Volume 30 Issue 36 26 Nov 2021 22 Kislev 5782

From the Head of Jewish Life

Rabbi Daniel Siegel – Head of Jewish Life

Teach your children well

After encountering a series of parshiyot presenting his troubled and troubling life, we come upon this week’s parashah which, by its very name, וישב/Vayeishev, and introductory verse, suggests that Ya’akov may have found peace, at last:

‘And, Ya’akov settled (VaYeishev) in the land of his father..the land of Cana’an’.

Having returned to his homeland, with his family intact, we expect and hope we may hear of a blessed life for Ya’akov as he raises his children, providing a promising future for them.

Our Rabbis teach מעשה אבות סימן לבנים –The deeds of parents instruct their children.

As his parents played favourites with him and his brother, Ya’akov now plays favourites with his children. Favouring Yoseph, he causes a division among his sons, leading to Yoseph’s being exiled from his home even as Ya’akov was from his.

After throwing Yoseph into a pit, we read of the brothers:

     ‘And, they settled in (VaYeishvu) to eat a meal’.

Echoing the opening words of the parashah, we see that Ya’a’kov cannot settle in as long as the detrimental action of his parents are now being repeated by him in relation to his children.

As his brother’s clothing and goatskin were used by Ya’akov to win, by deception, the favour and blessing of his father, his sons now used their brother’s tunic dipped in goat’s blood to deceive him into believing his favoured Yoseph is dead.

The deeds of parents, however, will not prefigure those of the children, if the deeds of the children do not configure those of the parents. There is no foundation in the absence of a superstructure. It is upon our children, as it is upon us, to determine which deeds of our parents will serve as a blessing in informing our lives

Indeed, the word VaYeishev is related to the Hebrew root letters denoting both “settling in” and “repeating” as well as “repelling” and “reversing”.

In telling us what has come about, our Torah is teaching us to consider well what we bring about:

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Crosby, Stills and Nash