by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"G-d should give you from the dew of the Heavens, and from the fat of the
land..." [27:28] "...behold, from the fat of the land should be your
dwelling, and from the dew of Heaven above..." [27:39]
As we see, there is a strong similarity between this section of the blessing
given to Yaakov, and that given to Esav his brother. Indeed, we see that
there is wealth given to Yaakov, and wealth given to Esav - there are rich
and poor both among Jews and non-Jews.
At the same time, these verses contain an important difference, one that
depends upon the different brothers. We know that earlier in the week's
reading, Esav sold his birthright - a position of spiritual leadership. The
spiritual heritage of Avraham and Yitzhak was therefore given over to Yaakov
and his descendants. Yaakov was the one who was responsible for offering
sacrifices to G-d, and it was his descendants who would build the Temple -
even though that Temple would be "a House of Prayer for all Nations."
It was critical that he who held the birthright receive the first blessing.
The blessing which Yitzchak gave to Esav gave him wealth - "from the fat of
the land should be your dwelling." Why is Bill Gates the richest man in
America? Because it was his "Mazel" to receive the best part of this
blessing. Others, of course, don't share his Mazel!
The blessing given to Yaakov does not merely give wealth. Rather, it says
that "G-d should give you from the dew of Heaven..." First it mentions G-d,
and then Heaven, and only then the earth. In addition, the name used here is
Elokim, G-d, rather than HaShem (often translated 'the L-rd').
In Hebrew, Elokim can mean a leader, or even an idolatrous god. The name
which we use only in prayer, and otherwise refer to as HaShem ("the Name"),
is the "personal" name of G-d - similar to "The President" vs. "Bill
Clinton." The Midrash tells us that the use of Elokim vs. HaShem can often
indicate a balance between justice and mercy. This makes sense - "the
President" is a great deal more formal than "Bill," while the latter
indicates a close relationship.
So Rashi explains that the use of "Elokim" in this case is quite deliberate:
with judgement, meaning that if it is appropriate for him he will be given
wealth, and if not, not. Concerning Esav, the promise is that he will be
given wealth independent of whether he is good or evil.
We might think that this means only righteous Jews should be blessed - but
we see that this is not true. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the intent
here is not that good people be given wealth, but those for whom there is
a spiritual benefit be given wealth. What does Rashi mean that it is
"appropriate" for a certain person to receive money? The answer is, whether
it is spiritually beneficial.
We know that "the righteous of all nations will receive a share in the World
to Come" - everyone can be spiritual, and come close to G-d. Jews, on the
other hand, are pushed. Everything that happens to a Jew is intended to
direct him or her to G-d - even the number of dollars in the bank depends
upon spiritual factors! In the '70s, American cults were filled with Jews
and even today, representatives of many cults say that half of their
adherents are Jews [see Hanoch Teller, "Give Peace a Stance"].
Why? Because Jews are "pushed" towards meaning and spirituality. There is no
question that non-Jews can be spiritual, and can gain a share in the World
to Come. Perhaps the reason that Jews are asked to do more, is because we
have the wind at our backs...
Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.