SHABBAT LECH LECHA
And you shall be a blessing…
Eiran Davies offers an insight on the famous verse from this week’s parasha: “And all the families of the earth will be blessed by you.” This is promised to Abraham when he is commanded by God to go an historic journey.
“The verse deals with two concepts that may well be unique in Judaism, or at least culturally distinct;Blessing and Family…
The English word blessing, comes from an old root which means to mark with blood, a pagan custom of sanctification. The Hebrew root of Beracha, is quite different. Berech [means] knee. The ancient custom amongst our people in blessing, was to fall to one’s knees in acknowledgement of the source of that blessing. We preserve the custom in the way we pray the Amidah – on the word Baruch, we bend our knees, an abbreviated falling to one’s knees, so to speak. We are making ourselves smaller before another individual, to acknowledge that they are the source of our blessing. This is the concept of Jewish blessing, it is the establishment of a reciprocal relationship. I fall to my knees in an expression of my willingness to receive your kindness, your blessing. But it is only because I do so that this is possible.
Mishpacha, family, is also a different concept amongst our nation. Family in the west essentially denotes consanguinity, blood relation (although that definition is increasingly challenged by the multicultural, individualistic society that we live in)…The term Mishpacha really means “all those who come under one household.” The Jewish concept of family, therefore, is inherently inclusive. Rather than encouraging an elitist, exclusive, model of family, the Torah teaches us a model of expansive, inclusive generosity.
…This, perhaps, is the true meaning of our phrase. God is telling Abraham, that he must leave his previous life behind, must move away from the family model of his father’s house and build a life that acknowledges the reciprocal relationship inherent in receiving God’s blessing. That his family should be one of blessing and inclusion. That by doing so, his family will become a universal model for family across the world.
So we could read our verse: Those who bless you I will bless, and those who curse you I will curse; through emulating you, all the families of the world will be blessed.”
What would it take for our families – each of us – to be models of blessing (humbleness) and family (inclusiveness)? Yes, what would it take?