SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, November 23 ,2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Parashat Toldot tells the famous story of the blessings which Yitzchak wished to confer upon his older son, Eisav, but were in the end given to Yaakov, who, at his mother’s behest, came before Yitzchak disguised as Eisav.  This famous blessing begins with the words, “Ve-yitein lekha ha-Elokim mi-tal ha-shamayim u-mi-shmanei ha-aretz’ – “God shall grant you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the earth” (27:28).
            The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 66), noting that this blessing begins with the conjunction “ve-” (“and”), explains that Yitzchak refers here to more than just a single blessing.  Among the interpretations offered by the Midrash is “yitein lekha berakhot ve-yitein lekha kivsheihem” – God should grant blessings, as well as “kivsheihem.”  The precise meaning of this term is unclear.  Rav Menachem Kasher, in Torah Sheleima (note 116), cites those who explain that “kivsheihem” means “conquest,” thus referring to taking possession of the Land of Israel.  According to this understanding of the Midrash, Yitzchak wished his son not only that he would be blessed with prosperity, but that he would enjoy prosperity specifically in the land promised to his descendants.  Others, as Rav Kasher notes, explain this word to mean storage houses.  The great blessing of a food surplus is beneficial only if it can be properly stored, and so Yitzchak mentioned in his blessing not only an abundance of produce, but also the ability to contain it so it is protected and available for long-term use.  This interpretation of the Midrash’s comment brings to mind the first verse of birkat kohanim (the priestly blessing) – “The Lord shall bless you and protect you” (Bamidbar 6:24), which the Midrash Tanchuma (cited by Rashi) explains as a blessing of wealth that would be protected and not lost.
            Rav Menachem Bentzion Saks, in his Menachem Tziyon, offers a different explanation, suggesting that “kivsheihem” refers to control over one’s possessions, as opposed to being controlled by one’s possessions.  Material prosperity runs the risk of consuming a person, causing far more anxiety and grief than one would experience if he had fewer possessions.  As the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (2:7) famously warns, “Marbeh nekhasim marbeh de’aga” – “One who has many possessions has many worries.”  Similarly, King Shlomo, in Sefer Kohelet (6:1-2), laments the phenomenon whereby a person acquires vast amounts of wealth “ve-lo yashlitenu ha-Elokim le’ekhol mimenu” – “but God does not grant him control over it to partake of it.”  Rashi explains this as referring to those who accumulate wealth but cannot enjoy it due to their constant anxiety and incessant pursuit of more.  They have wealth, but have no control over their wealth, as they are instead under the control of their possessions, which demand their constant attention and hard work.  The Midrash thus understood Yitzchak’s blessing to his son to mean that he would be blessed not only with material prosperity, but also with “control” over his wealth, that the wealth would be a source of joy and contentment, and not of endless stress and angst.