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The Power of a Good Ending

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years, and Jacob’s days, the years of his life, were a hundred and forty-seven years.” (Genesis 47:28)

Parshat Vayechi begins with the above verse. In the prior Torah reading, Parshat Vayigash, Yaakov goes down to Egypt and tells Pharaoh that he is one hundred and thirty years old. If the Torah would have simply stated that Yaakov lived for a hundred and forty-seven years we could have easily calculated that he spent the last seventeen years of his life in Egypt. Why then was it necessary for the Torah to write that he lived in Egypt for seventeen years?

Yaakov had lived an incredibly difficult life up until that point. For twenty-two years before his reunification with Yosef in Egypt he could not feel complete joy and was somewhat depressed. He could not prophesy in that time period because prophecy requires a tranquil and joyous state of mind and heart. The Torah therefore explains to us that his final seventeen years were good, happy and fulfilling years. The last seventeen years of his life were the best years of his life.

Malbim explains that after the Torah tells us that his last years were years of life, the Torah tells us that this great ending transformed his entire life retroactively. Since his last seventeen years were years of life and success, his entire life is considered to be one of true happiness, life and success. Malbim explains that when things are good, the suffering of the past is forgotten. I would add that when something ends in a good way one realizes that somehow one’s prior pain and suffering was a necessary process in the accomplishment of peace, happiness and tranquility.

One should never give up hope and always remember that a good, happy and successful end can turn everything around.