Shabbat Parashat Vayechi
January 3, 2015 – 12 Tevet 5775
Not all of us are lucky enough to know our grandparents. And if we do, not all of us have a close relationship with them. Especially in our day and age, when families are often spread out across the country or around the globe, and despite the technological advances of our times, we often lose the sense of intimate connection with our grandparents. That is the way of the world. And even if we are lucky enough to live in close proximity with our grandparents, we don’t always have access to our grandparents’ innermost thoughts, beliefs, and hopes.
But, this is not altogether new!….Our Torah portion, Vayechi, tells the story of Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. Joseph’s sons were born and grew up in Egypt, far away from their grandfather, Jacob. Despite that, the Torah describes to us the blessing that Jacob bestowed upon his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, when Jacob understood that he was nearing the end of his life on this earth.
Interestingly, the blessing of Ephraim and Menashe is introduced in the Torah by the words: “And he [Jacob] blessed Joseph, saying:” In these words of introduction, the Torah conveys to us the fact that one of the most powerful blessings we can give our children is to bless their children!
Jacob then went on to bless Joseph’s children saying:
“The God in whose ways my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day–
The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm–
Bless the lads.
In them may my name be recalled
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth.” ( Genesis 48: 15-16)
Ephraim and Menashe were born and raised in Egypt – surrounded by a culture and religion that was steeped in idolatry. Although Jacob’s blessing was personal, he did not hesitate to include in his blessing to his grandchildren a reference to the God of Israel, to their Jewish roots, and to family history on the Jewish side of their family.
In his blessing, Jacob presented himself as he was: a Jewish grandfather – loving his son and his grandchildren while retaining and sharing with them a clear sense of his own Jewish identity. Jacob spoke his words of blessing from the heart – from a place of deep connection to a heritage of belief in one God, to the Land of Israel, and to the values of Jewish living.
Not all of us are parents, or grandparents. But, to some degree, we are all parents and/or grandparents to the younger generations of children growing up in our community. And, we can all can take part in passing on a blessing to the younger generations…
Times may have changed, but the Torah’s story of Jacob’s blessing of his children and of his children’s children remains as powerful and as relevant as ever! May we be blessed by our elders and may we transmit our heartfelt blessings to our community’s children and grandchildren!
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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