Delivered from All Harm

Yael Eckstein  |  January 1, 2024

A shepherd walking in the desert with a walking stick.

Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm —may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth.” — Genesis 48:15-16

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayechi, which means “and he lived,” from Genesis 47:28–50:26. 

Daniel Cohen, a 31-year-old father of five, was waiting at a bus stop when he was attacked by a terrorist. Daniel struggled with the terrorist, but was stabbed multiple times in the jaw, shoulder, chest, and stomach. Daniel knew he was seriously injured and while he hoped for the best, he prepared for the worst by praying and making his peace. 

The paramedics brought him to the hospital where he underwent a four-hour emergency surgery… and this is where Daniel’s story gets interesting. 

During the surgery, the doctors found a life-threatening tumor inside Daniel’s colon. Daniel had noticed some pain in that area for days but hadn’t had time to deal with it. He rationalized the pain, not knowing that he was in great danger, and ignored it. The doctors only found the growth because of the surgery Daniel needed following the terror attack. Once they found the dangerous growth, they were able to remove it and save Daniel from what might have otherwise killed him. 

When Daniel woke up from the surgery and learned what had happened, he said, “The terror attack I underwent saved my life. The Creator brought me this operation in order to save my life.” In the end, what at first looked like Daniel’s worst day became his best day. What looked like an end to his life actually saved his life. In fact, all that happened to Daniel was for the best!  

Delivered from All Harm

In this week’s Torah portion, we see Jacob on his deathbed and looking back on his life—referring to God as his “shepherd” and praising God for delivering him “from all harm.” This is a remarkable statement coming from Jacob who had such a difficult life. Jacob fled Esau, was mistreated and deceived by Laban, saw his beloved Rachel die in childbirth, lost his son Joseph for many years, and suffered through a famine in old age. And yet, here at the end of his life, Jacob referred to God as his “shepherd” who saved him “from all harm.”  

In his metaphor of God as a shepherd, Jacob saw himself as the sheep. Just as a sheep doesn’t really understand what is happening and is guided and protected by the shepherd, Jacob realized that even during his most difficult moments, God was guiding him, and delivering him from all harm. Looking back on his life, Jacob now understood that what he had experienced as suffering and difficulty was really all for the best. 

Your Turn:

Consider a challenging time in your life that worked out for the best. Let’s thank God today for being our shepherd.