Times: Shabbat starts on Friday at 8:22 pm and ends on Saturday night at 9:27 pm. The weekly Torah portion is Vayechi.

Mincha in the CBD: Mincha is in recess for the summer. We will seek to resume next year when there is demand. Join the WhatsApp group to stay across the latest details.

Study: The Weekly Shiur continues in hybrid in-person and Zoom, on Wednesday, at 1.20pm at Warlows Legal, 2/430 Lt Collins, and the lunch part is back! Current topic: A bit Zen: if a Rabbi issues a halachic ruling and no one hears it, does the ruling stand? Details here.

Thought of the Week with thanks to Mandi Katz. This week’s Torah reading begins with the knowledge that Jacob’s life is ending. In the manner of better deaths, Jacob is aware of his impending end and is able to farewell his family, make arrangements for his death and bestow blessings on his sons and grandsons, and the words of these interactions and blessings are among some of the most moving and evocative in the Torah.

The series of blessings are framed by a request from Jacob to Joseph to treat him with ‘chesed ve’emet’, with loving, kindness, and truth, and to ensure that he is not buried in Egypt but with his fathers.  These two elements are made up of opposing qualities: ‘chesed’ is soft and gentle while ‘emet’ can be harsh and confronting, and this balance of loving kindness and truth is a feature of all the blessings that follow.

Jacob speaks lovingly of his sons and grandsons but doesn’t shy away from the truth – even where doing so is difficult. First in blessing Joseph’s sons Menashe and Ephraim, he insists on treating Ephraim favourably, naming him first and blessing him with his right hand despite Joseph’s physical and verbal rejoinder that Menashe as firstborn should be blessed with primacy. Jacob’s words are deeply loving to both boys and he calls on the angels to safeguard them both from harm as they walk in the ways of their forefathers, but he does not resile from the truth of his insight that the younger brother will be greater than the older and that the blessing should reflect and reinforce that.

Similarly, at the very end of his life, he blesses each of his twelve sons – and again the words are frequently loving and kind, truly blessings of ‘chesed’ –  but also deeply authentic, acknowledging weakness, character flaws and missteps, and recognising Judah and Joseph as leaders regardless of birth order. The words he offers are as much critique as a blessing and it is this balance that provides their power in setting the stage for what will follow and for the place and responsibility of each of his sons, whose successors will become no less than the twelve tribes of Israel.

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