Genesis 47: 28 – 31 Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” And he said, “I will do as you have said.” He said, “Swear to me.” So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.
What is Death?
What is death? This is best answered with another question, what is life? Life is the integration of soul and body ~ the self and its physical vehicle ~ into a single entity. Death is the dissolution of body and soul into two separate entities, a separation of the spiritual self from that which once was a vehicle to that self.
The self is the soul, not the body. The body will inevitably fail and disintegrate; the soul is eternal and indestructible. The stretch of physical time in which the soul resides within and acts through the body is just one phase ~ though a most important phase ~ of its existence, and existence which precedes physical life and extends beyond it. The soul of the person we knew and loved as a physical being on this continues to exist after her or her death, continues to be aware of all that transpires in our lives, and continues to be the recipient of our love and the positive actions we do on his or her behalf.
But also for the body, death is not the end. A fundamental principle of the Jewish faith and Christianity is the belief in techiat ha-meitim, (resurrection of the dead), that in the future, divinely perfect “world to come,” the soul will be restored to a rebuilt and revitalized body, so that body and soul, once again fused together as a living being, should enjoy the fruits of what they accomplished together in toils and tribulations of our present-day existence.
So, while the soul is the higher, more spiritual incarnation of the self, the body, too, must be accorded the ultimate respect and sanctity, as befits the vessel of the soul. ~ Chabad
In Genesis 47:28-31 we see that “Jacob lived in the land of Egypt 17 years…” The sages teach that these years were, “the best years of his life.” We have previously learned that Egypt represents “constraints; limitations; a level of limited spirituality with severe boundaries holding us back. It teaches us that even in difficult times we still have an inborn relationship with God at a sibling level where the innate love, although not as passionate, is still present and accessible.” So the question is how could this have been “the best years of his life?”
With a title such as the one above, “He Lives,” one might would think this week’s study would be devoted to an account of the major events of Jacob’s life. However, we will be looking at the events leading up and following his death.
We only attain true life when our ideals live on in those who come after us. As long as we are physically alive, it is not at all clear if we are truly “alive”; the test of true life comes only after death. If our descendants remain true to the ideals we have imparted to them, it then becomes retroactively clear that we were also “alive” during our lifetime. If not, then it follows that even while alive, we were essentially “dead.”
Jacob’s years in Egypt were filled with true satisfaction at seeing his children and grandchildren loyal to his ideals – proves that he was truly “alive” during his lifetime. The fact that he succeeded in maintaining his own spirituality in the corrupt and idolatrous environment of Egypt, as well as, in raising his children and grandchildren to do the same, testifies to the fact that he was indeed truly “alive” during his lifetime.
As we have seen, from his youth, Jacob was the consummate Torah (instruction) Scholar. Together with absorbing the knowledge embodied in the Torah (instruction, God’s words), Jacob absorbed its quality of transcendence, its unchanging, Divine essence that renders it intrinsically, universally, and eternally relevant to all facets of life. This is what enabled him to weather all the vicissitudes of life, to raise all his children to be righteous despite their diverse personalities, and to ensure that the years he spent in Egypt would be his best. The Torah (instruction), being the embodiment of God’s will and wisdom, is truth; the study of Torah (instruction) is thus the pursuit of truth; and therefore, by extension, devotion to the Torah (instruction) means uncompromising devotion to truth. The Torah (instruction) was Jacob’s key to eternal life, for truth, by definition, is eternal.
The lesson here, is that, we, too, can weather all the remaining tribulations of exile, raise our children to be loyal to their heritage, and enjoy all the blessings of spiritual and physical abundance ~ essentially tasting the sweetness of the messianic future ~ even while still in exile, through studying Torah (instruction, God’s word) and fulfilling His commandments.
Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I thank you for the example Jacob provided for us to be wholly Yours! His life, alone, shows us that no matter what trials and tribulations come our way, that even when down in Egypt, despair, we can be wholly Yours! Father, I pray that when the day comes for our soul to depart from our body, that we can say, as Jacob, “He/She lives”! May our life, even in death, represent that we are wholly Yours. I ask you now to encourage each person who reads this post. Please bring them peace which surpasses all understanding, and assure them that they are wholly Yours. In Jesus name, Amen.