Yaakov: The Secret to Immortality.

5 12 2014

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Even though many of us may not realize it, what drives us subconsciously is the human need to attain some aspect of immortality or at least to be remembered. Man is mortal, that is how G-d created us. But the question is, if we are to attain some aspect of immortality or at least to be remembered, how would we do it?

We know from Sefer Beraishit that the word for death doesn’t appear with Yaakov, like it does with Avraham and Yitzchak. In fact the word, ‘Vayechi’ – ‘he lived’, very much defines Yaakov’s life.

What can we learn from the way the Torah describes Yaakov as to why the Torah and Chazal ( the Rabbis) portray Yaakov as never dying?

One answer could be, using the Rashi at the beginning of this weeks Parsha who focuses on Yaakov’s ability to retain his sense of morality and religiosity even in the house of Lavan – in other words, as he demonstrated a very strong moral and Jewish identity, he was a role model and example to all those around him which gave him a sense of immortality.

Another answer we see in Chazal could be that Yaakov was the only of the Avot whose children all stayed in the fold and weren’t rejected or didn’t rebel. It was this sense of, ‘Shlemut’ – completeness, that meant through all his children he lived forever.

Furthermore, the Shemot Shmuel talks about how the character of Yaakov is very ‘Ruchani’ – spiritual. As a result even though he physically dies, as by the end of his life all his body was spiritual, he in fact lives on in his soul and spirit.

I would like to suggest another understanding based on the change of Yaakov’s name from ‘Yaakov’, the private individual and ‘Yisrael’, the public national figure. When Yaakov becomes transformed to a national leader, then and only then does he become immortal.

As when a person contributes and joins in the fate and destiny of his nation and community he not only has a more meaningful life, he also becomes immortal. When one acts for the ‘other’ and contributes to his community and society, every act is an immortal act and lives on in those affected and benefitting from that act of kindness and goodness.

Shabbat Shalom!

Benjy Singer, My Shteiblech.

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