Every new year (January or Tishrei) should begin with blessings. This week’s Torah portion of Vayechi is replete with them.
Jacob blesses Joseph’s children Ephraim and Menashe, basically adopting them as his own children. It is in this portion that we are given the great blessing that we bestow on our children, “May God make you like Ephraim and like Menashe” (Gen. 48:20) and the traditional blessing said before going to sleep: Hamalach Hagoel (Gen. 48:16).
Jacob also blesses each of his sons (Gen. 49:3-27). Curiously, the Torah states that Jacob “blessed each according to his [appropriate] blessing.” (Gen. 49:28). Why did the Torah not simply say that Jacob blessed each child? Why did each child get a different blessing?
It is from this that we learn that each of us has our own blessing. Jacob was able to see the potential in each of his children and give each the blessing designed to bring out their best selves. We understand that each of us is created with certain strengths and talents. Each of us has the ability to use those strengths and talents to their maximum potential. The question is whether we will.
There is the famous Hassidic tale of Rabbi Zusya of Hanapoli who came to his Chasidim [followers] with tears in his eyes. They asked him: “Reb Zusya, what’s the matter?
And he told them about a dream he had: “I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”
His followers were puzzled. “Reb Zusya, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”
Reb Zusya replied; “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?’ and that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?”‘ Reb Zusya sighed; “They will say to me, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?'”
During the balance of 5777 and this secular year of 2017, this Torah portion reminds us not to look at what others may have, what others may do or what others may accomplish. Rather, we are to focus on our own strengths and rise to our own maximum potential.
May we each be blessed to realize our true potentials in every way.
This Shabbat we learn with our Synagogue President Ken Goss. Interestingly, he happens to have a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education. How about that? Unfortunately, it does not entitle him to extra pay (or any pay) for being our President, but it does give him extra opportunities for mitzvoth like teaching us Torah on Shabbat. Please join us at 9:45 in the Shiffman Chapel. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like. We finish in time for the Rabbi’s sermon.
By the way, I should remind you that I prepare these drashot as part of my own personal Torah study. While I am delighted to invite and encourage learning at Adat Shalom’s wonderful weekly Torah Study, the opinions and thoughts I express are mine (and others to whom I try to give attribution). I am a volunteer like many members of our Adat Shalom community. If you like these drashot, feel free to forward them and let me know if someone would like to be added for this weekly distribution.