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Torah Portion

Home > Torah Portion > Vayehi

Torah Portion: Vayehi
(Genesis 47:28)
Rabbi Stephen M Wylen


Jacob lived in the Land of Egypt for seventeen years; the days of Jacob, the years of his life, came to seven years and forty and a hundred years. (Genesis 47:28)


What is the meaning of the repetitiousness of this verse, saying that Jacob had both "days" and "years"? It seems to me that we must interpret this in light of the verse from Proverbs (10:17):
Fear of the Lord increases days, but the years of the wicked are shortened. The explanation of this verse is that the righteous person climbs every day to a higher level of perfection and improves his deeds. By the time a day has ended it seems as if a whole year has passed because he has fulfilled so many mitzvot. The opposite is the case with the wicked - he passes a full year in his wickedness, and whiles away his time with empty and vain matters so that the time passes quickly.
Fear of the Lord increases days - every day is accounted as if it were a year. The years of the wicked are shortened - every year is accounted as if it were merely a day.
The days of Jacob, the years of his life - because Jacob was so righteous, all of his days were like years.
- Tiferet Jonathan, in Itturei Torah ad loc.


Jacob's life was full and meaningful. Everyone must die, but death is a blessing when life has been complete. How can one die the death of the righteous? One must live the life of the righteous.
The Psalmist said: "So teach us to number our days that we may acquire a heart of wisdom". I often preach funeral addresses based on this verse. The righteous live one day at a time, making the fullest use of each day by using each day in the performance of mitzvot that serve God and our fellow men and women.
Our commentary for this week emphasizes this point. Life comes without any guarantees, and many people are deeply troubled by the fact that goodness provides no assurance of a long and easy life or a painless and comfortable death.
To discover the value of life, then, we must not measure its worth in the length of years, but in the fulness of days. If one has made use of each day that is granted to oneself, then one can be said to have lived a full life, whether it is long or short.
We can begin right away. Today is also a day. How are you using it?


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