29 Cheshvan 5773
Erev Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5773
Dedicated in loving memory of Ilana z”l, tomb unveiling on Friday 2 Kislev,Nov.16,2012
And commemorating her one month ceremony on Saturday 3 Kislev, Nov. 17,2012
Daughter of Abraham and Edna Samson Mhedekar
Mother to Linoy and Nofit, sister of Gabriel, Sinorena ,Yaffa
Y’hi Zikhra Barukh
Blessings of Isaac to Jacob
(compiled by Yefet Isaac)
In this week’s parasha, Parashat Toldot we will read Isaac’s blessings to Yaakov. Jacob’s taking of the blessing by deception is undoubtedly a most important episode. Jacob was reluctant into doing this fearing that his father Isaac would definitely recognise him, but his mother Rivka is determined to go ahead with her plan and ready to take the responsibility for her actions (see Bereshit 27:11-13). We want to learn the appropriate lessons from it – but the Torah provides no moral commentary; it simply recounts the events as they happened, with no evaluation.
It may be noted that the sages have included these two blessings to be recited along with other Havdala prayers on Motzaei Shabbat.
We shall focus on the two blessings which Isaac blesses Jacob in this sidra:
1) blessing which Isaac blesses Jacob unwittingly, thinking he was Esau
2) blessing which Isaac blesses Jacob when he was aware of Jacob’s true identity before Jacob left for his uncle’s house Laban to find a wife
בראשית פרק כז כח
כח וְיִתֶּן-לְךָ הָאֱלֹקים* מִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְרֹב דָּגָן וְתִירשׁ
May God (Elokim)* give you of the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth, and much corn and wine.(Ber.Chap.27 v.28)
בראשית פרק כז כט
כט יַעַבְדוּךָ עַמִּים וְיִשְׁתַּחֲווּלְךָ לְאֻמִּים הֱוֵה גְבִיר לְאַחֶיךָ וְיִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לְךָ בְּנֵי אִמֶּךָ אֹרֲרֶיךָ אָרוּר וּמְבָרֲכֶיךָ בָּרוּךְ:
May the nations serve you, and many peoples’ bow down to you; may you be a lord over your brethren, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed, and may those who bless you be blessed.(Ber.Chap.27 v.29
בראשית פרק כח ג
ג וְקל* שַׁקי* יְבָרֵךְ אֹתְךָ וְיַפְרְךָ וְיַרְבֶּךָ וְהָיִיתָ לִקְהַל עַמִּים:
And may Almighty God (Kel Shakai)* bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may be a multitude of peoples .(Ber.Chap.28 v.3)
בראשית פרק כח ד
ד וְיִתֶּן-לְךָ אֶת-בִּרְכַּת אַבְרָהָם לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אִתָּךְ לְרִשְׁתְּךָ אֶת-אֶרֶץ מְגֻרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר-נָתַן אֱלֹקיםלְאַבְרָהָם:
And may He give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you-that you may possess the land of your sojourning, which God gave to Abraham. (Ber.Chap.28 v.4)
Differences in these blessings:
Isaac delivers his first blessing when he is eating the meal which was prepared by Jacob and drinking the wine, so the structure of the blessing is mortal and worldly. The second blessing is for the purpose of sending away Jacob for marriage and transferring the blessing of Abraham to Jacob and his descendants.
The name of God in these two blessings are different. We usually find in the Torah that God’s name is interchanged frequently – Elokim, YKVK, and Kel Shakai (not so common). The first blessing has : “May God (Elokim) give you…………”. In the second blessing Isaac says :
“May the Almighty God (Kel Shakai) bless you…………..”.
The content of the blessings is different in both. The first blessing speaks of material abundance of the land, rule over nations and brethren, a curse to those who curse him and a blessing to those who bless him .His second blessing includes being fruitful and multiplying, the blessing of Abraham and inheritance of the land Canaan.
Understanding the blessings:
The first blessing -“May God give thee” . Rashi (R’ Shlomo Yitzhaki)1 explains that may He give you the blessings repeatedly and the Midrash Bereshit Rabba2 extends to say “May He give thee blessings and give thee the means for holding them.
As per the Ramban,(R’ Moshe Ben Nachman) 3this verse contains four blessings – (i) May God give you the dew of the heavens, (ii) the fatness of the earth, (iii) and an abundance of grain (iv) and wine.
This blessing includes the name “Elokim” – which is a general name for the Creator of the world. This name relates to all humans at the same level. Therefore Isaac uses this name in a universal manner. Rashi explains the use of “Elokim” because God will act towards you with Justice. If you deserve it “He will give it to you” but if not , He will not “give it to you”.
The second blessing – has the name of “Kel Shakai” – which is to be found in the portion of Abraham’s circumcision, where God presents Himself to Abraham using this Name. The act of circumcision gives the message of continuity of descendants. Isaac’s main objective is to pass on to Jacob the blessing of fertility which was given to Abraham. As Jacob is leaving his parents to find a wife , Isaac is assuring him that he is blessing him with the blessing of Abraham – to have a seed and also inherit the land of your sojourning.
The Ramban explains the meaning of these two terms beginning with “Kel” : The explanation for this word is “Powerful”.
As for the explanation of the word “Shakai” – Ramban explains that Rashi says that there are sufficient means to His Divinity to provide for every creature.
After explaining these two terms, the Ramban now explains why this particular name was used : because through this Name that hidden miracles occur for the righteous, to “save their souls from death and to sustain them from famine” and to “redeem them from the sword of war,- like all the miracles that were performed for Abraham and for the other Patriarchs, which are hidden miracles.
This is why God told Abraham –that He is the Powerful One Who Conquers the Forces of Nature. The use of this name indicated that Abraham would overcome his natural fate and that there will be a covenant between God and Abraham’s descendants forever.
A final note
After reading carefully these two blessings we may notice that they differ in their essence and purpose. The first blessing which was meant for Esau but taken by Jacob by deception, did not have any historical or religious perspective – it contained only material wealth, abundance, fatness, power and rule.
Esau was not supposed to get the blessing of Abraham , because the spiritual blessing could only be given to the one deserving it. Thus we see, what Isaac bestowed upon Jacob disguised as Esau was only a general, universal blessing.
The second blessing when Isaac was aware of Jacob’s true identity and before Jacob left for his uncle’s house Laban to find a wife and raise a family, had the promise of continuity of descendants, the blessing of Abraham and inheritance of the land. Nechama Leibowitz 4 concludes this parasha by saying that Esau by his own behaviour, forfeited his right to such a blessing.
* P.S. The names of God in Hebrew and English have been spelt differently for purpose of sanctity.
1) The Metsudah Chumash/Rashi
2) Midrash Rabba Bereshit – Soncino Press
3) The ArtScroll Ramban – Commentary on the Torah
4) New Studies in Bereshit – Nehama Leibowitz
5) Torah MiEtzion – New Readings in Tanach – Bereshit- Maggid Books