Torah portion Vay’chi is, more than anything else, about the passing on of family heritage from generation to generation. Both Jacob and Joseph die in Vay’chi, and we are privy to their final wishes, expressed to their progeny, before they die. There is nothing more precious to a parent or grandparent than seeing the next generation take on the traditions of the family, passing them on to their own progeny. In Vay’chi, Jacob gives his grandsons, Ephraim and Menasseh, a special blessing: “By you shall Israel invoke blessing. God make you like Ephraim and Menasseh.” (Gen 48:20) To this day, we use these words to bless our children at the Shabbat dinner table. For a parent or grandparent, there is nothing quite like that moment, as the family gathers to light the Shabbat tapers, seeing the next generation blessing the children with the words that ask God to help them “carry forward the life of our people.” This moment is powerful in word, deed, and potential as a prayer and a wish for the next generation to keep our heritage alive.
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