If you take a look into the Sefer Torah you’ll find that there’s always a little space between one parsha and another. Sometimes it’s only a space of nine letters, while other times it’s even more. Exactly how to make the space between parshas is a machlokess among the Rishonim, and we will not go into it at the present time.
However, if you take a look at this parsha of Vayechi you’ll notice at once that there is absolutely no space at all left between Vayigash and Vayechi (except for the space of one letter). One parsha seems to go right into the other, without any space separating them. What happened to the space?
Rashi takes note of this problem and gives two answers. The first answer is that the passing of Yaakov Avinu caused a closing of the eyes and hearts of the Bnai Yisroel on account of the difficulties encountered in their slavery. This fact is indicated by the Torah closing one parsha with another.
Even though, as the Baalei Tosfos points out, the real tough times didn’t start till after the death of Yosef (and his brothers), yet, however minutely, the enslavement had already begun with Yaakov’s passing. True, the real difficult times didn’t start till much later, however the passing of Yaakov already brought about a change of attitude towards the Bnai Yisroel. The enslavement had already begun, even if only in a very small way. Even though the Bnai Yisroel were being well paid for their work, their difficulties had already begun. At first their pay would be excellent. They received high salaries. Yet slowly but surely their pay became less and less until soon they were required to work for nothing.
The Gemorrah explains how their enslavement started gradually. At the beginning it was hardly noticeable. Then it became progressively worse and worse. Once someone allows himself to be enslaved even in the slightest, chances are that he will soon become entrapped more and more. Only Shevet Levi remained untouched by the enslavement. Yet the consequences of enslavement are quite grave. It causes our eyes and heart to stop operating properly. We don’t see as we saw before. Our heart is not as sensitive as it was before. There is suddenly a slackening in our views and feelings. Our eyes no longer see what they should see. Our heart no longer feels what it should feel. It’s a sure sign that the hardships of the golus have encircled us.
The moment Yaakov passed away, doubts suddenly began to rise up between Yosef and his brothers. They thought that perhaps now Yosef was going to even the score with them for what they had done. Suspicions began to erupt. Doubts began to be raised. There weren’t the same feelings toward each other that had existed while Yaakov was alive. Yosef once again tried to calm their doubts and tried to cast away their suspicions against him. Yes, one saw at once the change of heart. The enslavement began to take its toll, even if only in a minute way. It may have been only a little bit, but it was like a crack in the ceiling which would soon get progressively worse with the strength of the enslavement and the passing of time.
The parsha of Vayechi is closed ? a casual hint that our own hearts and eyes have become closed as well. We can see a poor man in terrible trouble yet fail to help him. We can notice a person desperately in need, yet we may just pass him by as if we couldn’t care less. Our feelings towards our brothers have become calloused. Our hearts and eyes have become closed to their cries. We’ve become insensitive to their plight. We are so engrossed in our daily business and totally enslaved to our work that we pay little attention to the many people around us who need our help desperately.
Thousands of Russian and Iranian immigrants need our help desperately, yet we seem not to see or feel their plight. The golus has taken its toll. The parshas are closed, and therefore, so too are our eyes and hearts. No wonder hate and jealousies have replaced care and love.
The only ones who remained untouched by the enslavement was Shevet Levi. They did not allow themselves to be enslaved. They remained forever faithful to the Torah. That’s our only hope to overcome the onslaughts of the golus.
Only by learning the Torah can we open up our hearts and eyes to what’s happening around us.