Parashat Vayechi / פרשת ויחי

Genesis Chapter 47
1 Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said: ‘My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.’ 2 And from among his brethren he took five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 3 And Pharaoh said unto his brethren: ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said unto Pharaoh: ‘Thy servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.’ 4 And they said unto Pharaoh: ‘To sojourn in the land are we come; for there is no pasture for thy servants’ flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.’ 5 And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying: ‘Thy father and thy brethren come unto thee; 6 the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell. And if thou knowest any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.’ 7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: ‘How many are the days of the years of thy life?’ 9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh: ‘The days of the years of my sojournings are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings.’ 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. 11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12 And Joseph sustained his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to the want of their little ones. 13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said: ‘Give us bread; for why should we die in thy presence? for our money faileth.’ 16 And Joseph said: ‘Give your cattle, and I will give you [bread] for your cattle if money fail.’ 17 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph. And Joseph gave them bread in exchange for the horses, and for the flocks, and for the herds, and for the asses; and he fed them with bread in exchange for all their cattle for that year. 18 And when that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him: ‘We will not hide from my lord, how that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord’s; there is nought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands. 19 Wherefore should we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be bondmen unto Pharaoh; and give us a seed, that we may live, and not die, and that the land is not desolate.’ 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine was sore upon them; and the land became Pharaohs. 21 And as for the people, he removed them city by city, from one end of the border of Egypt even to the other end thereof. 22 Only the land of the priests bought he not, for the priests had a portion from Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them; wherefore they sold not their land. 23 Then Joseph said unto the people: ‘Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh. Lo, here is the seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. 24 And it shall come to pass at the ingatherings, that ye shall give a fifth unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for the seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.’ 25 And they said: ‘Thou hast saved our lives. Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s bondmen.’ 26 And Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests alone became not Pharaoh’s. 27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they got them possessions therein, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly. 28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were a hundred forty and seven years. 29 And the time drew near that Israel must die; and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him: ‘If now I have found favour in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt. 30 But when I sleep with my fathers, thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place.’ And he said: ‘I will do as thou hast said.’ 31 And he said: ‘Swear unto me.’ And he swore unto him. And Israel bowed down upon the bed’s head. {P} explain the text, it frequently fails and the translation remains obscure. The Targumist characteristically and purposely renders some verses contrary to their plain meaning. Frequently and inexplicably, the Targum all too often offers more than one interpretation of a single phrase. The irregular character of this chapter s translations is most probably the result of the efforts of scribes rewriting the ancient targumist’s work by inserting alien duplicative material.

One example of the inscrutability and intricacy of the many passages that beg to understand in this chapter is 49:10 (pages 336 and 337), which contains the only reference in the Targum to a Messiah. The verse is apparently, but by no mean certainly, addressing the future of the Judean dynasty begun by King David. The Hebrew reads, “A staff will not depart from Judah, or the ruler’s staff from between his legs until he comes to Shiloh; and the nations will obey him.”The following commentary shows the views of some commentators other than Onkelos on Scripture’s “Shiloh.”
 
UNTIL THE MESSIAH COMES. Scripture’s “until he comes to Shiloh,” which could also mean “until Shiloh comes,” is one of the most captivating and obscure passages of the Bible. There has been a multitude of suggested interpretations, and many scholars have offered ways of amending the text in order to clarify it. Rashbam views the
verse’s initial two phrases as a description of David and his son Solomon, who would reign over all twelve Israelite tribes—until Solomon’s son traveled to Shiloh,

which was close to Shechem, in an attempt to retain the solidity of his sovereignty after his father’s death. But ten tribes seceded from serving him and set Jeroboam as

their king. Hence, according to Rashbam, the next phrase refers to Jeroboam, whom
“the nations will obey.” Chazkunee agrees with Rashbam that the section of the verse discussed here refers to Solomon’s son and that Shiloh was the site where the Davidic kingdom was split but offers that Shiloh could also refer to the prophet Ahijah who came from Shiloh and tore Solomon’s son’s garment into  twelve pieces to foretell the split in the Davidic kingdom (I Kings 11:30 31).
 
The commentary continues with the view of Onkelos and others on “Shiloh.” Although there is no explicit mention in the Pentateuch of a Messiah, Onkelos, Genesis Rabbah, the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b), the other Targums, other Midrashim, and other commentators such as Saadiah, Rashi, Nachmanides, and Radak, treat the final (Hebrew) letter  “ hay ” of the word “ Shiloh ” as if it was a “ vav.”  As such they translate the word as “his,” and consider the pronoun a reference to the Messiah. Ibn Ezra notes that some commentators also interpret Shiloh as if the letters “yud” and “hay” were reversed, yielding “draw out”; others read it as “shelil,” “embryo”; and still others take it  as a simple reference to the city of Shiloh to which Jacob is referring as the location of the Tabernacle until the onset of David’s reign.
Rashi adds that we can read Shiloh as two words meaning “a tribute to him.” The
fact that this prophecy of the everlasting reign of David’s family was not fulfilled should not be regarded as problematic, since, as the Tosaphists wrote, “ The prophets did not prophesy what will be, but, rather, what should be.” 
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In the commentary that immediately follows, we find the suggestion that 
Onkelos reference to the Messiah may actually be a scribal insert.
 
FOR THE KINGDOM IS HIS. This is added as part of the Targum ’s explanation of “ 
Shiloh” (see prior commentary). However, it is probable that this addition is the Onkelos targumist’s only interpretation, while the wording “until the Messiah comes” 
is a late interpolation of a pious but inexact copyist.
To add to the discussion, we cite the views of two additional commentators in our appendix (page 465):
Bechor Schor interprets 49:10 as Jacob’s prophecy of when the Davidic line of kings will begin.
The verb “yavo,” in “ad kee yavo Shiloh,” means “destroyed,” as in
Isaiah60:20, and means that a member of the tribe of Judah would not become king over the Israelites until the Tabernacle that was situated in the city of Shiloh was destroyed 
– 
a prediction that was fulfilled. Bechor Schor maintains that verse 18 is stating that as long as God protects the tribe of Judah, Judah will protect the rest of the Israelites. Ibn Kaspi interprets verse 10 as a prediction concerning the end of the Davidic rule.
The term “ shiloh ” means “error,” as in II Samuel 6:7; the verb yavo” means “occur”; and “ad,” “until,” denotes when the promise will cease. Thus, Jacob is promising that there will be Davidic kings until ( ad ) there occurs ( yavo ) an error ( “shiloh” ). This error happened during the reign of King Zedekiah, the last king of David’s line, who
foolishly rebelled against Babylon. The Babylonians smote the Judeans, destroyed the
Temple, and “ Judah was carried away captive out of his land” ( II Kings 25:21). Jacob ibn Kaspi continues, is not predicting the destruction of the Second Temple, since there were no Davidic kings during the Second Temple period. In summary, 49:10 is obscure and there have been many radically different interpretations of what it intends to say. Onkelos has two interpretations of Scripture’s“Shilo; an unusual occurrence since our Targumist generally offers only a single view.The Targum reads the verse to say that the tribe of Judah will produce a ruler —“for the kingdom is his” to rule over the nation of Israel. This interpretation does not suggest that the ruler will be anything other than a normal king. However, the Onkelos text in our hands today also renders “Shiloh ” as “until the Messiah comes.”
 We suggest that the reference to the Messiah was not in the original translation composed by our targumist. He does not generally offer two interpretations of a word or passage and does not offer theological interpretations such as the advent of a messiah. The idea of the Messiah was added by an overzealous copyist who felt that this
was the Torah’s intent and that he had an obligation to make this clear to fellow Jew
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ADDITIONAL DISCUSSIONS
ONKELOS 
 
We know that our Targumist eschews theological notions in his translation. Could
this be an exception because the anticipated “coming of the Messiah” was a hope
strongly entrenched in the hearts of persecuted Jews during the age when he lived?Could it also be that he wanted to emphasize that the Messiah had not yet come, for the belief that he had arrived was maintained by Christians
and he didn’t want his fellow religionists to be misled? Or, are we correct that the inclusion of the phrase “until the Messiah comes” is an insert by a later copyist? After all, the concept of a miraculous arrival of a “Messiah” is not explicit anywhere in the Torah.
 There is one other reference to meshicha in Targum Onkelos, an Aramaic word that  can be translated as “Messiah” or as “anointed
 
one.” The term Messiah has a somewhat supernatural connotation, while “anointed one” can simply mean a priest or king, both of whom were anointed with oil when they assumed their positions. The word is in Numbers 24:17. Scripture reads
“a scepter will stand from Israel.”
Onkelos has “an anointed one will be anointed.” We
explain in our commentary, “AN ANOINTED ONE WILL BE ANOINTED
”:
 
Our translator understands the metaphor “scepter,” as he did “ 
star,” to refer to a“king,” but since he already used the noun “king” in the prior phrase, he inserted the synonym “an anointed one,” which refers to kings who were anointed upon taking office. He also understands “scepter” as a “ruler,” as in
Genesis 49:10.
 Thus, while Nachmanides sees this verse speaking of the Messiah and Messianic times, we agree with other commentators who realize that our verse is mentioning some future human king and we understand that this is what our Targumist is saying.
GENERAL DISCUSSION 
The word “Messiah” is derived from the Hebrew Mashiach, “anointed one.
The noun describes the ritual that symbolized the dedication of priests and Israelite kings for service. In post-biblical times, the word is used for a Messiah, a descendant of KingDavid, who many Jews believe will gather the Jewish exiles, restore the Holy Temple, and usher in a period of peace and harmony. Tragically, while the idea of a Messiah is based on a yearning for peace, the diverse views of different people about the Messiah have led to division, dislike, and discord between people.Why has there been and why is there still such intolerance between religious communities based on irreconcilable theological views? Is the real cause of the hatred between many religious people something other than theology? Is it psychological? Will the contemporary quest for dialogue help?
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FOR FURTHER STUDY
1.
See 48:14 and commentary, “WISELY”
(page 328). Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh in an unusual manner.2.  See 49:27 (pages 344 and 346) and commentary. The Targumist expands and interprets
Benjamin’s blessing.
 3.
See 49:29 and commentary, “WITH
. . . IN
(page 347). Understanding a common stylistic change inTargum Onkelos
to avoid repetitions