Not Over You: Vayechi 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Can there be reasonable limits to grief? Have you ever struggled to move forward after a traumatizing experience? Were there people or events that enabled you to “turn the corner”?

In our Torah portion, we see that Jacob’s approach to the final days of his life is impacted heavily by the memory of his wife Rachel, who had died many years before:

The Pitch: “‘I [do this because], when I was returning from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, while I was journeying in the land of Canaan, when still some distance short of Ephrath; and I buried her there on the road to Ephrath’ – now Bethlehem.” – Genesis 48:7

Swing #1: “Why did Jacob speak to Joseph of Rachel now? He wanted to admonish Joseph to fulfill the oath which he had sworn to him; i.e. that he would not bury him in Egypt. According to the Sages, Rachel had died because Jacob had sinned by neglecting to fulfill the vow he had taken.” – Meshekh Hakhmah

Swing #2: “[Characterizing Jacob’s voice:] I do this not only as a way of showing how God has fulfilled the divine promise, but also out of respect for the memory of your mother, whom I loved dearly. I have lived for many years with the burden of her loss, recalling daily her death on the road to Ephrath. Now, with the birth of your two sons, her memory shall surely live on.” – Norman J. Cohen, Voice From Genesis: Guiding Us Through the Stages of Life

Swing #3: “About to bless his grandchildren as his own children, Jacob is apparently caught up in a ground swell of emotion that is ultimately – and in no crudely narcissistic sense – about himself.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Beginnings of Desire

Late-Inning Questions: Do you agree that Jacob should focus more on his children and less on Rachel’s memory during his dying days? Or do you think that, by honoring Rachel, Jacob is especially motivated to concentrate on his family’s legacy? Do you consider Jacob’s lifelong love for Rachel to be obsessive or romantic? Does Jacob’s consistent pining for Rachel teach us anything about how we handle our grief for loved ones no longer with us?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Katie Krawcheck is one of our congregation’s outstanding youths. At tomorrow morning’s services, she will share a powerful and personal speech that she delivered at her school a few days ago. I don’t want to give away anything about her speech, so I encourage you to attend services and listen to her words. As always, Shabbat morning services begin at 9:30AM.

The Big Inning at the End: The fourth World Baseball Classic, which will take place in March, will include a team representing Israel for the first time. Did you realize this?

Shabbat Shalom!