Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

Two Berachos that are One

The theme of berachos permeates the entirety of parshas Toldos. Yitzchak is blessed by Hashem, confirming that the berachos promised to Avraham would be transmitted through Yitzchak. The Torah highlights the fulfillment of these berachos by describing Yitzchak's financial success. Even his rivals, Avimelech and his nation, concede that Yitzchak is the one blessed by Hashem. Furthermore, parshas Toldos culminates with Yaakov receiving two berachos. He is first blessed unknowingly by Yitzchak with the berachos that were intended for Esav, and he subsequently receives the birchas Avraham - the beracha assuring him inheritance of Eretz Yisroel and an eternal relationship with Hashem.

Upon analyzing the various berachos of parshas Toldos, it is clear that there are two distinct categories of berachos. First, there are berachos that focus on material property, like that gathered by Yitzchak during his days in Gerar and as expressed in the beracha of "v'yiten lecha." Second, in contrast with this material "abundance of grain and wine," there is also the spiritual beracha of being a forefather of the nation of Hashem that is bestowed upon Yitzchak at the beginning of the parsha and upon Yaakov at the end. The significance of the spiritual berachos is understandable, but, why does the Torah place so much emphasis on the seemingly mundane material success?

The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva elaborates upon the significance of material blessings, as follows: reward for mitzvos is spiritual in nature and is received in the next world; the Torah promises us material beracha in this world not as a reward for mitzvos, but rather as a support and vehicle to enable us to continue on the path of mitzvos. Hashem will remove the physical obstacles of famine, war and other impediments to our proper service of Him. With this understanding of the role of material success we can appreciate the seemingly dual nature of the berachos of parshas Toldos. There are not two distinct berachos, but rather two sides of one beracha. Hashem assures Yitzchak, and subsequently Yaakov, that they will merit fathering the nation that will have an eternal relationship with Hashem. He will enable this by blessing Bnai Yisroel with the requisite physical gifts. Rather than serving as a distraction from their spiritual pursuits, Hashem's providing of their material needs will allow the Jewish People to focus wholeheartedly on their mission.

Every year on Yom Kippur, as the kohein gadol left the kodesh hakadashim, he would recite a tefillah. One would expect that this tefillah would be spiritual in nature - it is recited on the holiest day of the year by the holiest person in the holiest place. And yet, this tefillah appears to be anything but spiritual! The kohein gadol beseeches Hashem for a bountiful harvest, financial success, and many other worldly blessings. In fact, this tefillah is very much a spiritual one; this tefillah asks that our physical needs be met so we can focus on the spiritual goals we have set on Yom Kippur.

Many people have the custom to recite the tefillah of "v'yiten lecha" on motsaei Shabbos as we begin a new week. Just as the kohein gadol focuses on the necessary berachos of this world as he exits the kodesh hakadashim, so too, as we leave the spiritual realm of Shabbos, we ask Hashem for the material success necessary to continue pursuing our spiritual goals.

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