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Parsha Vayechi Genesis 47:28-50:26

Parsha Vayechi Genesis 47:28-50:26

The last portion in the book of Genesis tells of the life of Jacob and his family living in Egypt. Jacob recognized even before leaving Canaan, the vision of Abram in Genesis 15 was coming true. “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.”
This is why in Genesis 46, God appears to Jacob and tells him, “…do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again…”
Jacob as well as Joseph knew this was the time for Israel to dwell as strangers in exile. When we read Joseph’s last words in this portion, he knew the children of Israel would be in Egypt for a long time. He makes his brothers swear to carry his bones up from Egypt. In Genesis 50 Joseph says, “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob…God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
This portion starts the time of Israel’s exile and affliction in Egypt, but 2 out of 3¼ chapters in this portion deal with something else. That “something else” is where I want to direct our attention for the rest of this observation. It is an important concept that has been lost for generations. I am writing about the idea of generational blessings. In today’s world we have lost the importance of a grandfather or father’s blessing. In the bible, a father’s blessing carried significant weight. (Classic Example is found in the story of Jacob and Esau)
In our point of time though, either we have lost the tradition of blessing the next generation or we bless them with vague, obscure, run-of-the-mill blessings conjured up from outer space.
The blessing given to my Dad’s generation was, “you can be whatever you want to be!” Well, in my generation we’ve taken this saying to the extreme; everybody can be anybody or anything and anybody can become somebody else.
This blessing from my Grandparents generation to my Dad’s generation has become a curse to my generation. Why? This “blessing” wasn’t grounded on the Bible. But even if this blessing had been grounded in the Word of God, would it be just a run-of-the-mill Bible quote that we like to throw around at each other?
I was listening to comedian Brian Regan this past week. He told his stories of saying right things at the wrong time. I can relate. To connect this to my point, I feel that sometimes in our Christian world, we think that saying a Bible verse is going to fix something or change someone. Please, don’t take me wrong, I believe in the power of the spoken word of God. I’m not speaking against encouragement through scripture or intercession through scripture.
Here’s what I’m saying. When it comes to blessing someone, am I randomly throwing out an encouraging “Bible bone,” or am I actually speaking specifically into an individual’s life.   
If you read Jacob’s blessings over his sons (Genesis 49), they are very specific. Each blessing was individually tailored for each son. It wasn’t as if Jacob woke up one morning and scratched these blessings out on an old envelope…or piece of papyrus. 
“Jacob Blessing his Sons” by Aaron Van Noort (1562-1641)
His blessings and warnings were to his sons as he saw them develop and grow into the men they were to become. He knew his sons personally and blessed them as individuals, each on their own journey of life. It wasn’t a rub-a-dub-dub, dime a dozen, same prayer for everybody kind of ordeal. It was a father blessing his sons, as he knew each of them individually. 
With all this said, every week at the Sabbath dinner table, on Friday night, every Jewish father plus my Dad, will bless his children with the traditional blessing given in this portion. Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ ” Since this time, fathers have blessed their sons with this same phrase for millennia. “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” But the blessing doesn’t stop there. You see, while all of us receive the same blessing to be like Ephraim and Manasseh, a father’s job is now to exhort and bless us as individuals, according to our own personalities to accomplish our own “Ephraim and Manasseh” story. 
What do I mean by this? The Rabbis give many reasons as to why we bless our children with a blessing to be like these two particular brothers. One of the reasons is because this was the first pair of brothers who actually got along in the Bible. There was no jealousy, hatred or anger, one against the other. Even though the younger received the firstborn blessing, they still walked in peace. The idea we get from this is one of unity; when you bless your children with this blessing, your prayer is that they may always walk in harmony, love and peace together.
But there is another reason, which set these brothers apart. Though they had grown up in a secular society, amidst the paganism and idolatry of Egypt, they had remained faithful to the morals, ideas and God of their forefathers. As Chabad writes on their website, “How does one know if a fish is healthy? If it can swim upstream; against the tide of society.”
This blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh is a blessing of hope, that each successive generation would have the same strength as Ephraim and Manasseh had, to overcome the obstacles and challenges in the world.
So, though the blessing may sound the same for each child, the journey for each child will be different as they struggle and wrestle with the world. This is the place where a parent, relative or guardian has to step in and speak to the heart of each individual child, blessing them in a way they can understand and process, in a way that applies to their own life and encourages them in their own journey. 
We all have to face the world, but we all are different in our approach to life. It helps to have people in our life who know us well enough to give us the blessing and/or correction we need to continue our journey. If you look at the blessings Jacob gave to his sons, they were, as I implied before, fitting for them as people, and also shaped their destiny for future generations. The blessings of Jacob still affect the Jewish people today.
 
Let’s take a quick look at Jacob’s blessing over Judah. Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” In the Bible, who do we know as the “lawgiver?” Moses, right? But Moses was from the tribe of Levi not Judah. Why does it say the scepter and a lawgiver will not depart from Judah, until Shiloh comes?
In the verses before this one it describes Judah as a lion. Who do we know as the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Revelation 5 tells us it is Yeshua, the “Lion and the Lamb.” He is the one who holds the scepter = the kingship of Israel. He is also the lawgiver that will teach us His Torah when Shiloh comes. In Judaism it is taught that when the Messiah arrives, He will teach us the Torah on another level that we have never experienced before.
Jacob, in his blessing over Judah, wasn’t only speaking blessing over his son, he was speaking prophetically about the future of Judah’s posterity. He (Jacob) says all this happens, “until Shiloh comes.” Who is Shiloh?
Remember, few weeks ago I wrote that the Messiah went by many different names. Guess what another of His names is? Shiloh!
In Gematria (Gematria is an alphanumeric code of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase based on its letters) the words “Yavo Shiloh⁠—Shiloh comes,” is equal to 358, which is the same numerical value of the word “Mashiach—Messiah.” The Messiah is from the line of Judah who holds the scepter, he is the lawgiver, and he is returning as Shiloh to establish God’s kingdom on the earth.
 
All of this can be understood just from Jacob’s blessing over his son Judah. Can you imagine speaking that kind of blessing over someone? Especially, over your own children! This is the power of knowing and specifically speaking blessing over the people close to you. Especially, a father speaking blessing over his children. You can change the destiny of a person when you speak God’s specific truth into their life.
Do you know the repercussions of fatherlessness in this country? According to the U.S. Department of Justice on the website LiveAbout, the statistics for children from fatherless homes account for:
 
Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides
Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths
Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts
Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger
 
And this study was from 20 years ago. These numbers are still on the rise…
 
Here’s another story that I recently heard, “Executives of a greeting-card company decided to do something special for Mother’s Day. They set up a table in a federal prison, inviting inmates to send a free card to their Mom. The lines were so long they had to get more cards. Due to the success of that event, they decided to do the same thing on Father’s Day, but this time, not one prisoner felt the need to send a card to his Dad. In fact, when asked about it, many had no idea who their fathers were.” (From Ministry 127)
 
How sad! And we wonder why our country is where it is today? I’m reminded of a PragerU video I watched titled “Why God is a He.” I would encourage everyone to watch it. One of the points Dennis Prager makes is, “God is depicted as merciful, compassionate and a lifter of the lowly. If God was depicted as feminine, or as a goddess, then men would view these attributes as feminine qualities. Instead, God, in the masculine, the strong warrior role model, shows himself to be compassionate and kind. Which makes men realize that they also can be compassionate while still being strong.”
 
It is a need in our society to have more father figures to look up to. This is why in Malachi, the last book of the Prophets, in the last chapter of the book, in the last verse of the chapter, we read, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
The hearts of the fathers will be turned to the children and vice versa. The family unit needs to be restored, lest God come and strike the earth with a curse.”  When fathers bless their children and children bless their fathers, a curse is withheld from the world. Instead blessing and peace are restored to the world as fathers and children as restored to relationship.
 
Here’s the take away, there’s a lot of Biblical precedent for fathers to bless their children. When fathers bless their children, all those statistics we saw will drop, and instead the family unit will become whole again. When the family unit becomes whole again, then those blessings from a father continue through to the descendants of his children. When those blessings are received and kept by the descendants of continuing generations, then that family line begins to bring restoration, not just to their own, but also to the people around them, and these are the types of actions that prepare the world to receive Messiah.
 
Whether you have a family or not, whether you are a father-figure with no children, or a child with no father, find someone to speak blessing into. Even those who you don’t get along with, as Yeshua himself says, “…bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…” (Read Romans 12:14-21)
I would encourage you to heal relationships that have been broken over the years. Let’s learn to bless one another and not allow our love to grow cold. (Matthew 24)
 
Be intentional about blessing others! Speak intentional blessings into people’s lives. I find myself all the time, speaking the Christianese lingo without actually considering the person in front of me. I want to encourage all of us to speak intentional blessings into the lives of those around us, and as we grow in our earthly fathers blessing to be like “Ephraim and Manasseh” (= to keep oneself spotless from the world) may we see our Heavenly Father “striking the earth with a blessing.”
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

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