Monday, December 9, 2013

Moving Past Family Drama

Parashat Vayechi11 Tevet 5774 / Dec. 13-14, 2013
Bereshit 47:28 - 50:26

Moving Past Family Drama
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’yechi (And he Lived), we find a very beautiful blessing that Jacob gives to the two sons of Joseph, Efraim and Menasheh. This blessing is sung today in a soulful melody in many Jewish communities, so its power has a lot of vibration from Jacob’s lips to our very own. Here are the words from Chapter 48:

טז  הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל-רָע, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-הַנְּעָרִים, וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי, וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק; וְיִדְגּוּ לָרֹב, בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ.
16 the angel who hath redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named in them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.'

What I find so profound about this blessing is that it brings an end to a vicious cycle in the Torah where siblings are pitted against one another. Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. Generation upon generation of inherited conflict. Until we get to Efraim and Menashe. They were raised in a foreign land, in Egypt, beyond the cultural narrative of their heritage. Jacob blesses them together. There is room in this world for both of these boys to be great in their way. And even as Jacob blesses the younger son with his right hand (a sign of greater greatness), there is no complaint from the older. Perhaps Menashe, the older son, does not need to rely solely on this blessing to affirm his greatness. Perhaps he thought the his brother’s greatness will only serve to increase his own anyway. Some how, I imagine, that he was able to rise above a possible perceived discrepancy and remain aware of the truth of the situation - “My grandfather is dying, my father is aging, and I am living my own journey.”

It is so easy to get tangled up in family drama - to cut people out of our lives that have wronged us, or to run away when we feel we have hurt someone else. I want to invite us to take a note from Menashe this week - We do not have to be stuck in our inherited family roles.  We can have positive relationships with our families (which is not the same as perfect relationships). Most importantly, it only takes one person to act differently to create change in a relationship.



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