This portion of Torah begins with Genesis 47:28 and concludes the book of Genesis. The word of the opening gives it its title, "and he lived." It reveals some very interesting and often overlooked points. First, it is the only parasha which is referred to as "closed" because, unlike every other one, there is no space between the closing of the preceding portion and the opening of this one. Usually, the new parasha begins on a new line or at least after a space equal to nine letters, but this one begins after no space at all. Rabbi Rashi teaches that because this is the account of the death of Jacob, the hearts of all Israel are closed with grief.
But, there is even more to be gleaned from the opening few verses. We read, "And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years. And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shall carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place. And he said, I will do as thou hast said. " Notice that Jacob lived in the land of Egypt but it was Israel who asked to be buried "back home." Why the change of name in such a place? Perhaps because as a sojourner, he is known as the man of deception, but in being returned to the land of promise, he would be known as the man who struggled with G-d.
Beginning in chapter 48, in verse 8, we see Israel blessing his grandsons, Ephriam and Manasseh, the sons of his most beloved son, Joseph. I will not go into all of the deception that has been contrived based upon these two grandsons of Israel. I have written a book about it and you can order the book from my website or by calling me. I refuse to believe that those who love Israel but are not born of the physical seed of Abraham are sons of Ephriam and I explain it in detail in Arise, O Clan of Judah.
In Genesis 49, the patriarch gathers his sons and blesses each one according to the destiny he foresaw for them and for their offspring. Notice, once again how the name Jacob and Israel are used interchangeably. Yet, there is certainly more to the choices than mere happenstance. Nothing about the word of G-d mere chance; every jot and tittle has purpose and meaning. In the first verse of the chapter, we read, "Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father." Again, he is speaking to his sons who are in the Diaspora about their lives back in Israel, and so he infers this in his choice of his own name.
Now, there are those who take much liberty in these blessings, even to the point of suggesting that those of you who are Gentiles with a passion for Israel are, in fact, Israelites who have been lost and that the characteristics of each of the tribes given by Jacob will give you an indication of which tribe you may be from. Others go so far as to suggest that these characteristics can tell you into what branch of the tree of Israel you are grafted into. Beloved, you are in fact not Israelites by virtue of your being grafted into this rich tree. In fact, it is imperative that Gentiles who love Israel remain Gentiles or who will provoke us to jealousy so that all Israel shall saved? And as for finding out which branch you are grafted to; that is simple! You are grafted in because of your faith in Y'shua, who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. It is only into this branch that you may be grafted and into none other would your grafting take root.
As we close this book of the Torah, we declare with all Israel:
Chazak! Chazak! Venischazik!
Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!