JANUARY BIRTHDAYS, ANNIVERSARIES, AND SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
Mazal Tov – Mazal Bueno to all those celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or significant event during the Month of January. If we were together at Temple Kol Hamidbar, we would extend a Tallit over you, recite a special prayer for you, and recite the following blessing (cf Num. 6:24-26):
- May the Eternal One bless you and protect you!
- May the Eternal One deal kindly and graciously with you!
- May the Eternal One bestow favor upon you and grant you peace!
KËIN YEHI RATZON (Let it be so!)
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur” p.516
FOR OUR COUNTRY
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/va-ychi
Va-y’chi (וַיִּגַּשׁ — Hebrew for “[Jacob] Lived”) – Gen. 47:28-50:26
Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years; Jacob’s days–the years of his life–were 147. – Genesis 47:28
- Jacob blesses his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh. (48:1-20)
- Jacob’s twelve sons gather around his deathbed, and each receives an evaluation and a prediction of his future. (49:1-33)
- Joseph mourns his father’s death and has Jacob embalmed. Jacob is buried in Hebron in the cave of the field of the Machpelah in the land of Canaan. (50:1-14)
- Joseph assures his concerned brothers that he has forgiven them and promises to care for them and their families. (50:15-21)
- Just before he dies, Joseph tells his brothers that God will return them to the Land that God promised to the patriarchs. The Children of Israel promise Joseph that they will take his bones with them when they leave Egypt. (50:22-26) [The Book of Genesis ends here.]
Upon completing a book of Torah Ashkenazi Jews shout “Chazak! Chazak! Venit-chazëk” which is translated as “Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!” The Sephardic custom is to say “Chazak U’baruch” (“strength and blessing”) at the end of every single individual Torah reading; the response is “Chazak Ve’ematz” (“be strong and have courage” from Deut. 31:23) or “Baruch Tihiye” (“may you be blessed.”)
I Kings 2:1-12
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaychi
The parashah and haftarah both report the testaments of seminal leaders of Israel to their sons, the parashah of Jacob (in Genesis 49) and the haftarah of David. Both the parashah and the haftarah precede the testament with the phrase “the time drew near that [the leader] must die.” Both the parashah and the haftarah employ the word “va-yetzav,” “he instructed.” A Midrash notes that both the parashah and the haftarah use language reflecting the leader’s diminution of authority: the parashah reports Jacob entreating his son, “If now I have found favor in your sight . . . I pray thee“; the haftarah describes David simply as “David” instead of the title of honor “King David” used a chapter before in 1 Kings 1:1. In both the parashah and the haftarah, the leaders brought up unpleasant slights that haunted them to their last days: Jacob brought up that his son Reuben defiled Jacob’s bed and that his sons Simeon and Levi slew men and beast in their anger; David brought up that his nephew Joab killed Abner and Amasa and that Shemei insulted David on the way to Mahanaim. In so doing, both leaders complained of subordinate family members who acted too zealously on what might be viewed as the leader’s behalf: Jacob with regard to Simeon and Levi and David with regard to Joab.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaychi
Vay’chi (וַיְחִי — Hebrew for “and he lived”) – Gen. 47:28-50:26
“The [complete] parashah tells of Jacob‘s request for burial in Canaan, Jacob’s blessing of Joseph‘s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob’s blessing of his sons, Jacob’s death and burial, and Joseph’s death.
In the triennial part of Vay’chi, Genesis 49:1-49:26, Jacob gathers his sons and asks them to listen to what would befall them in time. Jacob assesses his sons, describing some in positive terms and some in negative terms.
In Modern Interpretation
[The late modern biblical scholar] Nahum Sarna identified three literary genres in Genesis 49:1–27: a deathbed blessing like that in Genesis 27:27–29 and Genesis 28:1–4 [Isaac to Jacob]; a farewell address like that in Joshua 23:1–24:15 [Joshua] and 1 Kings 2:1–9 [David]; and a tribal poem like that in Deuteronomy 33 and Judges 5.
The 20th-century Reform Rabbi Gunther Plaut considered it likely that at a time when the tribes were already in Canaan, although not yet a nation, the author of Genesis 49:1–27 collected old tribal songs and memories, wove them into a poem, and incorporated the product into Jacob’s life story. Plaut argued that this author composed Genesis 49 in the same general epoch as the song of Deborah in Judges 5, at a time when the tribe of Levi fell short of the priestly importance that the blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy 33 assigned to it, when the tribe of Simeon (not named in Deuteronomy and later absorbed into the tribe of Judah) was still worth mentioning.
REFLECTION – NEW YEAR
A year ago, on the cusp of 2020, several people including me had hoped that the year now ended would be one of clearer and deeper vision, which would lead us to live fuller and better lives. While I was envisioning both a social and spiritual understanding and enlightenment, what took place on the national and world stages was far different than expected. I think we still have yet to see how events actually fulfilled those hopes.
While we saw much bad and lots of ugly, there was also some good that appeared. One of the things we saw clearly is that much Tikkun Olam, repairing of the world in physical, political and psychological terms, etc., remains to be accomplished. After all is said and done, as we make our way through 2021, when we look back upon 2020, we may indeed see that our vision was much clearer than thought. For we know that it is up to us, both as persons and as Jews, to remember and apply the lessons learned, and continually lift up and improve our world.
Although the Jewish New Year takes place at Rosh Hashanah, in the United States we celebrate the secular New Year on January 1 usually starting the evening of December 31. In Israel, some Jews celebrate St. Silvester’s Day called “Silvester” on December 31 according to the Gregorian calendar while some Jews of Russian background celebrate “Novy God” (new year), several days later according to the Julian calendar.
Silvester is European in origin and thought to be named after an anti-Semitic Pope who died in Rome on 31 December 355. This celebration was brought to Israel by Jews fleeing Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early part of the 20th Century. Nowadays some say “Celbester” which stands for “Celebrate for Best Year”.
Here in the United States, there are presumably no such connections to the secular New Year celebration. The following prayer from the Weekday T’filah is offered, however, in an effort to add a Jewish aspect to the holiday.
BLESS this our year and its abundant harvest for good.
Grant blessing throughout the earth
and satisfy us with Your goodness.
Blessed are You, Adonai, who blesses the years.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur” p.86
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those at home alone; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, COVID-19, natural disasters, war and violence. We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, January 1, 2021.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Vay’chi (triennial part) Gen 49:1-49:26
Time: Jan 1, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jan 1, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Happy New Year – Feliz Anyo Nuevo!
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!