As the book of Bereshit comes to a close with parashat Vayechi, the final patriarch, Jacob’s life also comes to an end. He offers reflections to his sons on their lives and the ways in which they move throughout the world.
Of note, is Jacob’s blessing for Judah. Rabbeinu Bachayai, a student of Nachmanides, notes that this blessing includes every letter of the aleph-bet except for the letter zayin. What can be learned from this? Rabbeinu Bachayai teaches that the word zayin can mean “weapons” in Hebrew. This missing letter, and the word it represents, alludes to the fact that the Messiah will be a direct descendant from Judah and that the Messiah will bring about a new era not by force or war, but solely through Divine intervention.
In this way, we are encouraged to ask ourselves, how we can be more like the tribe for whom the Jewish people are named – Yehudim, of course, being connected to the name of Yehudah. How can we seek to bring change without force or even harsh words? How can we strive to bring God’s presence into conversations even when we feel passionately that the fate of the entire world is at risk?
Rabbi Gail Swedroe