The Yoke of Monarchy (Vayechi)
There is something behind the throne greater than the King himself. -William Pitt The Elder Chatham
Jacob is on his deathbed and calls his sons together for a final farewell. He shares his parting words; some are harsh reprimands, and some are effusive blessings. The son who receives the most fulsome blessings is Joseph, Jacob’s favorite. Following is a part of the blessing
“The God of your father’s [house], who helps you,
And Shaddai who blesses you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that couches below,
Blessings of the breast and womb.
The blessings of your father
Surpass the blessings of my ancestors,
To the utmost bounds of the eternal hills.
May they rest on the head of Joseph,
On the brow of the elect of his brothers.”
The Bat Ayin on Genesis 47:31 wonders as to why, besides being Jacob’s favorite son, does Joseph receive such a magnanimous blessing and such respect from Jacob, to the point that Jacob bows down to Joseph, indicating that he considered Joseph to have the attribute of Kingship.
He explains that there was something unique about Joseph that led him to such wild success in life, including becoming the de facto ruler of the Egyptian empire, as well as receiving Jacob’s eternal blessings and his deference. What made Joseph stand out is that he always kept in mind that God was his King and nobody else.
When Joseph is seduced by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph remains steadfast and keeps front and center his obedience and allegiance to God. Even when he is miraculously freed from his incarceration and brought before Pharaoh, Joseph doesn’t forget for a moment that God is in charge, nor does Joseph hesitate to state so to Pharaoh. That steadfast devotion to the true Monarch of the World is what ironically liberates him from any other monarch or servitude. By placing himself squarely under the yoke of God, he frees himself from the yoke of labor or human servitude. He no longer needs to worry about his physical sustenance nor human rulers. That is an aspect of Kingship that Jacob saw in Joseph and bowed towards.
May we find ways to increase our service to God and reduce our subservience to material masters.
To the British Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, on being knighted by King Charles III.