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27http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2010/12/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---12_17_2010
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 12_17_2010
12/16/2010 02:04 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
December 17, 2010

 

                School is almost out for everyone. You can tell by the traffic around the school zones. One of my college-age sons wrote me (texted) that he finished all his finals. This was on Tuesday. He was relieved. I congratulated him. Then I urged him to spend his downtime before he begins his four-week college vacation to look on the internet for a summer job. The delay between my text and his reply told me everything I needed to know. I assumed he was looking up the word “audacity”; then he replied that he had other college-like activities to do instead.

                We have four children: two in college, one who is graduating high school this month and one who is preparing for her bat mitzvah. Whether you have two, four or ten children, you quickly discover that though they share certain qualities there are truly no two alike. You begin to wonder how they were born of the same parents. As much as we know about genetics and DNA, we still scratch our heads when they come and go from the room like a review from a casting call.

                In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob, on his deathbed, summoned his sons together. All 12 came close to hear their father’s words. The 12 sons (the 12 tribes) received separate blessings based on their separate experiences, strength and expectations for them in the future. Jacob, the father who once singled out Joseph for special treatment, now reviews his sons for their individual merits and demerits (Genesis 49:3-27).

                Reuben: first-born who once exceeded in honor will excel no longer;

                Simeon and Levi: cursed be their anger they will be scattered in Israel;

                Judah: your brothers will praise and his people will pay homage;

                Zebulun: will dwell by the seashore;

                Isaachar: is a strong-boned ass (his Hebrew name means “without honor”);

                Dan: will govern his people;

                Gad: will be raided by raider but he will raid at their heels;

                Asher: his bread will be rich (his Hebrew name means “rich”);

                Naphtali: is a hind let loose, which yields lovely fawns;

                Joseph: his arms were made firm by the hands of God;

                Benjamin: is a ravenous wolf.

                We love all our children. As they grow we also discern what might become of them. We pray they will learn, get married, prosper and move out of the house. We hope they will always know blessings. At best they might be like Joseph, whose arms were made firm by God, even though others assailed him. For all his arrogance, Joseph redeemed himself at the end of his service in Egypt. He showed deference to his family and saved them from famine. Or, they might be like Asher, whose table will always be full. Or, they might even be like Dan, who will lead our people. We observe different strengths in our children. They have unique inclinations and passions. The best we can do is to provide them opportunities to engage their interests and test their mettle.

                At worst, they might be like Isaachar, a strong-boned ass. If you have teenagers, it’s possible that you’ve witnessed the legacy of this ancient ancestor peeking through. Thankfully, they outgrow these tendencies and emerge like our most cherished ancestors and reflect their parents’ finest traits. Have you ever known a Jewish child who isn’t gifted? In Jewish circles a “genius” is defined as an average child with Jewish grandparents!

                Winter vacation is beginning as children of all ages leave their classrooms behind for r&r with their families. For some it’s only two weeks and for others a blessed month. Enjoy your blessings found in your children and grandchildren. They are, after all, our treasures and we wouldn’t trade them for anything.

                From my family to yours, happy vacation and Shabbat Shalom.

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