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When you smile at another person you illuminate your face, which in turn illuminates theirs – and perhaps illuminates their entire day.

This week’s Torah portion is “Vayechi” (Genesis 47:28-50:26) and with it, we conclude the entire Book of Genesis.

Among the different events and experiences in this week’s reading is the blessing that Jacob gives each of his children just before he dies. Each one of the sons received his own unique blessing from their father that represented who they are, the mistakes they had made in life, and the direction they should take. In fact, each blessing was an ethical will, of sorts.

Judah received the following blessing: “The eyes will be reddened from an abundance of wine and the teeth whitened from an abundance of milk”. Our sages teach us that there is a hidden message in this blessing that is intended to teach us how to we are to greet our fellow human beings. For example, “The teeth whitened”, represents that we should show people our white teeth when we greet them –- a reminder to always smile at another person!

In fact, the Mishna (Oral Law) teaches that one should always make the effort to be the first to greet others when encountering them. That’s right. Every encounter is a race. The next time you see someone coming towards you be sure to greet them before they greet you! When you smile at another person, you illuminate your face, which in turn illuminates theirs – and perhaps illuminates their entire day. In our day and age with all the many stresses of life, whether at the home, the office, or anyplace else that takes their strain on a person — a smile, an illumination can truly have an effect on others.

Why is it that Judah was specifically given “the blessing of the smile” to the exclusion of all the other brothers? The answer is because Judah is the father of royalty; all Jewish kings must descend from the tribe of Judah. A descendant of the tribe of Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, or Levi can simply never be a king. Every King of Israel, from King David right through to the King Messiah, whose arrival we await every day, will be a descendant of the tribe of Judah.

Jacob was telling Judah and all his future descendants: to be a good leader you must always smile at other people. You have to greet others warmly, honestly, and with respect. In order to be leader, people have to feel that they are acknowledged and appreciated. A smile can accomplish all this and more. It is the blessing of “The teeth whitened”.

We must take the blessing of Judah and internalize for ourselves. We must make sure that we too greet everyone with a smile, and as much as possible, to greet others first. In this way, although we are not kings, we are true royalty: all children of Almighty God in Heaven.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel