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Rabbi's Message, Parshat Vayechi

12/17/2021 09:15:50 AM


Rabbi Benjamin Samuels

Once again, this year, on Shabbat Parshat Vayechi, we join with 500 other Orthodox synagogues across the country for TEAM Shabbat, sponsored by the National Association of Chevra Kadishas (NASCK).  TEAM stands for “traditional end-of-life awareness.”  This week’s parashah closes Sefer Bereishit with the passing of Yaakov Avinu, and later Yosef, concluding the patriarchal and matriarchal narratives and setting the scene for the beginning of Sefer Shemot, which tells of the enslavement and subsequent liberation and exodus of B’nei  Yisrael from Egypt.  Both Jacob and Joseph model for us the Jewish way to honor life by preparing for death.  This, perhaps, gives additional meaning to calling this parashah, in particular, “VaYechi — and Jacob lived.”  On this Shabbat, we affirm as a community the need and duty for each of us to set our affairs in order, as appropriate.  Adults of all ages should have a health-care proxy.  In my opinion, people should identify themselves as “halakhic organ donors.” Parents of all ages should have “wills” drawn up, and parents of small children, especially, should have documents assigning legal guardianship in case, chas veShalom, of tragedy.  Families should make sure that they have adequate life-insurance protection.   For some, estate planning may also be appropriate.  Middle-age and senior adults should communicate with spouses, children, and other significant people in their lives their wishes, in accordance with halakhah, regarding end-of-life decision making.  People should consider purchasing graves, perhaps in our Shaarei cemetery.  Adults of all ages may consider writing an ethical will.  As a community, we affirm the importance of Jewish tradition guiding our end-of-life decision making and ritual observances, such as burial and mourning, and support the sacred work of our local chevra kadisha.

Some people may be afraid that undertaking any of these matters is an “‘ayin hara,” i.e., bad luck.  However, we believe that responsibly having one’s affairs in order is actually a segulah for a healthy and long life, please God.  Unfortunately, too many families neglect such matters until moments of crisis, adding stress and strain to difficult situations, or worse, leaving such matters inconclusive, thereby compromising decision-making, if not harming personal and family interests.  

 As always, I stand ready to help anyone with the above matters per my knowledge and ability.

Shabbat Shalom, Rav Benjie

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783