By Rabbi Naftoly Bier
On ליל שבת, Friday evening parents and grandparents bless their dear children and grandchildren. For a male the prefix used is ישמך אלוקים כאפרים וכמנשה. May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe, whereas for a female the prefix used is the ד’ אמהות, may Hashem make you like the four matriarchs. Then the person is blessed with the blessing that the כהנים, priests blessed the Jewish people.
How does a blessing by one impact on another’s life? Why is it necessary to invoke the abovementioned prefix?
In this week’s פרשה, portion, Hashem tells אברהם אבינו, our patriarch Abraham (Genesis 12,2) (“And I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great), and you shall be a blessing.”
Rashi explains that the meaning of the last phrase is that Hashem empowered Avraham Avinu with the ability to bless whomever he wished. “Until now” Hashem says, “it was My jurisdiction to bless, I blessed Adam and Noach and you; now you can bless who you so desire.”
From this it is apparent that the idea of blessing another person is a profound concept, a dynamic that has great influence and potency.
In משלי כב,ט, Proverbs 22, 9, שלמה המלך, King Solomon taught: טוב עין הוא יבורך””, “One with a good eye will be blessed – or – One with a good eye should be the one to bless.” A person with a ‘good eye’ is one that is endowed by Hashem the power that one’s blessing be effective.
Harav Shlomo Wolbe זצ”ל explains that the more selfless one is the more one truly, relentlessly, emotionally, and magnanimously desires only the supreme level of love, compassion and largesse for another, the more effective is their blessing.
The Talmud, תעניתת כד ב, Tractate Taanis 24b states: Every single day a heavenly voice declares, “The whole world is granted sustenance due to my son חנינה, Chanina, whereas my son Chanina is satisfied with the barest, a mere portion of carobs from Friday to Friday.”
Harav Yerucham Levovitz זצ”ל explains that since Rav Chanina was totally selfless, only desiring that everyone should be blessed by Hashem, he therefore was the conduit that blessing to the world would pass through. In the same manner, our patriarch Avraham whose life was totally dedicated to helping and gifting to others, was naturally given the power of enabling others to be blessed by Hashem.
The concept, that Hashem blesses the world only through the ‘partnership’ of humans is contained in the Talmud, ברכות לה●, “Whoever has satisfaction from this world and doesn’t thank Hashem (with a ברכה) is stealing from Him and Klal Yisrael.” If one truly and sincerely appreciates Hashem’s benefactions, then Hashem continues to grant His world blessings; if not, He withholds it.
The more a person is completely selfless and implacable in one’s determination to help others, their blessings engender a ‘response’ from Hashem. Rav Shlomo Wolbe says, “On the other hand, a person who is self-centered and blesses others is a dishonest person who falsely robs others.”
The idea that people are conduits for Hashem to bestow His largesse is further seen in the total making of this world. The Rambam explains in Exodus 25, 24, that after the creation of the world, nothing is created anew from ‘nothing’, but all of blessing needs an existing entity that serves as a channel through which it can become a reality. This is the reason why one leaves bread on the table while saying ברכת המזון, Grace after meals, in order that the blessing of food should have an existing blessing, that will be the transformative power for continued blessing.
Another very important stipulation needed for a ברכה, a blessing to be effective is unequivocal אמונה. The idea that has to be inculcated as a part of one’s essence; is that everything is governed by Hashem and one’s life is dedicated to Hashem’s World.
אברהם אבינו, our patriarch Avraham, was on a lower level of prophecy than his wife, Sarah. To be a prophet necessitates that one separate himself from interaction with others in order to receive a prophecy.
Avrohom Avinu selflessly dedicated his life journey to selflessly enrich the lives of others by teaching them the idea of Hashem, a Creator, Sustainer, and Supervisor of all, who loves every person, who loves every person. For this, he was granted the merit, and privilege of blessing others.
The פסוק continues, “ונברכו בך כל משפחות האדמה”, “And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves through you.” Rashi explains: “A person will say to a child, be like Avraham”, or as it says in Genesis 48,20, “By you shall Israel bless saying, May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe.”.
Why is it necessary to invoke other people, just bless one that they should be an upright, honest and good person?
When one just blesses a child to be a good person, the child is left to define what is the definition of an upright person. To aspire for human accomplishment, one needs to articulate an example that impresses the recipient of one’s blessing. Ephraim and Menashe, despite growing up in Egypt, a land devoid of all spiritual value, became great people who were versed in all of Torah. The lesson: if one enthusiastically, with conviction, embarks on attaining a goal, despite all negativity, one will be successful; gaining Hashem’s partnership to facilitate its actualization.
This is the lesson that “שימוש תלמידי חכמים גדול מלימודה”, the spending of time in the company of a Torah Scholar, is greater (more educational) than the Torah itself; for one is not only ‘intellectually stimulated’ by Torah, but visualizes the truth of Torah. A true תלמיד חכם is one that leads a life based on the principles of Torah- integrity, selflessness, compassion, love of every single person, and of course their unbridled dedication to use every moment to study Torah and perform Mitzvahs- all while being an embodiment of true, unadulterated אמונה- living with Hashem every moment.
A תלמיד חכם is one who bleeds for Klal Yisrael, who lavishes love onto every single Jew, for we are all creations of Hashem, a loving Father to all.
The אבות, our patriarchs, were designated with this supreme title, for they altruistically dedicated every moment of their lives to create a nation, Klal Yisrael, thereby gaining the gift of blessing all.