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The delicate sanctity of life -  Parshat Vayechi

04/01/2023 09:02:11 AM


This Shabbat, we read the last portion in Sefer Bereishit - the Book of Genesis. It is called "Vayechi Yaakov - Jacob lived." Euphemistically, however, the narrative describes the final events in Jacob's life leading up to his death. In his final chapter, Jacob has his son Joseph vow that his father will not be buried in Egypt. Jacob blesses his grandchildren and children, offering each of them personalized lessons and aspirations. Living to a ripe old age, Jacob is able to prepare for his eventual passing and hand down life lessons to future generations.

As I write this message, I, like many sports fans and moral citizens, continue to be shaken by the collapse of Buffalo Bills safety, twenty-four-year-old Damar Hamlin. An avid football fan, I was watching the Bills-Bengals game when the world witnessed the collapse of this young football player. At the moment of this writing, Hamlin continues to fight for his life and is listed in critical condition at a hospital in Cincinnati.

At the end of the day, football is just a game, and life is delicate and sacred. It was correct and ethical that the NFL postponed the game and focused on a young man fighting for his life.

I hope and pray that soon we can say "Damar Hamlin lives." Our thoughts and prayers go to him, his family and to his entire community. The horror witnessed this past Monday night on a football field reminds us how fragile and sacred life is. May we use the new calendar year of 2023 to truly "Love our fellow as ourself" and to do our best to forgive others and be forgiven by others for spats that should not last long. 

Our tradition teaches us to "repent the day before we die," precisely because one never knows when the last day will come. In secular language we say, "live each day to the fullest" because it could be one's last day.

When we finish reading the first book of the Torah this Shabbat, we add the familiar postscript words, "Chazak Chazak V'Nitchazek - Be of strength, be of strength, and let us strengthen each other." I offer these prayer-felt words to a football player, his family and community, and to each and everyone of us.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Wed, 29 May 2024 21 Iyyar 5784