VAYECHI (GEN 47:28- 50:26)
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
In this parshah we read the conclusion of Genesis, the conclusion of the Joseph and Jacob story. It ends by focusing, mostly, it seems to me, on Jacob's death. On his death bed he gives these elaborate blessings to his sons (always only the sons) and it shoes up in the Torah in this really interesting poetry format. I actually really like when there are portions like this in the Torah, and it makes me wonder why it so important for it to be included in this way. As he goes through each of his sons, from oldest to youngest, he of course names Zebulon, and although I have read this portion of the Torah before, this year it read very different to me because this year I am about to have my Hebrew name change made official, and Zebulon is one of the names. I've been interested to read any parts of the text where Zebulon or Rafael come up by name, and see if I have any feeling about it being "right" or not. I feel very decided on these names (the Hebrew name I've picked is Rafael Zebulon), just like when I decided on my American name when I transitioned, when I knew, I just knew. Michael Alexander was just right. Not because it was some perfect, amazing name; I think there are lots of things about my name that aren't perfect (including the fact that I still mainly use my middle name), but because it is absolutely the right name for me. I feel like it is MY name- the the name I am meant to have, whatever that means. I feel the same way about Rafael Zebulon. So as I come across it in the reading, I wanted to just see how i felt. I wanted to be completely open. I knew it was the right name, but I also wanted to see how it all felt. I wanted to recognize it either way. Jacob says to Zebulon:
"Zebulun will dwell on the coast of the seas; he [will be] at the harbor of the ships, and his boundary will be at Zidon.”
... and as far as blessings and things Jacob is saying to his sons, that's a really good one.
For me personally, the process of re-naming has been a really powerful. Much more than I expected. It's been interesting to reflect on it as I've been reading the Torah, because names, and names being changed, play such a major role. As far as my name change goes, I've completed most of it- my legal name has been changed for a year and a half now. I've updated all my accounts and identification cards. I only have my passport left to go; that was very very complicated to do during the pandemic. But I am still, obviously, in the process of changing my Hebrew name. I wanted to make sure I completed it by the time my youngest had her Bat Mitzvah (she is actually nearly 15 now- her ceremony was put off due to the pandemic and now she is waiting til it feels right). I picked the Hebrew name Raphael Zebulon after a lot of thought. My oldest daughter's Hebrew Name starts with R, and my youngest’s begins with Z, so first and foremost my name choice is a tribute to them, and also my current Hebrew name is Ruth, so staying with R for that reason felt right as well. Additionally I chose my name (English name?- Michael Alexander)- because it’s what my mom would have named me if I had been born a boy. I spent a lot of time thinking of other names, mulling them over in my head, trying them out... but nothing felt right. Lots of people thought it was an odd choice, for many reasons, but especially because I kept the name I USE- Alex- as my middle name, but for me this was the thing that always just felt right. I kept the initials I was born with, and felt like I gave a little nod to my mother, who is truly an amazingly strong person. I liked the way my english name tied up to my mother, and my Hebrew name tied to my children, up and down, connecting the generations, it all feels really balanced. All in all to say, Rafael Zebulon just felt right (which was never the case with my first Hebrew name, Ruth)
Final note this week: One thing I never noticed reading this part (maybe my eyes were glazing over all the other times I have read this- thats possible, but because it comes RIGHT after the Zebulon part this time I was extra attentive). In the blessing to Benjamin, Jacob refers to him as a wolf. Now, this is interesting to me for one big reason, and this is because my brother-in-laws name is LITERALLY Benjamin Wolf. And his family is christian but I don't *think* they named him that based on this particular passage about Benjamin and Wolves. I just found that to be an utterly charming and magical discovery.