Parshat Vayechi: The blessings of Israel’s identity

The last portion of the first book of the Torah ends with the death of Joseph, after narrating the burial of Jacob by his entire family, which follows the blessings for his children including Joseph’s sons.

Jacob last blessings encompass traits and qualities that shape Israel’s identity. As we mentioned in our previous commentaries on this portion in this blog, these blessings are given in the spirit of unity and togetherness of Israel as a family and as a nation.

“(…) ‘Gather yourselves together’,” “Assemble yourselves, and hear, you sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.” (Genesis 49:1-2)

In this context we can understand Jacob’s words shaping Israel’s identity.

Identity comprises a wide range of facets, levels and dimensions which are diverse, though part of the same unity. Our most formidable challenge in life is to integrate them all as a harmonic functional unit. Jacob blesses his children with precious talents and potentials he presents as branches of the same tree.

Besides being extensions as expressions of consciousness, they are also contained within each other. Blessings are manifest as long as we pursue their meaning and purpose.

We need the cunning of Dan to protect the goodness of Joseph, and safeguard Issachar’s Torah wisdom. We need Judah’s leadership towards love’s redemption in order to guide Zebulun’s journeys in the sea, and empower Naphtali’s eloquence to proclaim Benjamin’s eagerness to defend justice, righteousness and freedom.

We need Joseph’s transforming love to make successful Judah’s rectifying regency, in order to defeat ego’s negative trends such as anger and violence.

Blessings are also guidelines that correct the course of ego’s fantasies and illusions, as well as negative traits and trends in consciousness. In this sense, Jacob’s condemnation of Simeon and Levi’s weapons of violence are actually his blessing for them. He cursed their anger and violence for their own sake.

Our choice to reject the negative trends in consciousness is a blessing, for we choose goodness over evil. Likewise, we are blessed when we are reminded to respect the rights of others in order for them to respect ours, as it occurred with Jacob’s address to Reuben.

Jacob’s final words to his sons contain ethical values as directions to enhance and empower the positive potentials in our consciousness. Indeed life is the vessel where God’s blessings are bestowed, and every level of consciousness is expected to experience them, and manifest them in our immediate surroundings.

We truly experience God’s blessings when we integrate all aspects of life towards the goodness of the blessings. The premise for this is to discern, think, feel, sense, speak and act in love’s ways and attributes in order to realize that God’s love is the blessing.

We can’t expect to be happy, fulfilled and complete if love is absent in our life. Love makes the difference between what is real and transcending, and temporary illusion.

In this sense love transcends time and space as the essence that gives us life, and sustains our identity beyond life. Love is what we are and have before we are born and after we die. Love is what keeps us alive here and beyond. In this awareness we realize that love is what we have beyond the material world.

Once we said — equalizing Torah study to an act of love — that one who loves every day is assured a place in the World to Come, because the ways of the world are love’s. In a deeper meaning and in practical terms, as long as we love every day, love’s ways become our ways that also will be ours in the after life. Hence love is the only thing that remains with us in our transition when leaving the material world.

The more we love each day, the more we shall keep loving in our after life’s days. This is about recognizing and embracing love as our essence and true identity here in the material world and beyond. Thus we understand the transcendence of love. Some compare love’s transcendence to soul’s transcendence because both exist beyond the limits of time and space.

The lesson at this point is to make ourselves aware every moment that love is our true identity here and beyond.

This is the underlying foundation of all blessings, including Jacob’s for his sons. All we are and can be with the blessings we are, we manifest as long as we infuse them with love’s ways and attributes, which are the means to manifest God’s ways, as He teaches us in His Torah.

King David reminds us this in his last words when he blessed his son and heir, Solomon.

“(…) that the Lord may establish His word which He spoke concerning me, saying: ‘If your children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you’, said He, [as if He were] a man on the throne of Israel.” (I Kings 2:4)

This is the way we find our essence and true identity. We must understand that love is the way through which we find ourselves, and it is also the means to find our Creator. For His love is the truth in which we walk with our own love.

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 Kochav Yaakov.
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