What Is Your Blessing?

Jacob blessed his sons, not only according to each of their characters, but also with a unique piece of himself.

Commentary on Parashat Vayechi, Genesis 47:28 - 50:26

How much importance do we attach to blessings that we receive from others? How seriously do we take them? Our Sages established that “everything depends upon the one who gives the blessing and the one who receives it.”

What if God Himself gives the blessing?

You Will Be A Blessing?

A deeper significance to the concept of blessings is found in the Almighty’s declaration to Abraham, “Veheyei berachah–You will be a blessing.” This gave Abraham the Divine authority to bless anyone else he wanted, according to Rashi. The Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that Abraham became the model through whom other people blessed each other.

But there is another way to understand “Veheyei berachah.” The Torah tells us that Abraham, just before his death, “gave Isaac all that he possessed. And to the children of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts.”

But how did he give his many other children gifts, if he bequeathed it all to Isaac?

“All that he possessed,” the Midrash writes, does not simply refer to Abraham’s material wealth, but also to his spiritual wealth, his essence, his very being. Abraham’s personality and demeanor, his perspective on life–these he bestowed solely upon Isaac. One dare not equate material riches of cattle and oil with the spiritual riches secured by Abraham and passed to Isaac.

Blessing With His Essence

Jacob, too, in Parashat Vayehi, wishes to bestow blessings upon his children as a last will and testament. The Torah states, “Each man according to his blessing, he blessed them.” Jacob individualized each of his blessings for each of his sons, Rashi writes.

But Rabbi Joseph D. Soloveitchik, zt”l [of blessed memory], explains that “according to his blessing” does not necessarily refer to the blessings’ recipients, his sons, but could, in fact, refer to Jacob himself. Jacob blessed them with his blessing–that is, with his essence, with his very being.

Tailoring Each Blessing

In addition to tailoring each berachah (blessing) to the personality and temperament of each of his sons, Jacob gave them all a common berachah, one that he had received from Isaac, who, in turn, had received it from Abraham.

Parents have always made every effort to bless their children with estates of material wealth. Some are even judged by how much they’ve left for their children.

The meaning of “Veheyei berachah” shouts out to us. You will be a blessing! How much of you did you bequeath to your children? How much of your Torah and moral character, how much of your spiritual legacy will your children inherit?

Let us be sure to answer those questions.

Provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox congregations.The following article is reprinted with permission from the Orthodox Union.

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