “from his knees.”

5. The Hebrew is generally understood to mean that Yaakov crossed his hands; the Aramaic specifies that he moved his hands with wisdom.

6. Rather than “walked.”

7. Rather than “shepherded.”

8. As opposed to filling them.

9. “Shechem” in Hebrew, understood by Onkelos not to refer to the city of that name.

10. Rather than “my sword and my bow;” this is possibly a later edit.

11. At this point, Yaakov blesses his children and foretells future events using poetic imagery. Rather than translating the imagery, Onkelos explains its meaning.

12. Much nicer than “instruments of violence are their weapons.”

13. Rather than “hamstrung an ox.”

14. The Hebrew word “yodu” could mean to admit or acknowledge (as in “modeh ani”), or it could mean to praise (as in “Hodu Lashem ki tov”). Onkelos has taken both approaches.

15. The Hebrew refers to the back of the neck; the Aramaic can mean that specifically, or the back more generally.

16. The words “harbor” in verse 13 and “boundaries” in verse 14 may or may not represent an emendation to the Hebrew, depending on how one understands the Hebrew.

17. Or, perhaps, “It will produce….”

18. Or, perhaps, “the great ones from the world.”

19. Or, perhaps, “differentiated from his brothers.”

20. Rather than, “am I in God’s stead?”

© Copyright 2021 Rabbi Jack Abramowitz