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Jacob Did Not Die

Chazak, Chazak, V'nischazek! This week, we will complete the reading of the first of the five books of the Torah. As is customary, at the end of the Torah reading the synagogue rings out with cries of “Be strong! Be strong! May you be strengthened!” Our wish is that the power of the week’s Torah reading will carry over into our daily lives.

It is interesting that we proclaim “Chazak” on this week's Torah portion, which ends with the passing of our forefather Jacob. However, the portion is called Vayechi Yakov - "and Jacob lived." This week, we do not commemorate the passing of Jacob, but rather his life, and by extension, the lives of his children, for as the sages say: “Our father Jacob did not die. Just as his children are alive, he is too alive.”

Jacob spent the last 17 years of his life in Egypt, land of impurity. His descent to Egypt was actually the beginning of the enslavement and exile of the Jewish people. We end the story of Jacob's life on a note of Chazak, to derive strength to cope with the difficulties we face in exile.

Jacob's strength comes from the power of Torah, which he embodied. Torah is the essential truth of existence, which is not subject to change. Torah descends from heaven to earth, yet its spiritual potency remains intact. This is the source of Jacob's eternal life, which he bequeathed to his children. Despite our descent into a long exile, we have stayed “alive” -- true to the spirit of Jacob and the ideals of Torah.

We stayed alive as a people because Jacob's seed stayed alive. Our divine service in exile is likened to sowing seeds, since the seed disintegrates and the immediate effects of our efforts are not apparent. So, too, during exile we are oppressed and sometimes feel as if we are “disintegrating.” However, in the times of Moshiach, all the mitzvot we did, all the seeds that we planted, will bear fruit, and we will see how the work of our hands led directly to our salvation.

From Jacob, we learn the importance of strengthening the education of our sons and daughters, the seed of Jacob. As parents and teachers, we do all we can to implant good character and habits into our children, but the seeds sprout only later, when the child is grown. Our children, in turn, will later bear their own children and pass on to them the lessons and inspiration that we taught them.

Maimonides writes that even one good thought, word or action can bring merit and salvation to the world. Even the decision alone to implement and “plant” one more mitzvah can bring about the germination of the immediate redemption, when we will greet the Rebbe, and celebrate together at the festive meal of Moshiach.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vayechi 5752)


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