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The blessing of hope

Parshat Vayehi

Genesis  47:28-50:26

We come to the end of the book of Genesis this week.  These final chapters are also the final chapters in the lives of Jacob and Joseph.  Our patriarch Jacob on his death bed gives a blessing to his sons and to his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe.  His blessing to his grandsons is in the form adoption as he is sorting through the inheritance he will leave his family.  It is the material wealth he has managed to make and acquire throughout his lifetime.  But Jacob also has spiritual wealth to bequeath his family.

For the covenant he has with God will now be transferred to his children.  And through his sons and Eprhaim and Menashe, his grandsons, eachwill become the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. They will form the basis of the people of Israel that will stand at Sinai to receive the revelation of Torah. They will receive the covenantal promise of hope. This is an enormous legacy.  Jacob who became Yisrael at the river Jabbok on his deathbed transfers the blessings to the sons recognizing their strengths and sometimes their weaknesses.  But offering the hope of God placed in them!

Jacob says, “Come together that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come” (Gen 49:1). Jacob’s blessing to his children and grandchildren is more like a prophecy.  Jacob has always been a dreamer and visionary. This was inherited by his beloved son Joseph.  Jacob dreamed of the ladder reaching to the heavens at Beth-El. He dreamed and wrestled with an angel of God on the night before he met up with his brother Esau.  God spoke to him in through his dreams revealing the covenantal promise of protection there.
And Joseph his son dreamed great visions of his future.  He learned to interpret those dreams and those of the Pharaoh. And it was this talent and skill that set him as a lord over Pharaoh’s house.
And now in Jacob’s deathbed blessing, his own revelation reveals a different kind of promise to his children based upon knowledge of who they are and who they have been and who he believes they will be.

The blessings we bestow upon our children as parents and grandparents come from our observations.  We can hope. We can dream.  But we do a disservice to our children and grandchildren if we pretend.  Our blessings must be based in reality with all the limitations of our humanity and indeed their limitations.

And yet each Friday night at the dinner table we offer the age old hope of Jacob.  “May you grow to be like Ephraim and Menashe.”  “May you be like Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel and Leah.”  We pray our children and grandchildren grow into leadership roles as patriarchs and matriarchs themselves!

This is the aspiration that we have.  Not every person is capable. And not every child will grow to be a leader.  But the revelation of the parent or grandparent to every child should be one even while seeing clearly their strengths and weaknesses as Jacob did, still we should offer a blessing of hopefulness.  Hopefulness that we can overcome the weakness and build upon our strengths; just as Jacob’s beloved son Joseph did; father to Menashe and Ephraim!
Joseph overcame his tattle tale, bratty self, to great humility even as he wielded power.  He grew into his faithfulness as a Hebrew even as he lived and became an Egyptian ruler.

And Jacob’s prophetic revelation to Joseph reminded him that he would return to his people in his death just like his own father Jacob. This was a hope. This is the blessing and promise of covenant: to be part of God’s people and inherit the legacy of hope and blessing.  This is what Jacob imparted.  This is what we still impart.

May you have a week of blessing and hope and bring that blessing to others.