This week we read the final parashah in Bereshit, Vayechi, (Jacob) lived…it was his time to die, and as is typical of Torah those references are housed in the language of life.

Before his death, Jacob calls his sons to appear before him, and in a practice that became the foundation of our system of ethical wills, he gives a blessing to each of them, a blessing that acknowledges with great honesty their character, for good and for bad.

The parashah ends with the death of Jacob’s son Joseph, even as he “saw three generations” through his son Ephraim. What a blessing to have in our own midst Jack and Sharon Shalinsky, who are great-grandparents to five young Shalinskys! We kvell with them, and we share in their blessing. As we are able, we share the vicissitudes of all our lives, kvelling and mourning, and rising with hope again.

I am referencing our Tu B’Shevat Seder as “Handfuls of Hope,” a reference to the handfuls of earth reclaimed from the rocky soil of Jerusalem back yard detailed in a cookbook given to me in 1992 by Aaron’s Aunt Mildred. Mildred knew the author of the cookbook – The Garden of Eden Cookbook: Recipes in the Biblical Tradition, by Devorah Wigoder. The early chapters tell the story of the young family and their arrival in Israel, their Aliyah made not long after ’48, and Devorah’s efforts at planting a back lot garden in Jerusalem. Israel, family, land all became part of our own family story with the gift of this book.

We don’t often think of our Tanach, our literary canon as a sourcebook for recipes, but Devorah does a wonderful job of bringing simple and nourishing recipes forward using local flora. So too do we feed ourselves and our families nourishing food and nourishing values, from Bereshit to Isaiah. I hope you will join us at our Seder and share stories with us.

Meanwhile the light is growing in our skies, minute by minute. With gratitude for all manner of lights in our lives, I wish you well for the coming secular year, 2024 – and please note yet another 4, yet another doorway!

Wishing that your doorways, your comings and goings, be filled with blessing,

Rabbi Lynn Greenhough