Tomorrow’s Torah reading marks the end of the era of our founding patriarchs and matriarchs. The opening verses announce Jacob’s death, yet the Parshah is known by the first word Vayechi, meaning, “and he lived.” Our Torah describes how Jacob strives for his legacy to live on through future generations by giving blessings to his children and to his grandchildren, Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe.
To his grandsons, Jacob says, “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” To this day, on Friday nights and at sacred moments when parents bless their children, we invoke the names of Ephraim and Menashe. We are taught that after generations of damaging conflicts between siblings within the founding families of our Jewish people, Menashe and Ephraim become the first pair of brothers to get along and to treat one another with dignity. For this reason, their names become a blessing.
This Shabbat, this January 6th, we mark two years since a violent insurrection took place at our Capitol in Washington DC. Our wounds from the events of that day continue to throb. Hatred, extremism and anti-democratic ideologies inflict ongoing damage to our communities and our nation.
We pray that we, our elected representatives and all of our siblings who call this country home will learn to be more like Ephraim and Menashe.
May our arguments be for the sake of heaven and for the good of humanity.
May we know healing, justice and peace.
– Rabbi Annie
by Rabbi Ayelet Cohen
Our God and God of our ancestors,
bless this country and all who dwell within it.
Help us to experience the blessings of our lives and circumstances
To be vigilant, compassionate, and brave
Strengthen us when we are afraid
Help us to channel our anger
So that it motivates us to action
Help us to feel our fear
So that we do not become numb
Help us to be generous with others
So that we raise each other up
Help us to be humble in our fear, knowing that as vulnerable as we feel there are those at greater risk,
And that it is our holy work to stand with them
Help us to taste the sweetness of liberty
To not take for granted the freedoms won in generations past or in recent days
To heal and nourish our democracy, that it may be like a tree planted by the water whose roots reach down to the stream
It need not fear drought when it comes, its leaves are always green
Source of all Life,
Guide our leaders with righteousness
Strengthen their hearts but keep them from hardening
That they may use their influence and authority to speak truth and act for justice
May all who dwell in this country share in its bounty, enjoy its freedoms and be protected by its laws
May this nation use its power and wealth to be a voice for justice, peace and equality for all who dwell on earth
May we be strong and have courage
To be bold in our action and deep in our compassion
To discern when we must listen and when we must act
To uproot bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, racism, discrimination and violence in all its forms
To celebrate the many faces of God reflected in the wondrous diversity of humanity
To welcome the stranger and the immigrant and to honor the gifts of those who seek refuge and possibility here,
As they have since before this nation was born
Let justice well up like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream
(Jeremiah 17:8; Isaiah 16:3–5; Amos 5:24)