This week's parasha, Vayechi is the last parasha of Bereshit. It records the death of Jacob. Before Jacob dies, he blesses Ephraim and Menasseh and then all 12 of his sons.
One peculiarity I noticed throughout the last several parashot, was the apparent random interchange of the names Jacob (Yaakov) and Israel (Yesrael). Remember, after Yaacov wrestles with (for simplicity, lets call it) the "angel", he is told that from then on his name shall be Yesrael, but that is not the case. The use of dual names seems to add to the mystery of his personality and the dualities experienced in his life. Think about his pretending to be Esau to get Isaac's blessing and his marrying Leah when he thought he was marrying Rachel.
This duality of names is noted in one of the most famous blessings. The blessing of Balaam as he looked down on the encamped Israelites. The blessing we say today at the start of many services:
"Matovu ohalecha yaakov, mishkenotecha Yesrael"
"How goodly are they tents O Jacob, thy dwelling places O Israel"
Maybe the duality points out that even though Yaakov wrestled with who he was and tried to become a more noble person - a person who sees God face to face, he could not sustain that transcendent level and retreated into his earlier state of behavior.
As I reflected on that transition, it made me think about the transition of Netivot Shalom as we go through our tenth year celebration. We too would like to transcend our beginnings and rise to even higher levels as we progress to our next phase.
Interestingly, the parasha gives us further insight into that transition. As Jacob approaches death, Joseph comes to him and brings along his two sons, Menasseh the eldest and Ephraim, the youngest. Joseph wants Jacob to pass on his blessings to them.
So he places Menasseh, the eldest, on Jacob's right side so that he would receive the primary blessing, and he places Ephraim on the left. But Jacob crosses his hands - another case where the younger gets the preference over the elder.
And the text says. (Israel, the enlightened Jacob) blessed Joseph by placing his crossed hands on the heads of the boys and saying "By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying 'God make you like Ephraim and Menasseh. "Yesimchah Elohim k'Ephraim v'Menasseh". That is the exact prayer that parents bless their sons with every Shabbat.
The strange thing is, why does the text state that Jacob blessed Joseph when he was blessing Ephraim and Menasseh? Reb Isaiah Horowitz points out that there is no greater blessing for a father than having his children be blessed.
That returns us to our transition and our role as a Board. As we contemplate what is best for our congregation, may we keep in mind the possibilities we are trying to establish for our children who will follow after us. May the works of our hands be blessed so that God will be manifested in this congregation and so that we will be a blessing for our children and they in turn will be a blessing for us and the entire community.
And let us all say "AMEN".