What Is Your Spiritual Legacy?

Have you been the recipient of a spiritual legacy? Perhaps it is making haroset with a parent or grandparent before Passover. Maybe it is lighting Hanukkah candles as a family. For me one of the core parts of my spiritual legacy was having a family Passover Seder where everyone at the table got the opportunity to have a role. Picture me reclining on my Green Bay Packers pillow while drinking sparkling grape juice (Bartenura wine when I was of age), following the Afghani custom of lightly hitting my brother with scallions as we sang Dayenu. One year I wore a Where’s Waldo mask and went outside just before it was time to open the door for Elijah. You can imagine my family’s surprise as I entered the room.

          It is December and many of us are thinking about our financial legacy: which charities are deserving of our end of year financial contributions. That is holy work: it demonstrates what we value and care most deeply about. It is equally holy to look at this week’s Torah portion, where Jacob bequeathed on his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh a spiritual legacy. He says, “The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm bless these kids and call them by my name.”[1] Jacob’s blessing presupposes that there is a guardian angel sent to us when we are in trouble.[2] God’s actions are performed by intermediaries-it might feel like a chance encounter or feel like a coincidence, but each of us has guardian angels or messengers (מלאכים).[3]

          Jacob here is imparting on his grandchildren his spiritual legacy-that they will truly be בני ישראל, guided by the example that he, Israel, has set. As the secular year nears its end, in addition to thinking about our financial legacies my hope is that we take the time to think about our spiritual legacies: how we will encourage our children and grandchildren to follow in our footsteps, valuing Judaism in all its beauty. At Generations Day at Bet Shira Congregation, I worked with grandparents of preschool students on writing their spiritual legacies, both in the forms of a spiritual autobiography and an ethical will. To those of us who do not have children, there is still the opportunity for us to create a spiritual legacy-how do we want our fellow congregants at Mosaic Law Congregation to remember us and what do we want our students or those we work with to understand in terms of our core beliefs. That is holy work for us to engage in both this Shabbat and beyond.


[1] Genesis 48:16

[2] Rashi on Genesis 48:16 ד”ה המלאך הגואל אותי מכל רע

[3] Radak on Genesis 49:16 ד”ה ויקרא בהם שמי

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