Parashat Vayehi

Jacob's Diverse Family

Jacob found it in his heart to embrace all his children, though they chose different paths.

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Provided by the Jewish Outreach Institute, an organization dedicated to creating a more open and welcoming Judaism.

We have come to the end of Jacob's tumultuous life. And as he gathers his children to his on his deathbed, Jacob offers each one a blessing. In these blessings are contained wishes for his children that emanate from his own experience of life and his relationship with each one. Rather than being cut of divine cloth and thereby a form of revelation, these blessings emerge from the kind of wisdom that only comes from the experience of human living.

jewish outreach instituteOf the many lessons that Jacob teaches us, we learn from him that old age can be a powerful teacher, as well as a calming influence particularly as they relate to those issues that seem to tear families apart only years before. The things that were once so important are eclipsed by the hovering shadow made so poignant by the angel of death. If we can reconcile at the end of life, why can't we do so earlier? What will it take to do so earlier?

Jacob's family was certainly diverse and its members had traveled different paths in their lives. Yet he found it in his heart to embrace them all, including his grandchildren, the children of Joseph. This diversity reflects his final and complete transformation from Jacob to Israel (which we read about in a previous section).

If our communities are to be diverse and supportive of the foundational values of inclusion, then our families--which are already diversifying--can do no less.

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.