Bless You!: Lekh Lekha 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever sought someone else’s “blessing”? Why did you feel you needed it? Was the blessing granted? What, if anything, did you feel you needed to do to earn it?

God had blessed people before Abraham, but this time is different:

The Pitch: “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” – Genesis 12:2

Swing #1: “Yahweh’s choice of Abraham was presented as indicating the cosmological significance of a particular lineage: Adam had received God’s blessing of life (‘to be fruitful and multiply’); his descendant, the ‘new Adam,’ Noah, had received the same blessing; and finally, Noah’s descendant, the ‘newer Adam,’ Abraham, did as well. Thus, the putative lineage of Adam-Noah-Abraham-Isaac-and-Jacob was distinct from other nations because it was understood as standing in unique relation to God as the recipient of God’s blessing of life and that upon which life depends, a bountiful land.” – Steven Grosby, Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient & Modern

Swing #2: “Genesis 11 contains the story of the nameless builders who wanted to build a tower in Babel and who wanted to make themselves a name and a future. However, in Genesis 12:2, it is YHWH who promises that ‘I will make your name great.’” – Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible

Swing #3: “Another interpretation: ‘So become a blessing.’ The Holy One said to [Abraham]: From the time that I created my world until now, I have been obliged to bless my people. Thus it is stated [regarding Adam and Eve]: ‘And God blessed them.’ So I blessed Noah and his children, as stated: ‘And God blessed Noah and his children.’ From now on, you are responsible for the blessing.” – Tanhuma

Late-Inning Questions: To what extent do our commentators believe that Abraham has already earned God’s blessing, and to what extent is it conditional? Should a blessing always be conditional, or should they be like gifts that can’t be returned? What kinds of blessings have the greatest impact?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I hope you’ll join us tomorrow morning as we pay tribute to veterans at our Shabbat morning services.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of blessings, I ran across something charming called “The Baseball Blessing”: “May you always find your arm slot, may your swings be pure; through every bruise and bad hop, I hope that you endure. May your change-up find the strike zone, may your blooper find a hole; let all your dreams hit down the line stay just inside the pole. May the wind blow out when you’re at bat – this is my wish for you; and if you’re ever in a jam, I hope that you turn two.”

Shabbat Shalom!