Skip to main content

Blessings, Blessings, Blessings - Parashat Lech-Lecha 5780, November 8, 2019

In this week’s parasha, Lech Lecha, the Torah recounts the Avram’s return from an improbable victory in a war against the four kings. On the way, he encounters MalkiTzedek, the King of Shalem.

The Torah describes the meeting: “MalkiTzedek, king of Shalem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of G-d, the Most High. He (MalkiTzedek) blessed him saying, “Blessed is Avram of G-d, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be G-d, the Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

The Malbim, Rabbi Meir Leibush, asks why MalkiTzedek blessed Avram before blessing G-d. Although the Midrash, in fact, criticizes MalkiTzedek for prioritizing the blessings in this way, Malbim explains that MalkiTzedek’s decision to bless Avram before G-d is to MalkiTzedek’s credit.

To understand what justifies MalkiTzedek’s prioritization, we first need to ask another question – how can a human being bless G-d? To say that a human being is blessed is understandable – MalkiTzedek saw in Avram an individual who was successful materially and spiritually. Such a person is blessed. However, what does “blessed” mean in reference to the Almighty?

Malbim and others explain that the term “blessed” in reference to G-d means that G-d is the Source of all blessing in the world. When we make a blessing like we do on wine – 
Baruch Ata Hashem Elokenu Melech HaOlam Bore Peri HaGefen – Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine – we are declaring that G-d is the source of this food and by extension that He is the source of all blessing. All berachot that we make are declarations that G-d is the source of all blessing.

Returning to MalkiTzedek’s blessing Avram and G-d, MalkiTzedek is using Avram’s success as an opportunity to declare three fundamental ideas about G-d and His relationship with the world. In his blessing of Avram, MalkiTzedek says, “Blessed is Avram of G-d, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth”. According to Malbim’s explanation, MalkiTzedek is declaring that G-d is the ultimate and fundamental cause of the world and that He manages the world, sustains it and continually wills it to exist. Avram is blessed because G-d, who created and manages the world, performed miracles that supersede nature on Avram’s behalf.

However, MalkiTzedek does not stop here. He then blesses the Almighty. What further idea is MalkiTzedek declaring?

Malbim explains that MalkiTzedek was teaching a profoundly deep and important idea about G-d’s relationship with the world. By blessing Avram and subsequently blessing G-d, MalkiTzedek is teaching us that there is an order for G-d’s blessings in the world – G-d’s blessing flow to those who have prepared themselves for His blessing. Blessings flow to those unique individuals who – through their righteousness – become vessels for G-d’s blessing to flow to the world. When blessings flow to a righteous person, the whole world benefits – he or she gives tzedaka, teaches justice and righteousness to others and does good for society. MalkiTzedek is declaring that when blessings flow to a righteous person like Avram, the world also recognizes that G-d is the source of all blessing.

Thus, MalkiTzedek used Avram’s improbable victory as an opportunity to declare three concepts about G-d’s relationship to the world – G-d is the ultimate cause of the universe, G-d constantly wills and sustains the existence of the world and G-d’s blessings flow to the world through uniquely righteous individuals who have prepared themselves to be vessels for G-d’s blessing.

Let us seize upon the examples of MalkiTzedek and Avram to understand G-d’s relationship to the world to become the vehicles for its perfection.


Popular posts from this blog

Dwelling Securely - Parashat Behar 5779, May 24, 2019

Our seventh and eighth grade students returned this past week from the ten-day Junior High Israel Experience program. Mrs. Anat Kampf, Chazzan Ricky Kampf and I were honored to chaperone this inaugural program, and, on behalf of the students, we are very thankful to the parents, to the community and Lemsky Fund for their support of this endeavor.
Our students soaked up the land, the people and the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. At school, we learn Torah. In Israel, we experienced the Torah. At school we learn about the impact and significance of the State of Israel. In Israel, we experienced the geography, history and people of the State of Israel. In school, we learn Ivrit. In Israel, we spoke Ivrit.
Our students experienced the breadth and depth of the land. They had both an urban experience – sleeping in Yerushalayim for six days – and a more pastoral experience – sleeping in Kibbutz Lavi. They visited sites of destruction and death that now have renewed vitality and significance – the Ko…

The Antidote to Arrogance - Parshat Tazria 5779 - April 5, 2019

This and next week’s parshiyot are called torat hanegaim – the laws related to tzara’at – the Divine Punishment of an “eruption” – a nega – on the home, clothing and/or skin. Tzara'at is not a naturally occurring disease in the sense that its cause is not exposure to disease nor is it communicable. Rather, tzara'at is a Divine Punishment brought on by sin. Rashi explains that this punishment is prominently associated with two sins - lashon hara – sins of speech – and gasot haruach – arrogance.

Some averot – like not eating kosher food or having illicit relationships – typically stem from physical desire. Others – such as not believing in the existence of G-d – can stem from a philosophical mistake. But averot like lashon hara and gasot haruach are members of a unique class of sins. These are sins that stem from a character flaw – a problem in the person’s personality.

In next week’s parasha, Rashi teaches a foundational principle about tzara'at: the process of atonement fo…

Accepting Guidance - Parashat Shemini 5779 - March 29, 2019

This week’s parasha, Shemini, deals with the eighth and final day of the inauguration of the mishkan.
At the beginning of the parasha, the Torah presents a list of korbanot – sacrifices – that are to be offered on this inauguration day. Two of these sacrifices include a command for Aharon to bring a calf as a sin offering and for the People of Israel to bring a goat as a sin offering. Rav Matis Blum, in his sefer, Torah Le’Daat, discusses why, on the final day of the dedication of the mishkan, there was a command to offer not one, but two, sin offerings – Aharon’s calf and B’nei Yisrael’s goat.
Maimonides, in his Guide to the Perplexed, suggests reasons why specific animals were commanded to be offered in the mishkan and in the beit hamikdash. In discussing the calf and the goat as sin offerings, HaRambam explains that each of these animals has an association with a previous sin of the Jewish People. The Rambam suggests that the calf is connected to the sin of the Golden Calf. On this …