This is another parshah of family relationships in the Torah. This time, relationships between men. Father, sons, brothers.
It is well known that Yaakov’s sons from his three wives had a difficult time understanding why Yosef was treated differently by his father than any of them.
Yosef was the eldest son of Rachel, Yaakov’s beloved wife, who died so untimely, that she needed to be buried on the road, effectively cutting the chances for Yaakov to even visit her resting place.
I am no Rabbi and am not pretending to be one, but I believe that Yaakov can be “forgiven” for his preferential treatment of Yosef. While I am, mostly always, on the woman’s side, here is the case of a man that had to run from his own home, met a girl and offered her father to work for her seven years. He loved her so much that even after being deceived, he toiled another seven years just to pay her bridal price. He must have been feeling her suffering at least partially, understanding how much she wanted children seeing her rivals giving birth to a boy after boy. Finally, when she delivered a child, she died right after bringing to the world another baby.
When you lose a loved one, it is only natural that you cling to the closest thing that connects you with a person gone. Who is closer than a child in this case?
While I am not arguing for preferential treatment in a family, I recognize that even our patriarchs were only people, however great. They loved, they lost, they lived in pain.
לד וַיִּקְרַע יַעֲקֹב שִׂמְלֹתָיו, וַיָּשֶׂם שַׂק בְּמָתְנָיו; וַיִּתְאַבֵּל עַל-בְּנוֹ, יָמִים רַבִּים.
|34 And Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.|
Yaakov could not be consoled after his son’s apparent “death”.
Having so many boys, why do I love him the most, you ask?
Have you seen her eyes shining brightly through him?
Have you noticed her smile? Gone again! “Dead”!
Only the baby I hold on to now.
This Shabbat in my shul I am hosting a seuda shlishit – shalashudes in memory of four people very dear to me. Three of them are the father and his two sons. The older son, Leib ben Eliahu crossed to the other world at 45, on 27th of Kislev, the second night of Chanukah. His father, Eliahu ben Tuvya Leib, who could not come to the funeral from Israel as he was immobile for years, and who “mourned for his son many days” passed on the same day, 27th of Kislev two years later. It was told to me that he was calling for his son at the moment of his passing. The younger brother, Chaim ben Eliahu gained just a few extra years and was gone at 51 right after Chanukah, on the 7th of Tevet. This beautiful, light-in-the-darkness holiday is forever dark in my family.
Lights glowing in my neighborhood
People running around happy, children spinning dreidels
Looking at the flickering lights, my family mourns
The souls of our men shining above