The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Vayechi and is found in Genesis 47:28-50:26. Joseph’s family now resides in Egypt in Goshen. After a number of years, Jacob calls Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to his bedside to bless them before he dies. He blesses Ephraim with the greater blessing as if he were the first-born. Joseph tries to correct him but Jacob says that his choice is intentional because, even though the descendants of both sons will be great, Ephraim will be greater. Joseph accepts his father’s choice. Then Jacob calls all of his sons together and blesses each of them. Although Reuben is the first-born, he had made a number of poor choices in his life which showed his instability as a leader for his family. Simeon and Levi also had made some unwise decisions. Therefore, the blessing of the first-born was given to Judah. Joseph was also given a special blessing based on his ability to overcome the adversity in his life. Each of the brothers received a blessing according to their character and all accepted their blessings. Then Jacob died and Joseph and his brothers took him back to Canaan and had him buried with his forefathers.
In this parasha, we see how each of the characters have developed over time and how their earlier choices affected their later actions and responsibilities they were given to handle. Jacob, who did not trust his father and tricked him to get the blessing of the first-born, now gave the first-born blessing to Joseph’s younger son Ephraim, over Manasseh. Although Joseph questioned the decision, he trusted his father. Jacob’s sons, who had long struggled with tensions among them, accepted the wisdom of Jacob’s blessings and recognized how the choices they had made in their lives influenced what they had become. Some had leadership and responsibility roles lessoned and others had these increased. As we go through this week, may we remember the importance of the choices we make and may we accept the responsibilities we are given regardless of how large or small they seem to us.