I'm experiencing the inescapable glissade between rabbi and son; studying this week's portion, describing Jacob's final days, and my personal life, watching my mother hover in agony between life and death. I empathize with Richard Holmes as he tracks Robert Louis Stevenson's life and reaches the bridge over which Stevenson crossed the Allier River to the little country town of Langogne. It was visible but unattainable, "crumbling and covered with ivy." The biographer's efforts are thwarted by such obstacles, just as my efforts to track Jacob through his final days are stymied by intense pounding emotions crowded in my heart.
What did Jacob's sons experience as they stood around their father's bed? Were they children about to lose their father, or, were they the Shivtei Kah, The Tribes of the Almighty, standing at the nexus between the patriarchal era and the beginning of a nation?
"Jacob wanted to reveal the secrets of history to his children, but his vision was occluded," we are taught. I've always believed that Jacob lost his clarity because such was too great a secret to reveal to anyone. At this moment in my life, I believe that Jacob lost his Divinely Inspired vision because he looked up from his deathbed and saw his sons, great men that they were, fearsome and fearless, capable and confident, strong and accomplished, standing as a child weeping over the loss of a parent. In that final moment, Jacob was so moved that his heart opened wide as a father, not the Patriarch, and he lost his grand vision. I love him so much for that intense human moment.
As I write these words, my mother is unable to speak. I do not know how she sees her three generations of children. She certainly merits to look out and have a grand vision of all she has accomplished, and it is significant. I suspect that in her heart, at this moment, she is a mommy, worried for her children. I don't know. I hope she can see the mark she has left on this world, but, I suspect that she, as Jacob, in the deepest part of her heart, is connected to her most important role; being a parent.
Please join me in praying for her, Shaina Chana bat Golda Feiga.
Thank You & Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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