Vayechi: The blessing of Israel’s unity

The unity of Israel as Jacob’s family and as a Nation is the main message of Vayechi, and we must have full awareness of the qualities of this unity. Let’s reflect on some verses that help us define such qualities.

“And Israel said to Joseph: ‘I did not think possible to see your face; and, lo, God has let me see your seed also’.” (Genesis 48:11). Our Sages ponder on the meaning of the Hebrew verb translated here as “to think possible”, which refers to praying. Although, “to pray” is a reflexive verb in Hebrew, in this verse is not conjugated as reflexive, and may indicate an incomplete thought due to Jacob’s sadness for Joseph’s disappearance.

This brief preamble takes us to consider the wholeness implied in the Hebrew reflexive form of praying. Our Sages teach that, as our concentration in elevating all levels of consciousness to God, prayer replaces the offerings that our ancestors elevated in the Temple of Jerusalem. Still, why is it a reflective action and not one directed to Him? It must be reflective because, by engaging together all aspects and dimensions of consciousness towards God, we (think possible to) achieve our connection, unity and Oneness with Him. Hence Jewish prayer is about engaging oneself together with the Creator, and not a method to summon Him to grant us what we may need or want to require for our personal well being.

Jacob was concerned and worried that their children may not come together and united around him and his legacy (Israel as God’s People). Our oral tradition tells that all his sons together declared to him, “Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” to demonstrate that they were aware of the true meaning of unity. He called them commanding them to be united: “And Jacob called unto his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together (…). Assemble yourselves, and hear, you sons of Jacob; and hearken to Israel your father’.” (49:1-2).

This request is the premise, the condition, the prerequisite, the provision for them to receive his blessings. Hence our Sages conclude that the blessing for each Tribe is also the blessing to all of them. We have to reiterate that the Tribes of Israel in the same way represent traits and qualities of human consciousness, defined to achieve God’s will in who we are and what we do. We said in previous commentaries that Joseph became the Firstborn, Levi the Priesthood, and Judah the Kingship, as the threefold paradigm of Israel while the rest of the brothers are contributing aspects to it.

In our consciousness this paradigm encompasses intellect, mind, thoughts, emotions, passions and instincts along with talents, skills, traits and qualities aimed to enrich the diversity that life is. The variety we see in the material world inspires us to be as diverse as creative in the common mission to proclaim God’s Presence as His Love manifest in His Creation.

In this sense God’s Love, as our true Essence and identity, is Israel’s paradigm to be enthroned as the leading and commanding ruler of who we are, what we have and what we do. Thus Love’s ways and attributes are the only means to achieve unity in our consciousness as individuals, and consequently unity as a collective in the material world. In our praying we evoke God’s Love by elevating our Love to Him. As both loves unite, we are ready to proclaim His Glory which covers the Earth. In this awareness we go out into the world to fulfill our mission to unify what is separated, to fix what is broken, to rectify the mistake, to heal what is ill, to ease what is burdensome, to untie the tied, to free the captive, to empower the weak, to educate the ignorant, to gather the exiled. We do all these through the unity that Love is.

Jacob blessed the goodness of who we are and the goodness that we can become. His blessings are such that also refer to the negative traits that threaten goodness as our common and final purpose: “(…) instruments of violence are their weapons. Let my soul not come into their council; unto their assembly let my glory not be united; for in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath because it is cruel (…).” (49:5-7).

We have said often that Love does not cohabit with anything different than its ways and attributes. Wrath and anger are inherent to violence. God’s Love as the banner and Soul of Israel must not be associated with the negative aspects of consciousness. Our Sages remark that the Hebrew letter zayin (which also means armament) does not appear in any of the words in Jacob’s blessing to Judah. In his mission to proclaim God’s Sovereignty in the world we Jews don’t need weapons. Neither Love needs them to bestow the blessings of God’s Love.

Our Patriarch Jacob commands us to pursue unity in order to fulfill our mission as the Jewish people, and also teaches us that our Love is what unifies us to enthrone God’s Presence in our individual consciousness, as well as in the entire world. The last four portions of Genesis start with Joseph and end with him: “These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph (…)” (37:2) and “Joseph died at the age of one hundred ten years (…)” (50:26), closing the first book of the Torah with the Firstborn and inheritor of Israel’s legacy as the paradigm of God’s Love manifest in human consciousness. Fourteen chapters that teach us through Joseph the qualities of the greatest blessing of the Creator for us: His Love.Jacob Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

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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