12th of Tevet, 5772

י״ב בְּטֵבֵת תשע״ב
Sat, 7 January 2012   

Vayechi: Jacob Blesses his Sons, in Rhyme!


Has there ever been a more dysfunctional family recorded in history than Jacob's? Still, a lot is to be learned from his (mostly) fond farewell to his sonsMORE>

Has there ever been a more dysfunctional family recorded in history than ours? Probably, but the fact that our forebears were distinctly human is a source of comfort and strength, both offering us guidance in what to do (and what not to do) and validating the challenges of our day-to-day lives. Parashat Vayehi gives the notion of family, and the diversity therein, great clarity.
His family reunited, Jacob calls his sons together for a fond (mostly) farewell. Each receives a blessing of sorts, or at least a bird's eye view into his future.

Jacob Blesses Joseph's Sons

Jacob and all his sons and their families are now settled in Egypt with Joseph, who is the second-most powerful man in the Pharaoh's kingdom.
Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years and he was 147 years old. Jacob (also called Israel) said to Joseph, "If I have found favor in your eyes, then swear to me that you will not bury me in Egypt, but with my fathers in Canaan."
Joseph agreed, then later received word that his father was dying. Joseph took his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim, to see Jacob. Jacob sat up in bed, saying, "God, the All-Sufficing, appeared to me in the land of Canaan and blessed me. God said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and will multiply you, and I will let you become a community of nations and will give this land to your seed after you as an everlasting possession."

is written by Alana Alpert accomponied with Her voicet

Over the course of the book of Genesis, we witness Jacob's two different responses to the unjust massacre committed by Simon and Levi against the people of Shechem. After their sister Dinah is raped by the prince of Shechem, the brothers murder and pillage the entire town. While the rape of Dinah is indeed horrific, it does not justify the act of collective punishment her brothers pursue.
When Jacob learns of Simon and Levi's action, he bemoans:
You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perrizites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed.1   Continue

David & Solomon
Although we generally leave a discussion of famous phrases from that week’s haftarah for the end, one of the early phrases I wanted to focus on captures the theme of the haftarah so well I am leading off with it.

In the second verse, David tells Solomon that he is going “in the way of all of the earth,” a euphemism for death. The particular phrasing, however, expresses an attitude towards death that is central to understanding the haftarah, and vital to Judaism’s view in general. David here is preparing for his death by directing Solomon on how to act after his death, akin to Jacob’s telling his sons how each  
of them will best contribute to the Jewish people

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