- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On January 10, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat. It is available as a podcast HERE.
The name of the final portion of Genesis is called “Vayechi: Jacob Lived”, but it speaks about the preparation for his death.
As we know, Joseph has brought his whole family down to Egypt. They live segregated in an area called Goshen. They have been well taken care of by the most powerful member of their family. The time has come for Jacob to plan for his death and more specifically his burial. He summoned Joseph and made this request:
And when the time approached for Israel to die, he summoned his son Joseph and said to him, “Do me this favor, place your hand under my thigh as a pledge of your steadfast loyalty: please do not bury me in Egypt.
When I lie down with my fathers, take me up from Egypt and bury me in their burial-place.” He replied, “I will do as you have spoken.”
And [Jacob] said, “Swear to me.” And [Joseph] swore to him. Then Israel bowed at the head of the bed. (Genesis 47:29-31)
Jacob, the patriarch, the one who escaped from the land of Canaan with his life because he stole his brother’s blessing; the one who met and married Leah and Rachel; the one who returned to the land with his expanded family of many sons and one daughter wanted to make sure that he would spend eternity cradled in the land of great promise. Even in death he was drawn to return and to link his eternity with his ancestors.
Israel has that effect of connecting time and space.
I am here as part of my study at the Hartman Institute for a week long winter session. When I left the United States, it was already stormy literally and metaphorically. It has not stopped raining and that seems fitting for the turmoil in the world. We feel safe here and have been briefed by top experts who have no easy answers to the many potential conflicts.
Jacob, our ancestor, is at the end of his life. The portion details his final days as he blessed his grandchildren and addressed his own sons. In this way, he was composing his own eulogy of the life he lived.
As we end Genesis and prepare for the beginning of Exodus, the story of how we form as a people, grow in strength, overcome many obstacles, and receive a blueprint for existence through the Torah, let these days be one of reflection of our own lives. We are all part of a greater whole from the past into the future and from the Jewish community in the United States to the people of Israel. Our destiny is connected to that which is larger than us and yet we are very much part of the story.
It is not over. To the contrary, we will ensure our future despite and because of the many challenges we face. We remain strengthened by one another in every place we dwell.