“Parsha and Purpose” – Vayechi 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“A Time to Survive and a Time to Thrive”

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Parshat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) 

“A Time to Survive and a Time to Thrive

In this final parsha of Sefer Bereshiet, Yaakov gives blessings to all of his children, but he gives a special blessing to his grandchildren, to Ephraim and Menashe.

And he says that ‘You, the children of Yosef, my grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe. You will be “like Reuven and Shimon”, you will be no different than my children. (Genesis 48:5)

And he continues on and says that the Jewish people will bless their sons in your name:

“ישימך אלוקים כאפרים וכמנשה”
God should make our children like Ephraim and Menashe. (Genesis 48:20)

Throughout all of Yaakov’s engagement with Yosef’s children, Ephraim and Menashe, he places the younger one first and the eldest second. And that’s because Yaakov has a special message for each and every one of us, thousands of years later.

You see, the oldest child, Menashe is named “כי נשני אלוקים”, because God has allowed me to survive after the tragedies that I’ve gone through in the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:51)

Ephraim, the second child, is so named “כי הפרני אלוקים”, because God has not just allowed me to survive, but God has allowed me to flourish. (Genesis 41:52)

Says Yaakov to all of us, as we read the parsha this week, our first responsibility, our first mandate, is to try to flourish, to actualize our potential, to be able to look at the world around us and to not allow the challenges to paralyze us. But to be able to grow, and to be able to achieve wondrous things in this world.

But sometimes there are so many challenges, and we have seen this during COVID, that all we can do, and that is not just sufficient, it’s heroic, is Menashe. All we can do is survive; all we can do is be “like Menashe”.

And therefore, the bracha that Yaakov gives us, that we are to bless our children and our grandchildren with, is “ישימך אלוקים”, God should make us “like Ephraim”.

We should always try and ask ourselves the question: What are we doing to achieve purposefulness? What are we doing to create meaning in the world?

But also, to recognize that sometimes it’s all about Menashe. Sometimes it’s all about surviving. Sometimes survival is not just good enough, it is really heroic.

Please God, as we read this parsha, we will be able to bless our children and our grandchildren with this bracha, and we will be able to internalize the message of always being “Ephraim”, of working hard to be able to make sure that we make a difference in the world and within our families.

And sometimes it’s just enough to be “Menashe”, to survive, and that itself is an act of greatness.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –“Judah, to you shall your brothers give homage” (Genesis 49:8) The climax of our Biblical portion of Vayechi – and indeed of the entire Book of Genesis – comes in the death-bed scene in which Jacob–Israel bestows blessings upon each of his sons, …

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Rabbi Benjy Myers

Shimon, Levi and the Zealous Brotherly Bond Rabbi Benjy Myers is the Educational Director of the Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel Emissary Training and Placement Institutes. At the end of Yaakov’s life, shortly before he passes from this world, he gathers his sons around him to bless them. While for most of the sons it’s clear that …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Vayechi 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“A Bracha for the COVID Vaccine: A Celebration of Life Over Death”

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“A Bracha for the COVID Vaccine: A Celebration of Life Over Death”

Watching the incredible images of our heroic healthcare professionals and in Israel those over 60 receiving the COVID-19 vaccine stirs strong emotions within us. 

After nearly a year of crises, deep loss, anxiety and fear, we can now begin to allow ourselves to believe that – thanks to the extraordinary, tireless efforts of researchers, scientists and leaders from around the world – this global nightmare will soon be over.

The mandate to value life is central to Judaism and is expressed in numerous laws and sources – including the very name of this week’s parsha. In spite of the parsha’s actual content, which relates to the deaths of both Yaakov and Yosef, the name of the parsha is “Vayechi,” meaning “and he lived!”

The focus of this week’s parsha is not on the fact that Yaakov and Yosef died, but rather on the eternal narrative that lives on after their deaths, communicated through the blessings of their children: the 12 tribes of Israel which comprise the Jewish people. 

The “Vayechi” approach of celebrating life even as we deal with the tragedy of death resonates today, as we move toward – b’ezrat Hashem – to world immunity. We must remember that preserving our own health is nothing less than a Biblical directive.

Furthermore  according to the Torah, we are also forbidden from standing idly by while the blood of another is being spilt.

There is, therefore, a halakhic obligation to get vaccinated; to protect ourselves as well as to contribute to creating the herd immunity necessary to save the world.

How can we sanctify this statement we’re making about the victory of life over death?

What bracha should we recite over the vaccination and inoculation? 

Based on the Talmud Brachot page 59b, the Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim, Chapter 230, Halacha 4, rules: 

“הנכנס להקיז דם”

Someone who enters into a medical facility in order to perform an ancient medical ritual called blood letting, should say: 

יהר”מ ה’ אלהי”

“May it be your will, God, 

שיהא עסק זה לי לרפואה  

that this procedure that I’m undergoing should be for healing,

“כי רופא חנם אתה

for You are a loving and faithful healer.”

And after the procedure: 

 “ברוך רופא חולים”

“Blessed is God who heals the sick”

This formula is found on your screen. 

I believe that when a vaccine of this historic nature comes along that indeed has the potential to save humanity, we too should recite a bracha, either when we hear that the vaccine has reached our community, state, or country, or when we are are inoculated: 

“ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקינו מלך העולם הטוב והמטיב”

“Blessed is the Lord King of the universe Who is good and Who does good”

This blessing is appropriate for the COVID vaccine because, as the Talmud explains, it is recited when something good happens to me – הטוב והמטיב – and when that good concurrently happens to another, which is certainly true with this vaccine.

Please God, as we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel – may it come speedily over the next few months – may we once again be able to hug and play with our children and grandchildren, welcome friends and family around our Shabbat and holiday tables, and celebrate many happy occasions with loved ones and friends. 

May we always remember to learn from the priorities that we were forced to set during Covid, and never forget what is truly important and what is trivial.

And may we be able to celebrate the message of this week’s parsha of Vayechi: the victory of life over death.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “Gather together and I shall tell you what is to happen at the end of the days” (Genesis 49:1) The portion of Vayehi, and the entire Book of Genesis, concludes with Jacob’s deathbed scene in which he “reveals to his sons what will …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Insights from Rabbi Kenneth Brander into Torah and Contemporary Life

Parshat Vayechi 5780

Sources cited

  • Genesis 49:33
  • Rashi on Genesis 49:33
  • Taanit 5b

This week’s commentary has been dedicatedin honor of Karen Aron, a remarkable Aishet Chayil and Imma, by her husband, Mike Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28 — 50:26 )             By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel -In a most uplifting and inspiring deathbed scene, grandfather Jacob/Israel peacefully takes leave of this world …

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