Parsha_Push for Vayehi
Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg
To what extent can we affect reality?
When Joseph brings his sons to be blessed by Jacob, he assumes the elder son should have precedence when receiving the blessing. However, Jacob crosses his hands, and when asked why he explains that he knows who each grandchild is, and that “He too shall become a people, and he too shall be great. Yet his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall be plentiful enough for nations”. Contrary to the notion that the blessing can create a reality, Jacob teaches us that he adjusts his blessing according to a fixed reality. Later we will find that he blessed his children, giving each “the blessing befitting him”.
So, what is the purpose of blessing others, if the blessing needs to fit the receiving party’s pre-dermined fate?
When a person blesses God, he thereby recognizes the good God brings to the world, and the characteristics from which this good stems. He acknowledges that God creates the fruit of the land and brings forth bread, that His might and power fill the world and that He remembers the covenant with Noah. Usually, this is the best blessing man can grant his creator – the recognition of God’s blessing.
When a person blesses his peer, frequently this is really a prayer to God to grant that person from His plentiful hand. At other times, like in our Parsha, the blessing includes an insight as to the other person’s potential and strengths, fortifying him or her on their way to deal with their fate and their life.
Jacob recognizes his children’s and grandchildren’s challenges and tailors his blessings accordingly, emphasizing each one’s needs and resources. Jacob cannot know which grandchild will be “greater” or have more offspring, but he can weigh his hand that blesses them more heavily, granting more comfort, support and encouragement to the grandchild who will need it. He cannot change his children’s personality, but he can highlight their distinctive attributes and bestow upon them the roles they can deal with.
In these days, we are full of prayer to God for our fellow Jews – for our leaders, our soldiers and their families, the wounded and the displaced. We are also focused on increasing the blessing we give, recognizing each other’s strengths and potential, seeing the good in others, and valuing their unique contribution to the community. At the same time, through our blessing we are trying to share our energy reserves with them and show our utmost appreciation as a means of supporting them on their unique journeys.
We may not be able to change the reality and the fate of people with our words, but with our words we can increase (or, regretfully, decrease) their power, energy and therefore the ability to deal with their fate. It is through our blessing we have the power to amplify the good in people and hence the good they can bring to the world.