Dvar for Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)
As Yaakov feels that his time on earth is nearing an end, he calls for his grandchildren to bless them. The blessing he gives Yehuda is the longest, spanning five pessukim, mostly acknowledging Yehuda as the leader (49:8-12). Among the blessings Yehuda receives is that his “teeth be white from milk” (49:12). As Rabbi Yochanan Zweig asks, why is having white teeth a blessing, especially for a future leader?
Rabbi Zweig explains that white teeth represent the smiles that permeate our interactions with others. Yaakov is blessing Yehuda that his smiles towards family, friends, work, and community be genuine. Our smiles affect those around us, and even when we are having a bad day, week, or life, something as small as a smile can change someone else’s world. Yaakov’s blessing to Yehuda is that he (and we) uplift each other whenever and however we can.