Friday, December 10, 2010

Vayigash - Jacob's blessing of Pharaoh

Parshat Vayigash

Gen. Ch. 47:7. “So Joseph brought his father Jacob and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.”
Gen. Ch. 47:10. “So Jacob blessed Pharaoh and left Pharaoh's presence.”

In between these blessings, Pharaoh expresses his amazement at Jacob’s age and Jacob responds that he is not nearly so old as his fathers, and that his years have been “few and miserable.” The man who dreamed of angels ascending to heaven, who knew that “god was in this place”, who wrested a blessing and a new name from an angel, and who has just been re-united with a beloved son -- sums his life up as short and miserable. And yet from this glass-half-empty perspective, he summons not one, but two blessings for the half-god ruler in whose presence he stands. Does Jacob’s ability to bless even a Pharaoh in some way come from his embrace of the common griefs and pains that are present in all our lives? Instead of being over-awed by Pharaoh's splendor, Jacob connects to Pharaoh's ordinary, flawed human nature through the shared human experience that life is short, fleeting, and full of sorrow. It is from this empathic, compassionate, and human connection that Jacob’s blessing of Pharaoh arises.

May we also learn to hold our own mortality, shortcomings, and sorrows lightly and with compassion, so that they may empower us to connect with and bless all whom we meet.

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