translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Shavua tov from Dallas, Texas. Here’s a thought from Rav Ariel Rackovsky, Rabbi of the Shaare Tefilla community: “We talk a lot about elections these days, whether it’s American or Israeli elections. It would seem that these events are more important and influential than anything else. Yet precisely at this moment, in synagogues throughout the world, we are reading the Torah portion of VaYechi, which concludes the book of Genesis, and we are beginning to read the book of Exodus which follows. These chapters describe the farewell of Yaakov Avinu from his sons and grandsons in great detail. This is followed by their continuing story – the story of a family of Jews in Egypt and their determination to preserve their identity by not changing their names, their language, or their habit of dress.
This little family – which grew into the nation of Israel – never commanded an imperial army, never ruled any country, and never even exerted control over any other group. Instead, our patriarchs and their kin suffered hunger and wandered throughout the ancient Middle East and yet, in the end, the example they set and the spiritual lives that they lived changed the entire world. This is the message of the book of Genesis. It begins with the creation of the world, a story of universal impact, but develops, in the end, into a very personal family story – the farewell of Yaakov Avinu, on his death bed, from his sons. Each son receives an ethical message, highlighting character strengths and weaknesses. Our small acts have the power to change the world”.