To what extent can we be sure that the choices we make in our lives are free from the influences of past experiences, stemming from our intuition that signals to us that this is a choice in sync with our truth and not governed by old patterns simmering beneath the surface? Or duplicating an old pattern that repeats itself under the guise of new content?
When can we be sure that we have been able to synchronize our acts to our inner truth and that we will not pass on to our descendants the confrontations with what we have been unable to close and resolve?
Ostensibly, a pattern that has occurred during our lives in our behavior, does not recur — when the relationships in our lives are in harmony and we are autonomous in our choices and not governed by things that activate us.
Jacob’s story in the “Vayechi” Torah-portion raises a question mark about this.
After Jacob struggled with his shadow figure in the passage of Yabok, after confronting the dark side of his soul and overcoming it – maybe he thought that after he managed to be in touch with his “truth” and feel whole, he could sit peacefully and expect God’s blessing to be fulfilled in him?
But there is no such thing!
This is exactly why he received a reminder in the tendon of his leg, the tendon of forgetfulness, so that this pain would be a constant reminder that one should keep going,
Not run away, not sit peacefully, but continue his inner journey!
This is a project for a lifetime. Not only for Jacob but also for ourselves.
If we really want to touch our inner truth, to reveal the divine spark that exists in each and every one of us and to act on it, to be straight with God (Israel) — the work never ends. It’s a journey of a lifetime!
And now, on the deathbed of Jacob, the pattern repeats itself:
Who will he choose as the object of blessing among Joseph’s children? Will it be Menashe or Ephraim? The eldest or in the youngest? What will guide his choice?
This choice takes him back to the same place from which he set out on his journey, to the deception of his blind and old father, to his betrayal of his brother when he was disguised in his clothes and took his blessing.
On his deathbed, Jacob calls Joseph and his two sons Menashe (the eldest) and Ephraim (the youngest), declaring that he adopts them as if they were his sons and bestows his blessing upon them, crisscrossing his hands so that his right hand is on the youngest head. (The right hand represents a statement about his choice of the successor) to the displeasure of Joseph who tries to “fix” it, but Jacob replies: I know what I am doing!
The “replica” of the scene of betrayal (himself, his father and his brother) that he lived with for years is repeated in a way that cannot be ignored.
What does this repetition mean at this time?
Perhaps it indicates a regression of Jacob on his deathbed, returning to the old pattern of replacing the younger with the eldest?
Could it possibly be the last “flicker” of the pattern that dominated him most of his life before he dies?
Perhaps he is once again required to deal with the wounds of his childhood, with his dark. Maybe something there is still unresolved, uncleansed, and requires another round, in order to peel off another layer?
Is he doing things with uncontrollable compulsive repetition, or is there a conscious choice and a last-ditch attempt to say his say in a completely autonomous way?
I prefer to see this as Jacob’s last attempt, before he parted from the world, to bring about redemption on several levels:
On one level – a correction to his old betrayal of himself. Here he “replicates” the situation of his childhood, but this time he makes a conscious choice for the young one (“I knew my son, I knew”). In his heart of hearts, he has a strong longing to be seen by his father Isaac and to receive his recognition as a successor and the blessing for who he was, in his role. Now he is doing it with Menashe and Ephraim.
On another level he may be trying to bring redemption to Joseph:
Joseph as a young boy must have witnessed the words that Jacob threw at Laban, who chased Jacob and his wives and accused them of stealing his idols. Jacob then said angrily: Please look around and should you find your idols — let the one who stole them be sentenced t death! He didn’t know at the time that Rachel stole the idols. And later on Rachel has difficulty in giving birth to Benjamin and dies on the way.
How might the boy Joseph interpret this? Maybe he was angry with his father for cursing his mother and accuses him in his mind for her death? And on top of that Jacob also left her buried on the way and not in the family burial place!
Therefore, when Jacob stretches out his right hand and places it on the head of Ephraim it is as if he is conveying a message:
Although your mother remained buried on the way and I will be buried next to Leah, the eldest, my heart choice is in the youngest (Rachel) who was buried in Efrat — so I choose the young son Ephraim (same sound as Efrata)!
What strengthens my line of thought in this matter is the great concern that Jacob expresses as to the place of his burial: To be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs. He is not satisfied with the promise that Joseph gives him but demands of Joseph to swear to him. As if he knows he has a deep reason to fear that Joseph will not want to bury him next to Leah in the Cave of the Patriarchs while his mother is left buried on the way.
Was Jacob able to achieve redemption?