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Parashas Vayechi

How much importance do we attach to blessings that we receive from others? How seriously do we take them? Our Sages established that “everything depends upon the one who gives the blessing and the one who receives it.”

What if G-d Himself gives the blessing? A deeper significance to the concept of blessings is found in the Almighty’s declaration to Avraham, “Veheyei bracha – You will be a blessing.” This gave Avraham the Divine authority to bless anyone else he wanted, according to Rashi. The Ramban explains that Avraham became the model through whom other people blessed each other. But there is another way to understand “Veheyei berachah.” The Torah tells us that Avraham Aveinu, just before his death, “gave Yitzchok all that he possessed. And to the children of his concubines, Avraham gave gifts.” But, how did he give his many other children gifts, if he bequeathed it all to Yitzchok?

“All that he possessed,” the Midrash writes, does not simply refer to Avraham’s material wealth, but also to his spiritual wealth, his essence, his very being. Avraham’s personality and demeanor, his perspective on life, these he bestowed solely upon Yitzchak. One dare not equate material riches of cattle and oil with the spiritual riches secured by Avraham and passed to Yitzchak. Yaakov, too, in Parshat Vayechi, wishes to bestow blessings upon his children as a last will and testament. The Torah states, “Each man according to his blessing, he blessed them.” Yaakov individualized each of his blessings for each of his sons, Rashi writes.

But Rav Yosef D. Soloveitchik, zt”I, explains that “according to his blessing” does not necessarily refer to the blessings’ recipients, his sons, but could, in fact, refer to Yaakov himself. Yaakov blessed them with his blessing – that is, with his essence, with his very being.

In addition to tailoring each bracha to the personality and temperament of each of his sons, Yaakov gave them all a common bracha, one that he had received from Yitzchak, who, in turn, had received it from Avraham. Parents have always made every effort to bless their children with estates of material wealth. Some are even judged by how much they’ve left for their children. The meaning of Veheyei bracha shouts out to us. You will be a blessing! How much of you did you bequeath to your children? How much of your Torah and moral character, how much of your spiritual legacy will your children inherit? Let us be sure to answer those questions.

Rabbi Yaakov Pollak

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