Vayekhi (Genesis 47:28 – 50:26)

My mind is just starting to wake up, now that I’ve finishing drafting and proofing patent applications for the year, but not yet enough to write brand new comments yet, at least not comments free of things like “wherein,” “thereby,” “including but not limited to.” “in one embodiment,” “and the like,” and the like. So, I’ll add a few footnotes to my comments of two years ago. I promise new comments for Shemot next week.

“This week, we finish the book of Genesis and tie up remaining loose ends to the Jacob & Joseph saga. Seventeen years have passed since Jacob’s family settled in Egypt. The famine has been over for 12 years. Jacob, at 147, dies after extracting a promise from Joseph to bury him in the family plot (the cave of Machpelah), not in Egypt. This will require embalming (1) , since it’s a long, hot trek to Canaan. About to die, Jacob adopts and blesses Ephraim and Manasseh (younger before elder) as his own, thereby adding to Rachel’s honor as a matriarch. He then speaks his final words to his sons – assessments, not blessings. A combination of performance review and development/career path talk. The results (positive, negative, pretty neutral): Reuben (—), Simeon (—), Levi (—), Judah (+++), Zebulun (+), Issachar (0), Dan (+), Gad (+), Asher (++), Naphtali (++), Joseph (+++), Benjamin (0). Sure enough,by the time the tribes enter into Canaan, Judah is the leader and Simeon essentially vanishes.(2) Interestingly, though, Levi becomes the progenitor of Moses and of the priests and (duh) Levites, despite Jacob’s angry words.

“Anyhow, Jacob is buried in Canaan and the whole family comes back to Egypt (Why? I can understand Joseph’s returning, but the others?(3)). Feeling guilty and vulnerable, the brothers confront Joseph , saying Jacob wanted him to forgive them and begging forgiveness once more. Joseph weeps (yet again) at their inability to trust him and tries to reassure them.

“Finally, 54 years later, 71 years after his reunion with his father and brothers, Joseph dies at 110. He does not asked to be buried in Canaan – yet. Still the visionary, Joseph sees that the Israelites need to wait until the Lord takes them out from Egypt, back to Canaan, so he asks for his bones to be carried to Canaan at that time. He dies, and his remains are embalmed. So ends the book of Genesis.”

(1) Prof. G. A. Rendsburg, in the Teaching Company’s audio course on Genesis as literature, notes the many Egyptian resonances in the end of the Joseph story. The obvious ones: the Egyptian names, Joseph’s shaving and the gold chain he wears around his neck, the embalming of Jacob and Joseph. Less so: in 50:3, on Jacob’s death, “It required forty days, for such is the full period of embalming. The Egyptians bewailed him seventy days.” However, by the time of the New Kingdom, where Prof. Rendsburg places the Joseph story, the best embalming method itself took 70 days. Maybe this is a commingling of the popular biblical number 40 and the Egyptian 70? Also, Joseph’s life of 110 years is cited as the ideal life span for an Egyptian, the way we use “may you live to 120!” today.

(2) Joseph is Jacob’s favorite. Why doesn’t he get the most wonderful blessing, and why is Judah marked for kingship? Possibly Jacob is resentful that Joseph was silent toward him for 20 years, or maybe her recognizes how Egyptian Joseph has become. Or maybe he just recognizes Judah as the natural leader of the family, whom every one looks up to. Or maybe it’s because the author, whom Prof. G. A. Rendsburg (in the Teaching Company’s audio course on Genesis as literature) places in the 10th century BCE, the height of the Israel’s power as a kingdom under a descendant of Judah, recognized the connection he needed to make.

(3) I forgot that they had to leave their children and livestock in Goshen (50:8).

Shabbat shalom,



Famous last words of a Mafia hitman:

“Who put the violin in the violin case?”


Famous last words from surfers (ocean, not net. IGP)

· What’s the worst that could happen?

· It doesn’t look that big.

· It’s a little big for a beginner, but you’ll do fine!

· Let’s both go, this wave is big enough for two people!

· Let’s see who can hold their breath the longest!

· Let me have this wave, would you? My girlfriend is watching from the beach.

· It’s safe to sleep in the beach; just like the old days.


Last Words, death bed statements . . . [selected]

Thomas Jefferson–still survives…  ~~ John Adams, US President, d. July 4, 1826

(Actually, Jefferson had died earlier that same day.)

Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well–let ’em wait.

In response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, “General, I fear the angels are waiting for you.”   ~~ Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary general, d. 1789

Am I dying or is this my birthday?

When she woke briefly during her last illness and found all her family around her bedside.   ~~ Lady Nancy Astor, d. 1964

How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden? ~~ P. T. Barnum, entrepreneur, d. 1891

Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.  ~~ John Barrymore, actor, d. May 29, 1942

Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.   ~~ Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, d. March 26, 1827 [Note: today is Ludwig’s 240th birthday. IGP]


 Performance [abridged]

The American and the Japanese corporate offices for a large multi-national corporation decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance.

The Japanese team won by a mile. Afterward, the American management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommended corrective action.

The consultant’s finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering. The firm concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the American team. [Wait – there’s more. IGP]

So, the American team’s management structure was completely reorganized: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive.

The next year, the Japanese won by two miles. The American office laid-off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.


 Dictionary [selections]

“Works well under pressure” What they really meant: Only starts anything the day before the deadline

“Is a good corporate citizen” What they really meant: Doesn’t question me

“Is an active listener” What they really meant: Takes out one iPod headphone when I ask them something .

“Seeks out responsibility” What they really meant: Megalomaniac. Sort of like Napoleon.

“Pays attention to details” What they really meant: Anally retentive

“Constantly seeks professional development opportunities” What they really meant: Needy

“Demonstrates a sense of humor” What they really meant: Possibly alcoholic


 Performance Appraisal

The Boss asked for a letter describing Bob Smith:

1*Bob Smith, my assistant programmer, can always be found

2*hard at work in his cubicle. Bob works independently, without

3*wasting company time talking to colleagues. Bob never

4*thinks twice about assisting fellow employees, and he always

5*finishes given assignments on time. Often Bob takes extended

6*measures to complete his work, sometimes skipping coffee

7*breaks. Bob is a dedicated individual who has absolutely no

8*vanity in spite of his high accomplishments and profound

9*knowledge in his field. I firmly believe that Bob can be

10*classed as a high-caliber employee, the type which cannot be

11*dispensed with. Consequently, I duly recommend that Bob be

12*promoted to executive management, and a proposal will be

13*executed as soon as possible.

A memo was soon sent following the letter: That idiot was reading over my shoulder while I wrote the report sent to you earlier today. Kindly read only the odd numbered lines (1, 3, 5, etc…) for my true assessment of him.

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