Shaddai

Learn Hebrew

Learn Torah

Hebrew for Christians
BS''D
Parashat Toldot - Two Blessings for Jacob

Two Blessings for Jacob

Further thoughts on Parashat Toldot

by John J. Parsons
www.hebrew4christians.com

When we think of Jacob as a young man, we tend to recall the dramatic episode when he surreptitiously disguised himself as Esau to "steal" the blessing from his father Isaac. In this week's Torah, however, we note that Jacob actually received two blessings from his father. The first blessing -- given to a disguised Jacob -- focused on material blessings: the "dew of heaven," the "fatness of the earth," "plenty of grain and wine," political power and hegemony (Gen. 27:28-29), whereas the second blessing -- given to an undisguised Jacob -- focused on his role as God's chosen patriarch of Israel (Gen. 28:3-4). The difference between these blessings turned on Isaac's restored vision. His first blessing was tailored to the character of Esau as his "natural choice," whereas his second blessing looked beyond mere appearances to behold the vision that was originally given to his father Abraham:
 

וְאֵל שַׁדַּי יְבָרֵךְ אתְךָ
וְיַפְרְךָ וְיַרְבֶּךָ וְהָיִיתָ לִקְהַל עַמִּים
וְיִתֶּן־לְךָ אֶת־בִּרְכַּת אַבְרָהָם
לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אִתָּךְ

ve'el · Shad·dai · ye·va·rekh · ot·kha
ve'yaf·re·kha · ve'yar·be·kha · ve'ha·yi·ta · lik·hal · a·mim
ve'yit·ten · le·kha · et · bir·kat · Avraham
le·kha · ul·zar·a·kha · i·takh
 

"May El Shaddai bless you,
make you fertile and numerous to become an assembly of peoples.
And may He grant the blessing of Abraham
to you and your offspring"
(Gen. 28:3-4)



- Isaac's second blessing to Jacob


In a sense, the self-effacing, disciplined, and strong-willed Isaac abandoned his "natural vision" (i.e., to install Esau as the next patriarch, despite the assumed remonstration of his wife Rebekah) by finally surrendering to the vision of his father Abraham. Isaac's entire life was a sort of overreaction to his father - an "antithesis to Abraham's thesis."  By choosing to bless Jacob a second time, this time with his eyes wide open, Isaac revealed that he had finally accepted the grace of God that was revealed to his father Abraham. 

Recall that after Esau discovered that the blessing was given to Jacob, he lamented and pleaded with his father to bestow upon him a blessing as well. It is interesting to note that the "residual" blessing that Isaac gave to Esau was the inverse of that given to Jacob: the "fatness of the earth" was put before the "dew of heaven" (compare Gen. 27:39 with Gen. 27:28). Receiving sustenance from heaven is of greater value than finding earthly prosperity.  And indeed, Jacob was "blessed" with trouble his whole life, which caused him to rely on the "dew from heaven," whereas Esau was "blessed" with prosperity (and trouble) that came from trafficking in this world....


Note:  Isaac was 60 years old when his two sons were born (Gen. 25:24-26), and according to Jewish tradition, Jacob and Esau were 63 years old at the time of the blessings (Yevamot 6a), making Isaac 123 years old at the time. He died at the age of 180 (Gen. 35:28-29), making him the longest living of the three patriarchs. The Talmud further states that Jacob first fled to the School of Shem (i.e., Malki-Tzedek) before proceeding to Padan Aram, so that actually arrived at Laban's home when he was 77.
 

<< Return to Toldot


 

Hebrew for Christians
Copyright © John J. Parsons
All rights reserved.

email