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Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayechi – Genesis 47:28-50:26
The calendar year is coming to a close. Merry making aside, it’s time for taking stock. Did you meet your goals? What held you back from making the required changes? I bet Parshas Vayechi has the answer:
“Simeon and Levi are Brothers.’” (Bereshis/Genesis 49:5)
This week’s parsha, concluding the book of Genesis, begins with Jacob becoming ill. With death imminent, he appeals to Joseph not to bury him in Egypt, but back in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah in the cave of Machpelah. Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, elevating them to the status of his sons. Then he blesses his own sons, though some of the blessings sound more like rebukes.
All of Egypt mourns Jacob, testifying to his greatness. The grandeur of his burial procession impresses and scares the Canaanites. After his father’s death, Joseph assures his brothers he forgives them. He lives to see his great-grandchildren. Before he dies, Joseph asks his brothers to bring his bones with them when G-d brings them out of Egypt.
The stage is now set for the enslavement of the Children of Israel and their redemption.
Fraternal Fidelity of Convenience
One of the challenges of written communication is conveying the feeling behind the words. When Jacob tells his sons that Simeon and Levi are bothers, I imagine it was with an undertone of contempt.
Back in verse 34:31, when the two brothers wiped out Shechem in retribution for the defilement of Dinah, they justified themselves by saying, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?” Jacob quietly took the explanation under advisement. At the time he was willing to accept their word.
But their subsequent initiation of the sale of their brother Joseph put the lie to their claim of fraternal loyalty. They slaughtered the Shechemites out of anger and hatred. Jealousy motivated their selling of their brother. Loyalty to their siblings was a justification to salve their consciences.
Dedicated father that he was, Jacob waited for a time when Simeon’s and Levi’s mind would be open to show them how they were fooling themselves.
A True Friend Will Challenge You When You’re Lying
Most of the people I know are honest, scrupulously so when dealing with others. But they willingly accept lies about themselves. They rationalize rather than confronting uncomfortable truths. Saddest of all, they’re as likely to put themselves down with their lies as to be conceited. Seeing our true selves is perhaps the most difficult task we have.
A real friend will help you see yourself honestly. But he won’t be confrontational about your lying. He will understand directly disputing your self-perception will only cause you to dig in your heals. Rather he’ll ask you questions to help you be honest with yourself.
We all put on faces in public. Often these masks are effective and for good reason. But until we stop lying to ourselves, both good and bad, we cannot overcome challenges and improve. For 2016, vow to find a true friend or mentor who will help you see the real you. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.
How do you make sure you’re not lying to yourself? Please leave a comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!