Friday, November 24, 2006

brachos from a tzadik - parshas toldos

Before getting to the hard questions, I just want to underscore one simple point in the parsha: a righteous person can bestow a bracha on someone that can radically affect that person’s life. A bracha is not just an expression of hope for the future, or good wishes, because were that the case why would Yitzchak not hope the best for both of his children, and why would Ya’akov risk so much to receive that bracha? The parsha only makes sense if we assume there is some tangible benefit to receiving a bracha from a tzadik. Now for the hard part – how does this bracha work? If a bracha is a type of prophetic revelation of future events, then whether or not Ya’akov did anything or stood before Yitzchak, the same future should have been foretold. If brachos are a tefillah asking Hashem to bestow certain gifts, how could Ya’akov have hoped to benefit from the tefillah of Yitzchak when Yitchak’s kavanah was on Eisav? – if I say a “borei pri ha’eitz” on a tomato, it obviously does not turn the fruit into an apple! The Rishonim grapple with these issues (see Derashon haRan, Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel). The simple answers assume that Yitzchak did not really have kavanah for Eisav but suspected someone else before him, or that Ya’akov’s being present merely thwarted Eisav’s receiving the brachos even if it accomplished nothing for himself. I don’t find these answers very satisfying and was drawn to the Abarbanel’s more substantive approach, but I am still trying to digest what he says. Going back to an idea discussed in a previous posting, the idea of bracha is perhaps related to the idea of dibbur being a “poel”. A women can become mekudeshes thorugh dibbur; we create a chalos of kedushas korban through dibbur; kiddush done through dibbur sanctifies shabbos; bais din’s declaration is “mekadesh” the new month – these are not just legal fictions, but the force of speech literally causes a change in state. The Abarbanel writes that Yitzchak’s bracha was like a carpenter who builds a window through which light now enters a house – once the window is there, the fact that the carpenter built it by mistake or wants the sun to shine elsewhere has absolutely no effect. Mashal l’mah hadavr domeh (l’aniyus da’ati): compare with Bais Shamai’s opinion that hekdesh b’ta’us is still hekdesh. Hekdesh bestows a status on the animal which makes it ra’uy for korban, but the fulfillment of the ma’aseh mitzvah is in the actual offering of the korban on mizbayach. Similarly, a bracha’s power is in the potential it invests in an individual to become the recipient of shefa from Hashem, but much still hinges on the individual’s efforts to bring that potential to fruition.


  1. Anonymous2:36 PM


  2. There is a great difference between the kavana of tefilla--nafsho be’kapo, as the gemora in Taynis says, and the kavana of a brocho, which needs to be mitoch simchoh, which is why we don’t have duchenning in golus on weekdays.

    R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz in Sichos Mussar maamar 24 p. 186 says this clearly, that a brocho requires a connection between the people, and seeing (like by Bilom) or hearing or touching him (like birchas habonim) makes brocho possible.

    Note also that in duchenning, the kohanim don't say, "Hashem, boreich osem." They address the kohol "yevorech'cho Hashem."

    Rashi in Bereishis 12:2 brings that Hashem put “brochos” into Avrohom’s hands— until now, I, Hashem, had ‘brochos’ in my hands. Now, you may bentch whoever you want to. Rashi also brings it down here in 25:5, that Avrohom gave this ability over to Yitzchok. We see from this that usually, Brochos are in Hashem’s hands, but for Avrohom and Yitzchok, they themselves were the instruments of brochos. The point is, that we see that brochos are, usually and at least theoretically, a koach which is very different than tefilla.

  3. >>>The point is, that we see that brochos are, usually and at least theoretically, a koach which is very different than tefilla.

    Ibn Ezra, for one, disagrees, but that is the whole nekudas hamachlokes here. See Abarbanel who brings a ra'aya from birchas kohanim to his position.

  4. Regarding getting a beracha from a tzaddik and having a tzaddik daven for you see here

  5. This morning, someone asked me an excellent question.

    Why is it that a nevu'ah lo'ro'oh can be boteil, while kilelas chochom afilu ahl tnai hi bo'oh?

    I answered that nevu'oh and tefilla have a din of dibbur, and dibbur can be botel. But brochoh and kloloh, which require contact or at least proximity, have a din of maiseh, and maiseh cannot be boteil.

  6. And yes, I checked out the Ibn Ezra, and he does hold that brochos are just another kind of tefillah. I can't help that. As I wrote, R' Chaim Shmuelevitz is maarich in maamar 24 p. 186 to bring rayos to the derech of the Abarbanel, sort of. At least as far as the physical aspect of brochos.

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