Sometimes what we do matters more than what we say. This week’s Torah Portion Vayechi may be one of those moments.
Israel is reaching the end of his life and he gathers all of his children around him in order to pass on to each of them his blessing. When Joseph, Israel’s favorite son, comes forward, something mysterious happens with their hands, so mysterious that the Torah interrupts the words of blessing to pay attention to all this sleight of hand.
Seeing Joseph’s sons hiding behind his legs, Israel asks Joseph to bring them forth so that he can bless them. Joseph bring his two boys towards him:
Ephraim with his right hand—to Israel’s left—and Manasseh with his left hand—to Israel’s right—and brought them close to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head—thus crossing his hands—although Manasseh was the first-born. (Genesis 48:13-14)
Joseph, the youngest son who was always his father’s favorite, places his eldest son at his father Israel’s right side to receive the greater blessing, as if to show that he has learned from all the trouble he caused by usurping his father’s love from his older brothers. Israel, whose eyes are dim with age, understands still what Joseph has done and crosses his hands so that Ephraim will receive the blessing of his right hand, as if to say, no Joseph you have always earned the greatest portion of my love.
Each of us earns our own blessing. Each of us passes on our blessings for the generation yet to come. What are the blessings which you will pass on?