Although there is usually a blank space in the sefer Torah between one parsha and the
next, there is no such break between parshas Vayigash and parshas Vayechi. The
commentaries discuss this phenomenon of "parsha setuma" the closed parsha.
One explanation of Rashi is as soon as Yaakov passed away, the eyes of the Jews in
Egypt were "setumim"- closed because of the suffering of the slavery they
started to feel. We know, however, that the physical bondage of the Jews in Egypt did not
start until all the sons of Yaakov passed away. What, therefore, could Rashi mean by
"the suffering of the bondage"?
Sifsei Chachomim (who is particular to explain how every single word of Rashi gives us
a message) reconciles the conflict by noting that Rashi states: "the suffering of the
bondage" and not the actual bondage. This wording implies that as soon as Yaakov
passed away Pharoahah started glibly enticing the Jews to work (see explanation for
"peh rach-soft mouth) while not actually enslaving them.
Ksav Sofer has an explanation that is as applicable to us nowadays, as it was thousands
of years ago. By the time that Yaakov passed away, there were many thousands of Jews
living in Egypt. The shevatim remained completely righteous, but some of the later
generations thought that now that the patriarch is dead, Pharoah will enslave them. In
order to avoid this they started to imitate the Egyptians and become close and friendly
with them, thinking that this will save them from being enslaved. However this
accomplished only that their faith was weakened and, as we know, they were very much
despised by the Egyptians for being in such close Egyptian society (see Parshas Shemos
next week). Their mind's eye was closed and their intellect darkened (meaning they made
this wrong decision to befriend the Egyptians) because of their worry about the suffering
of the bondage and their attempt to avoid it.
Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch explains that the seventeen years of Yaakov's peaceful
existence in Egypt were quite inconsequential compared to his life until then when the
whole Jewish nation was being formed. Therefore the Torah did not give them a separate
paragraph, rather they were attached on to the end of Parshas Vayigash as a matter of
course, the winding down of Yaakov's life. Even though in Egypt Yaakov reached old age in
honor and comfort surrounded by his prominent family, the Torah doesn't consider that
important compared to the years when Yaakov was struggling and growing spiritually,
building the Jewish nation, but many times poor and persecuted. What a lesson for our
society where the epitome of success is excess materialism and honor!
The Ksav Sofer adds that Yaakov was even upset and worried about his good life in
Egypt! All the years of his suffering, Yaakov comforted himself that his reward will come
in the world-to-come for eternity. When he lived with great comfort and honor in Egypt,
Yaakov was afraid that this was his reward for all his travail and he would get nothing in
the future. His "parsha of suffering" was "satum-closed up" and his
easy life starting, therefore his eyes were darkened by worry about his too great physical
comfort in Egypt.
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