We are pleased to share Hannah Rosenblum’s dvar Torah on Parashat Va-y’chi.
by Hannah Rosenblum
The name of my Torah portion is Va-y’chi, which means “and he lived.” It comes from the book of Genesis and is also the portion that ends the book of Genesis. In the last couple of years of Jacob’s life, as he is close to death, he calls his son, Joseph, and his grandchildren, Manasseh and Ephraim, so that he can bless them. He also makes Joseph swear to bury him not in Egypt, but where his ancestors are buried in Canaan. After Jacob dies, Joseph calls the physicians to embalm his body. When Joseph goes to bury his father, he is accompanied by all of Pharaoh’s officials, the elders of his palace, the elders of Egypt, everyone in Joseph’s household, Joseph’s brothers and also his father’s household. Joseph’s brothers think that he might still be mad at them for when they threw him in a hole and left him there. They use Jacob as kind of an excuse to apologize to Joseph. They say that Jacob told them to apologize, which he never did. Joseph is dying at the age of 110 and calls his children to bless them the same way his father had done. When he calls his children to bless them, he tells them that he also wants to be buried with his ancestors, in the land of Israel.
Why did Jacob and Joseph want to be buried with their ancestors in Canaan? Why does it matter where you are buried? How does where you are buried make a difference in the way you are remembered? I think Joseph and Jacob wanted to be buried with their ancestors because they wanted to be remembered for being as great as their ancestors, who were the fathers of Judaism. My Uncle Randy once told me that they are called GREAT grandparents because they are so great. I remember my GREAT grandmother, Ethel Rosenblum, as one of the most generous people I have ever known and someone who never yelled at anyone. Joseph we remember completely differently than how we remember his brothers. His brothers are remembered for throwing Joseph in a hole and selling him into slavery. We remember them for being jealous. On the other hand, Joseph is remembered for being a great leader and for forgiving his brothers.
How would you like to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who is trustworthy and always there for someone to talk to. Even though my great-grandmother is remembered for her generosity and kindness, she didn’t purposely make that name for herself. For example she contributed a lot to my elementary school, Boulder Jewish Day School, but she never wanted any recognition for it. She never bragged about it or talked about it, and many people didn’t even know she was donating at all.
At my current school we had a speaker come in and talk to us about being good role models. One of the things I remember him talking about was first impressions. He talked about how you can talk to someone for 10 minutes and they could think you are really cool and maybe want to hang out with you again. Or you could talk to someone for the same 10 minutes and they could think you are the rudest, most un-cool person and never want to see you again. After the assembly, the speaker gave us little forget-me-knots, little strings that you could tie around someone’s wrist and say that you are sorry for something that you did or just say thank you for being a really good friend. Well, while we were going around, a girl that I had never even talked to before came up to me and told me that she thought I was really cool and that she looked up to me. I thought this was really remarkable because I guess had made a good first impression on her. Now we talk a lot during school and we are good friends.
How do you act around people you have just met? How do you act around people you are with all day long? Are you the person who welcomes the new kid at school or do you make fun of them? Do you have a short temper or are you known for your patience? Do you argue with everyone and make things difficult? Jacob and Joseph are remembered for the things they did, including being good fathers and for being as great as their ancestors, who were very kind and generous. I hope to be remembered like my great-grandmother. She was a really fun person and always in a great mood. People remember us by the things we do and how we treat others. Think about how you are treating others and think about how you want to be remembered. Va-y’chi, my Torah portion, means, “and he lived.” To me it means that even after their deaths people still live on in our thoughts and our memories.
Yasher koach, Hannah! Boulder Jewish News encourages Bar and Bat Mitzvah students to submit their d’var torah for publication, so that the community may learn from our young adults. Information about Mitzvah/Tikkun Olam projects is also welcome. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.