- Rabbis Blessings
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- In Genesis, Rashi states (Gen, 30:2) when Rachel desired
children and had none, she asked Jacob, her husband, that he
should have prayed for her. Jacob responded, according to Rashi,
"God has withheld children from you and not me". We
must know that Jacob was not vicious or callous to another human
being, certainly not to his own wife. Jacob meant to say, "You
have the need, not me, and God has not answered you. It must
then be you who prays". A Rabbi mentioned that the person's
prayer is the essential one, and not what someone else prays
- When what we seek from God goes unanswered, prayer enables
us to reflect on our needs and our flaws. Hopefully, we spend
time in self contemplation. We must wonder, "what in me
has caused God not respond to my request?" This institution
of prayer assists us in detecting our flaws that render us unworthy
of God's response.
- The reason for this is that prayer, when performed correctly,
has an elevating reaction on the one praying. The ideas one ponders
in the prayers actually raise his knowledge and awareness of
these concepts to a higher level. When one adheres to these values,
he is more under God's Providence, and will experience a different,
more perfected existence than before, now benefiting from God's
involvement in his life to a higher degree. (Maimonides, Moreh
- It is the raising of one's perfection that causes this good.
God is not the One who changes in this scenario. Rambam made
a statement which I will very loosely paraphrase, as I cannot
locate the source: "it is like something distant from a
fire, it is in darkness, as it approaches, it becomes illuminated,
closer, it is heated, even closer, the fire actually changes
its form." This is our relationship with God. The more distant,
the more in darkness we are. The closer we come, the more the
fire (God) effects us. However, the fire never changed. The analogy
being that God does not change. What is perfect, can be no more
perfect, and therefore, He cannot change. We cannot change God.
Even through our prayer. As God said Himself, (Malachi, 3:6)
"I am God, I do not change....". This concept also
explains the Mishneh in Pirkei Avos, (Ethics of the Fathers)
where 10 miracles are said to have been created at sunset on
Friday of the Six Days of Creation. All other miracles were also
created then, but in their proper day, as Maimonides states in
Ethics, 5:6. All this means that God made the world with all
miracles built in to the fabric of their respective substances.
God did not need to 'wait' until the miracle is necessary in
order to render it. He has foreknowledge, and was able to implant
all miracles into he creation - during creation.
- This also teaches us clearly that God is the One Who performs
ALL miracles, and man performs none. People today believe that
Rabbis perform miracles. From Pirkei Avos we see that the Torah's
words declare absolutely, that God alone causes ALL the miracles,
as ALL miracles were built into creation.
- It is crucial to note here that a person cannot effect changes
in the world outside of his ability as a mere mortal, a weak
individual. Even Moses prayed to God on numerous occasions to
make changes. Moses alone had no power to do so. The concept
of a Rabbi having any power whatsoever is against Judaism, and
against God's recorded accounts of Moses, who was the greatest
man to have ever lived, or will ever live. If Moses prayed to
God for change, it follows that we must do the same, and we cannot
effect changes in nature ourselves. Saadia Gaon says openly in
his work, "The Book of Beliefs and Opinions" that man,
not even the prophets, had no powers at all. Had they been given
power, or protection from death, mankind would project false
notions of their being superior to other mortal men, and this
is not so. Saadia Gaon gives numerous arguments against the idea
that man has any power whatsoever. God is the Sole wielder of
power. This has never been given to man,... even Moses. There
is a Gemara which discusses "three keys" which were
given to man. But like all Rabbinic statements, do not guess
at the underlying idea based on a superficial assumption, based
only on the topic's title. This statement that God has given
certain "keys" to man, cannot mean that God relinquished
His unique role as Creator, the Master of all laws.
- The Talmud on Blessings of Rabbis
- There is a Gemora (Moade Katan 9a) that states that that
both Rav Shimon ben Yochai and Rav had sent their son's to receive
blessings from their respective students. Why didn't Rav Shimon
ben Yochai and Rav bless their sons themselves? They were definitely
greater than their students! Yet, they both desired that their
students give the blessings. It is also interesting to
note that Rav Shimon ben Yochai only sent his son to his students
after he saw that these students were "anashim tzura",
"wise men". The gemara also inserts that Rav Shimon
ben Yochai's desire to have these students give blessings was
only after they came back to take leave of him an additional
time. As the story goes, Rav Shimon ben Yochai was visited by
these two students. They said their goodbyes, and left that night.
The next morning they returned to say goodbye again, at which,
Rav Shimon ben Yochai asked why they did so. They responded,
"Rebbe, you taught us that if a student takes leave of his
teacher, but sleeps over in that town, he must once again take
leave the next day". To this, Rav Shimon ben Yochai turned
to his son and said, "these men are wise men, go to them
that they may bless you."
- What is so significant about this mechanical activity of
returning to take leave a second time, that Rav Shimon ben Yochai
thought of these men as wise? Aren't there more difficult commandments
which would convey greater intelligence more readily than merely
traveling back to say goodbye to a teacher? It is a very simple
activity with no real intelligence required! I believe the gemara
says that this command was followed by these two students for
good reason, and very germane to this story.
- Rav Shimon ben Yochai could have very well blessed his son.
But blessing doesn't mean one performs miracles or controls nature
in any way. Man does not have this ability. Moses didn't perform
miracles without God's intervention, and anyone on a lower level
certainly cannot perform miracles.
- When these two men returned to Rav Shimon, as a friend suggested,
Rav Shimon was testing the students by saying, "why have
you returned?" Rav Shimon ben Yochai didn't forget the law.
He was merely testing to see if their return was one of a personal
nature. Meaning, were they so attached to him they didn't want
to leave, or perhaps was their return merely out of respect to
objective law? When they answered Rav Shimon that they
returned "as the law prescribes", Rav Shimon saw in
them an intellectual objectivity, and not a lower, emotional
dependence. It was this objectivity which he felt was necessary
for one to see his son's true nature, and bless him accordingly.
Rav Shimon may have felt that he held some bias towards his son,
and this is why I believe both Rav Shimon ben Yochai and Rav
had their students bless their sons, and they themselves
did not. They both saw the need for objectivity.
- We now see how the gemara cleverly cited that these two students
returned for this specific halacha. This halacha of returning,
is to remind oneself of the town's real importance - the Rabbi,
the teacher of God's Torah. These students displayed their relationship
to their own Rebbe as an objective, intelligent one, not a personal
and emotional one. This performance may be simple in action,
but it is indicative of one's perfected relationship with his
fellow man. Interesting also is that both Rav Shimon and Rav
did not instruct their sons to request a blessing on a specific
matter, as is done today when people ask a Rabbi to bless them
with children or monetary success. Both, Rav Shimon and Rav let
the wise students decide what is best for their sons. No preformulated
requests. Respect for wisdom alone was the motivation of these
two great Rabbis.
- What is a "bracha", a blessing?
- A Rabbi once expounded on this topic. He mentioned that when
Jacob blessed his sons, he merely pointed to each son's nature,
and underlined it. Without bracha, one may have to decide whether
to take a position or not. He has no knowledge how it will play
out later in life. He can be very successful, or a real failure.
However, with prophecy, as Jacob had, he was able to remove doubt
from his son's lives, and share with them Divine Knowledge to
assure their successes.
- But we today, as well as Rav Shimon and Rav, do not have
prophecy. So what does bracha - blessing - mean in this sense?
Also, what does the gemara mean that when sick, one should go
to a chocham - a wise person? It means that a wise person looks
at you objectively, studies your character, and points out your
wrong doings so you understand how to operate better, and remove
yourself from sin. The reason why one gains illness may be due
to a misguided life. "Many evils befall the righteous, and
they are saved from them all." This teaches that one who
is not righteous, may suffer illness. To teach man of his wrong,
God may deliver illness apropos of the mistake, "mida kneged
mida" or "measure for measure", as He did to Miriam
the prophetess. She was smitten with leprosy for speaking against
Moses, her brother.
- It is of the utmost importance we realize that in no case
does a person display the ability to change nature or perform
miracles alone. This, the gemara and Chumash do not state. When
prophets 'seem' to revived dead children, the commentaries explain
that when they laid upon the child and he revived, eye to eye,
mouth to mouth, he only laid upon him so as to concentrate more
on his prayer. The prophet prayed, and God revived.
- The Blessings of the Rabbis' Students
- These wise students of Rav Shimon ben Yochai asked Rav Shimon's
son upon his arrival, "What do you request here?" He
responded, "My father sent me to you to receive a blessing".
When these students heard this, they quickly surmised that this
son of Rav Shimon was clearly still taking direction from his
father. Perhaps, this is why their blessing was longevity, for
Rav Shimon's son, his wife and his children. By making this wish
to the son, perhaps, this young man will abandon his current
paternal dependency and feel secure through this blessing, to
start a life of his own. This I believe may be the purpose of
this specific blessing.
- Rav Saadia Gaon stated clearly and numerous times, "man
has no power over the elements".
- (Read the article by Rabbi Reuven Man on this topic: When a tzaddik should get angry