The Power to Bless
PARSHAS VEYECHEY / 5767
Israel of Greater Buffalo
it was my acquiescing to the 110th congress or possibly it was
the 55 degree weather in the middle of January, but this week I took a look
at the documentary made by our former Vice President, “An Inconvenient
Truth”. Although I would have to agree with the pundits who said that had
Mr. Gore been this “real” during the election he would have won – or
at least carried his home state – that is not what I want to share with
you today. Nor do I want to get into the very solemn polemic of “Global
Warming”. Rather it was something else that Mr. Gore mentioned that struck
a nerve. In fact it was not what he said but what he quoted from Sir Winston
era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling
expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a
period of consequences”.
be sure, this quote is more apropos (considering its source) and as timely
to the problems facing the Middle East and the West then it does global
warming. But again, I need not preach to the choir and this is not what I
wish to discuss here today.
story within Sefer Bereishis comes to a close today. The Maaseh
Avos Siman L’Banim phase now will end. In its place, the actions and
provisions made by our forefathers will, from this point forward, be of
absolute consequence. Yaakov, realizing this, and with the
knowledge that in order to bless his children he must throw equivocation to
the wind, told his children, each one, who they really were and what
their sanctified goals must be, sensitivities and etiquette be gone.
with this quote still ringing in my head, with its representation into the
events we read today, I set out to learn Parsas VayeChey. However,
when I reached the first of these blessings of Yaakov, I was stopped
cold. For I saw something, in a Pasuk that I have read countless
times before, that caused me, last night, to lay awake perturbed and
pondering in perpetual preponderance. And if I am right in my difficulty, it
changes wholly the way we bless our children and have been blessing them for
thousands of years.
we raise the question an introduction to it is useful. No doubt, as this
preamble is said the question may become apparent – hitting you hard and
all the Avos, it is Yaakov, more than Avraham and Yitchok,
who represented Galus. This point, made clear in the Sifrei
Machshova, is self explanatory. From the moment this timid giant was
born into his temperament of the quiet tent dweller (read: scholar) he was
second, in timing and in his father’s eyes, to his wicked brother Eisav.
Robbed in embryonic state from his firstborn status and forced to fight
against his very nature of “… Teteyn Emes L’Yaakov…” to get
it back. Frightened, he asked his mother if the risk and the possible result
of failure, a curse, would be worth it all. So, he did the deed and ran,
forcing escape from the mother who, solely, understood his greatness.
Stripped and robbed of everything he had by his brother’s son, he arrives
at his relatives’ door, only to fall into a deep spiritual and transcended
love for Rachel. Forced to, he works for seven years to fulfill his
and G-d’s dream of the Shivtei Kah. Fooled at the alter, he is
forced to work again for Rachel. After this and years of bareness Rachel
finally gives birth to two children and dies in the process. Yaakov,
not wanting to name this child in concentration of that bittersweet event,
desperately changes the name, seeking a positive in a cloud of sorrow. We
should also add that this death of Rachel came through the words of Yaakov
himself (to Lavan) and how this must have gnawed at him all his
days. Now, physically crippled and in mourning, finally, “Vayashev”,
he feels he has arrived and can settle down and continue his one on one
learning with his dear son Yoseph, who, besides for the known reasons
for Yaakov’s partiality toward him, was a continuation and
projection of his spiritual dreams for the fruits of Rachel. Yoseph
is then sent by his father on a benign mission – resulting in his
never (in Yaakov’s mind) returning home, and, to add insult to
injury, their last conversation was one of reprimand. On top of this, Leah
dies at a relatively young age (see Seder Olam that Leah died at the age of
45 before Yoseph was sold). Twenty two years into his deep mourning, Yaakov
is put in the unenviable position to send Binyamin away, the last of Rachel,
at the strong risk (again, in his eyes) of losing him too.
importantly, Yaakov was not unaware of his unparalleled
hardships. He tells Pharaoh, “…my days have been few and bad…”, Rah-im.
our question: After all this just cited above, a life of hardships beyond
comprehension, Yaakov chooses the following to be our rallying prayer
to our children for centuries to come: “May the angel who has redeemed me
from bad – RAH…”
at least to me, screams for a need to be explained. This is a
blessing? This is the phrase that we sing to our children at night? Yaakov’s
life long protection from Rah, which by his own
testimony (to Pharaoh, above) was failed, should shield our children?!
wife offered three solutions to this glaring difficulty and although I
usually agree with her Biblical interpretations, this time I would have to
differ. I will give over some of her answers that are initially quite
convincing but, to me; do not live up to close scrutiny. Her answers:
- Yaakov did not say “…the angel who protected me
from Rah…”, rather “…who redeemed me from Rah…”,
now, finally at peace and truly redeemed (“Vayechey Yaakov…”)
Yaakov was, indeed, free from anguish. This answer seems problematic
however since Yaakov was referring to most of his life until
that point, see Rashi, Zohar, R. Hirsch et al. where this can be
– The person (in this case Yaakov) who has troubles in his life
must, ergo, have a stronger “Guardian Angel” than others.
Here too the answer does not hold up; I would imagine the opposite to be
true – that he who was always saved from trouble throughout his life has
the superior and mightier guardian.
believe a closer reading of this Pasuk may illuminate our
understanding. In truth, and this question aside, it would have fit better,
and many people, I believe, half hazardly do translate it incorrectly
this way, for Yaakov to say “May the angel who has redeemed me
from bad protect you…”. However, what he did
say was “May the angel who has redeemed me from bad bless
is well understood that for a blessing to have its desired affect it must
come from a heartfelt source. A prayer as well: family, friends and
community. A conspicuous example of this would be Yitchak’s request
for delicacies from Eisav before he was to bless him – Yitzchak
first needed a visceral bond to Eisav for the blessings to have its
ultimate realization (see Ramban there as well as R. Avraham Ben
famous story with R’ Yoel of Satmar comes to mind: When asked who,
when the Rebbe was not around, the Chasidim should go to for
blessings, the Rebbe responded, “After Davening, look around
when the men are taking off their Teffilin Shel Yad, if you see
numbers on a person’s arm, request a blessing from him”.
one who has felt helpless in the past has the suitable power, nay, emotion
and understanding, to bless us for the future.
we, as a nation, were about to enter into the kingdom of the night of Egypt
and beyond, Yaakov, aside from himself, wanted someone to eternally
bless his progeny, one who had passionate understanding of G-d-ordered
restraint and its, hand tied behind the back and all, frustrations, a
blessing that would speak to those throughout the ages who were slaughtered
and misused angels
in their time. He found the one.
that pivotal moment of consequence in our nation’s history, our entering
an exile, an exile that is so well defined by Yaakov’s own life in
that we have experienced moments of great successes, both in the mundane and
the spiritual, as well as – and sometimes simultaneously – the depths of
despair, that we call upon this blessing, we, as well as our parents for us,
because its source is one of true understanding for our enigmatic state and
curbed resolve. This blessing is our hope that will carry us through to its
own poetic ending of, “…Bkerev Ha’aretz”.
 Her third answer however I do find convincing and majestic: It was now, at the end of his life, that Yaakov was able to put the puzzle together and realized the beauty of G-d’s plan for him and that it was all, in truth, good. See Purim Thoughts 5765 by this author where such an idea is expounded.
 The comparison of Tzadikim and their deeds to that of angels is not necessary for this point, however it is not just poetic license either, but it is beyond the scope of this Drashah, see S”A OR”H SI’ 95 and M”B #2, BACH SI’ #18.
 The concept of angels having emotions is not used here as a heavy homiletical tool, nor is it poetic license either, but, on an esoteric level, real, but also beyond the scope of this Drashah.
Yomi takes place nightly at the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo, 105 Maple Road,
after the evening services. For complete schedule call 634-0212 or visit their
web site at yibuffalo.org