PRAYER FOR PEACE – OUR HEARTS ARE WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur” CCAR, New York 2007, p.161
Baruch atah, Adonai, haporës sukat shalom alëinu v’al kōl amo Yisraël v’al Yerushaláyim.
GIVE US A PLACE TO REST, Adonai, our God. Bring us into shelter…. Spread over us Your shelter of peace, over all we love – over our Jerusalem and Yours.
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/va-ychi
Vayechi (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 The Haftarah Commentary, Gunther Plaut/Chaim Stern UAHC Press 1996 p.115
Connection of haftarah and sidra:
In the sidra, Jacob delivers his last charge to his children, and in the haftarah, David leaves instructions with his son Solomon, who will succeed him on the throne.
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/vayechi
By: Rabbi Kari Tuling
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
For the time being, we will meet every other Friday for Torah Study to read and discuss selections from Ketuvim, the third section of Tanach (Hebrew Bible), which follows Torah and Nevi’im. Please see the NEW Torah Study-Shazoom schedule below. THIS week we will continue studying Tehillim (Psalms). You can read this week’s Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.47.28-50.26 and Haftarah at https://www.sefaria.org/I_Kings.2.1-12
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D., Women of Reform Judaism/The Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and URJ Press New York 2008
ויחי Va-y’chi – Genesis 47:28-50:26
Contemporary Reflection – by Laura Geller, pp. 299-300
VA-Y’CHI SPEAKS OF BLESSINGS, of a grandfather blessing his grandsons, a father blessing his sons. Imagine the scene at the end of the Torah portion: Jacob, whose name has been changed to Israel, calls his twelve sons to his deathbed and blesses each one of them. But his real concern, according to our rabbis, is that his sons will abandon his God after he has died. In the Midrash, his sons respond to this unstated fear with words that have become familiar to us: “Sh’ma Yisrael (Listen, [Dad–whose name is Israel!): יהוה is our God, only יהוה.” Hearing this, the dying patriarch sighs quietly: “Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed (Blessed is the glorious Name whose kingdom is forever and ever)!” (Midrash B’reishit Rabbah 98.4). Each time we say the Sh’ma, we are rehearsing this moment. We are the children acknowledging the God of our own father, and we are pledging our own loyalty to the tradition of ancestors.
This farewell scene cannot fail to move us. But it is also confusing. Jacob also has daughters, and the one named Dinah is no longer in the story. Is she not worthy of blessing?
The question of blessing our daughters emerges by way of omission. Jacob and the rest of his family have been reunited with Joseph after many years (Genesis 46). The beloved child Joseph, whom Jacob thought was dead, is not only still alive, but he is a father, with children of his own!
Now, facing death, Jacob says: “I never thought I’d see your face again, and look, God has enabled me to see the face of your children!” (48:8–12). Joseph brings his sons close to his father, with Manasseh, the elder, first, Jacob crosses his arms, putting his right hand on Ephraim’s head, and his left on Manasseh’s. Joseph intervenes, “Not that way, Father! This is my firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But Jacob wants to put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. Then Jacob blesses them both together with these words: “By you shall the people of Israel give their blessing, saying “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh” (48:18–20).
Why does Jacob bless his younger grandson first? It is hard to imagine this blessing without recalling the earlier moment when Jacob himself stole the blessing that his father Isaac meant for his older brother Esau. In blessing his grandsons, is Jacob repairing his own history, doing intentionally what Isaac did by accident? Is Jacob asserting through his act of blessing that birth order no longer determines one’s destiny–and that blessing is an act of will as opposed to an accident of chance?
The story raises other questions. Jacob’s blessing of his grandsons has become over the centuries the blessing bestowed regularly upon boys; but what is it about Ephraim and Manasseh that merits our blessing our sons in their name? And what about our daughters?
We do not know much about these two young men. We meet them first when they are born (41:51–53), and we encounter them again at this moment of blessing. They are children of an Egyptian mother and a father who is one of the most powerful men in Egypt. They are children born in the Diaspora, not only Egyptian but also Israelite–children living in two worlds.
So why do we bless our sons in their name? Could it be because, like so many Jews throughout history, they grew up in the Diaspora and still remained Jews? Could it be because we imagine that they followed in their father’s footsteps–being part of Egyptian culture and politics–and yet still connected to their grandfather, part of Israel’s community?
Or perhaps we invoke Ephraim and Manasseh because these are the first two siblings in the Bible who do not fight. With Ephraim and Manasseh, the family pathology that unfolds in the book of Genesis, in which siblings struggle with each other, finally comes to an end. They teach us that we do not have to fight over blessings: there are enough of them to go around.
In the Middle Ages, the customary blessing of children took place before Kol Nidrei–the time when we are most aware of our mortality–a time reminiscent of Jacob’s deathbed blessings. In recent centuries, the tradition expanded to include blessing the children every Shabbat evening and on the evening of holidays. Whereas we continue to bless sons by reference to Ephraim and Manasseh (“May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh”), the tradition for our daughters is different; we bless them with these words: “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.”
Why are the blessings so different? Rabbi Richard Levy suggests the following contemporary reason for interpreting the difference:
“Just as Ephraim and Manasseh received their merit not through any acts of their own but only because they were alive and were descendants of Jacob (as are we all), so Jewish boys need not feel that their parents’ love is dependent on their accomplishments; they are beloved just because they are children. For Jewish girls, however, who might be inclined by society’s prejudices to think that because they are girls they need not set their sights very high, the blessing holds them up to the highest models: May God make you like the greatest women the Torah knows–Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah” (“Parashat Vayechi,” in Learn Torah With…., 1996, Vol. 2, No. 12).
As our community mores continue to evolve, one might claim that we now expect both our daughters and our sons to set their sights high. We also hope to create an environment where both daughters and sons feel valued simply because they are alive–and are our children. So perhaps there is yet another way to interpret these blessings, one that accounts for changes we value in our contemporary world.
Maybe we can understand Jacob’s blessing of his grandchildren this way: “Ephraim, may God help you become the best that Ephraim can be; Manasseh, may God help you become the best that Manasseh can be!” Maybe we should fill in the names of our own children as we bless them. So I would say to my daughter: “Elana, may you be fully Elana!” And to my son I would say: “Joshua, may you be fully Joshua!” Or, in the words of modern Jewish poet Marcia Falk: “Be who you are…and may you be blessed in all that you are” (The Book of Blessings, 1996).
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.376
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.
PRAYER FOR THE STATE OF ISRAEL p.552
O HEAVENLY ONE, Protector and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel which marks the dawning of hope for all who seek peace. Shield it beneath the wings of your love; spread over it the canopy of Your peace; send Your light and truth to all who lead and advise, guiding them with Your good counsel. Establish peace in the land and fullness of joy for all who dwell there. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; 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, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 18 Tevet through 24 Tevet, we lovingly remember:
First Anyos/Yahrzeits of
María de Lourdes Mena de Morales
Mother of Connie Powell
Friend of Jane Kolber
Esther Zelby Caron
TKH Memorial Board, mother of Temple President Dr. Sam Caron
Friend of TKH Member Iris Adler
Syd E. Sims
TKH Memorial Board
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“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, December 29, 2023. We will continue reading and discussing Tehillim (Psalms) found in the third section of Tanakh, Ketuvim.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Ketuvim: Tehillim
Time: Dec 29, 2023 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Dec 29, 2023 07:30 PM Arizona
To join 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.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat/Gut Shabbos
PS – About Tehillim (Psalms) and the NEW schedule through December 2023:
From My Jewish Learning
From Jewish Encyclopedia
From Encyclopedia Britannica
NEW Schedule for Torah Study and Shazoom (Arizona Time Zone):
December 29, 2023 – Torah Study at 6 pm and Shazoom at 7:30 pm