Jacob blessing by Rembrandt
Jacob blessing by Rembrandt INN: RVR

We read in the coming Parasha the timeless words of the ‘Blessing of the Sons’, by Yaakov Avinu(48:15-16):’O G-d before Whom my forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak walked- G-d who shepherds me from my inception until this day; May the angel who redeems me from all evil bless the lads, and may my name be declared upon them, and the names of my forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak, and may they proliferate abundantly like fish within the land’.

Rav Baruch Halevi Epstein comments:’The language here לא מדויק: is not ‘accurate’, as it starts with ‘G-d’, yet concludes with ‘angel’.

‘Therefore, we must say that it is said בקיצור: ‘in short-hand’, and, in its entirety, it reads:’The G-d before whom my forefathers walked, the G-d who has shepherded me from my inception until this day, and who sent his angel to redeem me from all evil, He-G-d- will bless the lads’.

Haktav veHakabala, however, says:’There is no need to change the words of this passage.'

‘As we do in our prayers, we first praise Hashem, and then make our request.

‘Here too, Yaakov Avinu first offers ‘praise’ to Hashem: You G-d before whom my forefathers walked, AND you, the G-d who shepherded me all my days- and now sets out his prayer:’May the angel who redeemed me, bless the lads’.

‘And if you ask: What is the relevance of an angel here? Was Yaakov truly redeemed by an angel?

The Zohar Hakadosh provides the answer: ‘The angel who redeemed’ Yaakov, was none other than the Shechina: Hashem.

‘Why would the Torah here refer to Hashem as an ‘angel’? Answer: The word מלאך-malach: angel, is derived from מלאכה-work.

‘Thus we find that the creation of Heaven and Earth is referred to as מלאכת ה׳:’Then the heavens and the earth were completed. G-d completed מלאכתו: The work He had done, He ceased on the seventh day מכל מלאכתו: from all the work of..He had created to do’.

‘And, each and every day, Hashem continues His work, the work of Creation, to bring all that He has created בכח: in potential, into פועל: fruition.

‘Therefore, when Yaakov Avinu said:’The angel who redeemed me’, he did not have in mind an intermediary emissary, but the true cause, Hashem, who is the One ‘who redeems me from all evil’’.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch adds:’The word’מלאך’: angel, is derived from מלך: king, one who, seemingly, is in control, and independent; however, the additional letter אלף, in angel, is an allusion that he is, in fact, guided by another- by One, by Hashem, whose emissary he is’.

The Abarbanel offers a more literal interpretation:’Our holy Avot were always under the השגחה פרטית: the ‘private guidance’ of Hashem, not of an angel; whenever an angel is mentioned, concerning them, it is only as an instrument of Hashem’s guidance, not as an individual force.

‘Thus, we read of Avraham Avinu’s words to his faithful servant:(Chayei Sarah 24:7)’Hashem, the G-d of Heaven, who took me from the house of my father..He will send His angel before you’.

The Alshich Hakadosh expounds, that because Yaakov intended to bless the children ‘by’ the angel, he was concerned lest they be disconcerted that he did not bless them in the manner that he himself had been blessed by his father, Yitzchak, namely:’And G-d will give you..’.

‘He therefore first said:’The G-d before whom Avraham and Yitzchak walked..’, whereas in respect to himself, he said:’The G-d who shepherded me’.

‘He thereby ‘lowered’ himself, in his humility, stating that, unlike his forefathers who ‘walked before G-d’, he did not do so, but relied on Hashem to support him.

‘Therefore,just as he was ‘one level lower than his forefathers’, so too his ability to bless them had, of necessity, to also be of a ‘lower level׳.

‘Thus, whilst his venerable father blessed him with G-d’s blessing, he was only able to bless them with the lower level of the angel’.

The Malbim makes a similar distinction, stating:’Hashem conducts the world in two different ways: by way of nature, in which he does not look at the deeds of the generation, but acts in a fixed manner; AND in a way beyond nature, בדרך נסית, which is only invoked when there are righteous individuals in the generation, who by their actions, merit to awaken ‘super-natural’ blessings from Above.

‘Yaakov Avinu, in his humility, thought that his forefathers merited the second kind of conduct, as ‘they walked before G-d’, and, in return, merited to bring down the special blessings from Above.

‘However, he deemed that he was only worthy of the lower, ‘natural’, protection of Hashem, which was by ‘the angel who redeemed me from all bad’, an emissary from Hashem, in the nature of the shepherd of a flock of sheep, who does not pay too much attention to the conduct of the individual sheep.

‘And he blessed the children, that they be blessed in both of these ways: In the natural way that he himself had been guided, saying ‘in my name’; AND in the higher level, that his forefathers had merited, saying:’And in the name of my forefathers, Avraham and Yitzchak’’.

The Kli Yakar sees in Yaakov Avinu’s words, an indication of his humility:’In saying:’The G-d before whom my forefathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, walked’, he was careful not to include himself with them, as he did not hold himself to be a צדיק גמור: perfectly righteous, as they were’.

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin adds to this allusion to his humility:‘Yaakov’s prayer was that the lads be blessed to go in the footsteps of the first two forefathers; however, when it came to himself, he said ‘the G-d who shepherded me all my days’.

‘Whilst the first two Avot ‘walked before G-d’, meaning: they proclaimed His Rule, in places where it was not known- ‘before Him’, Yaakov, in his humility, found himself lacking in that regard, by comparison.

‘אדרבה: to the contrary, he mentioned all the חסד that Hashem had done for him: ‘G-d who shepherded me all my days’’.

A parting thought: Yaakov Avinu, whose name ‘Israel’ we so proudly bear, as we learn in our Parasha, truly lived the injunction of the prophet: (Micah 6:8): הצנע לכת עם ה׳ אלקיך:’Walk humbly with Hashem, your G-d’.

Might we not read this homiletically as: if you walk humble ‘with G-d’, only THEN will you truly be ‘with’ Him- surely, the greatest blessing that we can wish for our children!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.