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Rise and Swim!!

December 11, 2013

Rise & Shine“It’s easier to wake up early and work out than it is to look in the mirror each day and not like what you see.” – Jayne Cox[1]

Below is a summary of Parsha VAYECHI from – After 17 years in Egypt, Yaakov senses his days drawing to a close and summons Yosef. He has Yosef swear to bury him in the Machpela Cave, the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka. Yaakov falls ill and Yosef brings to him his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. Yaakov elevates Ephraim and Menashe to the status of his own sons, thus giving Yosef a double portion that removes the status of firstborn from Reuven. As Yaakov is blind from old age, Yosef leads his sons close to their grandfather. Yaakov kisses and hugs them. He had not thought to see his son Yosef again, let alone Yosef’s children. Yaakov begins to bless them, giving precedence to Ephraim, the younger, but Yosef interrupts him and indicates that Menashe is the elder. Yaakov explains that he intends to bless Ephraim with his strong hand because Yehoshua will descend from him, and Yehoshua will be both the conqueror of Eretz Yisrael and the teacher of Torah to the Jewish People. Yaakov summons the rest of his sons in order to bless them as well. Yaakov’s blessing reflects the unique character and ability of each tribe, directing each one in its unique mission in serving G-d. Yaakov passes from this world at age 147. A tremendous procession accompanies his funeral cortege up from Egypt to his resting place in the Cave of Machpela in Chevron. After Yaakov’s passing, the brothers are concerned that Yosef will now take revenge on them. Yosef reassures them, even promising to support them and their families. Yosef lives out the rest of his years in Egypt, seeing Efraim’s great-grandchildren. Before his death, Yosef foretells to his brothers that G-d will redeem them from Egypt. He makes them swear to bring his bones out of Egypt with them at that time. Yosef passes away at the age of 110 and is embalmed. Thus ends Sefer Bereishet, the first of the five Books of the Torah. Chazak (Be Strong)!

In his blessings to his children before his passing, Jacob assigned to each of them their role in the formation of the Jewish nation. The twelve sons of Jacob became the twelve tribes of Israel, whose twelve individual callings collectively realize the mission of Israel.

Judah, Jacob’s fourth son, was granted the role of sovereign and ruler. In Jacob’s words, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the legislator’s pen from his descendants; to him nations shall submit, until the coming of Shiloh.” Beginning with King David, all legitimate rulers of Israel — kings, nessiim, exilarchs — up to and including Moshiach, were and will be from the tribe of Judah.

By rights, the sovereignty belonged to Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. On a more practical level, firstborn children tend to be leaders by nature, and they are often infused with loads of energy. Why did Reuben not become the leader?

Many reasons are given. One explanation I have heard is from my study partner Rabbi Menachem Channan.

Yaakov “Avinu” (our Father), when blessing the “shevatim” (the Tribes of Israel), rebukes Reuben for being “pachaz kamayim” (in a rush like water). What did Reuben do? What does this mean?

When Rachel died, Yaakov moved his bed out from Rachel tent to her maidservant’s tent. Reuben was upset the bed was not moved to his Mother Leah’s tent. Reuben moved the bed to tent of Leah. Sounds good – he honoured mother, but what about the honour to his father?

Reuben, by his very nature, was like a torrent, and in his rush to do what he considered right, he made errors in judgment.  He needed to think things through before acting.

Rabbi Channan goes on to ask, what can you do quickly without thinking? As I was listening to his Podcast I could not answer. So below is an answer.

In this modern world advertising always want us to make decisions and ACT QUICKLY.

But there are other reasons to act quickly that I have thought of or heard others mention:

  •  Rabbi Akiva Tatz said that you must jump out of bed quickly to go to Shule before your “Yetsa Hora” (Evil inclination) get the better of you; and
  •  The same applies to early morning exercise. This is an excerpt from an Inspirational Swimming Video[2]“Rise and shine. …..6am and your hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in your head start telling you that it’s too early, too dark, and too cold to get out of a bed….. Aching muscles lie still in rebellion, pretending not to hear your brain commanding them to move … A legion of voices are shouting their unanimous permission for you to hit the snooze button and go back to dreamland, but you didn’t ask their opinion…….”

 Nelson Mandela exemplified this quality of not “rushing like water”. Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein put it so well in his opening Prayer at the Mandela Memorial[3] “Joseph emerged from jail to become a leader and head of government of a mighty nation, and when he was reunited with his brothers, had the opportunity to exact vengeance and justice.  And yet, Joseph, the righteous, transcended his personal pain and need for retribution by forgiving his brothers so that his family would not be torn apart and destroyed forever.

So too, Oh L-rd, your servant Nelson Mandela, like the biblical Joseph, rose up from jail to become President of a mighty nation; he too transcended his personal pain and years of suffering to forgive and to embrace his brothers and sisters who had inflicted so much pain on him and so many millions of others, in order that our diverse South African family would not be torn apart by hatred and division.”

We live in a world where both sportsman and leaders do not think before they talk (I wont name any!!). They can all learn from the example set by the likes of Joseph and Nelson Mandela. And so can we all learn a lesson ….!!!

“What a fool can spoil, ten wise men cannot repair.” ~ Yiddish Proverb[4]

As I always say to my kids when waking them in the morning – “RISE AND SHINE – ITS A BEAUTIFUL DAY!”

[1] Professional Life Coaching to help women recover from Eating Disorders, Midlife Crisis, Weight Loss worries

[2] Inspirational Swimming Video Featuring Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Ian Thorpe, Cesar Cielo, Alain Bernard, James Magnusson, Nathan Adrian

[4] Daily dose of traditional sayings with a bit of Jewish witticism thrown in to lighten your day


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One Comment
  1. Mom permalink

    Well written Ian giving a valid message. An important lesson in all areas of life. Thanks for an interesting blog. Luv Mom

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