All these are the tribes of Israel, twelve, and this is what their father
spoke to them and he blessed them, he blessed each according to his
appropriate blessing. (Breishis 49:28)
How did Yaakov know how to bless each child with the appropriate blessing?
That's the $64,000.00 question. If we knew the answer to that question and
could bottle it we'd be rolling in Brochos. Of course Yaakov was imbued
with Divine Inspiration. That always helps. However, when we look closely
at the blessings we find that that in many cases the future is forecasted
from some event in the past. It's never some vague promise based on
wishful thinking. Evidence of what's to come is rooted in the behavior
manifested in their lifetime, whether good or not. I suppose the trick,
then, is to figure out what was the defining trait or choice a person
made. Aha! There's the rub. That's hard to know in one's lifetime and
sometimes it takes generations to determine which move one made, made the
biggest difference for his future.
I remember when Jordy walked on to the campus of Ohr Somayach in Monsey.
He still credits me with being one of the first friendly faces to greet
him. I 'm glad I was in a good mood that day. I don't know if anyone could
have seen the future for this fellow or any other for that matter. One of
the main keys may have already been embedded some fifty years earlier.
After being in the Yeshiva for a while Jordy, now referred to as Yaakov,
went back to Toronto to be with this family. His old European grandfather
took a surprise interest in what he was learning. Yaakov told him that he
was learning a tractate in the Talmud called, "Bava Kama" not expecting he
would know at all what he was talking about. To Yaakov's amazement, his
grandfather started to rattle off the entire Mishne of "Hamaniach" and
then the Gemora word for word and by heart. Yaakov asked his grandfather
where he had learned all that. His grandfather told him that he had gone
to Yeshiva-Cheder as a young boy in one of the capital cities of Torah
learning in Europe, in a city named Brisk.
Then, in seeming casual conversation, Yaakov's grandfather revealed a
chilling piece of information. During the 2nd World War there was a Rabbi
in Toronto, a Rabbi Kaminetzky that approached him about a certain matter.
(Little did the grandfather know but this Rabbi that started his
rabbinical career in Toronto was later to become one the most famous and
influential Torah leaders and teachers of the generation.) The Rabbi knew
that he was from Brisk and he therefore made a special emergency appeal
to gain the money necessary to help the Brisker Rav to exit Europe.
Yaakov's grandfather gave him the money and the Brisker Rav was saved from
Not only did the Brisker Rav survive the war but he was able to revive his
Yeshiva and his family. It would still be a gross understatement to say
that an entire generation of Torah scholarship has been brought back to
life thanks to that single act of generosity by Yaakov's grandfather but
it doesn't end there. This summer, after many years apart, I had the
pleasure and honor to join my good friend Yaakov for an inspiring Shabbos
in Texas where he is the father of a sizable family of budding scholars
and the Rabbi of a burgeoning community. His influence is felt far and
wide and so is his grandfather's. Sometimes in not so mysterious ways
blessings are not always in disguise.