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Vayechi: A Matter of Life and Death

Mortality is one of the greatest fears and woes of every living being. From the moment we are born, we instinctually know that our time on earth is limited. According to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalytic theory, this death instinct is an unconscious process that influences many of our behaviors long before we are even exposed to death in some tangible form. We may relive past traumas as a means of processing our acute vulnerability, or engage in aggressive or risky behavior as a means of fighting against an unseen enemy, to protect ourselves from harm, or as a naïve and ultimately futile effort to tempt our finite fate. Yet, Freud postulated that there is another instinct at war with our preoccupation with death, which he called the life instinct. It is what activates us to create, to connect with others, to have children, to live and enjoy our lives, and to leave behind a legacy through which our values and deeds can somehow be immortalized.