Blessing Part 1

Growing up, I always loved playing with Magic 8 Balls. There was something so enticing about trying to predict the future. I loved the idea that a tool could clue me in to what might be in store. 

This week, we complete the Book of Genesis, the very first book in the Torah, with Parashat Vayechi. Jacob, our patriarch, reaches the end of his life and tries to predict what the future will hold for his children and grandchildren. He gathers them around his deathbed and says: “Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come.” 

Some of the predictions are harsh: Reuben will be “unstable as water” and will “excel no longer,” and Shimon and Levi will live with anger. Some of the predictions are exciting: Judah will give rise to kings, and Asher’s food will be bountiful. 

It feels very meaningful to read these predictions on the first Shabbat of a new year. As 2023 stretches out before us, we ask ourselves what the year might bring. Many of us feel an increased sense of agency, committing to resolutions and behavior changes so that we can achieve our goals as the year unfolds. What do we foresee for ourselves as we gaze into the unknown future? 

But before outlining what’s in store for his children, Jacob gives a special blessing to his grandchildren. He says: “The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—Bless these children. In them may my name be recalled, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth.” 

It’s a beautiful blessing that has become a popular Hebrew lullaby. In sharing this blessing, Jacob brings the past and the future together. He hopes that the memories of his father and grandfather–-those who came before him–-will inspire and shape the lives of his grandchildren and great grandchildren—those who will come after him. 

In honor of this blessing for the future, and to help us bring blessings into this new year, I am excited to spend the next few weeks exploring some of my favorite Jewish blessings. A blessing is a prayer that begins with the formula: “Baruch Atah Adonai,” and Jewish tradition teaches that we should recite at least 100 of them each day! 

May the new year bring bright futures and countless blessings. 

Shabbat shalom,