No “happily ever after.” Jacob doesn’t forgive his sons. They forgive neither themselves nor Joseph. Joseph does not say he has forgiven his brothers. Joseph continues his life as Zaphenat-Paneah, in but not of the royal court, and as Joseph, the son and brother of those foreigners in Goshen. Relations apparently are cooling between Egyptians and the Joseph’s kindred. Even those unfamiliar with the book of Exodus can feel the foreboding.
(Comments below are from 2017.) Vayekhi is the final portion in the book of Genesis. Jacob dies. His family is getting more settled in Egypt. Joseph dies. In these 85 verses, there’s a lot of subtext and foreshadowing and very little sense of a neatly tied up, happy ending.
After 17 years in Egypt, Jacob knows he is about to die and prepares accordingly. First, he very respectfully (“if I have found favor in your eyes”) asks Joseph (his son, the viceroy) to swear that he will not be buried in Egypt but rather in the family tomb in Canaan. Later, Joseph is told Jacob is ill and hurries to him. He brings his own sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and Jacob formally adopts them so Rachel will be ancestress of three tribes instead of two. Jacob also designates the younger son, Ephraim, to outrank the elder, to Joseph’s initial chagrin. Finally, Jacob gathers his sons for some last words, as Israel, their father (49:2). [BTW, can anybody point me to a commentary regarding in what context the names “Jacob” and “Israel” are each used after Jacob has been renamed “Israel”?]
What are these last words? They are prophesies of what will happen to each son’s tribe “in the end of days.” For example, “Dan will avenge his people” (49:16) can be read as foretelling the victories of Dan’s descendant Samson over the Philistines. Naturally, though, a tribe’s future will reflect the nature of its progenitor, so this is partly a performance review (I am SO glad I’m retired!). Reuben’s own wishy-washy impetuosity is condemned, as is that business with Bilhah (35:22). Though he is the firstborn, his tribe will not lead the others. It is Judah who will be the ancestor of Israelite royalty (e.g., King David, who, in the haftarah, I Kings 2:1-12, on his deathbed tells Solomon to observe the Law, reward certain people, and execute certain others.). Simeon and Levi are condemned for the massacre at Shechem, and they will be dispersed among Israel. Indeed, the tribe of Levi will have no land, and the tribe of Simeon will shrink in the wilderness and, according to Nachmanides, be absorbed eventually into the other tribes. Joseph, of course gets a good review and will be the father of two tribes.
Judah is dominant, not Joseph. Why? Perhaps Joseph, though he never loses his Hebrew identity, is too much on the edge of two cultures, whereas Judah has always been with Jacob’s family. Abarbanel suggests that Joseph, known as Yosef HaTzaddik (the righteous one), is so much a star, so far above, that he always provokes jealousy in people and alienates them unwittingly. Judah, on the other hand, is always human; and he matures into a leader of people. Joseph is more a manager of events and a manipulator of people, rather than a leader.
Jacob dies. There is great public mourning throughout Egypt. Joseph diplomatically asks Pharaoh for permission to bury Jacob in the family plot in Canaan. They go, with a great retinue, but leave their children and livestock behind in Egypt (foreshadowing?).
Remember the deaths of Abraham and Isaac, when estranged brothers come together to bury their father? Old wounds are not reopened, and the reconciliations between those individuals seem to stick. Not so here. For the ten oldest brothers, the reality of their father’s death and the processions to Canaan and back to Egypt (maybe even past the pit into which they threw Joseph) trigger uncomfortable anxieties. Joseph had been nice to them for 17 years, but maybe that was only on account of Jacob. Thus, when they return to Egypt, they tell Joseph some arrant nonsense about Jacob telling them to tell Joseph to forgive them. They also offer to become his slaves. Joseph weeps (in disappointment? vexation? frustration?) and says again that there is nothing to forgive, that they were the Lord’s instruments. But note that the brothers never directly ask Joseph to forgive them; they present that as Jacob’s request. And Joseph, never having been asked, never explicitly says he forgives them. The rift remains unhealed and their relationship, uncertain.
Joseph lives until 110, long enough to see a few generations of descendants. Several decades have now passed since Jacob died, and the relationship between the Hebrews and the Egyptians has cooled. Two signs of cooling: On his deathbed, Joseph tells his brothers that the Lord will remember them and bring them up out of Egypt. So they can’t leave now, not even to bury their brother as they had buried Jacob. And when Joseph dies, we don’t see the great wailing in Egypt that there was for Jacob. Joseph is simply embalmed and put into a coffin, to await the eventual return of his bones to Canaan.
For those of you in management who are looking for some creative ways to communicate the performance achievements of your less gifted employees, here are some inspiring quotes taken from actual Federal Government employee performance evaluations.
4.“Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.”
5.“When she opens her mouth, it seems that it is only to change feet.”
18.“When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell.”
20.“A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on.”
22.“Donated his brain to science before he was done using it.”
27.“If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean.”
28.“It’s hard to believe he beat out 1,000,000 other sperm.”
29.“One neuron short of a synapse.”
40 Funny Last Words That Are the Epitome of Gallows Humor (selections)
11. “Remember, Honey, don’t forget what I told you. Put in my coffin a deck of cards, a mashie niblick, and a pretty blonde.”
— Chico Marx
14. “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”
— James W. Rodgers, convicted murderer (when asked if he had a last request before dying by firing squad)
15. “Surprise me.”
— Bob Hope, comedian (when his wife asked him where he wanted to be buried)
19. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—”
— John Sedgwick, general of the Union Army (as he was shot mid-sentence)
38. “Oh Lord, forgive the misprints!”
— Andrew Bradford, book publisher
Tool used by ancient Egyptians to remove BRAINS discovered in the skull of a 2,400 year old mummy- after it was LEFT INSIDE by bumbling embalmer (from 2012)
PUBLISHED: 08:44 EST, 16 December 2012 | UPDATED: 06:10 EST, 17 December 2012 (abridged)
A brain-removal tool used by ancient Egyptian embalmers was found wedged in the skull of a female mummy after embalmers left it there thousands of years ago. The three-inch object was located in the body of a 40-year-old woman dating back 2,400 years, initially causing bafflement among researchers over what it was. After carrying out CT scans, scientists found the instrument between the left parietal bone and the back of the skull, which had been filled with resin during the mummification. The mistake made thousands of years ago has helped researchers to understand the ancient embalming process. (You can go to the website to see the nauseating details and pictures. IGP) The tool was made from plants in the group Monocotyledon, which includes forms of palm and bamboo, which may have been used instead of metal because it was cheaper. The only other brain-removal stick found inside a mummy’s skull dates back 2,200 years and was made from a similar type of material.
The details emerged in a report recently published by Dr. Mislav Čavka’s team, of the University Hospital Dubrava in Zagreb Croatia, in the journal RSNA RadioGraphics (at http://radiographics.rsna.org/content/32/7/2151.abstract . I haven’t looked at the report, nor do I plan to. IGP). “It is known that mummification was widely practiced throughout ancient Egyptian civilization, but it was a time-consuming and costly practice. Thus, not everyone could afford to perform the same mummification procedure,” the researchers wrote.