At Touro Synagogue January 14, 2017
True Kindness and Clairol Nice'n Easy
by Aaron GinsburgSaturday we were joined by a couple visiting from Brooklyn, New York. Marc Ladin commented, "We have visitors from Brooklyn just about every week." The visitors explained that almost 25 percent of Brooklyn's 2.6 million people are Jewish, about 600,000 people.
We were also joined by a group of young visitors from NCSY, the National Council of Synagogue Youth. The NCSYers were from the Maimonides School in Boston. Joining the NCSYers was their Advisor Ben Keane, a student at Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Marc Mandel thanked them for leading the services and chanting the haftarah. In February, NCSY will sponsor a regional Shabbaton in Hartford, Connecticut. Rabbi Mandel’s son Carmi, a student at the Hebrew High School of New England in West Hartford, Connecticut, is an active member of NCSY.
After the greetings the rabbi gave us a few words of Torah,
“The title of this week’s parsha is Vayechi, Genesis 47:28 - 50:26-which means “And he Lived” but the parsha is really about death.
“Yaakov is teaching us all a lesson-that we should prepare for the end of our lives. To make sure that we are taken care of at that time. Yaakov is teaching us, do not leave things to chance. As Jacob realized his days were coming to an end, he discussed his burial wishes with his son Joseph. Joseph held an important position in Egypt, and was the only son who had the power to carry out Jacob's wishes. So Jacob met with him to insure his wishes would be granted. He calls Joseph and says, ‘I’m going to pass away soon. Please, deal with my death-with חֶ֣סֶד וֶאֱמֶ֔ת Hesed v'Amat-with true kindness.’ It’s a famous term.
“What does ‘True Kindness’ mean? Isn’t kindness, kindness? Rashi says, “The kindness that you do for the dead is real kindness because they can't give anything back in return. There’s nothing in it for you.”
“But the Midrash Rabah says that’s not true, “There is in fact, reciprocation for caring for the dead. The Talmud says in tractate Mo’ed Katan, page 28A, ‘He who eulogizes will be eulogized, and he who buries will be buried.’
“One possible answer is-So there is reciprocation? Yes, there is reciprocation, but one doesn’t look forward to such reciprocation. Another possible answer is that our case might get reciprocation, but it won’t be from the person to whom the kindness is done.
“We live in a time when people are living longer lives-but we still need to be prepared, as we learned from Jacob.
“This is the Parsha when we all say Hazak together. Be Strong! We are grateful to our young friends from NCSY for their presence and support. May we all be strong and strengthened as we move ahead to the next book of the Torah.”
The balance of the parsha, and the haftarah were not so kind. Jacob blessed his sons, mostly by focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. In the haftarah, David blessed Solomon, and then instructed him to kill three people, "So do not let him go unpunished; for you are a wise man and you will know how to deal with him and send his gray hair down to Sheol in blood.” I think our idea of what makes someone wise has changed a bit since then.
I don't know about you, but if I see Solomon hanging around I'll be in the market for Clairol Nice'n Easy Color: 10/87, ULTRA LIGHT NATURAL BLONDE. No more gray hair for me.