Sunday, December 31, 2017

VaYechi (2017)

Parashat Vayechi
Dec. 30, 2017

[Sorry this is late.]

This week we read about the blessings Yaakov gave to his children and grandchildren. Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years. He became ill with a debilitating disease and knew that he would die soon.  No other Biblical character died from a long-term disease.   Unlike his father, Yitzhak, and grandfather, Abraham, Yaakov was close to many children and grandchildren.  He saw that he would have a legacy. Yaakov became the nation builder and person who saw that the covenant that God made with Abraham would have a chance to succeed.  Yaakov made Yosef and his brothers promise to bury him in the ancestral burial cave that Abraham, his grandfather bought.  The mission of the descendants was to continue as a people, teaching their children and grandchildren the ways of their people.
The book of Beresheit starts with creation and introduces some of the great challenges facing all families – earning a living, family relations, external societal relations, and continuation of a legacy.  In the journey from lifeless nothingness to humanity, we learn of sibling rivalry, greed, lack of clear communications, need for respect, great love, mistakes, recovery, and struggles of all kinds of human frailty. We end the book with, faith in humanity, seeds of a nation, and a great hope for the future the Divine spark will ignite and succeed in the mission to find the ultimate peace and harmony in the world.

The business lesson is any great business must have business continuity.  The founder creates the concept and the model and then builds the business.  The organization has many struggles with personnel, customers, rival businesses, outside forces, mistakes, successes, and lack of resources.  Eventually the founders need to create a legacy.  They know they will not live forever, but they want their vision and organization to outlive them. Steve Jobs knew he was dying and sought to insure his legacy would life in new leadership. His ideas still live on with Apple and in much of the tech world. Steve Jobs made some big mistakes – we would like to forget such as the Apple Lisa and Apple III.  The legacy he leaves is not to do it “his way” but to strive for the best.

The organization needs to overcome mistakes so that they do not restrict the future growth.   The lesson of Bersheit is that we must overcome our limitations, mistakes, and frailty.  We must learn to become human and a nation based in law (halakhah), customs (minhag), respect (kavod) for the past,  the greater good, and for the Divine (kadosh baruch hu).

Picture credit: Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph is a 1656 oil painting by Rembrandt van Rijn.  Housed in the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel, Hesse, Germany.

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