Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Vayechi - 5777

THRESHING-FLOOR OF VALUES

In Pareshat Vayechi, we read about the passing of Yaakov and his burial procession.  The Torah tells us that the mourners reached a place called Goren HaAtad where they held a great eulogy.  In Hebrew, a Goren is a threshing-floor, and the Atad is a barrier made of thorns placed around the circular threshing-floor, to help protect the grain from theft and the wind.  So what we are being told is that the eulogy of our patriarch Yaakov was at a threshing-floor surrounded by thorns.  One might wonder why this information was provided to us by the Torah.

In Jewish tradition, a Hesped, or eulogy, is not just to bring back pleasant memories of the departed, but rather, to inspire the living by reviewing the life, and achievements, of the deceased.  As a result, the gathering to honour turns into a learning experience as well.

Yaakov had a challenging life in many ways.  Among his difficulties was the unbridgeable schism between himself and people not destined to become the chosen nation, who remained on the outside, like Esav and Lavan.  This personal barrier was indeed of thorns.  Yet it gave him the ability to focus on guiding his children to develop their character, and to imbue in them a true commitment to the values of our Torah.  Thus, these thorns assisted in preserving the goods that Yaakov provided for his family, just as thorns are placed around the threshing-floor to prevent the wind from blowing the wheat away.

Shabbat Shalom