Parshat Vayechi: Solving the Jewish identity crisis (II)

Jacob’s legacy as the Jewish identity is Joseph’s encompassing love for his brothers as the unifying force of such identity; for love is the foundation, origin and purpose of goodness as the human common bond with God.

“And Jacob said to Joseph: ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and said to me: “Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you and assembly of peoples; and will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession”’.” (Genesis 48:3-4)

In this blessing God’s love speaks to Israel’s love, for love is what fructifies, multiplies and unifies all aspects and expressions of human consciousness. Love is the land where all these happen, transcending time and space, for it is an eternal possession. Hence we realize Joseph’s journeys led by God’s will to sustain and unite Israel’s family through the removal of the negative traits and trends that threat their purpose in the material world.

Thus Joseph became the bearer of the birthright and received a double portion in his father’s inheritance of the land God promised him. This reflects the double portion that the Sabbath is entitled to receive as the head of the weekdays, which is beyond time and space, for it belongs to the Creator.

“‘Moreover, I have given to you one portion above your brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow’.” (48:22)

Jacob’s blessings to his sons are also part of the Jewish identity we need to integrate as a harmonized functional unity. These reflect the diverse creative potentials aimed to serve the common purpose of making goodness prevail in every facet and expression of life. We clearly see this purpose in the blessings for the older brothers. Jacob’s delineates the qualities of the Jewish identity as separated from the negative trends of ego’s fantasies and illusions, as pointed out in regards to Reuben.

“Unstable as water, you do not have the excellence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it — he went up to my couch.” (49:4)

Jacob cursed wrath and anger as the most destructive of the negative traits in human consciousness, and blessed Shimon and Levi by making their descendants into future servers of their brothers’ descendants. Our sages tell us that Shimon’s descendants are master teachers of secular studies, while Levi’s descendants are master teachers of spiritual studies among the Jewish people.

“Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (49:7)

Jacob’s legacy as Israel’s identity does not blend with negative ways and traits.

“Let my soul not come to their council, let my honor not be united to their assembly. For in their anger they slew men, and in their self will they knock down oxen.” (49:6)

The goodness coming from love does not cohabit with anything different from its ways and attributes, though through goodness we are able to transform negative traits as light dissipates darkness.

The remaining blessings, as we have said in regards to the last portions in the book of Genesis, encompass qualities and attributes of creative positive potentials of the Jewish identity, aimed to make goodness prevail as its core. This core is defined by Jacob’s blessing to Joseph as the keystone of Israel’s spirit.

“Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine by a fountain; its branches run over the wall. The archers have dealt bitterly with him, and shot at him, and hated him. But his bow abode firm, and the arms of his hands were made supple, by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob; from thence, from the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel. Even by the God of your father, who shall help you and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that couches beneath, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the prince among his brethren.” (49:22-26)

Thus we realize what Joseph’s birthright means as the essence and core of the Jewish identity, and all the creative potentials of human consciousness are destined to manifest Israel’s legacy as the goodness God wants to prevail in His creation.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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