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Parashat Vayechi

January 6, 2023
13 Tevet 5783
Genesis 47:28 - 50:26

Dear Friends,

The Torah portion Vayechi ("And he lived") is a great way to begin a new calendar year. Genesis 47:28 - 50:26 marks the end of the first book of the Torah as we witness Jacob blessing his sons and grandsons before his death, marking the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next for the life of this family -- the beginnings of a people.

At this time of year, people often make promises to change their behaviors, trying to create new and improved versions of themselves, often believing that by doing so they will gain a measure of control over what life will bring their way. The story of Joseph offers a different perspective.

Joseph does indeed change over the course of his lifetime, but those changes are often as not a result of experiences that teach him another way of coping and being in the world. In Jacob’s final blessing of Joseph, he compares him to archers. Jacob states: “Archers bitterly assailed him; They shot at him and harried him. Yet his bow stayed taut, and his arms were made firm by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:23-24). How do we understand this blessing? Maybe we should view it an affirmation of who Joseph is. Archery takes focus and concentration, but more than that, it takes being aware of one’s

surroundings, which way the wind is blowing, the quality of light, and the topography. The surrounding elements may change but the archer must remain firm. The challenge that confronts us now is how to be true to ourselves in an ever-changing world.

Winston Churchill once said that “that success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." Put another way, we need to keep going doing our best because we are part of a much larger story, as was Joseph. If our intentions our good and our behavior honorable, we have no idea what ripples we may cause to make the world a better place, and ourselves along with it.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Fri, June 21 2024 15 Sivan 5784