Vayechi – Last Impressions, First Impressions

Posted on January 1, 2023

By Rabbi Alex Freedman.


Sometimes the last step is also a first step.

The Book of Genesis concludes this week describing Joseph’s passing and being placed “in a coffin in Egypt” (Gn. 50:26). How appropriate, because it sets the stage for what follows.

Here is the Etz Hayim Humash commentary: “The last words of the Book of Genesis, ‘a coffin in Egypt,’ foreshadow the events of the opening chapter of Exodus, the enslavement of the Hebrews, the killing of the Hebrew babies, and the birth of Moses who will be placed in a coffin-like basket on the Nile.”

Indeed, we turn the column in the Torah and suddenly the Israelites are slaves. We learn here that the “last word” is never truly the last word. Sometimes it can be the first word of a new conversation. Inertia can’t simply be stopped.

Just a few days ago, we concluded the year 2022. We take down last year’s calendar and put up an entirely new one – 2023. But how different are the final days of December from the first days in January?

Let’s each identify some momentum from the end of 2022 – maybe it was vacation with your family, lighting Hanukkah candles with family and friends, or something else that ended the year on a positive note. Let’s keep that positive vibe rolling in these first days of January, much like the sweetness of Shabbat ends one week and kickstarts another.