Ron Wexler, Weekly Newsletter
December 21st, 2007
"Shabbat Shalom" is a weekly message, sent on Friday, that contains very short commentaries on the portion of the Bible that is read in synagogues on the corresponding Sabbath services.
Reading portion is from Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
This reading portion is the last in the first five books of Moses – Genesis. Here Jacob gives all of his sons their blessings.
But, feeling that his death was near, Jacob also sent for Joseph, the only one of his sons who held power and asked him to swear that he would bring him back to Israel to be buried in Hebron. he had several reasons for insisting on this but most importantly he wanted to establish for his off spring the principle that only the land of Israel was their heritage, no matter how successful or comfortable they might be in some other land. This was especially important them, for Jacob saw that his family had begun to feel "at home" in Egypt. Soon they might substitute the river Nile for the river Jordan as the sages commented, so it was necessary for him to demonstrate in an impressive manner that Egypt was not and will not ever be their homeland.
"Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years" (Genesis 47:28). The Bible suggests that although Jacob''s original intention was to sojourn in Egypt only until the end of the famine, God commanded him to remain there for the rest of his life. The Bible used the term "lived" rather then "sojourned", indicating that the Torah speaks of the quality of Jacobs life in Egypt. Here is an implication that after a lifetime of hardship, Esu''a hatred, Labban''s thievery, and Joseph''s disappearance, Jacob was finally able to enjoy the tranquility and harmony for which he had longed.
In line with the theme that the deeds of the patriarchs formed a pattern for the future of their decedents, is understood from the closing years of Jacob; the symbol of Torah and truth were living lessons that the Jews can survive and even excel, if they maintain their allegiance to the ideals that Jacob represented.
Rabbi Bressler in his "Dvar" says that in this portion when Jacob) gives all of his sons their blessings. Ironically, he starts with the blessings for Ephraim and Menashe, who were Joseph''s sons that were born to him in Egypt. It all started when Joseph found out that Jacob was sick (48:1), Joseph "…took his two sons with him…" (Presumably to bring them to Jacob, although
it doesn''t say that anywhere). When Joseph and his sons got there, Jacob "strengthened himself" (48:5) (which also seems strange), sat up on the bed, and told Joseph that his two sons would now be considered like Jacob ''s children, and will get a portion in the land just like the rest of the brothers. Jacob then called over the 2 children, placed his hands on their heads, and started blessing Joseph, giving him the famous blessing (48:16), that the angel that protected Jacob from evil should also protect Jacob''s sons. That Jacob ''s name should be associated with them, along with Abraham and Isaac, and they should multiply in the land. All these events seem
inconsistent, unless we understand what they all mean...
When Jacob got sick, the Torah doesn''t say that Joseph brought his sons to Jacob, but that Joseph took his sons with him! What it could mean is not that Joseph brought his sons physically to Jacob, but that Joseph kept them close to himself, so that they wouldn''t be spiritually influenced by their non-Jewish surroundings. Jacob recognized this, which is why he felt strengthened when Joseph came to him with his sons. That''s also why Jacob claimed the sons as his own. He made sure to stress that it was those two sons that were born in EGYPT (48:5), because their greatness and Joseph ''s greatness, was that they were Jews DESPITE living in Egypt. And although his hands were on the two sons, Jacob''s blessing was forJoseph''s children, and for anyone who has to live in a non-Jewish world to be protected throughout history, so that we can all be proudly called the children of Abraham and Yitzchak. But it won''t happen unless we learn to put our hands on their heads and guide the next generation.
The adults have a duty to take along and guide the kids, and the children have an equal responsibility to let themselves be guided.
This sermon serves to teach us an additional lesson that is important to our modern day struggle in America''s culture war. America was, and is blessed because she adheres to the very principle learned from Jacob. We keep the blessings and transmit them from generation to generation by keeping God''s Moral Law in the heart and soul of our nation. Now, when non-believers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists continue to rise up and challenge our dedication to building a moral foundation across the nation, it is incumbent upon each of us to show our determination and to continue doing God''s holy work.
Just this week, a call from these types of groups came across the internet, to block the Ten Commandments Resolution (click to view HR 598), currently under consideration in the United States House of Representatives. Will you take a stand for God with us, and make sure that America remains ONE NATION UNDER GOD?
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