The portion Vayechi begins Vayechi Yaakov b'Eretz Mitzrayim, Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years. In the previous portions, we have read about the life of Jacob, and all the difficulties he had. But then, all we read with regards to his time in Egypt is that he lived there for 17 years. So, what went on during those 17 years? Why aren’t we told about them? He spent those last 17 years of his life surrounded by Joseph and his children, and he was very happy; however, that is not really what is important. It is that during those 17 years, his challenges were over.
Jacob was one of the most elevated souls that ever came to this world, so it is not that those 17 years weren’t filled with spiritual work, sharing, or connection to the Light of the Creator; they were. But the reason there are sentences, paragraphs, and chapters about everything else - the pain of Rachel, the pain of Laban, the pain of Esau, the pain of Joseph – is because that is why Jacob came to the world, and through which his soul connected and changed.
In life, I think most of us are inspired and excited when we are doing the spiritual work, and things are going well for us. Yet, in so doing, we are forgetting the basic spiritual truth, which is that Light is revealed in the times of challenge. As such, we can come to understand that the reason all we are told about Jacob during his time in Egypt is that he lived there for 17 years is because it was not as challenging as everything else. And we need to remember this for ourselves. It is so easy when we are challenged in either great or small ways to get disappointed and frustrated. But when we do, now, with this understanding, we can remind ourselves that in those moments, we are revealing Light.
It says in the Zohar, in this portion, that the word vayechi in the beginning represents Chiyut, a real connection to the Light of the Creator in the land of Egypt. Rav Yosi asks, what is happening on this Shabbat, why is it such a significant Shabbat, with so much Light revealed? He answers that Jacob had a greater, clearer, and more pure prophecy while he was in Egypt than the prophecy he received in the Land of Israel, which is the more elevated state. Jacob saw all the way to the end, saw the exile and darkness that will come to humanity for the rest of history, but he did not elevate to that state until he was in Egypt, which represents the times of challenge and darkness.
Therefore, when it says Vayechi Yaakov, it means that Jacob was connected to the most powerful Light of the Creator, the Light that only Moses –and no other person ever - connected to. Why? B'eretz Mitzrayim; Jacob was able to achieve it, because it was in the times of challenge. The only way to receive this elevated state of connection, this elevated state of clarity, is by going through challenges.
We learn from this that while we may be feeling challenged, stressed, unhappy, or disappointed, our soul is excited, because it knows that is why we are here. Our soul is saying, “Give me the Light and revelation that comes when I am going through Egypt, through the challenge. Give me the ability to draw the Lightforce down into the times of darkness.” It is a very important, and practical, spiritual tool we are given on Shabbat Vayechi that hopefully we can all appreciate and start using.