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Jacob's Final Dream

(This d'var torah/original midrash is based on the content of last week's parashah, Vayigash (the reunion of Joseph with his brothers and later with Jacob) and this week's parashah, Vayhi (Jacob's death). )

Jacob had been tossing and turning all night. But this was no different from every other night since Benjamin had gone down to Egypt with his brothers. Would he return, or would he meet the same fate as his brother Joseph? Would Jacob lose the last link to his beloved Rachel? Over and over again he would have the same nightmare. He could not remember most of the content, but what always awoke him was the image of a lion about to attack an unsuspecting and unprotected Benjamin. This night was the same. But it was also different. For this night Jacob had a different dream. This dream was not muddled or confused, but rather it was as clear as if it were really happening to him.

In this dream Jacob saw his beloved Benjamin standing alone in a field surrounded by the tall ears of corn. In the distance Jacob could see a river that appeared to be mightier than any he had ever seen. Beyond the river the sun was setting and above Benjamin's head the full moon shone bright and a cluster of stars surrounded it. Benjamin would look at the stars and begin to count them 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... ending with 10. In the distance there was also another lone and faint star. The rest of the sky was devoid of anything but the deepest blackness. While marveling at this unique constellation of stars there came a rustling sound from the cornfields. The wind began to blow and, even though it was night, the air became hotter and hotter. In the brightness of the moonlight he could see the corn stalks begin to break, shrivel and then die from the heat. It was as if the moon were reflecting not only the light of the sun, but its heat as well.

Benjamin was sweating profusely. He began to run towards the great river hoping to cool himself in its waters. But no matter how fast or how long he ran the river never appeared to be any closer. Then in the distance he saw a bright, twinkling light, as if as star had fallen to earth. Benjamin stopped running and gazed in awe at the beautiful iridescence of the light. He walked slowly towards it, drawn to its glory. And a breeze came from the light that cooled Benjamin's brow more than immersion in any body of water could.

As Benjamin got closer to the light he noticed that it was emanating not from a fallen star, but from a person -- a man. The closer he got the more brilliant and glorious the light became and the less frightened Benjamin was of this strange sight. Finally he stood directly in front of the man, but the light was so bright that he could not see his face. So he reached out and tried to touch the light. He then suddenly felt the man take hold of his hand. At that very moment the light dimmed around the man's face so that his features could be seen.

The eyes looked familiar. The slight smile on the man's face gave him comfort. The touch of his hand sent shivers through his body. He knew this man -- even though he had never seen him before. He could sense this in every fiber of his being.

At this moment Jacob, still asleep, began to toss uncontrollably, reaching out his hand and yelling, "Joseph, Joseph, my beloved." But he did not awaken. Rather, he continued to dream.

"Benjamin," said the man. " Hineni, I am here," Benjamin replied. "Benjamin, it is I, your brother, Joseph, the only other son of your mother, whom our father loved more than himself. " Benjamin stared into the man's eyes and he knew that this was true, for he was looking into his own eyes, though they had seen many more years than his. The two brothers embraced and Benjamin could feel the beauty of Joseph's light enveloping him as well.

Suddenly the light began to dim and the two brothers broke their embrace. "Look at the sky," said Joseph. Benjamin did as his brother instructed and he could not believe his eyes. The ten stars began to drift downward towards the earth. Their light became brighter and brighter, each of them almost as bright as the light that had surrounded Joseph -- except for the one dim star that was separated from them. As each star touched the ground Benjamin could see the form of a man behind the light. They walked toward him and encircled him. Benjamin was in awe, but he was not afraid. He knew that he was surrounded by love. As the lights began to dim he was amazed to behold his ten other brothers standing in a circle around him, each of them smiling. In the distance he saw the lone dim star touch the ground. It moved a little closer, but did not join the circle. He could make out the faint figure of a woman behind that light, but he could not see her face.

Benjamin did not know what was happening to him and he only became more confused when the sun began to rise again in the west -- the same place where it had set only minutes before! But the sun did not rise into the sky. It only rose slightly above the horizon, and then it ceased its upward trajectory and began to move towards Benjamin and his brothers. The light of the sun was blinding. Benjamin shut his eyes and put his hands to his face. Suddenly he could no longer feel the light or warmth of the sun. He knew that darkness had once again descended and so he put down his hands, opened his eyes and beheld his father Jacob standing on the outside of the circle of brothers. "Father!" he yelled, as he tried to run towards him, but his brothers would not let him pass. No matter how hard he tried to get past them to their father he could not. Suddenly he felt fear for the first time. What was happening? Was he ever to reach his father? Would they ever touch one another again?

Joseph then looked into the eyes of Judah, who was standing beside him and was the brother standing directly between Benjamin and their father. Judah looked back into Jacob's eyes for what seemed an eternity. Then Judah took Joseph's hand, bent to the ground and laid his forehead upon it. All of the brothers followed and knelt to the ground and bowed their heads. Then Judah spoke, "Can you ever forgive us?" he asked. Joseph's response was certain and clear, "All is forgiven. You have only done God's work. The fulfillment of my dream has proven that." With those words Judah arose and let go Joseph's hand only to then take hold of Benjamin's. Judah smiled at his little brother and then embraced him -- something Benjamin did not remember him ever doing before. Judah then led Benjamin to their father and let go of his hand so that Jacob and his beloved youngest son could embrace. All of the brothers watched at the tearful reunion of father and beloved son.

Meantime, in the distance, the light of the woman who was watching this scene began to grow brighter, but this was because the moon, that had been shining brightly above them, also began to lower itself towards the earth. It touched the ground where the woman/star had been standing and when it did it's circular form disappeared and there now stood on that spot two women holding hands. They began to walk slowly towards Jacob, Benjamin and the other brothers. They then saw that these two women were Rachel and Leah, Jacob's two primary wives. Benjamin surmised, from her appearance, that the woman who had been standing off in the distance in the dim light must have been Leah, but now the two women were glowing with the same brightness so he could not tell for sure.

They smiled at their husband and sons and said in unison, "all has been repaired. Now we can say that our family is truly blessed and can be a blessing to the world."

At that moment Jacob awoke, but this time it was not from fright. Instead, he felt a sense of peace and calm that he had not felt since Benjamin had left. Somehow he knew that Benjamin was safe and that God's presence surrounded him and protected him. But what of Joseph? He seemed so alive in his dream. Could it be? But, no, Rachel and Leah also seemed alive and he knew for sure that they were both dead.

Jacob arose from his bed and walked around in a daze for hours. What could his dream have meant? Then in the distance he saw some figures moving towards him. He knew right away that it was his sons returning from Egypt. He was too old to run to meet them, but he did not feel the need to anyway. He did not need to know if they had all returned, for he trusted that they had.

Indeed he was correct. His eleven sons surrounded him and greeted him with hugs and smiles, none more than Benjamin. Then they stopped moving and talking and Benjamin sat his father down and spoke to him tenderly saying, "Father, my brother lives." Jacob did not understand at first, "Of course," he said, "Thank God all ten of your brothers are alive and well." Benjamin smiled and then Jacob understood what he was saying and what his dream had meant. He began to weep once again for Joseph. But this time they were tears of joy. "Yes, father," said Benjamin, "Joseph is alive."

The brothers told Jacob all that had happened in Egypt, but did not tell him what they had done to Joseph all those years ago. Jacob did not ask how Joseph had survived the attack from the wild animal, for his dream had told him that this was indeed not what had occurred. It also told him that it did not matter. Joseph was alive and in Egypt. It was all part of God's plan and he would now see his most beloved son before he was to die.

And so Jacob and his ten sons, their families and all of their flocks, herds and other possessions went down to Egypt where Jacob was reunited with Joseph, now second only to Pharaoh, but first still in Jacob's heart. And he met his grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe and his daughter-in-law Osnat. Then they settled in the part of Egypt known as Goshen and there they prospered with the help of their brother, and of God.

Finally the time came when Jacob knew that he was going to die. He gathered all of his children around him to offer them blessings -- and warnings -- as his last fatherly duty. Of course, deep down he knew that all of his children were not there. It had been many years since he had thought about Dinah, his sweet daughter whose whereabouts he did not know. But before he had a chance to think more about her absence Joseph brought his sons to see Jacob for one last time. "Bring them near to me, he said, "I want to bless them as my own sons." Joseph brought them near, placing Menashe, the eldest, near Jacob's right hand, as that hand was meant to bless the first-born. Then, as Jacob prepared to bless them he crossed his hands and placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim. Joseph went to move them back saying, "No father, the other is the first born." Jacob smiled, "I know, my son, but this is the way of our fathers. This is the blessing -- and the curse -- of our family. The elder must forever serve the younger. Certainly you all must have learned that by now." Joseph smiled at his father. Among his brothers some frowned while a slight smile appeared on the faces of one or two of them, for they knew how this legacy affected them.

Then after he blessed his grandsons they kissed him good-bye and left the room. Jacob was in the room with his twelve sons and he spoke to each of them. He then made them promise to return his body to the land of Canaan, to the cave of Machpelah, where he could be buried alongside Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Leah. He knew that he was not meant to be buried next to his beloved Rachel, who died and was buried along the road near Bethlehem.

After the sons promised this to their father he looked at them one last time and then he closed his eyes. He knew that he was now ready to be gathered to his ancestors.

However, he suddenly had a strange feeling that he must open his eyes again. Could it be that he was not ready to die after all? Was this whole dramatic deathbed scene premature? Would he have to do it all again another time? But when he opened his eyes he knew that this was not the case, for his eyes no longer gazed upon this world. His eyes were now open to another, more beautiful world. A world that was filled with light even brighter and more beautiful than the light that he had beheld in his dream.

Then Jacob arose and looked around him and saw numerous figures gathering around him. He recognized each one of them as they encircled him and smiled. He smiled too, for he knew now that he was truly home. Then the man who stood directly before Jacob spoke. "Jacob, my son, welcome to your home. Welcome to Paradise. Just as you blessed your children before you died we are now here to offer blessing to you and to them as your soul joins us." He then noticed that behind each of the people there stood an angel and the divine light that surrounded each of them and filled the garden in which they stood emanated from these divine beings.

A woman stepped forward. It was his wife, Leah, and she spoke to him. "My beloved, I was blessed with an understanding heart that allowed me to accept that in your eyes my light would never shine as bright as my sister's. So too may your soul and those of our offspring be blessed with understanding in order to accept your lot in this world and theirs in the other world. Then Jacob's father, Isaac spoke, "May the light of the divine shine on you. May your soul and the souls of your offspring be blessed with the strength, courage and determination that allowed me to surrender myself for the glory of God and the future of our people before my father on Mount Moriah and before you when I surrendered the love of your brother in order to grant you my blessing."

Jacob's mother Rebecca then stepped forward, "My son, may your soul and the souls of your offspring be blessed with confidence, self-assurance and certainty. It is these qualities allowed me to succeed and to do what I needed to in order to ensure that your father's blessing went to you, as it was meant to. May this confidence enable you to continue receiving blessings in this world and your children to receive the blessings due them in their world.

Then Isaac's father Abraham came forward and spoke, "Son of my beloved son, may your soul and your offspring know the blessing of love and kindness that I tried my best to bestow on all who came my way in life. May you all know how to bring kindness into your hearts and into your worlds." Abraham was followed by Jacob's grandmother Sarah who asked that Jacob and his offspring be blessed "with the ability to yield and to accept what is given to you so that your soul can feel the many blessings of this world and so that their souls can also feel those blessings and not always feel that they need to search for more."

Then Jacob's wife Rachel stepped forward. She was glowing like the moon with pure light reflecting the pure love of her husband. "My dearest, you were always like the sun to me, warming me with your love. This light warmed me even when I despaired for lack of children and with the fear that you might abandon me because of this. And so my blessing for you in this world, and for our offspring and the offspring of my sisters in their world, is that you may all dwell eternally in God's presence. May you always feel the warmth and the light of love that I felt in my other life and that I still receive from the Divine each and every day."

Then, from the opposite direction Jacob heard a familiar voice that he had not heard for many years. "My brother," the voice said, "I too have a blessing for you." Jacob turned around and there he saw standing before him the spirit of his brother Esau. "The many blessings bestowed upon you in life were not for me, although I fought for years to receive them. So it was meant to be. The being that wrestled with you also came to me and taught me that my anger and hatred would only destroy me and all who came into contact with me, and so I was able to leave my anger and we were able to finally reconcile in that other world. Now we are here together for all eternity and I thought that I had no blessings to offer you. But I was mistaken. For looking into your soul I see the glory and beauty that comes from the divine and that flows into you from those who have come before and who stand above. In your soul I see the compassion that is necessary to repair the worlds. May your soul continue to have compassion on itself and on all in our world. But the other part of my blessing is more important. May your offspring and all humanity find that compassion within themselves lest they allow humanity to destroy itself and everything around it. May the souls of your offspring and all others find the ability to balance all the blessings that have been offered here today. May they know how to live with generosity of spirit towards all and yet with the restraint that prevents chaos from overtaking the world. May they learn to live with the opposites that you and I represent and the tension that provides fuel for the fires of creativity and passion. May they some day join us here knowing that they have done their best to protect and repair God's creation and bring God's kindness and God's strength into the world of the living."

And Jacob replied, "Amen." With that, Jacob's soul was joined together with that of his brother, returning to the oneness that they had known in the time before their souls were born into the world of the living. And the light created by the union of the two brothers surpassed the light of all the others and could be seen from one end of the universe to the other.

And thus ended the days of Jacob in this world. And thus began the days of Jacob and Esau -- together with all who came before -- in the world-to-come.
Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah

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