Vayechi: Many blessings to many people

In this week’s Torah portion Jacob is very old – 147 years! – and lying on his death bed. Gathered around him are his children and grandchildren, to each of whom he offers a personal blessing. It is here in Genesis (Bereshit) that the Friday night tradition to bless ones sons in the name of Joseph’s children Ephraim and Manasseh originates.

For the past three months we have introduced a new custom into our Shabbat routine; Each week Robin (my wife) and I place our hands on our daughter’s head and recite a short blessing. This intimate moment allows us to reflect on our hopes and aspirations for her as she grows up and develops into an independent person.

Of course, one does not need to wait until they are dying or have a child to offer blessings and they need not be so formally delivered. In fact, we probably ‘bless’ a lot more than we might think. Each time we offer our approval or good wishes to a friend or offer luck or hope to a family member we are indeed offering a blessing.

The final moments of Jacob’s life were packed with many blessings to many people. He wanted to use his last breath to offer praise, encouragement and guidance to those he cared about most. This is something that we should emulate at all stages of our lives even if our blessings are as simple as adding a few positive words or actions into our daily routine.


This article originally appeared as Alyth Synagogue’s ‘Thought for the Week’.

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