A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas VaYechi, hence the last week we lain from Sefer B’Reishis. In this parsha, Yaakov Avinu blesses his sons with their individual brochos, he is niftar, and the Yidden get established in Mitzrayim with Yosef HaTzaddik taking care of their needs.
One interesting aspect of the parsha is what it says in the Gemoro, “Yaakov Avinu lo meis” (Yaakov didn’t die). What makes this particularly curious is that it says that Yosef HaTzaddik called the doctors and embalmers of Mitzrayim to preserve Yaakov Avinu’s body, which is quite a big problem. P’shat is that it was in order to prevent the Egyptians from deifying him, due to his lack of rot. We know from the Gemoro that the bodies of Tzaddikim and Talmidei Chachomim do not rot due to their great kedusha. So this is a stira (contradiction) though with what it says when the B’Nei Yisroel leave Mitzrayim under Moshe Rabeinu, that Moshe carried the bones of Yosef HaTzaddik to Eretz Yisroel; how could Yosef HaTzaddik have been bones since his body couldn’t have decayed in the first place?
The Ohr HaChaim brings a gevaldige teirutz (wonderful answer) to this kashya (tough question). He brings there this whole idea that the body of a Tzaddik doesn’t rot, not even the food in his guts, because the zuhamas hanachash (venom of the Serpent) was removed only by Kabbalas HaTorah at Har Sinai. Before this, the Tzaddikim, even the Avos, didn’t have this special characteristic in their bodies that they shouldn’t rot.
What we can learn from this is that the Torah HaKedosha is the only thing that gives the body the ability to resist decay. Meaning that through learning Torah and engaging with the mitzvos to connect with Hashem in this particular direct manner we can improve our own physical health and prevent our bodies from rotting while alive. The Torah is called “Chaim,” Life itself. There’s an idea that the Tzaddikim don’t age, that their faces stay unwrinkled even until they are old, meaning 70s+. We can see a source for this concept from the parsha, that since the Tzaddikim are immersed in Torah, they are granted a slice of this aspect in life of preventing the body from rotting since it is vivified with true life.
After the B’Nei Yisroel take their father to Eretz Yisroel in this parsha, and his brothers make t’shuva and reconcile completely with Yosef, it is recounted that Yosef HaTzaddik gave his brothers and their families everything they needed in terms of food and all other things. This is interesting, as al pi Kabbalah, Yosef HaTzaddik corresponds to sefiras Yesod, that is the sefirah which brings the Ohr Ain Sof down to Malchus. What this comes to teach us is an interesting aspect of what occurs through the process of t’shuva and answering of prayers.
In Likutei Moharan, Rebbe Nachman teaches that ultimately the only reason a person doesn’t have what he needs is because of he himself. For our purposes, we’ll just focus on this concept alone, rather than R’ Nachman’s entire explanation there. Ultimately, the only thing that prevents our tefillos from being answered is the klippos and sheidim made through our aveiros; this is why we say Korbanos and Ketores before davening, according to the Arizal in Pri Etz Chaim, this set of passages destroys them and throws them to the side so our tefillos may ascend. Through doing t’shuva, which is the aspect of אתערותא דלתתא (meaning, the arousal from the lower worlds, “awakening of the Feminine aspect”) through which we excite the Shechinah HaKedosha to reach the higher worlds and accomplish אתערותא דלעילא (meaning, arousal from the upper worlds, “awakening of the Masculine aspect), we draw down the brochos and hashpo’os we so desperately need through Z’air Anpin/Tiferes, which is the aspect of Yaakov Avinu who requested that the brothers make peace. That is to say, t’shuva and mechila (forgiveness) are the true keys to receiving all that we need from Hashem in all ways.