Parashah (portion) Vayechi -Awakening to a Deeper Trust
Genesis 47:28 – 50:26
As I pick up these Torah Reflections after having been away in Israel for close to three weeks, I find myself deeply connected to the midah, to the personal value of trust which is our community’s focus for this month of December.
Trust is a central tenet in our tradition. Judaism is not a creedal religion, by which I mean that no acceptance to a specific theological system, no adoption of dogma, is required in order to be Jewish. Instead, Judaism asks for trust. And this notion goes back to biblical times. Take Abraham for example. God appears to him and immediately orders him around, promising him land and numerous descendants, in exchange for his trust. God never asks Abraham–or any other hero in Torah for that matter–to believe in Him. God is. His existence is assumed, a fact never discussed or questioned. It is Abraham’s trust, not faith, that is tested throughout his life.
With trusting comes a different kind of worldview, a different set of expectations from life in general and our reason for being in particular. Many of us have come to believe–and our modern western capitalist societies make sure to continuously reinforce this belief–that our main life purpose is the pursuit of happiness. Judaism holds, however, that mankind’s main job is not to seek happiness, but, rather, we are to strive to make ourselves clear channels of God’s manifestation; or, in other words, we are to make ourselves the sacred instruments of God’s work. While engaging in the pursuit of individual happiness might lead us to a dualistic understanding of existence, to the false conviction that we are in control of our life and to the suffering that comes with holding that only good things ought to happen to good people; as God’s servants we understand and accept the shadow which inevitably comes with the light, walk humbly with the knowledge that control is but painful illusion and, paradoxically, we are better able to surrender into what is, aware that everything is but the manifestation of the One.
This trust of what is as God manifesting is what the Hebrew calls emunah, usually mistakenly translated as “faith.” Emunah shares the same root with the word amen which means “it is so.” Emunah is about trusting the it-is-so-ness of the Divine manifesting moment to moment. Ours is a spiritual path to become ego-free instruments through which Divine energies can flow unobstructed. In Torah Joseph becomes, in his adult years, a man of deep trust. He sees himself as a servant of God, a channel for God. For him the challenges of life become opportunity for growth and a way to refine his character. He lives in the moment with trust, sharing the gifts he has been blessed with, sharing who he is in all circumstances. As his story comes to a close and he has finally been reconciled with his long-estranged brothers, he says to them:
Though you intended me harm, God intended it for good, in order to accomplish what is now the case, to keep alive a numerous people. Now, therefore, have no fear–I will provide for you and your little ones. (Genesis 50:20-21)
Few of us lead a life as Joseph does. Yet we learn from the selflessness, the capacity for forgiveness, the level of trust and Divine sense of purpose beyond ego that Joseph displays throughout his life in Egypt. And there is a Joseph already in all of us–beyond our own ego– yearning to express the sacred dimensions of our being with complete emunah, with unconditional trust. And so, perhaps this week’s Torah portion calls us to live our lives sourced in the sacred dimensions of being, the sacred dimensions of leadership as embodied by Joseph. May we learn to know ourselves as the sacred channels for Spirit that we are, that we have always been.
© 2010 Rabbi Olivier BenHaim, All rights reserved.