Something in the Torah always puzzled me. When Joseph and Jacob meet for the first time after 22 years, Joseph, now the viceroy of Egypt, throws himself upon his father's neck and cries, while Jacob, who until recently had thought his favorite son was dead, recites the Shema (Genesis 46:29). No kiss, no hug, no "I'm glad to see you alive." Jacob praises God.
I well understand Jacob's desire to show his gratitude to the Creator who had restored his long-lost son, but couldn't it have waited a minute?!
Ever since the wave of violence in Israel began five years ago, I and most Israeli parents have been very nervous about our children wandering around the country. The first time my son's class took a school trip, I sat crying. Over the years, I've calmed down. I've tried to show more trust in God, and confidence in the school's security officers. I no longer get hysterical every time I have to sign a consent form.
I no longer get hysterical every time I have to sign a consent form.
What I do, however, when my son returns home from one of these trips safe and sound (if grimy and exhausted), is thank God.
This week, he and his class were up in the region of Gush Etzion, wandering through sites of heroic fighting and tragic loss, impressive caves and soggy aqueducts, museums and hills. As he raced in the door, I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and then poured out my gratitude to God.
It's true that I had seen him just that morning, and even had spoken to him on his cell phone a few minutes before he came in. It's true he was hurrying out for his next activity and there was no time for prolonged affection or exchange of news of the day. Still, I couldn't help but notice that I was anxious to say thank You for having him home safely and it couldn't wait.
So if we were to multiply that anxiety by 22 times 365 days, it really isn't too hard to understand why Jacob who had waited 22 years to see his son and was certain he'd never see him again, could wait a few minutes before returning his son's embrace -- but why thanking God was an immediate need that could not be postponed.
We say the blessing of She'hecheyanu when we reach a moment of celebration or a positive turning point in our lives and when we receive good news. These blessings are supposed to be recited immediately because the source of all blessing is God, and before rejoicing, celebrating or enjoying His beneficence, we have to acknowledge that fact.
We are recipients of so much good and blessing every day, and many of us are not even cognizant of the dangers and misfortune that we are spared and the daily miracles that are performed in our lives. As children, we were constantly being inculcated with the obligation to say thank you for every thing we received, everything done for us, everything we were grateful for. As adults, this has become second nature.
As happy as Jacob was to see Joseph, he knew to Whom his thanks were due. Parenthood in these anxious times has helped me understand that, too.