Dichotomy. The portion this week is called “and he lived” yet this portion is a long scene of how Jacob dies completely lucid, with intention, and surrounded by his family. Perhaps there is no dichotomy really at all - the way that we see Jacob die is how he sets up his legacy: with intention and the loving care of a parent who has seen and experienced the fullest range of life’s trials and tribulations.
Jacob. Remember… the one who gets his name changed by his wrestlings with God, his conscience, his fears, or perhaps all of the above. Jacob sets an example for us of what we can do and of how we can experience the people in our lives as the inheritors of our dreams and aspirations. Imagine the scene: Jacob is on his deathbed. He has been physically removed from his incredibly large family. Reuniting with them in a foreign land, he is able to see his now very grown children in a way for the first time. Jacob sees his children as the inheritors of his legacy and so he bestows each of them with a unique blessing. He also blesses his grandsons.
I invoke Jacob’s words every week. A special incantation reserved for Friday nights and long goodbyes. Bringing my children close-close, hands on their heads, I bless each one individually. “May God make you like Ephriam and Menashe.” Yes, bringing my children, all of my children close-close. There is something about the intimacy in a moment of blessing. Whether under the chuppah, or in a group under a graduation or consecration tallit, or a “good-bye, I love you, be safe at college” moment, the words never fail… the moment is never lost on me.
It was only two weeks ago when I gathered around two huge banquet tables in a hotel in Jerusalem. Surrounded by my 32 alumni students, my own son, and a handful of extraordinary educators, the words of this week’s Torah portion - as they do every week - came forth and helped me make holy. I invite you this week to gather your loved ones close-close and lean into the words that our people have invoked for thousands of years.
If the words escape you, don’t worry. Speak from the heart.
Listen to a recording of the Blessing of Children recorded by Rabbi Ben Naim.
יְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַֽיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה.
Y'simcha Elohim k'Efrayim v'chi-Menasheh.
May God make you like Ephraim and Menasheh.
יְשִׂמֵךְ אֱלֹהִים כְּשָׂרָה, רִבְקָה, רָחֵל, ולֵאָה.
Y'simeich Elohim k'Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, V’ Leah.
May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְיָ וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽך
יָאֵר יְיָ פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ וִיחֻנֶּֽךָּ
יִשָּׂא יְיָ פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
Y'varechecha Adonai v'yish'm'recha.
Ya-er Adonai panav eilecha vichuneka.
Yisa Adonai panav eilecha
v'yaseim l'cha shalom.
May God bless you and keep you.
May God shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May you always know that God is close and may God grant you peace.