Sign In Forgot Password

New Year, New Blessings, New Beginnings

01/01/2021 03:19:54 PM


          Shabbat Shalom! This week, we finish the book of Genesis, and we have closed out a calendar year. Our Torah portion, Parashat Vayechi tells of the deaths of Jacob and Joseph, as well as Jacob’s final death bed blessings for his children and his favorite grandchildren. Throughout the last few parshiyot, we’ve seen Joseph and his brothers grow up a lot, but in Jacob’s final moments we see him continuing to perpetuate the same mistakes that have plagued so much of his family dynamics. He blesses Joseph’s sons, effectively giving Joseph the double inheritance that should have gone to the oldest child. Further, Joseph follows the normal social order of putting his oldest son at Jacob’s right hand but Jacob swaps his hands, putting his right hand on the younger Ephraim and prophesying that he will surpass his older brother Menashe.

          We don’t often have the opportunity to say the kind of formal goodbyes that Jacob has in this parasha, but if this year has taught us anything, it is that we should take every opportunity to offer blessings to the people we love. And although Jacob shows a disappointing lack of character growth in this climactic moment, he does model for us a commitment to breaking social norms for the sake of what appears to him more correct, another thing that this unusual year has demonstrated the need for.

          As we enter a new year, let us grow in our relationships and learn from past mistakes as Joseph and his brothers do. Let us use the forced opportunity of the pandemic – which has exacerbated, accelerated, and highlighted so many pre-existing social trends – to upend the arbitrary rules and expectations that society has pushed up to now at the expense of the disenfranchised. And most importantly, may we fill 2021 with blessings, vocalized and acted upon, for ourselves, our loved ones, and the whole world. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

Sun, September 26 2021 20 Tishrei 5782