It is often hard to say “goodbye.” When parting friends or family for a period of time, this can be difficult. All the more so when loved ones leave this world. How should we part? What do we say to each other?
This week, we conclude the book of Genesis with the reading of Parshat VaYehi. We will be saying “goodbye” to Jacob and Joseph and the generations of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. And Jacob and his sons will attempt to say “goodbye” to each other. The parsha begins right where the last parsha ends. In the scroll itself, there are no spaces between the last verse of last week’s parsha and the first verse of this week’s parsha. The Rabbis ask, why is this parsha closed? One explanation is that Jacob sought to reveal to his sons the end time of the impending exile, and so, God caused the divine channels to be closed off from him.
Jacob calls for his sons to gather by him before he dies. “Then Jacob called his sons, and said: ‘Gather around, that I may tell you what will happen to you in days to come/וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶל בָּנָיו; וַיֹּאמֶר הֵאָסְפוּ וְאַגִּידָה לָכֶם אֵת אֲשֶׁר-יִקְרָא אֶתְכֶם בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים.” If Jacob is not going to tell them about the end of the exile, then what is he going to tell them? The Sfas Emes, points out that calling/kriyah/קריאה is the language of appointment. Jacob was assigning his sons roles for their future. Jacob represents the quality of the light of Torah/or Torah/אור תורה and the brothers represent the lamp of commandment/ner mitzvah/נר מצוה. The sons’ role is to spread the light of Torah in this world, through the 613 commandments. And this is why Jacob calls his sons to gather by him. Jacob brings them in close to him, like when one lights candles, and gives its power to them.
Jacob’s last instructions were intended to help the brothers bring light into a world where there is darkness and exile. If he could not tell them when the redemption would begin, he could tell them how to live bright lives even in the narrowest of places. Jacob lights a fire of inspiration into all the sons. They must now go forth and illuminate the world around them. In this way, they never say “goodbye” to Jacob, for his light is the source and essence of theirs. This week, as we lay the generations of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs to rest, we are reminded that we never have to completely let them go. And the same is true of our loved ones. If we can see that our light was kindled and grown from their light, as long as we spread the light throughout the world, then they will always live on.
 Meaning that there is no open space between the two parshiyot.
 Gen. Rab. 96:1
 Gen. 49:1
 Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (Hebrew יהודה אריה ליב אלתר, 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes (Yiddish) or Sefat Emet שפת אמת (Hebrew), was a Hasidic rabbi who succeeded his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, as the Av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Góra Kalwaria, Poland (known in Yiddish as the town of Ger), and succeeded Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander as Rebbe of the Gerrer Hasidim
 See Prov. 6:23
 Sfas Emes 1:270
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.