Etched in Stone? - Parshat Vayechi
In studying different forms of therapy, whether logotherapy, NLP or others, there is an emphasis on the words people use. How we use words and in what context often displays what a person is thinking and feeling inside. We can even deduce from these words things which were not said.
We have discussed in the past how the Torah, too, counts its words and that every word has its contextual and individual meaning. So it is even more intriguing when the Torah uses words that are seemingly superfluous. And so, in Parshat Vayechi, we are likewise intrigued by a phrase used in the description of Yaakov blessing his two grandchildren. "And he blessed them on that day…"1 Of course it was on that day! Why is there even a need to point that out? The Polish sage, K'li Yakar explains that the additional words were a lesson to Menasheh. Ephrayim's name was mentioned first in the blessing because on that day he was superior to Menasheh. This, however, does not close the door to Menasheh for improvement. It could very well be that on a different day Menasheh would be mentioned first. Yaakov is saying: "It is up to you, Menasheh."
What an empowering thought! Menasheh has a choice to make, as did an infamous sibling at the beginning of Bereishit. Cain brought an offering to God which was not accepted and God offered him the opportunity to change.2 As we know, Cain chose not to change. Menasheh could have said to himself: "I will choose the way brothers 'normally' behave – look at Cain and Abel; look at Yaakov and Esav; look at Joseph and his brothers. I will bear ill will towards Ephrayim."
Apparently, though, there is no evidence that Menasheh had no ill will towards his brother. He did not choose the 'natural' way. Rather he understood the message of 'on that day'. He could effect change.
The following quote was attributed to the great American poet Maya Angelou, "If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude."3 It is up to us. The weight of responsibility upon us might sound scary at first but when you recognize the endless possibilities in such an approach it becomes quite exciting. We can determine our own destiny. We cannot always control what happens to us but we can control the attitude we take towards it. Stuff happens. I am not saying it is easy and that we can just flip the on/off switch. But when we are ready to summon up and use our inner strength, it is doable.
On any particular day we are doing better or even better and on some days even better. And some days we feel challenged. We can still choose how we finish the day.
Chazak Chazak Venitchazek!
Have A Great Shabbat!