Parshat Vayechi: Family comes first; indeed, it’s a blessing


By Ellie Glazer

In Parshat Vayechi, Jacob and Joseph are on their deathbeds. When Jacob eventually passes away, Joseph’s brothers are afraid that Joseph will seek revenge for what they did to him when they were younger.

(Photo by Dina Glazer)

But Joseph reassures that he forgives them and does not want to harm them. Joseph and his brothers had a rough past. His brothers were jealous of him and threw him in a pit, then sold him into slavery. This led to Joseph getting thrown into an Egyptian jail.

Meanwhile, the brothers told their father, Jacob, that Joseph had passed away. Joseph must have felt abandoned by his brothers when they treated him so harshly. But despite what they did to Joseph, he had it in his heart to forgive them.

Nechama Leibowitz, a noted Israeli Bible scholar and Torah commentator, suggested that when Joseph was a well-known Egyptian, he could easily have reached out to his family, but he didn’t even attempt to. This was not because Joseph held a grudge against them; instead, he wanted them to apologize and do teshuvah for themselves. He wanted to give his brothers a chance to repent and restore their family connection.

This shows Joseph’s caring heart and how much he wanted to live the rest of his life alongside his brothers. Joseph was left without family in Egypt for a long time, and when his family came back, I imagine that he felt a sense of relief, despite the way they had treated him when they were younger. All those years living without them and now they were finally back; Joseph’s community has returned, and Joseph was no longer alone.

A moment to connect

Loving and respecting family is a Jewish value that I feel honored to continue. Like in the story of Joseph, I think that family is the most important thing. Every Friday night after the Shabbat candle-lighting, my dad blesses my siblings and me. The introduction to the male version of this blessing happens to come from this week’s Torah portion. This blessing is a moment just to appreciate my connection with my dad.

Similarly, my grandparents have taught me that family has always and will always come first. No matter how hard or easy times are, my family will always be there for me. Being part of a family is a privilege I hope to never take advantage of.

Ellie Glazer is a seventh-grader at the Krieger Schechter Day School.

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