Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Vayechi

Family Building

The holy book of Bereshith comes to its conclusion in this week’s parsha. The story of the creation of the Jewish people through the development of one family over a number of generations and by the perseverance of the great personalities of our patriarchs and matriarchs is now complete.

This raises the question originally posed in Rashi’s commentary to the very beginning of the book of Bereshith – why does the Torah, which appears to be basically a book of laws and commandments, bother with all of this detailed description of creation and continued familial based narrative? Why is this seemingly anecdotal knowledge of the lives of our ancestors so necessary to be included in the eternal Torah and how does it register in the survival of the Jewish people throughout the ages?

In response to this question of relevance, the rabbis taught us that the events that occurred to our ancestors are indeed the harbingers of happenings that will occur to their descendants. But many times it is difficult for later generations to make this connection, except in the most general way of experiencing historic repetitions of circumstances.

This book of Bereshith, which comprises a substantial part of the entire written Torah, contains within it almost no commandments and is basically a book of narrative tracing the development of one family – eventually seventy in number – and of the difficulties that this family encountered over generations. So what therefore is its main message to us living in a far different world, millennia later?

I think that the message of Bereshith is the obvious one of family and its importance. The Torah purposely and in minute detail describes for us how difficult it truly is to create and maintain a cohesive family structure. Every one of the generations described in Bereshith from Kayin and Hevel till Yosef and his brothers is engaged in the difficult and often heartbreaking task of family building.

There are no smooth and trouble free familial relationships described in the book of Bereshith. Sibling rivalry, violence, different traits of personality, and marital and domestic strife are the stuff of the biblical narrative of this book. The Torah does not sanitize any of its stories nor does it avoid confronting the foibles and errors of human beings.

The greatest of our people, our patriarchs and matriarchs, encountered severe difficulties in attempting to create cohesive, moral and cooperative families. Yet they persevered in the attempt because without this strong sense of family there can be no basis for eternal Jewish survival. There is tragic fall out in each of the families described in Bereshith and yet somehow the thread of family continuity is maintained and strengthened until the family grows into a numerous and influential nation.

This perseverance of family building, in spite of all of the disappointments inherent in that task, is the reason for the book of Bereshith. It is the template of the behavior of our ancestors that now remains as the guideposts for their descendants. The task of family building remains the only sure method of ensuring Jewish survival.

Shabat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein

Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at



View Complete List

Wealth, Honor & Property
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5761

The Temptation
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

Facing the Challenge
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5766

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

A Plea For Shabbos
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758

That's Chanukah
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Yosef Recognizes His Brothers
- 5773

> Yosef and Chanukah
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757

"Stand Tall!"
Shlomo Katz - 5770

The Whole and The Part - Part I
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5766


A Little Oil Goes a Long Way
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

Shedding Light on the Identity Crisis
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

Falling Short Or Going the Distance
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Take 'Car'e of Yourself
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

Learning To Enjoy The Struggle
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5765

Behind the Scenes
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5764

Into the Hands of the Few
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5763

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information