December 11, 2013
As a child who grew up with severe progressive myopia, I often wondered just what true vision was. While my terrible eyesight was fortunately correctible with contacts and glasses, I was always acutely aware of the fact that human vision can be extremely limited. We can only see as far ahead as our eyes can focus, and even with 20/20 vision those eyes aren't able to see clearly more than a little ways ahead. That simple fact is highly relevant in our Torah portion of Vayechi.
This week in Temple we read the final parashah (portion) of the Book of Genesis, Vayechi, which includes the passing of two great figures from the scene. The first, our patriarch Jacob, concludes a long and complex life by conveying a series of interesting "blessings" on his children, a mix of prediction, praise, and criticism. The second, his son Joseph, dies at the end of our portion, having moved his life and our people to a new and adventurous phase that will prove to be pivotal for our history.