Blog Vayechi Tevet 14 5779 בלוג וַיְחִי, י”ד טבת תשע”ט
This is the last parashah of Bereshit, and it speaks of the deaths of Yaakov and Joseph. The torch of continuity would now be handed down to the next generation. My own people, Israel have failed for the most part, in properly passing the torch to our next generation due to our own behavior. Yet despite our shortcomings, our Boreh Olam holds onto his people due to the remnant that continues to return to His tenets, His Torah. The Torah is not our property, it belongs to the Creator who gave it to us to bring to all the nations. Blessed are those who bring the good news of Torah to the world. That is our job.
This portion will bring unity to the family of Yaakov. When the nation of Israel was being formed, they were not of pure blood rather they were comprised of a mix of many nations since He is the Creator of all humanity; He is not a regional god. Yaakov represents the truth that the Creator is greater than any religion or any human being. This truth allows for unity in diversity. Unity is NOT the same as uniformity. He does not ask us to think or dress the same, rather He created each of us unique and special. The portion contains Yaakov’s “blessings” to his sons referring to the continuity of our people that would come through them. He was trying to encourage them, some to change their ways and others like Judah to continue on their path which he thought to be in the right direction.
So many areas of our lives are covered in this portion – family relationships, guilt, forgiveness, the right heart of a person. The Creator is trying to teach us that there are no two people made alike, yet He wants us to be united. We each are able to give in some way within community where each one of us plays a very important role. Our children are so important as they bring us continuity. Those who think that they have nothing to give do not realize that the most precious thing that we have to give, is ourselves. That’s why we need to learn to value ourselves. At the end of reciting the Shema we say, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Yaakov was telling his children that before they could do anything, they needed to be right with themselves. If we dislike or hate ourselves, we will only be a destructive force within the community. It always begins with us. Rabbi Yeshua told us not to take the speck out of someone else’s eye but to take the log out of our own.
The Torah was given to a people of Middle-Eastern mentality, not Western. They were holistic in their thinking opposite to today’s mindset which teaches individualism, egoism, entitlement, with me being the center of the universe. We tend to make gods of men whereas the Torah teaches that humans have frailties which need to be overcome through teshuva. All the great characters in the Torah without exception failed but came back in the end after the Creator had dealt with them. Most religions teach that it is through others that we can be forgiven or be made righteous. Torah teaches that it is only by taking personal responsibility that we can change. We are the only ones who can make things right as we see with Joseph and his brothers. When they were returning from burying their father, they made up a story because they were afraid that Joseph would now punish them for what they had done. Joseph cried because he thought that they understood and had accepted his forgiveness. It is easy to forgive someone but it so difficult to forgive ourselves. How can we feel forgiven when we still feel bad about what we did? True teshuva comes with confession and making things right. This alone can remove our guilt even if there remain consequences down the line.
Yes, we are the Chosen People, but we carry a very heavy burden. Many prefer to run away or have abandoned the faith and the community because of that great responsibility. It is not a coincidence that these passages come immediately after Hanukkah, a cry against assimilation and to guard the moral values of the Torah. Today being open-minded is the fashion instead of being clear about our values. True unity can only come to those who have the same values which come from Torah; it has nothing to do with being uniform in dress or doctrine. We can never be united without the Boreh Olam and that is what is destroying Israel.
As Yaakov told Pharaoh that his life had been hard, our lives also are not easy. The Creator does not promise us an easy life; He does promise that He will always be with us through thick and thin. Suffering is part of existence. The problem with humanity does not lie with the Creator rather with people who refuse to take responsibility for their choices which affect not only their own lives but those around them. Injustice and corruption rule every aspect of society. Corruption is from man not the Creator.
Whenever it looks like everything is going well, watch out for some suffering ahead. The Creator allows this to remind us to return to Him, to strengthen our trust in Him and that we need to straighten out our lives. It is only in the difficult times that we come to appreciate what really counts. Yaakov and Joseph represent continuity and unity and that can only happen when we have the right bases for our unity – the Torah. It is my call that we, in this community, even though we consist of so many nations, be unified in our diversity; that we live Torah and share it with all those with whom we come in contact. We are the remnant; let us always return to and walk with the Creator.
Edited by Peggy Pardo