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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.


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