In order to succeed as a nation and make the world a better place, we must recognize our unique role and talents and not try to be something we are not.
This week’s Torah portion is “Vayechi” (Genesis 47:28-50:26), and with it we conclude the reading of the book of Genesis (on to Exodus!). One of the highlights of this week’s reading is the death of Jacob and the very cryptic blessings that he gives to each of his sons before he dies.
To his son Yehuda (Judah) he says (among other things): “The scepter shall not depart from Yehuda.” This statement is the source for the rule that the Jewish monarchy, namely, Jewish kings, may be appointed only from the tribe of Judah. This is how it has always been. For example, King David was from the tribe of Yehuda, as of course was his son King Solomon. So, too, we are told that the Messiah will be from the tribe of Yehuda because the Messiah has the status of a king as well.
Allow me to turn your attention back about 10 days to the holiday of Chanukah that just passed. The stars of Chanukah are certainly the Maccabees, formally known as the “Chashmonaim.” The Maccabees courageously fought the religious persecution of the Greeks and were successful against all odds. They reestablished the freedom to practice Judaism and they rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They were great people.
But look around the Jewish world today. Is there anyone who claims descent from the Maccabees? The Maccabees are gone. They disappeared within several generations. Why?
Overstepping the God-given Boundaries
It is because after the Maccabees accomplished so many great things for the Jewish people, they overstepped their God-allotted boundaries. After rededicating the Holy Temple, they also reestablished the Jewish monarchy. Although that was a good thing, they decided to appoint themselves as kings. They knew that they were not from the tribe of Yehuda and that they should not be kings, but nevertheless went ahead with their agenda. It is for this that they were punished and disappeared.
The Jewish People consists of 12 tribes, each contributing a different aspect, feature and talent to the nation – until this very day. We have rabbis (representing the tribe of Issachar), businessmen (representing the tribe of Zebulun) and so on. Every tribe – and indeed each individual – has a different role and contribution to make to their surroundings. It is like an orchestra — each musician plays a specific instrument and has a certain role. If one member of the orchestra tries to perform someone else’s role, it will not work and will likely make ‘noise’ instead of music.
The same is true with every one of us. We must recognize our role and talents and not try to be something we are not. In order for the home, community and nation to function properly, everyone must know their strengths and weaknesses and let others contribute as appropriate. The Maccabees were great people but were not satisfied with their calling and instead attempted to fill the mission of the descendants of Yehuda as well.
Acknowledge and respect your own strengths as well as the strengths of others. In that way, we will all succeed together.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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