Carnegie Shul Chatter – December 27. 2012

Back from Florida and just in time for our first snow storm of the year.  And yes, it does snow in Israel too!


Candle lighting time is 4:43.

This week’s parshah is Vayyechi, the last parshah in the book of Genesis.  In this parshah we learn of the death of  Jacob at age 147 after living the final 17 years of his life in Egypt.  Later in the parshah we also learn of the death of Joseph at 110 years of age.

Before his death, Jacob bestows his blessing upon Joseph’s sons, Mannaseh and Ephraim, blessing them even before bestowing his blessing upon his own sons.  Why the elevation in status for Mannaseh and Ephraim?  The most widely accepted explanation is that Joseph was recognizing the piousness of these two brothers who grew up in a foreign land in Egypt  but still remained devoted to  Judaism and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Joseph’s brothers, meanwhile, were each appointed by their father as heads of the various tribes and the future destinies of Jacob’s children are  foretold.

Near the end of the parshah, Joseph and his brothers, who years earlier had tossed him into the pit and allowed him to be sold into slavery, make their final peace. Then, as he is about to die, “Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying: ‘God will surely remember you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.”

A truly remarkable man was our ancestor Joseph.

The Blessing of the Children

On Friday evenings in many Jewish homes, the family gathers for the Shabbos meal.  The Sabbath candles are it, Kiddush is said over the wine and the Hamotzi is said as we bless the bread.  These traditions, unfortunately, were not performed in my home as I grew up as a child, but I have been fortunate enough to enjoy them in the home of my in-laws, and now in my home, as an adult.

Another of these wonderful shabbos traditions, that I learned about just a year ago when I shared a Shabbos dinner with my step-daughter and her husband and children in New Jersey, is the tradition of blessing the children.  Just as Jacob blessed Mannaseh and Ephraim in this week’s parshah, so do we bless our children with the blessing for our sons, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh,” or for our daughters, ” May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”  We then add the priestly blessings, May God bless you and protect you. May God’s face shine toward you and show you favor. May God look favorably upon you and grant you peace.”

What a wonderful tradition these blessings are.  The blessings are not difficult to learn, and they are something that young children will remember warmly in their hearts forever.

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