Weekly D’var: Vayechi – Leah Bogatie, Guelph Hillel

Parashat Vayechi describes the last days of Yaakov. While on his deathbed, Yaakov begs Yosef to not bury him in Mitzrayim (Hebrew for Egypt); rather, he asks that he instead bury him in Canaan (what is now Israel). What I find interesting about this is that the Torah specifically explains how Yaakov lived a very happy life in Mitzrayim. So, why is he so opposed to being buried there?

This story reminds me of Jewish people around the world today. About half of us are not fortunate enough to live in the Land of Israel. Yet, despite living happy, Torah-filled, Jewish lives outside of it, so many of us crave to return to our homeland. After all, returning to Israel is a part of our prayers three times a day! We establish Jewish communities all around the world, we build beautiful synagogues, and we find ways to stay connected to Hashem – so why the yearning?

I am grateful to be a Canadian citizen, and I will always feel an affinity for this country. However, I don’t think any other country other than Israel will fully feel like home for me. Furthermore, the rise in Antisemitism reminds me that there are still people here who feel angry at the mere fact that I take up space. I believe that we can do all that we can to make different communities for ourselves, but at the end of the day, we will always crave to return to the home that our souls connect to. Thus, just as Yaakov wishes to be buried with his ancestors in his homeland, we too wish to be ‘taken out of’ Mitzrayim.

Along with this, there is a deeper message that can be uncovered: what if we viewed Mitzrayim as more than just a physical space? I believe that we all have our own Mitzrayims that bring out the negative aspects of us – whether that be excess anxiety, anger, or selfishness. These are parts of us that we may be ashamed of, or that we feel pull us away from our faith in Hashem. What parts of us are preventing us from fully sharing with others and revealing the greatest amount of light that we can?

This week, as you go about your Shabbat, I suggest that you reflect on your personal Mitzrayim. What it is that makes you fall each time. Challenging that part of yourself will help you grow as a person, and will allow you to be the happiest and most fulfilled version of yourself that you can be.

Shabbat Shalom!