How to bring blessing into your life
Rav Ilan Herrmann, Soul Workout Shul in Glenhazel
The latter isn’t narcissistic – or at least shouldn’t be – and it’s not a contradiction. Be happy with what we have means being able to recognise and appreciate the blessing we have. Blessing implies relationship, meaning we recognise we are being blessed and respond humbly, benevolently, and reciprocally. Then we will want more, and that’s not being greedy, because who doesn’t want more blessing to enhance our situation, and have more to be grateful for and appreciate.
How do we activate blessing? The opening words of this week’s portion indicates how.
“These are the generations of Yitschak, the son of Avraham. Avraham begot Yitschak.” There seems to be a clear redundancy. We don’t need the second verse to tell us that Yitschak is Avraham’s son and that Avraham is his father, it’s obvious from the first verse. The Torah does not use unnecessary words. What then is it teaching us?
A few chapters back, we read how Avraham and Sarah were childless and could not bear children. Avraham was 99 and Sarah 90. Then came the commandment (mitzvah) of circumcision that G-d gave Avraham, telling him that he will be the father of many. Right then, G-d also tells him that he (Avraham) will be having a name change. An extra letter (hei) will be added to his name. So from Avram, he will now be called Avraham.
This is what the extra phrase is emphasising. It’s not just that Yitschak is the son of Avraham, but that Avraham begot Yitschak. Prior to his receiving the mitzvah of circumcision, there was an obstruction in the flow of divine blessing preventing it reaching Avraham. In his case, it was in regard to offspring, for others, it may be in a different areas.
The word mitzvah comes from the word tzavtah, which means “to connect”. When we perform a mitzvah, we establish a connection with Hashem and specifically so because a mitzvah is Hashem’s inner will. Our mitzvah then opens up the channel, and triggers a flow of divine blessing to be drawn downward.
“Avraham begot Yitschak” is teaching us that specifically now, through the channel that is the mitzvah, Avraham possessed a new shifted state (reflected in his name change), and that this shifted the cosmic forces to enable him to beget Yitschak.
This is the power of a mitzvah – any mitzvah. And it has nothing to do with being religious. It’s a mitzvah. It’s the channel that connects, the switch that turns on the light. There are 613 of them, so help yourself. But please do help yourself!