Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Vayechi

Family Building

The holy book of Bereshith comes to its conclusion in this week’s parsha. The story of the creation of the Jewish people through the development of one family over a number of generations and by the perseverance of the great personalities of our patriarchs and matriarchs is now complete.

This raises the question originally posed in Rashi’s commentary to the very beginning of the book of Bereshith – why does the Torah, which appears to be basically a book of laws and commandments, bother with all of this detailed description of creation and continued familial based narrative? Why is this seemingly anecdotal knowledge of the lives of our ancestors so necessary to be included in the eternal Torah and how does it register in the survival of the Jewish people throughout the ages?

In response to this question of relevance, the rabbis taught us that the events that occurred to our ancestors are indeed the harbingers of happenings that will occur to their descendants. But many times it is difficult for later generations to make this connection, except in the most general way of experiencing historic repetitions of circumstances.

This book of Bereshith, which comprises a substantial part of the entire written Torah, contains within it almost no commandments and is basically a book of narrative tracing the development of one family – eventually seventy in number – and of the difficulties that this family encountered over generations. So what therefore is its main message to us living in a far different world, millennia later?

I think that the message of Bereshith is the obvious one of family and its importance. The Torah purposely and in minute detail describes for us how difficult it truly is to create and maintain a cohesive family structure. Every one of the generations described in Bereshith from Kayin and Hevel till Yosef and his brothers is engaged in the difficult and often heartbreaking task of family building.

There are no smooth and trouble free familial relationships described in the book of Bereshith. Sibling rivalry, violence, different traits of personality, and marital and domestic strife are the stuff of the biblical narrative of this book. The Torah does not sanitize any of its stories nor does it avoid confronting the foibles and errors of human beings.

The greatest of our people, our patriarchs and matriarchs, encountered severe difficulties in attempting to create cohesive, moral and cooperative families. Yet they persevered in the attempt because without this strong sense of family there can be no basis for eternal Jewish survival. There is tragic fall out in each of the families described in Bereshith and yet somehow the thread of family continuity is maintained and strengthened until the family grows into a numerous and influential nation.

This perseverance of family building, in spite of all of the disappointments inherent in that task, is the reason for the book of Bereshith. It is the template of the behavior of our ancestors that now remains as the guideposts for their descendants. The task of family building remains the only sure method of ensuring Jewish survival.

Shabat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON MASEI AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

A Hopeful Mourning
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5762

Taking Action
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

How We Suffer
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

ArtScroll

A Body and Soul Job
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766

A Future Built on the Past
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Cities of Refuge: Sanctuary for Survival
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Dead First
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5760

Wandering Jew
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

> In Other Words
Shlomo Katz - 5764

Unquestioned Answers
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Vows: The Power of Speech
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5773

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Appreciation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

A Fresh Look – at Life
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

YomTov, vol. XIII # 3
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

Learning to Love What Is!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5767



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information