Parashas Toldos

In this week’s parashah, Yitzchak gives Yaakov the following blessing (Bereishis 27:28): “And may God (Elokim) give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth, and abundant grain and wine.” The Midrash remarks (Bereishis Rabbah 63:3): “‘May God give you’—this refers to blessings. ‘And may God give you’—this refers to the means of preserving them (k’vishan).” The Midrash then presents a homiletical rendering of the opening phrase of this blessing: “And may He [God] grant you Elokusa.” Finally, the Midrash analyzes the rest of the blessing, presenting three sets of parallels. We focus here on the second set, which runs as follows: dew refers to Zion (Tehillim 133:3), the fatness of the earth refers to korbanos (Tehillim 66:15), grain refers to first fruits, and wine refers to libations.
The Maggid begins his explanation of this Midrash with a parable. Once there was a very wealthy man who owned many fields and businesses. He had several sons. When he neared the end of his life, he pondered how he would dispose of his assets. He decided he would give all his assets to one of his sons, who would be responsible for managing the fields and the businesses and for supporting his brothers from the profits. He called in his sons, told them the plan, and asked which of them wanted to be the one to manage the assets. Most of them backed away from the lead role; they were afraid to take on such a heavy responsibility, and preferred to be among those who would be supported by the lead brother. But one son, who was wiser than the others, agreed to accept the role. Afterward, his friends asked him why he took on this heavy burden. He explained: “I will benefit from this role in two ways. First, I will have available to me all the tools needed for every possible type of work. Second, my father will teach me how to use all these tools, and also how to do business, and I will thus acquire a priceless treasure of wisdom.”
The Maggid then presents the parallel. It is written (Mishlei 4:2): “For I have given you good counsel (lekach, literally acquisition) – Do not forsake My Torah.” The Midrash expounds (Shemos Rabbah 33:1):
Do not abandon the possession that I gave you. Sometimes a person purchases an item which has gold but not silver. And sometimes a person purchases an item that has silver but not gold. But the possession that I have given you has silver … and it has gold …. Sometimes a person buys a tract that has fields but not vineyards. And sometimes a person buys a tract that has vineyards but not fields. But this possession has both fields and vineyards.
This Midrash is teaching that Torah and mitzvos constitute the source of all blessing in the world, and that one who acquires the Torah automatically acquires all other blessings. When we came forward and said “we shall do and we shall listen,” Hashem gave us this priceless treasure as our special possession.
He then brought us to the Land of Israel, the place most suited to Torah and mitzvos. And He set aside a special place to serve as the fount of Torah. This place is Zion, as it is written (Yeshayah 2:3): “For from Zion shall go forth Torah.” In this special place, Zion, He set up His sanctuary, the Beis HaMikdash – which, as our Sages teach, is aligned with His celestial sanctuary (Tanchuma, Vayakhel 7). In the Beis HaMikdash, the table was set with special showbread, the holy menorah was lit, and korbanos and ketores were brought each day. These acts of service were designed to channel blessing from heaven to earth. Further, Hashem chose the kohanim, the pride of the Jewish People – saintly men of pure heart – as the ministers in charge of the Temple service. Hashem thus set up an exquisitely organized system for channeling His bounty to us, and then from us to the rest of the world.
At Sinai, Hashem informed us of our special role, declaring (Shemos 19:5-6): “You shall be unto Me a special treasure among all the nations, for the whole Earth is Mine. And you shall be unto Me as a kingdom of ministers (mamleches kohanim)and a holy nation.” Just as the kohanim, the sons of Aharon, serve as ministers on our behalf, conveying Hashem’s bounty to us, so, too, we as a nation serve as ministers on behalf of the world at large, conveying Hashem’s bounty to all mankind.
Dovid HaMelech writes (Tehillim 147:12-19):
Praise Hashem, O Jerusalem; laud your God, O Zion. For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children in your midst. It is He Who establishes peace within your borders; He sates you with the cream of the wheat. … He relates His word to Yaakov, His edicts and statutes to Yisrael.
This passage describes how Hashem appointed us the bearers of the Torah, a position which places upon us the duty to bring to light the Torah’s wisdom and involve ourselves in the Temple service [ideally through actual performance, and now, for the time being, through studying the relevant laws]. By carrying out this duty, we bring the world the Divine bounty it needs to continue in existence.
In the same vein, Dovid HaMelech writes elsewhere (Tehillim 111:5-6):
He has provided sustenance to those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant for the sake of the entire world. The power of His deeds He related to His people, to give them the estate of the nations.
This passage portrays the system we described above. Hashem provides sustenance to those who fear Him – to the Jewish People, who are dedicated to serving Him. Through this special nation, He conveys His bounty to the entire world, in fulfillment of His covenant to mankind. He has related to the Jewish People the power behind His deeds – the Torah, the tool of His craft (kli umanuso, cf. Bereishis Rabbah 1:1), which He uses in carrying out everything He does. He has given us the estate of the nations, the Land of Israel, the place most suited to Torah and mitzvos. He has thus put us in a position where we can generate the maximum blessing, for the benefit of all mankind.
The Jewish People’s special role, as described above, is the key reason why Hashem arranged for Yaakov to receive the blessing that Yitzchak had been poised to give: “And may God give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth, and abundant grain and wine.” It was not solely, or even primarily, for his own benefit that Yaakov was given this blessing. Rather, Hashem directed the blessing to Yaakov because He wished to put him in charge of the mechanism that brings bounty into the world, and make him a trustee of that bounty on behalf of all of mankind. In order for Yaakov to fulfill this role, he needed to be invested with great wisdom and a deep understanding of God, Torah, and the Temple service. When the Midrash says that the opening word “and” in the phrase “And may God give you” refers to the means of preserving the blessings God grants (k’vishan), it is referring to this wisdom and understanding – the hidden secrets underlying the system though which Hashem channels bounty into the world. (The word k’vishan can be read as a term that connotes “bottling up,” which alludes to both preserving and hiding. Thus, in Berachos 10a, the Gemara uses the term kivshei d’Rachmana to refer to Hashem’s hidden secrets.) Along with the blessings, Yaakov is granted Elokusa – knowledge of God. In addition, he is granted Zion, the seat of Torah, and is trained to be and then installed as the director of the Temple service, with its korbonos, first fruits, and libations. Yitzchak’s blessing to Yaakov was thus tailored to include everything Yaakov needed to fulfill the special role for which he was designated. 
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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