Jacob's Bucket List
In this week's portion, Vayigash, Jacob is told by his sons, "Joseph is still alive; yes, he is ruler over the whole land of Egypt." (Gen 45:26). Jacob, who thought Joseph was dead for years, is transformed. He says to his sons, 'Enough!' (rav)said Israel. 'My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.'"
Robert Alter in his commentary on the Torah writes, "The brief seizure that Jacob has just undergone is of course evidence of his physical frailty. Jacob's story, like David's is virtually unique in ancient literature in its searching representation of the radical transformation a person undergoes in the slow course of time. The powerful young man who made his way across the Jordan to Mesopotamia with only his walking staff, who wrestled with stones and men and divine beings, is now an old man tottering on the brink of the grave, bearing the deep wounds of a long life."
In Jacob's advanced age he discovers a lost treasure. When presented with the revelation of his son's existence, he does not hesitate to make a move. He must make the long dangerous journey to Egypt to see his son before he dies. This is astounding coming from Jacob who is failing in health, who knows he will die soon.
The Torah teaches us to value special moments when we can recover lost objects, rediscover hidden treasures, find yearned for concealments. This is Torah's teaching about spiritual alertness. Growing older affords us the opportunity to more readily know what is important, what is lost and what is found. We modern Americans call this "a bucket list" as if the we have a bucket full of diminishing opportunities to experience before our ends. . But the Torah spells out this moment with the word "rav". One commentary translate it as "Enough". Another translater suggests "So much". Rav means in Hebrew great or much. Jacob is saying to all. "So many feelings at this moment. So much lost and squandered time, so many hopeless seasons."
In a moments notice we can understand the necessities of our lives. One of my teachers said spiritual awareness is not like a crossing a bridge, but walking through a shattered wall. It is sudden, shocking, and the moment requires our full attention and decisiveness.
May we be worthy to have such moments in our lives and have the courage to move forward with determination as Jacob/Israel does in our portion.
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg