Vayechi Batmitzvah

D'var Torah

by Noya

Dear Rabbi, Gila, Rev Robbins, Roz, mum, dad, family and friends Shabbat shalom

 

Yaakov had suffered much in his life with his brother Esau, as well as Dina, Yoseph and Rachel yet he dies blessing his children. In this weeks sedra of Vayechi, the concluding sedra of the book of Bereshit, we read about Yaakov's final journey and his last legacy to his children. His sons' carried out his wish to be reunited with his wife Leah, his parents Yitzchak and Rivka and his grandparents Avraham and Sara in the Cave of Machpela in Chevron, Yaakov was 147 when he died.

 

Yoseph had suffered too. His brothers had sold him into slavery and as a result had spent 12 years in an Egyptian prison before his rise to power. Yoseph had been reunited with his family and for 17 years Yaakov's sons had lived as a united family. Now after Yaakov's death Yoseph went back to visit the pit, the place where he was thrown into by his brothers. The Midrash tells us that Yoseph went; "to thank G-d for the miracle of saving his life in that place". That was not how his brothers would have seen it. Although Yoseph had made peace with his brothers for many years, his brothers may have thought that maybe he did it during his father's life time. The brothers worried that Yoseph might had harboured hatred towards them, and that he was waiting for his father to die before taking his revenge against them. The brothers sent a message to him that part of Yaakov's will was that 'Yaakov commanded' that he should forgive their terrible sin. Rashi says this was untrue, but defends the brother's story by saying that it is permitted to distort the truth for the sake of peace.

 

A large part of the sedra of Vayechi deals with Yaakov's blessings to his sons before his death. All his children gathered around him, each one starting from the first born, Reuven, received the blessing that he deserved. However some of the blessings don't appear to be very positive. The classic commentators address this problem. Avraham Ibn Ezra, a medieval commentator living in Spain, writes that Yaakov did not actually bless all his sons. Three of them were rebuked instead- Reuven, Shimon and Levi. According to Rashi, an 11th century commentator, they received a general blessing with the rest of the tribes. Perhaps there is another way of dealing with this problem. Even though some of the blessings appear to be more negative then positive, without Yaakov's direct comments Reuven, Shimon and Levi could have lived the rest of their lives in a way that would have been destructive.

 

At the time these were hard words to hear from a dying father, and a great disappointment to themselves. But once they had a chance to reflect on what their father had told them, and thought about the intention of his comments they would have realized that he was telling the truth and that the comments were more constructive than destructive.

 

King Solomon wrote in Mishlei (the Book of Proverbs) "do not rebuke a fool lest he hate you, but rebuke a wise man so that he will come to love you"

 

Yaakov adopts the two sons of Yoseph: Ephraim, and Menashe, who were born before Yaakov came down to Egypt .Yaakov places the younger son Ephraim over Menashe which displeases Yoseph. In the Torah the younger brother is at times preferred to the elder. Hevel over Cain, Yitzchack over Yishmael, Yaakov to Esav and Moshe to Aaron. To this day on erev Shabbat and erev chag a Jewish father places his hands on the head of his son, and blesses him in the words 'G-d make thee as Ephraim and Menashe'.

 

My Hebrew names are Noya Channah

My parents chose the name Noya which translates into "noy" meaning beauty and "yud" "hey" meaning G-d.

 

Channah comes from the word Chen in Hebrew which translates into Grace. Channah is a biblical name; Channah was the mother of Shmuel and a judge in Israel. From Channah we learn how to pray by moving our lips without a sound. I am very privileged to go to Jewish schools, after learning in Wolfson Hillel I am now learning at Hasmonian Girls School. When I was 5 years old I moved to Northern Israel with my family. After a period of 3 years I returned. I am looking forward to visiting Israel again.

 

I am happy to have my grandparents here today celebrating this special day with me. By being here making it all the more meaningful to me.

 

My dad came across a beautiful poem by a Jewish poetess called Zelda which goes by the title of

 

"Each Man Has a Name".

 

Zelda was born in the Ukraine in 1914 and died in Jerusalem in 1984. she came from a distinguished rabbinical family. She published a collection of poems and I would like to read this poem to you which explain more about the meaning of names.

 

לכל איש יש שם

Each man has a name,

שנתן לו אלקים

Given him by G-d,

ונתו לו אביו ואמו

And given him by his father and mother.

לכל איש יש שם

Each man has a name

שנתנו לו קומתו ואפן חיוכו

Each man has a name given him by his stature and his way of smiling.

And given him by his clothes.

Each man has a name

Given him by the mountains and given him by his walls.

Each man has a name given him by the planets and given him by his neighbours

Each man has a name given him by his sins and given him by his longings.

Each man has a name given him by his enemies and given him by his love.

Each man has a name given him by his feast days and given him by his craft.

Each man has a name given him by the seasons of the year and given him by his blindness.

לכל איש יש שם שנתן לו הים ונתן לו מותו

 

Each man has a name given him by the sea and given him by his death.

 

Thank you to Nurit Cohen for helping me to prepare for today.

 

I'd also like to thank my parents for finally managing to organise my Batmitzvah before my 13th birthday!

 

Thank you for listening.

 

Shabbat shalom!

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