Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On the Trail of Blessings: אל שדי Returns!

[This is the sixth instalment of the series. Begin the Trail with part-one here.]

Thus far, we have seen how Hashem blessed Avraham with both material and spiritual riches, we have seen Yitzchok's attempt to divide up these two berachos between Yaakov and Eisav, and we have seen Yaakov's repudiation of the blessing of materialism that his mother forced him to steal. We continue pursuing the trail now, but first we must go back and take another look at the language of the original Berachos.

As we pointed out in the first post of this series, the Beracha that Yitzchok saved for Yaakov (28:3-4) is the very same Beracha that Hashem gave Avraham at the end of Parshas Lech Lecha (17:1-8), albeit in abbreviate form. Yitzchok retains all the key words and themes of the original Beracha, with one exception - he makes no mention of the ברית that Hashem promised Avraham, the eternal relationship, the "והייתי לכם לאלהים". It would seem that it is not within Yitzchok's power to grant that part of the Beracha to Yaakov. A ברית is a covenant between two parties and as such it obviously cannot be created by an outsider. Ultimately, the question of Yaakov's relationship with Hashem and his destiny as an אב can only be determined by Hashem Himself. Although Avraham gave the beracha of כל to Yitzchok (25:5), after Avraham passes away Hashem has to come and bless Yitzchok directly (25:11). So it must be with Yaakov as well.

This explains the oath that Yaakov took at Beis El. Yaakov has just stolen טל השמים from Eisav and received ברכת אברהם from Yitzchok, but yet he says the following:
וידר יעקב נדר לאמר אם יהיה אלהים עמדי ושמרני בדרך הזה אשר אנכי הולך ונתן לי לחם לאכל ובגד ללבש ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי והיה יהוה לי לאלהים, והאבן הזאת אשר שמתי מצבה יהיה בית אלהים וכל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך
Yaakov asks not for the fulfillment of any of the blessings that he has received, rather he focuses on the one beracha that he lacks, the piece his father left out: והיה ה' לי לאלהים.
There is another significant difference between what Hashem says to Avraham at the end of Lech Lecha and what Yitzchok says to Yaakov at the end of Toldos. While Hashem blesses Avraham directly, אני אל שדי... ואתנה בריתי, Yitzchok merely expresses his hope that אל שדי will bless Yaakov with ברכת אברהם. Yitzchok can do no more than pray ואל שדי יברך אתך for the very same reason that he can make no statements about a ברית. It's in God's hands.

Years later, Yaakov returns to Israel and fulfills his end of the deal, building a בית אלהים at Beis El. He then receives this prophecy:
ויאמר לו אלהים שמך יעקב לא יקרא שמך עוד יעקב כי אם ישראל יהיה שמך ויקרא את שמו ישראל ויאמר לו אלהים אני אל שדי פרה ורבה גוי וקהל גוים יהיה ממך ומלכים מחלציך יצאו ואת הארץ אשר נתתי לאברהם וליצחק לך אתננה ולזרעך אחריך אתן את הארץ
Here "Yitzchok's blessing" is fulfilled! Hashem Himself, coming as אל שדי, grants ברכת אברהם to Yaakov - using the same key words from parshas Lech Lecha and Toldos! This Beracha is transformative, and so, like his grandfather Avraham before him, Yaakov's name is changed as he receives his destiny.

That Yaakov merits ברכת אברהם comes as no surprise; what is facinating is what is missing. Hashem makes no mention of the berachos that Yaakov stole from Eisav! No טל השמים, no שמני הארץ. Hashem never does bless Yaakov with any of the material blessings that were granted to Avraham at the beginning of Lech Lecha (unless you count 46:3). Like Yaakov himself, Hashem seems focused on the original vision of Yaakov, the איש תם יושב אהלים, a man dedicated exclusively to divine service. The fact that Yaakov has usurped Eisav's role is being ignored, and, on some level, maybe even denied.
[Continue the Trail with part 6 1/2 here.]

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these beautiful posts! Now that's what I call Torah L'Shma!

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