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Dvar for Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

As Yaakov feels that his time on earth is nearing an end, he calls for his children to bless them. Yaakov’s blessing to Yehudah is the longest, spanning five pesukim, and mostly acknowledges Yehudah as the leader (49:8–12). Among the blessings Yehudah receives is that he will be “white toothed from milk” (49:12). Rabbi Yochanan Zweig asks why having white teeth is a blessing, especially for a future leader?

Rabbi Zweig explains that white teeth represent the smiles that permeate our interactions with others. Yaakov gives Yehudah the blessing that his smiles toward family, friends, work, and community be genuine. Our smiles affect those around us, and even when we are having a bad stretch in life—whether it be a moment or longer—a gesture as small as a smile can change someone’s world or orientation toward it. Yaakov’s blessings to Yehudah is that he (and we) uplift each other whenever and however we can.