This week we arrive at the end. Our Torah portion is the end of the Book of Genesis (Sefer Breshit), and the end of Jacob’s life. The parsha is called “Vayechi,” (And Jacob lives.) The sages notice that the Torah never says Jacob died (Met). When the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs died, the Torah always uses the Hebrew word “Met” (died). With Jacob, another word is used, (Yigva) which is not used for anyone else in the Torah. Based on this, the Talmud makes a shocking claim “Jacob did not die, but still lives.” “Od Avinu Hai.” (Shlomo Carlebach wrote a tune for this and it’s among the five most popular songs in the Jewish world. “Am Yisrael Hai, Od Avinu Hai.” The people of Israel live, our father (And Jacob lives.)
To understand how Jacob still lives, we need to look at his last actions on his death bed, because through his deeds he models for us how to end well. Jacob calls his children to his bedside and gives each one a unique blessing. He, like every parent, wants to help his children to be healthy and happy and to continue the spiritual mission of his parents, Isaac and Rebecca, and his grandparents Abraham and Sara. Jacob’s last deed is to give. He gives blessings. Through these blessings, he lives on and makes it possible for the mission of Israel to continue.
We are coming to the end of 2021. I ask you to give a blessing to help the mission of Shaaray Tefila to continue. We are the largest Jewish Congregation in Northern Westchester. Dues alone cannot not sustain our Temple. Your gift makes it possible for us to live Jewish life in an inclusive, egalitarian, Reform Jewish spirit.
The hope is for everyone to give an end of year gift. Talmud Menachot says about gifts “Whether one gives a lot or a little, it is of equal importance in God’s eyes, if the giver directs their intentions towards the heavens.” This means no gift is too small in God’s eyes. Whether you give 36 shekels or 36 thousand shekels – it is all helpful in helping the mission of Shaaray Tefila live.
And this is how Jacob, our Patriarch, did not die, in our tradition. Jacob lives and we live by giving gifts of blessings. “Od Avinu Hai, Am Yisrael Hai. The people of Israel (in Northern Westchester) Lives.” Please give a blessing and make a difference.
Rabbi David Wilfond