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Shabbat Nugget: Parashat Vayechi

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner
Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

In this week’s Torah portion we read about Jacob preparing for his death.  He calls his son Joseph who is the viceroy of Egypt and asks him to bury him in Israel in the burial place of his forefathers.  After Joseph swears that he will fulfill his father’s wishes the verse states “Then Israel prostrated himself towards the head of the bed.”

The Talmud discusses why did Jacob bow down specifically towards the direction of the head of his bead and they tell us something fascinating about people who are ill.  They explain that the reason that Joseph bowed towards the head of his bed is because the Shechinah (divine presence) comes to stay near every ill person at the head of his bed.  Presumably the reason for this is to assist the sick person with the pain of his illness. Therefore, when Jacob bowed down to his son Joseph, he bowed towards the head of the bed, since it would be improper to bow other than toward a place where the Shechinah is present.

The story is told about the great sage Rabbi Chaim Medini (who was the Rabbi of Chevron in the early twentieth century) that a group of local Jews once found him walking along the street in the intense heat of midday. When they asked him where he was going, he responded, “To visit a sick man”.  “Who is the sick man?” When Rabbi Chaim responded with the name, they answered, “But he is a prodigious sinner”.

First of all Rabbi Chaim admonished them that even a sinner, if he is a Jew, is as full of mitzvos (fulfilling commandments) as a pomegranate is full of seeds and secondly, I am not visiting only the sick person, I am also visiting the Shechinah which is present at the bedside of every sick person.

About Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner is the Rabbi of Boulder County Center for Judaism. In addition, he teaches extensively throughout Boulder County and is the author of "Finding the Joy in Everyday Living," a book of short chapters explaining the ways to access happiness through appreciation, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

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