Writing Your Ethical Will – Parshat Vayelech 5780

Passing down the life lessons I’ve learned to my children and loved ones is a unique challenge. Of all the things I want to share with those who come after me, sharing my thoughts on how to live life seems simultaneously deeply satisfying, yet extremely complicated. But as daunting as it is, I know how important it is.

Writing Your Ethical Will

It still upsets me that when my father died, he didn’t create an ethical will for me. He was my rock, my go-to person for problem solving. I longed for his voice. I sat at my computer for weeks writing down all the lessons he had taught me, and I came up with a list of 100 phrases, book titles, or statements from my memories of him that resonated with me. These 100 statements lived on my wall as I finished my graduate programs and on the desktop of every computer I’ve ever had. I pasted them below for your reference and enjoyment. When I’m having a rough day or I’m unsure of a decision, I turn to the list. At the very least it gives me a smile, and in the best moments it helps me to think through a problem just like we were sitting together. While I still wish my father had done the work of collecting these himself, my active role in creating this list has meant the world to me, and to this day when I’m teaching, I teach in his honor.

We’re nearing the end of the Torah, and Moses and God are trying to get in all their last “tidbits of love” for the Israelite nation. The end of the Torah is filled with poems and lessons learned, rules for remembering, and nostalgia for what once was. The name of the parshah, Vayelech, means “and he went.” The focus is on Moses going to the mountain and what his death will look like. And the lesson is what he taught the people and how he will be remembered. As we read Parshat Vayelech this week, we are reminded of how essential it is to be clear about what your values and morals are as the next generation takes over.

I purposefully wrote a slightly shorter d’var Torah this week so you could use the extra time to sit with a loved one and write down your vision and mission for life. Create something that will live on and go after you as a blessing.

Steven Posen’s Words of Wisdom

1. Always wake up with a smile 35. Acceptance 69. The whole shebang
2. Laugh good hard belly laughs 36. Since you were a little girl, parents check in on you always 70. Mourn the past, live in the present
3. I mean it Eviee, you gotta breathe 37. Overpacking isn’t good 71. Rabbi or plumber, there is a leak to fix
4. Take time on one word, one blessing 38. Growing up is hard 72. Shabbat is for resting
5. Tell people you love them 39. Being a grown-up is harder 73. Just throw your money out
6. Roots: know where you are from 40. Transitions are a part of life 74. Orange pants; wear your mistakes; bleach and black
7. Wings: fly to the world 41. Chronically intermittent 75. Backwards is better
8. Who moved my cheese 42. Chart it out 76. Slow down
9. Gung-ho 43. Indulge once in a while 77. Facilitate
10. For what it’s worth (FWIW) 44. Children are a blessing 78. Make your own decisions
11. Perfect pride in everything 45. Perseverance 79. A parent’s job is never done
12. Everything can be summed up in a bullet point 46. Singing in the shower is the best place to practice nusach 80. Compete with yourself; you are your best competitor
13. Dreams are attainable 47. Importance of a note card 81. Who are you; genetics
14. Nachos or nachas 48. Know your weaknesses 82. LOVE LIFE; celebrate it
15. Listen and hear 49. Grow your strengths 83. God’s hands
16. Learn to watch 50. Smell the green 84. Holy vessels; what we are
17. Space it out 51. Pick your battles 85. TRY IT
18. Door off the hinges; you loose 52. Sometimes it feels like gas; learning is hard, but always comes 86. Don’t separate from the community, embrace them
19. Stand up straight 53. Prioritize addiction 87. PROJECT YOURSELF
20. Aleinu length; modesty 54. Hold my hand 88. Career is not life
21. Love the one you’re with 55. Feeling like a dead duck 89. I’m always flying overhead
22. Parents can learn from children 56. Doing instead of learning, or vice versa 90. On your way, don’t know where
23. Forgiveness 57. Time is of the essence 91. Bless you
24. Love the little things 58. BE ON TIME 92. LIVE YOUR LIFE
25. Beauty of prayer 59. Always say THANK YOU 93. Share your opinion
26. Copyright your heart 60. Let it out 94. Give thanks daily
27. Challenges, not a sickness 61. GO BLUE!!! 95. Enhance yourself naturally
28. Pack it up and take it with you 62. Sometimes you fail 96. WHO YOU ARE is not where you are
29. Change is good 63. Own it: actions, words 97. Knowledge and wisdom are different
30. Fly higher than the plane 64. Savor it: life 98. Say it in a rhyme
31. It is O.K. to leave 65. Problem solving; frame of mind 99. Make it fun, they’ll come back
32. Betzelem elohim; we are all created in God’s image 66. Tradition: the way WE do it 100. KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU
33. Family is life 67. Use your words  
34. Fun is what YOU make it 68. Belief; trust in God  
– Rabbi Eve Posen

Source: Writing Your Ethical Will – Parshat Vayelech 5780