26 Dec 2017

Tuesday Morning Torah – December 26, 2017

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The Blessings and Responsibilities of  Jewish Grandparents
 
Some of my earliest Jewish memories involve my grandparents. Whether it was a Shabbat meal at my maternal grandmother’s apartment that I can still picture somewhat clearly in my mind from the age of three or four, or the yiddish expressions from my paternal grandmother which I can still hear to this day- my grandparents filled my early years with the sounds, smells, tastes, and values of Judaism. To be clear, I only knew my grandparents very briefly. By the age of five I had one grandmother left, and by the age of eleven she had passed away. And yet- those brief years, along with the stories and recorded memories that survived them, continue to influence my Jewish identity to this very day.
 
In our Torah portion this week, Parshat Vayechi, we read of Joseph bringing his children to meet their grandfather Jacob. Immediately, Jacob asks to offer them a blessing, saying to them:
 
Bless the lads. In them, may my name be recalled, and the names of my father’s Abraham and Isaac, and may they be teeming multitudes on the earth (Gen. 48:16).
 
Rabbi Pinchase Peli explains:
 
To make sure that the dream of Israel is not to be buried in Egypt, Jacob turns to the young generation…The blessing is directed to Joseph’s children, not to Joseph…Jacob is not concerned about his own children, the first generation of immigrants, who still remember the “old country” and the traditional home of Jacob in which they grew up. To make sure that the chain of tradition continues, he tries to communicate with the third generation, his grandchildren…Jacob realized that grandparents, no less than parents (who are potential grandparents) carry responsibility for the fate and faith of their grandchildren. Who is a Jew? Not one who can boast about his Jewish grandparents (and who among us cannot boast about at least one great rabbi in the family?), but one who can speak with confidence about his Jewish grandchildren. This one can do when following in the footsteps of Jacob, who said to Joseph (48:9): Bring them, I pray you, unto me (that I may bless them). Pressman, Torah Sparks, Rabbi Pinchas Peli
 
As one of his final acts, Jacob wanted to make sure that his legacy was passed on through his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh. It is not clear that he had a close relationship with them, or even really knew them very well. It is likely that Ephraim and Manasseh were raised in Egypt during the years that Joseph was feared lost by Jacob. Perhaps Jacob was concerned that his grandsons were too “Egyptian,” and wanted to remind them of their heritage by offering them this blessing. While we may never know his rationale, we do know that one of Jacob’s last actions in our narrative is to impart some wisdom to his grandsons.
 
It is with that in mind, that I invite you to consider the following this morning:
 

o   What Jewish memories do you have of your grandparents?

o   How is your Jewish life different from theirs?
 
o   What Jewish blessings and messages do you, like Jacob, hope to impart to your grandchildren and what Jewish memories do you want your grandchildren to have of you?
 
o   How can you, as a grandparent, help facilitate Jewish feeling, involvement, practice, and values among you grandchildren and what are the challenges of this sacred relationship?
 
Feel free to email me your answers and/or come in for a discussion about this topic.  As always, I would be delighted to hear from you.  
I wish you and your families a happy and healthy New Year! 

 

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