Parshat Vayigash – Jake Kupferberg

Posted on December 13, 2013

In this parsha, Yoseph reveals himself to his brothers, as their brother and convinces them to move down to Egypt and he takes his entire family. Yoseph has spoken to Pharaoh about Yaakov, who he has never met, as a big spiritual leader in Canaan.  When Yaakov arrives to Egypt, the first thing Pharaoh says to Yaakov is “How old are you?” The number one rule to talking to old people is never ask them how old they are is because that is incredibly rude. Why is the first thing Pharaoh said to Yaakov, who was “hyped up” by his son, is how old are you? The strange thing is that Yaakov answers back that he is 130 years old and that his days have been horrible.

Yaakov is one of the forefathers so he is not supposed to be a complainer, right? Commentaries say that when he walked into the land of Egypt he looked so old and worn out from his life that he looked older than anybody in the history of Egypt. Pharoah wasn’t asking this in a rude way, he was simply astonished how Yaakov could be this old. Yaakov, not wanting to be a big shot or say that G-d is with him, instead answered that he is 130 years old and so old because he has had a very bad life. His daughter was kidnapped, he had to leave his house at a young age, and that his brother tried to kill him for 20 years.

The Midrash says that when G-d heard him say, that even when G-d had given Yoseph and Dina back to Ya’akov but he still said has a bad life, G-d gives him a punishment. G-d says that He will take the 30 words that Yaakov had spoken and take that many years off of his life. Yaakov died at the age of 147 which was 30 years younger than when his father, Yitzchak, died.

What can we learn from this? Yaakov said one complaint during his entire life and he got 30 years of his life taken away. Whenever you are down, you have to remember all that G-d has given you. One example is Chanukah. We are not celebrating the fact that thousands of Jews were assimilated into the Greek culture, we are celebrating that we got our temple back. You always have to focus on the positive instead of the negative.