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Vayechi: "And We Lived" to Fight Climate Change

Vayechi: "And We Lived" to Fight Climate Change

Ten years ago, as I read Parashat Vayechi in anticipation of my Bat Mitzvah I was drawn to Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh. While writing my D’var Torah, as a competitive younger sibling, I was inspired by Jacob’s words as he blessed his grandsons saying, “his younger brother shall be greater than he” (Genesis 48:19). Jacob purposely blessed Ephraim as if he was the oldest and Manasseh as the youngest, although in reality the opposite was true. This became a major theme of my D’var Torah as it proved the point I had been arguing my entire life, younger children are better.

Now as I reread this parsha from a different perspective, less competitive with and more appreciative of my older brother, I am able to appreciate that there is much more in the parsha to which I feel connected. Although the story presents Jacob’s death and burial, the name Vayechi is translated as “and he lived.” Jacob’s life is highlighted through the blessings he leaves behind for future generations.

In his blessing, he specifically talks of the land he is passing down. When talking with Ephraim and Manasseh he says, “I will give this land to your seed after you as an everlasting possession” (Genesis 48:4). Later, as he blesses Joseph he says, “God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your ancestors. And I have given you—first among your brothers—the Shechem mountain-ridge” (Genesis 48:21-22). Passing on land and resources for future generations is clearly an important component of Jacob’s legacy.

Jacob calls on us to think about what we want our legacy to be for our children. Those reflections must include the environment and its natural resources that are being destroyed. Do we want to be the generation that consumed all the resources and destroyed our planet, or do we want to be the generation that conserved and brought our planet back to life?

Earlier this month at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, world leaders created a historic climate agreement to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, aiming for 1.5 degrees, and to invest more in climate financing including adaptation and mitigation for vulnerable populations. Now it is time to ensure that the United States, Canada and countries around the world to continue the momentum created in Paris:

At this moment, there is hope in the fight against climate change. This is a unique opportunity to shape our legacy as the generation who protects the planet for future generations, but we must take action! Urge your Members of Congress to support the Green Climate Fund, a fund established to help vulnerable populations adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Furthermore, you can take measures to green your daily life and your congregation through our GreenFaith partnership.


Rachel Landman is the assistant director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA, where she ran the inaugural summer Israel program, which focused on exploring Israel through the lens of science and technology. She holds a degree in biology from Hamilton College and served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She is an alumna of URJ Crane Lake Camp and grew up at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. 

Rachel Landman

Published: 12/24/2015