פרשת ויחי

And Jacob called to his sons

In the Midrash (Tanchuma Vayehi, 8), it is taught (Psalms 57:3),
I will call to God Most High,
to God who completes it for me.

When Jacob wanted to bless his sons, he was unsure if he really needed to bless them on account of all the distress they caused him (from the selling of Joseph), for it is taught (Talmud Yoma 22b), “Any scholar who is not vengeful and vindictive like a serpent is no [real] scholar.” Therefore, the text says called, meaning crying out and yearning with all his heart that Heaven should guide his heart and mind, and that God should place the right words [the blessings] on his tongue. This is the intention of Midrash in citing the verse from Psalms, that Jacob requests from God to complete the blessing for him.
This is why the text does not initially use the traditional blessing form, for Jacob was still not sure what he was going to say to them. However, Moses begins immediately when he says (Deuteronomy 33:1), “This is the blessing…” for the word This refers to all his words being clear the moment he starts speaking. It only became clear to Jacob after his blessings, when the text reads “This is what their father said to them,” that everything he said was from God, and not before.

At the start, God put words of annoyance in his mouth to goad his first three sons, for a scholar needs to be avenged and vindicated. When he gets to Judah, God reveals to him that he should overcome these spiteful qualities, for the name Judah יהודה contains the Blessed Divine Name י-ה-ו-ה. The dalet ד in his name hints at (Isaiah 66:2), “Yet to such a one I look: To the poor and brokenhearted, who trembles at my word.” meaning one who understands that nothing he does comes from him, as is taught in the Zohar that dalet ד takes [Jacob understands that everything Judah did was divinely inspired, so it would be inappropriate to employ the same vitriol that he used when blessing his first three sons].
That is why there is no room for any anger or fury at all. When the aspect of compassion opened up with the blessing of Judah, it overcame [all the negative words of Jacob’s previous “blessing”] and reincorporated all the tribes in this blessing.

Jacob is hurting. He has been put through so much, and even though everything turned out for the best, it does not mitigate the anguish and heal the deep scars within. And yet from that tormented place he is able to give blessings. It is because of that uncertainty that he calls out to God to just guide him to do the right thing, which he knows is bless his kids. He knows they need it and that he needs to be the one doing it, but he isn’t at the place (yet) where he can do what is required of him. So he asks God for help finding the words.

The Ishbitzer points out how we get to watch Jacob’s process unfold. He chastises and holds the first three accountable for the damage they caused. He isn’t over it yet. When he gets to Judah though, he sees how there was something bigger in the works, his heart breaks and opens, and compassion comes flooding in.

It is like we have seen over and over again with the Ishbitzer. Be real about where you are at and don’t pretend. AND work through it and with it to transcend your current state, to come to the place of being able to do what needs to be done. It is only from confronting the depth of your emotions, by bringing all of yourself, with all the pain and yearning and hope, that the divine will can begin to speak and act through you.

Link to original Hebrew text


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