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Playing Favorites

Each parashah in the Torah carries with it a message or idea.  If one were to look for a word by which to describe the essence of Parashah Vayechi, it might be “recognition.”
Yaakov, despite the problems he foresaw for his children, recognized the extent to which his family would expand.  With this burgeoning family, Yaakov was able to live for 17 peaceful years in Egypt.
Other aspects of recognition are presented when Yaakov blesses the children of Yosef, Ephraim and Menashe.  At first there is a lack of recognition of his grandchildren, as Yaakov asks, “Mi eleh?” (“Who are these?”)  The Aznayim LaTorah explains this to mean that although they (his children) learned with Yaakov for 17 years and were acceptable to him, the grandchildren were recognized for no more than they really were, namely, “anachim peshutim” (“plain people”) who were not on the same spiritual level as his own sons and were not as worthy of the same blessing.
When Yaakov tells his sons “He ‘asfu va’agida lachem et asher yikra etchem b’acharit hayamim” (“Gather around and I will tell you what will happen to you in the end of days”), he suddenly loses his power of prophesy.  What, then, does Yaakov do?  Instead of telling them what will befall them if they are passive, Yaakov gives each of his sons the tools to make their futures what they would want them to be with an understanding of themselves.  He lists for each of them his personal characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.  It is truthfully only with this knowledge and self-awareness that each of his twelve sons – and every one of us – is able to recognize our failures and successes.  Unfortunately, not everyone is wise enough to analyze himself.  Yosef’s brothers apparently did not, for they found it necessary to reinforce their relationships with Yosef after Yaakov’s death, still thinking that Yosef harbored resentment against them.
The overriding lesson of the parashah is that we must identify our abilities and actively harness them to improve ourselves, our families, our community and people with the hope that the “blessing of Yaakov” comes true:
“The angel who delivers me shall bless the children . . . . that they increase in the land like fish.”

From the Torah to Your Table
Yaakov showered preferential treatment upon Yosef, his youngest son.  This made the other brothers envious of him to the point that they considered taking his life.  Yaakov again shows greater affection to the younger grandson, Ephraim, over his brother, Manasseh.  But this time there was no sign of ugly envy pitting brother against brother.
“We have no way of knowing why some people have lives that are more comfortable while others are subjected to severe distress,” says Rabbi Abraham Twerski in Living Each Week.  “We have the option of being envious (like Yosef’s brothers) or of accepting Divine judgment as just and proper (like Yosef’s son, Manasseh) and adjusting to what we have so that we can enjoy it.”
Discuss this Torah advice on how to react to preferential treatment and envy at your Shabbat table!

Tevet-Shevat 5772
Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Friday, January 6
Light candles at 4:40 p.m.

Saturday, January 7
Torah Portion: Vayehi
(Genesis 47:28-50:26)

Friday, January 13
Light candles at 4:46 p.m.

Saturday, January 14
Torah Portion: Shemot
(Exodus 1:1-6:1)
Friday, January 20
Light candles at 4:52 p.m.

Saturday, January 21
Torah Portion: Vaera
(Exodus 6:2-9:35)

Friday, January 27
Light candles at 4:59 p.m.

Saturday, January 28
Torah Portion: Bo
(Exodus 10:1-13:16)

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