Looking Back, Moving Forward, and Charting One’s Path
Hashem blessed Avraham by informing him “V’heyey bracha (Bereshis 12:2). A
single, precise translation of these two words is elusive, as commentaries
offer different interpretations of these two words. While a simple reading
would seem to indicate that v’heyey bracha means that Avraham will be
blessed, Rashi translates this to mean that Avraham would become a ‘bless-
er.’ According to this view, Avraham was now given the ‘proxy’ power of
blessing others. This was a significant accomplishment, as Hashem had not
given any human that ability until He granted it to Avraham.
Rashi offers an additional translation – one that draws from the initial
bracha of Magen Avraham, which we recite in every Shmone Esrei tefilah.
Rashi, quoting a gemorah (Pesachim 117b), notes that although each of our
Avos (Patriarchs) are mentioned in the opening bracha (Elokei Avraham,
Elokei Yitzchak, v’Elokei Yakov), we close the blessing with the name of
Avraham only – Magen Avraham. Thus the words “V’heyey bracha” would be
translated as, “You will be [exclusively mentioned in the] blessing.”
Creating Our Own Wealth
Rabbi Shimon Schwab z’tl offers a profound insight into the words of this
pasuk and the initial bracha of Shmone Esrei. In his sefer Mayan Beis
Hashoeivah, he explains that we are all obligated to look back to previous
generations as we develop our goals and chart a course for our future. At
the same time, we cannot become stagnant and lead uninspired lives
by ‘living off the money in the bank’ – the accomplishments of our
He maintains that this message is vividly transmitted to us several times
each day. We open Shmone Esrei by mentioning each of our three Avos –
Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov, as we give thanks to Hashem for providing us
with such a rich past and a sacred heritage. Reciting the names of our
Avos drives home the significance of looking back at our grandfathers and
grandmothers who preceded us. We value the legacy they left us and strive
to emulate the living example of their actions.
We conclude the bracha, however, solely with the name of Avraham. For
Avraham was the first to chart his own path, and – on his own initiative –
acknowledge the presence of Hashem (Chagigah 3a). He was called ‘Avraham
the Ivri’ since he had the courage to stand alone and recognize Hashem as
the Supreme Being (See Midrash Bereshis 42:8).
Rabbi Schwab maintains that by noting these attributes of Avraham, we are
reinforcing the notion that each person needs to develop his or her unique
strengths and chart a course that will lead to a life filled with purpose
Three Diverse Paths
I would like to add to the theme of Rabbi Schwab’s dvar Torah and suggest
that these dual messages of the importance of tradition and the value of
individual striving can be found in the first portion of the initial
bracha where we recite the memory of our three Avos.
Yitzchak was raised in the home of Avraham where chesed (kindness) was the
dominant feature. Nevertheless, Yitzchak did not ‘enroll in the family
business’ of chesed, but rather charted a course for his unique path to
Hashem – gevurah (strength). Following his father’s lead, Yakov as well
developed his own middah – one of Emes/Tiferes (truth/majesty).
Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov shared a joint mission; to serve Hashem with
all their skills and talents. They merely took different paths to their
We begin our prayers each day by recalling the towering accomplishments of
our forefathers. We bask in the glow of their memories and are inspired to
do our very best to add yet another link in the chain of our mesorah
(tradition). We look back to the lives of our Avos and Imahos, and learn
the lessons they left us. At the same time, we move forward in our quest
to lead meaningful lives ourselves – preparing for the time when we will
pass to our children the eternal chain of our glorious heritage.
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.