These are the days of “counting:” we count down the number of days left in 2023 until we begin 2024. Some count how many books they have read, how many great meals they ate, how many miles they walked, ran, swam, or cycled. Some are counting how many chemotherapy treatments are left before they are hopefully in remission. Others are counting days that cannot be numbered, or listed, or enumerated. The Jewish people are counting the number of days Israel has been fighting the war with Hamas in Gaza since that horrific day in October 7th, how many hostages remain in Gaza, how many innocent people have died. How many days will it be until peace, safety and security prevail?
Even the Torah portion for this week , Vayechi, counts and enumerates: “Vayechi” literally means “and he lived” referring to all the years of Jacob’s life. At the beginning of our portion, Jacob is preparing to die. He gathers his children and gives them his final words, a combination of prayer, blessing, curse, warning, parable, recounting family history, and hope. Then, at the age of 147 years, Jacob breathes his final breath, surrounded by his family. The Torah portion, and the book of Genesis, ends by recounting Joseph’s final days and his death as well: Joseph dies when he is 110 years old.
Both Jacob and Joseph were blessed with long lives, lives that were filled with great wealth, prosperity, family, travel, adventure, blessings from God. Each of them also suffered great despair, pain, and suffering – all the vicissitudes that are part of living life. The lesson implicit in Parshat Vayechi is that both Jacob and Joseph lived their lives as fully and completely as they could no matter the situation around them. “Vayechi – and he lived.”
As we count down to the end of 2023, the Jewish people also finds ourselves living in dark and difficult times: the war with Hamas, the difficulties on Israel’s northern front with Hezbollah, increased antisemitism across the globe, as well as other global concerns continue to weigh us down. Yet our Jewish tradition teaches us that we too need to live our lives fully and completely, just as Jacob and Joseph did. We cannot submit to despair and sorrow. Our testimony should be “V’chayeinu – And we lived.”
Live each day to the fullest. Get the most from each hour, each day, and each age of your life. Then you can look forward with confidence, and back without regrets. Be yourself – your best self. Dare to be happy. Enjoy what is beautiful. Love with all your heart and soul. Believe that those you love, love you. Forget what you have done for your friends, and remember what they have done for you. Disregard what the world owes you and concentrate on what you owe the world. When you are faced with a decision, make that decision as wisely as possible – then forget it.
The moment of absolute certainty never arrives. –By S. H. Payer
As we count down to 2024, may each of us “live each of our days to the fullest” in the coming year. Wishing you and your loved ones all the best for a 2024 filled with the promise of hope, good health, friendship and peace. Happy New Year!