Our parsha begins with the words “Vayechi Yaakov” (“Yaakov lived”). And although in the parsha we read about Yaakov’s passing, nonetheless our sages teach us that “Yaakov Avinu didn’t die — just as his children are alive, so too he is alive”. Explains the Rebbe:
The life of Yaakov is eternal life through this that it is drawn to to his children and their descendents until the end of all of the generations. “His children are alive” meaning true life through learning and fulfilling the Torah. [Although we mention his children], nonetheless the name of the parsha is named after the life of Yaakov (“Vayechi Yaakov”) — since the truth of the life of Yaakov, eternal life, is expressed in the life of his children.
This means that Yaakov himself lives eternally (soul in a body, as explained elsewhere), and since the material eyes see that “they embalmed him and buried him, etc” his eternal life must therefore be expressed through the life of his children: they are alive because he is alive. (Similarly, he is alive because they are alive — he is the reason they are alive, and they are the revelation that he is alive).
This parsha is in proximity to the fast of the Tenth of Teves, the day when the walls of Yerushalayim were besieged — the first step in the process which led, eventually, to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. In the prophecy of Yechezkiel about the destruction, Hashem instructs him to take a “pan of iron” and to erect a “wall of iron”, symbolizing the seige of Yerushalayim. Our sages speak of barzel, iron, as the element which actually destroyed the Beis Hamikdash, and for this reason it was not used in its construction. In the words of the Midrash: “This is the gift…gold, silver, and copper…but iron is not written here, neither by the Mishkan nor by the Mikdash. Why? Because Edom is likened to it, and they are the ones who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash.”
Here the Rebbe introduces the concept of “barzel d’kedusha” — iron of the side of holiness. This refers to being “stiff-necked” for holiness, for Torah and Mitzvos:
This is the inyan of “stiff-necked” in a positive sense, the strength and fortitude (iron) of the etzem haneshoma, the essence of the neshoma. For it is through this that we nullify the iron of the opposite of holiness which is the “stiff-neck” of the evil inclination. [Practically, this means] keeping the complete Torah, in a way of strength and fortitude of the “iron” of holiness.
For this reason, the third Beis Hamikdash will be constructed also with iron, because after the iron of the opposite of holiness (which destroyed) is nullified and refined, then the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt through the iron of holiness (as mentioned above). I turns out, explains the Rebbe, that the Tenth of Teves, the seige of Yerushalayim, is not only the beginning of the exile and the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, but it is in fact the beginning of the construction of the 3rd Beis Hamikdash and the future Geulah! The destruction of the (previous) Beis Hamikdash was for the sake of the construction of the third, eternal Beis Hamikdash — “the beginning of the destruction and the exile is the beginning of the Geulah, similar to sowing seeds in the ground as the first step towards (and which brings about) the beginning of the sprouting.”
Parshas Vayechi is also Shabbos “Chazak” (being the final parsha in Sefer Bereishis we say “Chazak Chazak V’nischazek” (“Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!”) upon completion of the reading of the parsha). This “strengthening” (chizuk) for the whole time of golus is “Vayechi Yaakov” — Yaakov lives. Yaakov’s inyan is Torah, and Yaakov’s eternal life is revealed through Torah, specifically “the expounding of our sages, that from this we learn that Yaakov Avinu did not die”). A strengthening (chizuk) to stand with the strength and fortitude of iron for matters of holiness, for in this way we transform the iron of the opposite of holiness, which destroyed the Beis Hamikdash, into the iron of holiness and the building of the Beis Hamikdash of the future. (And this occurs through Moshiach, who will conquer these klipos.).
Yaakov Avinu is one of the patriarchs who merited to “taste the eternal life of the world to come in their life in this world”. In the future, this will be experienced by every single Jew (their descendants) together with all the Jews of all the generations who will arise in the resurrection of the dead.
And how much more so all of Bnei Yisroel in our generation ([for we are presently alive] living neshomos in living bodies without any interruption, chas v’sholom, at all in life [of this world and the life of the world to come — a seamless transition], and Nosi Doreinu at our head…for then every single Jew will be alive, living eternally in the simple sense, beginning with the Bnei Yisroel of our generation, souls in bodies, for long and good years…eternal life.
How do we bring about that our generation and every generation will experience the eternal life in this world which awaits them?
…the resolution alone to increase in “one mitzvah” in a way of sowing (even before one has fulfilled it) should bring the “sprouting” of the Geulah in actuality, and immediately…we should already have the “coming up” from the exile to the Geulah…and Nosi Doreinu — the Yosef of our generation [a reference to the Previous Rebbe] — who “did not die”, like Yaakov Avinu, as is known that “Nosi” (נשיא) stands for “a spark of Yaakov Avinu” (ניצוצו של יעקב אבינו), and it is through the hiskashrus and the bittul to the Nosi Hador that this [that he “did not die”] is drawn into each and every one of the people of this generation.