Torah: Vayechi (Genesis 47:28- 50:26) Haftarah (Kings 2:1-12)
The Torah final parsha from Genesis has the last years and death of Jacob. Jacob blesses his son Joseph and his grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob then blesses all his sons.(* notice that Dinah(Leah’s) and his daughter does NOT receive a blessing from her father) Joseph reassures his brothers that they will be safe , and promises to care for them and their families.Joseph dies at the age of 110. He instructs his family before he dies to return him to the Holy Land. (* No mummification).
The burial and mourning customs written in this Torah portion provides an important description of our practices still used today. The religious obligation to bury the dead is also provided. I will drash on the “Family Blessings”. Before he dies, Jacob calls his sons to gather about his bed for a blessing. Today, it is customary for parents to bless their children before sitting down to the evening Sabbath meal. This provides them with a privileged opportunity to express appreciation for their children. The blessings for boys invoke the shining examples of Jacob’s grandchildren Emphraim and Manasseh, who, although raised in Egypt, did not lose their identity as Jews.(Genesis 48:20). The blessing for girls refers to the four matriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, all of whom were known for their concern and compassion for others. The brief ceremony concludes with the priestly benediction (Numbers 6:24-26) invoking G-d’s protection and peace.
*The names of Manasseh and Ephraim were changed during the blessing and Jacob’s arms were crossed and his hands were over their hands. Jacob could not tell them apart because of his failing eyesight and that they were equal in their compassion for Judaism. They each receive a portion in the Holy Land (Joseph’s one portion becomes two areas due to his raising his children as mensch/good people and keeping Judaism).
The Haftarah has the parsha of David’s final days and his death. He blesses his son, Solomon, he says, “Be strong, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of G-d, to walk in G-d’s ways and keep the statutes and commandments”(Kings 2:2-3). David has ruled for some 40 years (1000-960 B.C.E.). His life has seen many accomplishments, including the crowning of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
We have finished the Book of Bereshit
The Book of Bereshit contains:
1534 verses, 43 chapters and 12 Sidrot
It is important that each person can raise children and ourselves to become Mensch, loving, good, and compassionate individuals. Walking in G-d’s ways is challenging, and each of us has that inner Nashma(soul) that will keep us on the correct path and journey through life.
As the secular year concludes and the Jewish calendar is in the month of Tevet let us concentrate on “Tikkun Olam”. The very sound and words of Tikkun Olam are beautiful. But even more beautiful is the translation, the meaning of the words: “Heal the World!”
Our Sages, who without a compass, charted a way for us to behave, to live our lives meaningfully, admonished us: Tikkun Olam, Heal the World! This does not mean that we are to consider ourselves like Atlas. To carry the whole world of ills and inequities on our shoulders. No, we are to do what we can, to make this place a better place.
It is the little things, often done with a minimum of effort, that can, if performed often enough, make a difference. Especially at this time of year when so many people have anxiety and may feel alone. Just a friendly visit to a neighbor. (usually I bring latkes or chicken matzo ball soup or homemade cookies) Often for the person who is ill you may do some shopping for them. Or just a simple smile, even with a mask on your eyes, smile, too!
Our individual circumstances will suggest the many ways we can help others, and by doing, will certainly enrich our lives.
Rabbi Helene Ainbinder