As the sun sets and the first Shabbat of 2021 begins, and we read the final words of the book of Genesis. In this portion, Jacob blesses his children as he prepares for death. So, on this Shabbat I too offer this blessing for you, a blessing based upon the 12 Torah portions of Genesis for our future.
It is the beginning, bereshit! As we take the tohu v’vohu, the unformed and unknown of this new year may we be like You, God, and be creators of beauty, invention, and opportunity for us and our world. From breads to new technologies to needlework to literary breakthroughs, may our individual and collective creativity know no bounds!
Noah and his partner Na’amah were trapped on an ark with their families and a whole lot of animals until a dove returned to the ark with an olive branch. May we use the wisdom of Noah and the dove and emerge from our shelter in place only when the signs indicate it to be safe. May that time come quickly as the heroes among us, healthcare workers, scientists and truck drivers deliver our 21st century olive branch—vaccines. Let us know patience as we wait and steadfastness in our choice to maintain social distance, wear a mask, and be safe!
Lech l’cha, go forth, You said to Avram, and he became the first Jew. In 2021 may we each journey on our path of relationship with You, God. Some will call you Higher Power, others may know you as the Force of the Universe, for others metaphors of Parent, Ruler, or Nature will do. As we traverse life’s path and experience longing, questioning, anger, and comfort for You, may we find You in ways planned and unexpected this year and know that this expression is authentically Jewish.
In 2021 may we be pursuers of justice and seekers of righteousness. When Abraham learned of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gemorrah he asked challenging questions of You, O Eternal. May we be like Abraham and ask questions about justice and be relentless chasers of freedom. May the work of our hands enable us to bring equality and equity to our city, our state, our country and our world. As rodfei tzedek, pursuers of justice, will us to pursue to do this holy work because it is our sacred duty.
Parshat Chayei Sarah teaches the power of love and reconciliation. In this new year may the loving relationships that sustain us grow deeper roots and blossom. When appropriate, may the fractured relationships from our past find one form of reconciliation or another. May 2021 be the year that each of us, each created in Your image, show ourselves self-love.
Oh the wonder and majesty and fragility of our bodies. Within Parshat Toldot contains the complete lifecycle, from birth to death. This year may we care for our bodies with sustaining nourishment, meaningful exercise, and gentle care. Let us appreciate the changes and sometimes challenges of aging and accept the wisdom of those who have walked this path before. May we appreciate the miracle of the life force that pulses through us and may we all know good health this year.
Families come in all shapes and sizes. Vayeitze reminds us of the complexities and opportunities of family relationships. Permit those who long for a family to build one. May our families of origin and families of choice be blessed this year. Let each of us know relationships that sustain us and may our families know safety and Your overflowing blessings.
Vayishlach teaches painful lessons about physical and psychological safety. In 2021 may the audible cries and silent screams be noticed to bring us protection. May those who call to you God as their Protector find access to interventions and help.
2021 will be the year of big dreams. While Joseph’s dreams in Vayeishev might not be the model we follow, let us believe in potential. May the the possibilities for ourselves personally and professionally expand. Allow us to learn and grow in new educational pursuits to achieve our goals. Let our aspirations be limitless!
Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams of plenty and famine and creates stability for Egypt. Dear God, let us have enough. Enough to meet our own needs to feel stable and enough to offer grace to others. Should we need help, may our earnest requests be met with compassion and gentleness.
Tzur Chayeinu, Rock of our lives, may the day come this year when we can safely embrace those we know and love. When Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers they embrace and kiss one another and weep tears of joy. O how we long to be together, to pray as a community, to sing in harmony, to kiss and hug our children and grandchildren, to appropriately demonstrate our affection for our friends, and share meals with the people who bring joy and meaning to our lives. Until that moment may we have patience and use our words to convey our emotions so that those embraces will be sweeter.
May 2021 be a year of blessing! Just as Jacob takes opportunity in Vayechi to bless his children may we remember to invoke your name and bless those we encounter. May we see the blessings in our lives and when they seem distant, may we draw them near. And so now on this Shabbat I offer these words of blessing from the Torah to each of you:
יְשִׂימְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה.
יְשִׂימֵךְ אֱלֹהִים כְּשָׂרָה, רִבְקָה, רָחֵל וְלֵאָה.
God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh. God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.
יְבָרֶכְךָ אֲדֹנָי וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ. יָאֵר אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ. יִשָּׂא אֲדֹנָי פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.
May God bless you and keep you. May God’s presence shine upon you. May God bring the blessing of peace for you and for our world.
Ken y’hi ratzon.