This week’s Torah portion is one of the shortest, and it marks the end of the story of Jacob, Joseph, and his brothers. Jacob lives in Egypt for his last seventeen years. Before he passes, he asks Joseph to take an oath to bury him in the Holy Land. Jacob wants to reveal the end of days to his children before he dies, but is prevented from doing so. Just as Jacob was going to reveal the end of days the Divine Presence left him and Jacob understood that he was not supposed to reveal the future.
Jacob blesses his grandsons, the sons of Joseph, Manusseh and Ephraim, and then he blesses Joseph and his brothers and assigns each of them a role in creating the twelve tribes of Israel. When Jacob passes away, Joseph keeps his promise and carries out his father’s wishes for burial in the Holy Land.
When Jacob blesses his children, he doesn’t bless them for being perfect. He blesses them for their strengths and weaknesses. He sees them clearly as the complex people they are. I think he has faith in them, and faith that they will maintain G-d’s teachings and heal the world to the best of their abilities.
Although this parsha is about Jacob’s death, it is also about life and what we leave behind. Jacob leaves behind two generations that will become the pillars of Judaism. Jacob was about to reveal the end of days, but he cannot tell them about the future.
We must all live our own lives and it’s not so easy to pass on what we know and the lessons we have learned. Sometimes the most important of life’s lessons are painful ones. We can’t always keep our loved ones safe or prevent their suffering. But we can bless them as they make their way in the world, as they make their own decisions and mistakes and as they experience joy and sorrow. We can’t tell the people we love what to expect—we don’t know. Their lives will be different from our lives. Many of us would like to know what the future holds and what the end looks like, but we can’t. Even if we could know, could we or should we pass that on?
My kavanah, or intention, for this week is to remember to bless ourselves, our partners, children, grandchildren, and loved ones. To bless ourselves for who we are and to bless our loved ones for who they are—with faith and without judgment. Relationships are messy, and people can be difficult. We can be impatient with them and ourselves, but if we remember to bless ourselves as well as the people around us, we are truly fortunate.