Note: I would like to dedicate the learning that I did for this week's parashah to the chayalim who are protecting Medinat Yisrael. May their mesirut yield success, safety, and security for our people and land.
This week's parashah serves as a coda to the stories in sefer Bereishit. Yaakov has lived for the final seventeen years of his life in the embrace of his family--with all his children and grandchildren. Yaakov is the only one of the avot to see and interact in the text with his grandchildren. Through Efrayim and Menashe, Yaakov sees the future of Bnei Yisrael. These grandchildren of his do not have a relationship riddled with rivalry; they inherit Yosef's--and Yaakov's--commitment to Jewish attitudes, values, and behaviors, even in the midst of the seductive excesses of Egypt. They are worthy of their grandfather's blessing: they are the ultimate role models by which future generations of Bnei Yisrael will be blessed.
The blessing of Efrayim and Menashe--with Yaakov's switching of his hands to bless the younger with the greater blessing--sets the stage for Yaakov's deathbed blessing of his children. The commentaries discuss how Yaakov was blind, but was still able to see with insight and understanding. He glimpsed, through the gift of divine sight, the future of his grandchildren and the greatness that they would achieve. Yaakov was also blessed to see the personalities of his children and understand how those personalities would influence their futures. Thus, while many of the blessing sound less than positive, Yaakov really "gets" his sons and uses his insight to point out their shortcomings and bless their future endeavors. (Just as a side note, the mefarshim describe that while Yaakov lost his divine vision when it came to discussing the arrival of mashiach with his sons, he still retained enough vision to bless them appropriately.)
Our meal for Shabbat lunch will be a traveling one--which adds another challenge! We are cooking for a friends who just had a baby and are bringing the meal to them. To add to the challenge, the mom is a Tanach teacher.. so that ups the ante!
For lunch, I've devised a menu that includes a food or idea to represent each of the blessings that Yaakov bestowed on his children. Note that the chart below includes the sons, their blessings, and the food or idea associated with them., but I will not serve in the order in which they appear. Zevulun and Yissachar will be the appetizer and Yosef, Binyamin, will accompany a Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazek cake for dessert.
I hope you enjoy the list below. I'm, admittedly, underwhelmed by my Reuven, Naftali, and Binyamin choices, so if you have any good ideas, I invite them!
חזק חזק ונתחזקShevet/ Symbol--Berachah/ Menu Item
Reuven/ like a gushing stream /water beverages
Shimon/ anger and zeal--separate from Levi /hot & spicy chicken wings
Levi /anger and zeal--separate from Shimon /spicy garlic eggplant
Yehudah /lion cub,kingship, abundant vineyards /stuffed artichoke crowns and wine marinated turkey
Zevulun /ships and commerce /fish and cucumber boats
Yissachar/ donkey carrying a load, symbolizing yoke of Torah study (Rashi: blessed with land producing good produce to make more learning time available to them) /confetti salad
Dan /a snake that attacks at the heel/ roasted veggies plated as a snake
Gad /a troop /Israeli couscous (bunches of grains sticking together)
Asher /olive oil & bread, i.e., the fat of the land /olive tapenade on flatbreads
Naftali / swift, agazelle-like messenger / messages and blessings in the napkins
Yosef /fruitful, golden, and strong /fruit cup
Binyamin /a wolf /Lone Wolf mocktail
Efrayim & Menashe /models for future generations and blessings of fruitfulness/ criss-cross lattice topped fruit kugel
© Tammie Rapps 2009