Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Vayechi

This week’s Torah reading, Vayechi, which means ‘And he lived,’ contains beautiful messages about life. Our patriarch, Jacob, spends seventeen years in Egypt, and we know that Joseph, his son, was seventeen years old when he was kidnapped. In essence, Jacob is gifted back the same number of years to spend with Joseph, to have a life ‘do over.’ Many moments in life present themselves to us more than once, and we can seize the chance to live them differently. We watch to see if Jacob uses the second seventeen years to parent Joseph differently.
Yet, one of the most powerful lessons we learn from Jacob about life happens as he prepares for his death. Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons: Ephraim and Menashe. Joseph lines them up by birth order, but Jacob crosses his arms to place his right hand on the head of the youngest instead of the eldest. Throughout Genesis, we learn that names connect to essence and inform destinies. Joseph named his eldest son ‘Menashe,’ a name that means he hopes to forget the pain of his past, while his youngest son’s name, ‘Ephraim,’ means to be fruitful in his future. One name is negative, and one name is positive. Jacob, their grandfather, crosses his arms so he becomes the conduit through which to balance the names and destinies of his grandchildren. Jacob shows us that balance is key, and that older generations teach life balance.
Every Friday night, we place our hands on the heads of our children and we do what Jacob did. Daughters are blessed to be as our matriarchs, and we reverse the order of the names of Leah and Rachel. Sons are blessed to be as Ephraim and Menashe, Jacob’s grandsons, and we reverse the order of their names when we say it.
This week, we learn two crucial life lessons from Jacob. We learn that life presents us with parallel moments of choice, moments that centre on us. But we also know we don’t secure the future through us, we secure it through the generations to come, and that the greatest blessing we can give our children, and our grandchildren, is the blessing of balance. 
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.
Shabbat shalom,