During his final hours, Jacob sits upright in his bed and is filled with strength. Each of his 12 sons is present, each is blessed.
The end of Sefer Breishit is powerful because Jacob’s blessings are in fact a confirmation of each tribe’s unique qualities and abilities. They are not equal in talent or destiny, but each is an essential forbearer of the future Jewish People . They stand together as one diverse family, with a common belief in one God (uncommmon in those days), which, as the midrash shares, they assure their father Yaakov/Yisrael that they have inherited before his death: “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.’
“שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְהֹוָה אֱלהֵינוּ, יְהֹוָה אֶחָד!”
The tribes say “Don’t worry, Dad – we’ll try to remember: Just as God is One, we are One.”
Which leads me to a fairly standard meeting – at first glance – which I took part in this week, in the Jewish Agency for Israel offices in Tel Aviv. Representatives of 12 (yes, I counted!) Olim organizations met with new Jewish Agency Chairman Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, to familiarize him with our respective absorption efforts on behalf of Olim from the FSU, Western and Eastern Europe, North America, Latin America, South Africa, Australia and the Arab world.
We were a roundtable of “kibbutz galuyot” – exiles ingathered and helping their own – in a bustling city of glass skyscrapers and parking lots eight levels deep.
Jacob and his 12 sons in Egypt could not have envisioned our group or their over 8 million descendants in Eretz Yisrael, returning home again from so many different countries, after 2000 years of dispersion.
Our obligation now is to remember the basic values that bind us today, as they did Jacob’s family then: our faith and family history, our essential diversity, our mutual responsibility.
Even after Jacob dies, Joseph assures his brothers that even their bad thoughts against him were part of God’s plan for the good, so that Joseph could care for and sustain them, and raise them up to be a great nation.
“וְאַתֶּם חֲשַׁבְתֶּם עָלַי רָעָה, אֱלֹהִים חֲשָׁבָהּ לְטֹבָה לְמַעַן עֲשֹׂה כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה לְהַחֲיֹת עַם רָב.” (בראשית נ:כ)
Our mandate, Doron Almog said to us yesterday, is “kiruv levavot” – literally, to bring hearts closer. Spoken more like a good rebbe, than a former IDF General.
What Joseph teaches his brothers in Sefer Breishit, we must continue with all the Olim who are coming home – and with our fellow Israelis of different stripes and “tribes.”
Sefer Breishit ends with the ominous word “B’Mitzrayim.”
We know that we make it out again to freedom, but how we continue the narrative and lessons of the Tanach through our ever- challenging, ever-miraculous lives here together in Israel – that is up to us.