Since Simchat Torah, we have been reading the book of Genesis which contains the great stories of the world’s creation, our early patriarchs, and the journey towards Egypt. There are numerous significant "scenes" in this week's parsha, Vayechi, the final chapter of Genesis. Jacob blesses his grandsons, Ephraim and Menasha, something we carry on to this day when we bless our children. Jacob blesses his sons, although the blessing of Reuven, Shimon and Levi come with a significant amount of tension. And after the death of Jacob, the brothers ask Joseph to forgive them, which he does. One takeaway is that family is what matters, and the resolution of family tensions and disagreements is necessary before we can start the book of Exodus. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks eloquently points out, “(h)ow could they live together as people if they couldn’t even live together as a family?”
In Vayechi, the message is clear. Jacob blessed all of his sons, despite their transgressions. Joseph forgave his brothers for leaving him for dead, once they had demonstrated teshuvah (repentance). And by blessing his grandsons and effectively adopting them as his own, Jacob highlights the importance of family and of continuity through the generations. And so, it seems, the lasting lessons of Genesis are less about the creation of the world, and more about how to handle family conflict, and more broadly lays the ground of the Jewish ethos on how to handle conflict more broadly: To be open and honest with one another, to practice teshuvah, owning our mistakes, and to forgive others when there is genuine remorse. Let this serve as an inspiration as we enter into the new secular year, a renewed opportunity to improve our relationships with those closest to us.
Another takeaway from Genesis is the importance of taking care of one another within a family, and certainly our community can be considered our own religious family. Our annual Mitzvah Appeal is one way in which we take care of our congregational family. This is the primary fundraising effort of voluntary giving and provides the single greatest source of non-membership income necessary to ensure the financial health of our community and to ensure that we can continue our mission of spiritual fulfillment, cultural enrichment, exceptional educational programming, and transformation in the way we experience Jewish life. If you have not yet contributed to this campaign, consider doing so. You can pledge and sign up for one (or both) events on our website. Here is one important way in which you can support our family.
Wishing you a new year filled with blessings, joy, and peace.
Director of Congregational Engagement