When Jacob blesses his grandchildren Ephraim and Manasseh, he does not ask that God bless the boys, but rather that the “angel who redeemed” him bless them. This angel is obviously important to Jacob, but what can we learn about an angel that redeems? Redemption, by definition, means that there was an “exile” of some sort. What kind of harm or exile had Jacob experienced that he calls upon his redeeming angel at the time of blessing his descendants?
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (z”l) taught in a commentary on Vayechi that “exile” means we’ve stopped thinking and feeling. True exile and harm occur when we stop growing psychologically, emotionally and/or spiritually, and become numb. Jacob experienced numerous challenges in his life: his exile from Canaan and Esau’s wrath; his escaping from Laban; his powerful dreams. But Jacob’s greatest harm occurred when he felt exiled from life itself upon hearing of Joseph’s death. The story of that son’s death understandably distanced him from any feeling or thinking.
But Jacob was redeemed in each of his challenges, especially when he learned that Joseph was actually still alive. “His spirit was revived” (Genesis 45:27). In blessing his grandchildren, Jacob calls upon all of us to be messengers of redemption, and to never stop feeling and thinking. We must always experience life fully … and be revived.
May we all be angels of redemption; keep each other aware on every level; and think, feel and inspire others to never get lost in the exile of numbness.
Rabbi Michael Barclay
December 17, 2021
13th of Tevet, 5782