The Fragrance of Permanence

Jan 2nd, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“Ah, the knowledge of impermanence that haunts our days is their very fragrance (Rainer Maria Rilke).”

We’ve begun to trace Jacob’s steps backwards through those of Adam and others who distanced themselves from life in the Garden in Eden, in “A Different Sort of Fear of Life,” and, “Not Waiting For the Monument.” We posited that, “And Jacob lived,” “Vayechi,” is the story of a man who lived every moment of his life, even in death and after!”

Let’s study more of Jacob’s life to better understand how he defined life in the face of death:

“Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud (29:11),” he wept “because he saw that they would not be buried together (Rashi),” burial, Rachel, and death; all issues Jacob addresses in “And he Lived!” “As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow, Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrat. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrat, that is, Bethlehem (48:7).” Jacob os clearly addressing all these issues that have been associated with so many of the major events in his life. It’s tempting to say, “Ah! He finally had peace, and could really live these last seventeen years while in Egypt, his family whole again. Yet, we know nothing of these years other than what is described in these final scenes.

In fact, saying that he finally lived in peace is reminiscent of a terrible tragedy: “Jacob settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan (37:1),” after his life-long struggles, Jacob desired to settle down in tranquility, but the anguish of the Joseph affair sprang upon him; when the righteous look for tranquility, The Holy One, Blessed is He, says, “Are the righteous not satisfied with what is stored up for them in the World to Come that they expect to live in ease in this world too!” (Rashi) Some midrashim take it further and say, “The righteous have tranquility neither in this world or the next (which will be eternally expansive)!” No, “And Jacob lived,” cannot imply that he lived in tranquility. He still had much work to do. (“The Courage to be Carried”) This portion describes some of the most important and non-tranquil, work of Jacob’s life. That is exactly what is meant by, “And Jacob lived;” he maximized his years in Egypt (Shabbat Prayers-Vayigash-Psalm 90), he offered his progeny a taste of his Spiritual accomplishments (Jacob-Alive in Death).

Jacob used these final scenes to guide his children to sense the fragrance of permanence (A Permanent Guest), not of death and its ensuing impermanence. The same fragrance that caught Isaac’s attention, “When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son

is like the smell of a field

that God has blessed (27:27),” Isaac caught the smell of the Garden of Eden in Jacob’s clothes; the clothes he “borrowed” from Esau!

Smell; the only one of the five senses not used in the sin of the Tree of Knowledge.

Can we discover where and how Jacob mastered eternal life? Let’s see…

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.