“Nothing is forever.” “There are limits to everything.” We tend to hear such statements all the time. (This is especially true regarding an ice cream cone, on a sunny Florida day.)
Most things in this world are indeed finite. Time, money, even life. But what if I were to tell you that there is something that we have, that we can create that is infinite? No, I am not talking about mitzvos, or Torah learning, or even reward in olam haba.
I’m talking about the ability to give brachos to others, and specifically, to our children.
וַיְבָ֨רְכֵ֜ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הַהוּא֮ לֵאמוֹר֒ בְּךָ֗ יְבָרֵ֤ךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר יְשִֽׂמְךָ֣ אֱלֹקים כְּאֶפְרַ֖יִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁ֑ה וַיָּ֥שֶׂם אֶת־אֶפְרַ֖יִם לִפְנֵ֥י מְנַשֶּֽׁה׃
And he [Yaakov] blessed them on that day saying “With you, Israel shall bless saying ‘May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe’ (Gen. 48:20)
Rashi explains this pasuk to be referring to the brachos that Jewish parents constantly give their children
הַבָּא לְבָרֵךְ אֶת בָּנָיו יְבָרְכֵם בְּבִרְכָתָם וְיֹאמַר אִישׁ לִבְנוֹ יְשִׂימְךָ אֱלֹקים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה:
One who comes to bless his sons, blesses them with [Ephraim and Menashe’s] blessing, and a man will say to his son ‘May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menashe’
The famous question is: Why specifically these two? What was special about Ephraim and Menashe, that forever afterwards, parents bless their children with their bracha?
There are many answers to this question, but let me share with you the explanation of R’ Yeruchem Levovitz zt’l, famed Mashgiach of the Mir yeshiva.
The bracha that we give our children is not as much about the recipients, Ephraim and Menashe,as it is about the giver of the blessing, and the specialness of Yaakov’s bracha to them.
Anyone can give a bracha, but not all brachos are the same, or have the same power. Yaakov’s bracha at that moment, when he was leaving this world and passing on his legacy to his grandchildren, was unbelievably powerful. So powerful, that by merely invoking that bracha, all of klal yisroel forever after can tap into and access the bracha of Yaakov avinu to Ephraim and Menashe.
Where does the power of brachos come from and how can we make ours more powerful?
At the end of Parshas Vayeietzei, Lavan, gives brachos to his family; to his daughters, Rochel and Leah, and to his grandchildren. R’ Ovadia Seforno points out that even Lavan, who was surely not a tzadik, can give a powerful and meaningful bracha. The power of a bracha comes from the heart, and it comes from the soul. Often, we give and receive short standard brachos, however, every once in a while, especially at meaningful times, (eg. a wedding, a bris, or a tearful goodbye) we can conjure up brachos that can last forever. When we give brachos to our children on Friday night, or to anyone at any time, let us realize the power of the moment. In tapping into our deepest feelings of love and generosity, we can give and create something eternal.
Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi Binyomin Halpern