This week, as I studied the text for Parashat Vayechi, I got excited about an idea that I had and took a look back to see what I wrote last year. While the very same piece of text had jumped out at me, my interaction with it is a little different this year.
Parashat Vayechi, the final parasha in the book of Bereishit/Genesis, covers the events after Yosef reunites with his brothers and father in Egypt. It contains many different blessings, ones given to Joseph's children, Ephraim and Menasheh, and then shorter micro-blessings given by Jacob to each of his sons. After the narrative explains the death of Jacob, it also covers the death of Joseph at the conclusion of the book.
The piece that I noticed (again!) is the blessing that Jacob gives to his grandsons, Ephraim and Menasheh, the first time that he is meeting them, while he is also on his deathbed.
The Messenger who has redeemed me from all harm—
Bless the lads.
In them may my name be recalled,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth.
This blessing is also recited at a Brit Milah, or circumcision ritual, and is also often sung by parents to their children before bedtime. I’ve mostly thought about the protection element and the subsequent connection that Jacob makes to his father and grandfather, but hadn’t thought as much about the final line’s “teeming multitudes” until I looked at it with fresh eyes in the context of this week’s parasha.
Jacob’s blessing starts out as a specific blessing for these two children, but it also contains an element of prophecy for the nation that this family is about to become. When we bless a newborn child with this blessing and continue to use it to bless them as they get older, we are not just blessing them, but everything that they have the potential to become. We also are blessing and being blessed by the ancestors who have come before us and are still with us, whether physically or in spirit.
As I think about Ezra and in particular, my vision for its growth, I’m reminded that every interaction, every authentic story, every opportunity for growth has the potential for greatness. Each student (and their family!) who we welcome to walk through our doors and spend years in our classrooms and halls has the potential to not only make their mark on the Ezra community, but to take the experiences they glean and the stories they live and bless the rest of the world with it.