Friday, November 21, 2014
In this week’s parsha Yitzchak Avinu blesses both his children. At least part of those blessings is very similar. To Ya’akov he says, “ויתן לך הא-להים מטל השמים ומשמני הארץ .../And may God give you the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the land.” (Breishis 27:28) To Eisav he says, “... משמני הארץ יהיה מושבך ומטל השמים מעל/… you will live off the fatness of the land and from the dew of the heavens above.” (Breishis 27:39) It seems that Yitzchak gave material blessing to both Ya’akov and Eisav. Is there any difference between these blessings?
The answer lies in a deeper understanding of Yitchak’s blessing to Ya’akov. Yitchak’s blessing to Ya’akov begins with the word, ויתן/and may He give. The word is enigmatic in that it starts with a vav/and, implying that this is a continuation and not the beginning of the blessing. Why does the blessing begin with, “and”? Furthermore, the structure of the beginning of the blessing is uncommon. It translates literally as, “And He will give you God …”
Chazal note these difficulties. They explain that the extra vav implies that God will give and then give again. He will continue to give. The uncommon wording at the beginning of the blessing teaches us that God would give Ya’akov of His Godliness.
Putting the two together, the Sfas Emes teaches us that Yitzchak’s main blessing to Ya’akov was not material plenty. Rather, the main blessing was that God would give him the plenty. God imbues us with Godliness through the material blessing that he bestows upon us. We connect with God by receiving His bounty. Yitzchak says that God will give and give again implying that there will always be the opportunity to connect to God by acknowledging that He is the root of the plenty that we have.
For Eisav, on the other hand, Yitzchak says that he will have what he needs, however he gets it. Of course everything always comes from God. However, for Eisav, the main thing is the material plenty whereas for Ya’akov the main thing is that it is a gift from God, a way to connect with God.
Since the physical plenty that Ya’akov receives is an indication of a connection to God, Yitzchak continues, “... הוה גביר לאחיך .../… you will be a master over your brothers …” Since Ya’akov is connected to the root of the blessing, the plenty that reaches the entire world comes through him. In fact, the word, הוה/you will be, connotes a command. Yitzchak is telling Ya’akov that he must accept upon himself to draw the plenty into the world for the benefit of the nations when the nations are subservient to him.
Yitzchak’s blessing is meant of course for the nation of Israel, Ya’akov’s progeny. We need to realize that the blessing of material plenty that we have is not primarily the plenty itself but rather that God gave it to us so that we can connect with Him and attain Godliness. May we merit it. Amen!