Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah
Torah Portion for the week of Dec. 8 - 14: Vayechi
(Genesis 47:28 - 50:26)
Every ending is a beginning; every beginning an ending. On the soul level, we journey through births and deaths, seeking to claim the fullest possibilities of each cycle, seeking to grow ourselves toward the very highest and finest that we can become.
This week's parashah completes the Book of Genesis. It is the end of the beginning. Our people had been brought to Egypt under the leadership of Joseph, who saved us during a time of great famine. We were given a fertile territory within Egypt, and we were well taken care of.
Paradise? It was the beginning of the end.
Next week's Torah portion includes a statement that, "A new king arose over Egypt who knew not Joseph." Our special status had evaporated. Our Promised Land was, if anything, but a dim memory. We found ourselves enslaved to the same culture that had once promised us so much.
Isn't this the way it is? One of the enduring mysteries in our lives is the way our greatest successes -- in relationships, in work, in possessions -- tend to fade. How many of us have changed our lives in rather significant ways, only to find down the road that of the same dramas we had once fled re-emerge? How does this happen? Perhaps changes in the outer conditions of our lives can bring only temporary comfort to those deeper aspects of ourselves in need of healing.
Following the death of their father Jacob in this week's portion, Joseph's brothers feared that Joseph would now take revenge for their past violence to him. They imagined that they were protected only while their father lived. When his brothers expressed their fears to Joseph, he reassured them that his protection would continue.
But while the external condition of their lives changed with Joseph's continued commitment to care for them, the internal discomfort continued. They never took full responsibility for their actions, and so never resolved their guilt for what they had done. And they gave Joseph responsibility for their welfare.
Perhaps the enslavement of the People of Israel began even then, several hundred years before the new king of Egypt had forgotten who they were. The People of Israel, descendants of Joseph's brothers, continued the brothers' tradition of giving others responsibility for their own welfare. Perhaps that is the beginning of enslavement -- when we first avoid our own responsibility for the lives we are living.
When we surrender our freedom to another and give them the responsibility for our survival -- whether physical or emotional -- we lay the groundwork for later distress. When we remain true to ourselves, when we trust ourselves to speak and to act truthfully in our world, we are taking greater responsibility for our thoughts and our feelings as well as our actions, and we step into the deeper dimensions of our freedom.
As I bless this moment I bring blessing to all that came before.
I celebrate the preciousness of this moment.
I release any anger I experience toward those who hurt me.
I tend to blame others for . . .
If I took responsibility for all that I feel, I would. . .
If I were truly free to be me, I would . . .
“Torah is the book with no end, supporting our understanding of what it means to be a vehicle for the Spirit of Creation.”
Photo: Mark Reden