Out of Hand: Vayehi 2023

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Does your body language always match the way you’re feeling? Have you ever been misunderstood due to saying one thing but physically indicating something different?

As his life nears its conclusion, Jacob moves his arms to give a stronger blessing to a younger grandchild:

The Pitch: “But Israel stretched his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head — thus crossing his hands — although Manasseh was the first-born.” – Genesis 48:14

Swing #1: “Jacob can’t stop his old tricks. On his deathbed in Egypt, he decides to adopt Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own. Jacob intentionally places his right hand on the younger son, Ephraim; and his left hand on the older son, Manasseh. Joseph tries to switch the hands — ‘Not so, Father . . . for the other is the first-born; place your right hand upon his head.” But Jacob refuses. He says Ephraim deserves the greater, right-handed blessing, because Ephraim will be the greater man. Even in death, Jacob has to wheedle and play favorites.” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #2: “Jacob had trained his limbs to such an extent that they were incapable of acting contrary to the will of God. Thus his hands placed themselves in this reverse position of their own accord, because it had been the will of God.” – Likutei Megodim

Swing #3: “Jacob shouldn’t have guided (crossed) his hands, rather switched the positions of the boys. But since Manasseh was the firstborn, he intended that Manasseh should stand by Jacob’s right leg and Efraim by his left leg. Only his hands did he guide that they should be crossed. … All this comes to teach us that Efraim only came before Manasseh in matters of spirituality, that which is higher than the natural happenings of the world. In matters of the world, however, Manasseh came before Efraim.” – Haamek Davar

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators make of Jacob yet again favoring a younger child? Can this tendency be blamed on his mother, who favors him over his older brother Esau? Or should he have learned not to play favorites by now? Do old habits truly die hard?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: I’m grateful that the synagogue will host a Red Cross blood drive Tuesday, February 7th, from 1:30-6:30pm. The gift of life is the greatest mitzvah in our tradition, so please donate if you’re able.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of favoring younger players, it’s curious that the Mets have placed the bulk of their hope for 2023 on one of the oldest rosters in the Major Leagues. Not every team is blessed with great young talent, but should the players’ ages be a concern for their fans?

Shabbat Shalom!