This week's Torah portion contains the first recorded occasion of one human
blessing another in the name of G-d. It followed the War of the Four Kings
versus the Five Kings, in which our forefather Avram (not yet known as
Avraham) became involved in his effort to save his nephew, Lot, who had been
taken captive. After the War, Malchizedek, King of Shalem (later to become
Jerusalem) and the Priest of G-d, went out to greet Avram and the other
battle weary soldiers with bread and wine, as was the custom of the time.
Rashi tells us Malchizedek was actually Shem, the son of Noah, one of the
eight human beings to survive the flood. His appreciation of G-d as the
Master of the Universe and His Torah as the blueprint for the creation of
the universe, borne in his unique experience of G-d's mercy and benevolence,
was manifest in his service of G-d as the Priest of His service and the Dean
of the only Yeshiva (Torah academy) of the era. Upon meeting Avram he
recited the blessing (Beraishis/Genesis 14:19-20) "Blessed is Avram, of G-d
the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed is G-d the Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hands."
Two ingredients are necessary to bestow blessing. One must have the power
to give, and that which is given must be lacking from the recipient. So how
can he offer the blessing "and blessed is G-d" when G-d lacks nothing? Even
Shem/Malchizedek, for all his personal greatness in his devotion to G-d and
his wealth as the King of Shalem could not possibly be in the position to
give G-d anything! What was he saying?
In fact, are we not guilty of the same non-sequitor countless times a day?
There is a Rabbinic mitzvah to recite 100 blessings every day (Shulchan
Aruch/Code of Jewish Law 46:3), each one starting, "Blessed are You, Hashem,
our G-d, King of the Universe..." If Shem was in no position to offer
blessing to G-d, how much less so are we? What are we doing?
Sefer HaChinuch (the classic work on the 613 Torah commandments, their
rationale and their regulations, assumed to be authored by Rabbi Aharon
HeLevi of thirteenth century Spain)(#430) explains that G-d has the greatest
compassion and wants all of His creations to have the best of life, and to
merit to continue receiving the best from Him, as a manifestation of His
complete and perfect goodness. When we recite a blessing, we are actively
stirring our awareness that He is the SOURCE of all blessing and good.
Through the inspiration of our souls and the focus of our minds on our
gratitude to Him, rooted in the knowledge that all good originates from Him
and He has dominion over all good to direct it as He sees fit, we generate
the merit to continue receiving His blessing. Only after this recollection
and recognition do we first start to ask Him for all of the things we
Shem's blessing "of" G-d, incorporating the credo "We have nothing, save for
the grace of G-d," set the paradigm for the generations throughout history:
Avram is blessed BECAUSE he is of G-d, dedicated to His service, recognizing
His absolute majesty of heaven and earth; G-d is the source of all blessing,
the wellspring of all good, who in his infinite goodness has given your
enemies into your hands. Our Sages of Old knew that only with the
concretization of the truth do we merit further blessing; thus, they
mandated we utter one hundred times a day: YOU are the source of all of our
good, Hashem, our G-d, Master of the Universe...who creates the fruit of the
tree...who brings forth bread from the ground...who forms the human body
with genius and allows it to function properly.
Our father Avraham is memorialized as the embodiment of chesed, of acts of
selfless loving kindness. It was not out of a secular humanism or because
"Jews are a giving people". Rather, he maintained an awareness that all he
had came from the grace of G-d, and he dedicated his existence to imparting
that reality upon the rest of the human race. With his generosity toward
others, he actively introduced them to the concept of the Creator of the
World as the True Source of the goodness they enjoyed. Avraham lived this
truth. Let us, his progeny, carry his torch high.