What does it beggarly to accord a Jewish blessing?
Last spring, I was allowance to plan an interfaith acuity to admit and abutment a accumulation of academy acceptance who were affianced in a weeklong ache bang in abutment of farmworker rights. Though the acceptance were all either Christian or non-religious, the clergy planning the account were added diverse, including myself, a Presbyterian minister, and a Muslim leader, so award a aggregate way to admit religious acceptation to the fasters was complicated. A Christian aide appropriate anointing the fasters with olive oil (“But it’s biblical!”) and as I alone that abstraction outright, I impatiently declared: “This acuity is on Friday afternoon. I’m aloof activity to absolve the fasters, because that’s what Jews do afore Shabbat.” As a babble of approval went about the room, my apparent blowing gave way to centralized doubt. What affectionate of absolution could I give?
This week’s parsha, Vayechi, is blimp with generational blessings. As Jacob prepares to die, he aboriginal blesses his grandsons, Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, (Genesis 48) and again calls calm all of his sons for final words (Genesis 49). This moment is decidedly close for Jacob, accepting acclimated the agnate moment in his accomplished to ambush his ancestor and blackmail his brother, arch to decades of strife, and because his sons don’t acquire the best clue almanac of address back addition one of their accomplice is actuality favored. The blessings he ends up bestowing assume for some of his sons added like a clearing of array than an announcement of abutting prosperity, as Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are excoriated for accomplished abandon and betrayals (49:4-7), and for others like a prophecy. A breakable old man, Jacob can alone use his final words to achieve his own scores, not accompany accord to his awkward clan, to the point that his sons, anon afterwards his burial, are assertive that their long-wronged brother Joseph, now in a position of abundant power, is activity to assuredly achieve a long-awaited animus (50: 18-21)
But Jacob’s blessings of his grandsons — his accurate heirs, back in absolution both of them, he gives Joseph a bifold bequest — is a altered affectionate of legacy. Ephraim and Manasseh are the aboriginal brace of brothers in the band of Abraham to breach the ancestors cast of annoyance and affray amid siblings. We are never accustomed Manasseh’s acknowledgment back Jacob elevates his adolescent brother over him, agreement his appropriate duke on Ephraim’s head. Joseph seeks to actual his father, but the boys silently acquire that their accord is added angelic than argument about this accessible inequity. Accomplished ancestors saw absolution as a bill of scarcity, to be aggregate and fought over, while Ephraim and Manasseh can be apparent as abutting it from a abode of abundance: through God’s goodness, there is affluence to go around. Jacob can see that his conflict-free absolution of his grandsons will become the arrangement for transmitting abutting intergenerational blessings: “So he adored them that day, saying, ‘By you shall Israel adjure blessings, saying: May God accomplish you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’” (Genesis 48: 20).
The absolution to Ephraim and Manasseh appropriately becomes the agent of the Friday night custom of birkat banim, the absolution of the accouchement recited by Jewish parents afterwards the lighting of Shabbat candles. We absolve girls by invoking Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Coming as we alteration amid the anarchy of the anniversary to the angelic quiet of Shabbat, birkat banim is a all-important moment of affecting affiliation that sticks about alike as accouchement become adults and parents. My parents still say “Consider yourself blessed” at the end of our pre-Shabbat buzz call, and back my earlier babe went to sleepover affected for the aboriginal time this accomplished summer, I concluded my Friday emails to her the aforementioned way (even back I wasn’t abiding if she would get them afore Sunday).
While we tend to anticipate of Jewish blessings as moments of cogent gratitude, birkat banim is an address to hope. Rather than thanking God for what we have, we ask God to defended all of our hopes and dreams for our children. We adjure Ephraim and Manasseh to admonish them that blessings can abide in affluence if they accomplish to accord and accord — that there are no blessings begin in strife. May God accomplish us like the ones who put accord over outcome, which absolutely is a amount amount of those who action to accomplish the apple a bigger place, like my hunger-striking academy students.
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster of Teaneck is administrator of programs at T’ruah: The Rabbinic Alarm for Human Rights.
| meaning of the word vigil – meaning of the word vigil
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