Our view of the Galile

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stolen Blessings- Toldos 2013/5774

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
November 1st 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 5 -28th of Cheshvan 5774
 Parshat Toldos
Stolen Blessings

OK, I have to admit I get teary-eyed at weddings. Not just at those of family and friends either. Even those cheesy ones on TV and movies (where the marriages don’t last longer than the next season) manage to make me blink back a few wet ones. I don’t know if it’s the reminiscence to the happiest moment in my life or the overwhelming sense of being witness to the ultimate declaration of love and the promise of the future it holds. Whatever it is I get mushy. The point that I think does me in the most, however, is at a traditional Jewish wedding when  the father of the bride, before walking her down, draws her close, and passes on the traditional Jewish blessing. That moment is the one in which all well springs open and no amount of nose rubbing will help to cover up.

 What is it about blessings that are so powerful and what makes them such an integral part of Jewish life? They line our prayers, they accompany our Mitzvot, they sanctify our meals, they herald stages of our lives - there is even a blessing to be recited upon exiting the bathroom! We are surrounded by the opportunity to recognize the hand of God through the medium of a blessing. Yet very rarely is it done with the intensity of emotion that is found when a father blesses his child.

This brings us to this week’s Torah portion. We find our forefather, Yitzchak (Isaac) is fooled into unintentionally giving that (rightfully purchased) birthright blessing to his younger son, Jacob, rather than to his oldest son, Esau. Esau, for the first time in his star-studded career as an adulterer, murderer, and a hunter with a proclivity for lentil soup, begins to…cry. Yes, Esau becomes emotional and teary-eyed. Why? I mean it’s just a blessing. Can a blessing really be stolen? 

 To understand this we have to tap into the subliminal wisdom inherent in the Yiddish language, which has made its way into the English lexicon. For in Yiddish one never “zugs’” (says) a blessing. From time immemorial traditional Jewish mothers and grandmothers have told their children to “mach ah Bracha” to make a blessing. Rabbi Aaron Twerski explains the difference. Saying a blessing is merely a recitation and recognition of our Creator’s Hand in all that we do. Making a blessing is the power within us to actually bring the blessing into the world by drawing from its infinite source. When parents bless their children they are not only affirming their wishes and hopes for their kids. They are actively transmitting to them the potential keys to achieving all they desire, which in turn will bring them happiness and fulfillment in their lives.

 Esau was not as heartbroken by the loss of historical transmission that resulted from the blessing Isaac gave to Jacob, as he was by the eternal bond between father and son that it engendered. The Zohar tells us that the Messiah will not come until Esau’s tears are dried up. Why? Although the blessing is our privilege, it is also our responsibility. If we are going to receive it in place of Esau, we must utilize the powers that make us worthy of it! By actualizing the legacy the blessing gave us and by being the divine vehicle of goodness in the world we become the source of blessing ourselves. We thereby connect our heritage with its legacy culminating in the arrival of the Messiah, sanctioning the blessing given to us, and only then will the tears dry up.

 So we continue to bless our children, both during times of challenge and during times of joy. There is an old Jewish custom to do so every Friday night. At that time we hope and pray that they have all the tools they need to find the fulfillment in their lives. But at the auspicious moment of a Jewish wedding we do more than say a blessing. We succeed in making that blessing a reality, setting it as the cornerstone of a life shared together, establishing it as a link in the eternal chain of our forefathers’ legacy.

Have a wonderfully blessed Shabbos,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


(answer below at end of Email)

Where of the following sites was named Ptolmais

a)      Gaza

b)      Beit Guvrin

c)      Akko

d)     Lod


(Jewish father of the bride special surprise moment)


Har Kabir-  What an awesome mountain and glorious lookout in heart of the Shomron. Towering at 792 meters north of Shechem, right outside of the yishuv Elon Moreh, named  after the biblical site where Avraham first came to the land. A walk around the mountain top will give views of har grizim and har eival and shechem, the first jewish entrance point in Israel, an overlook of "three yamim" the mediteranean, kinneret and Dead Sea as well as ancient water cisterns and archeological finds. For those that like nature, history or just the spirituality of being where so many of our forefathers walked and settled this is truly a wonderful stop and one can appreciate what motivates so many of our brethren to settle once again in what was once the capital of the northern kingdom of 'Israel.



"God helps the poor man: He protects him from expensive sins..(Got helft dem oreman: er farhit im fun tei’ereh avaires)"-"Yiddish quote



A Catholic priest says to a rabbi, "It seems to me that, since the Creator made pork, He must have made it for some purpose. Therefore, it must be a sin not to use it, don't you think? So, will you finally eat some pork?"

The rabbi replies, "I will try some — at your wedding, Father"



Answer is C: Akko was the city named Ptolmais during the Greek period. Which is really not the part that you talk about when you're in Akko. (Its nore about ancient times mishan and tannaim a bit Rishonim sages during the Crusader period and of course the Ottaman period. So it’s a cheap question. Just in case you were interested Lod was called Diospolis, Eleuthropolis was Beit Guvrin and Gaza was just the give away answer although it did have Greek and Roman preiods and conquests as well. Silly trivia question…a Tour guide who mentions this name to his tourist should be fired…

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