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Thought for the Day: Bracha is for Material Success

I proposed a novel explanation (chidush, if you will) for Yitchak Avinu's reticence in giving Eisav a bracha after having given Yaakov Avinu the seven brachos that Yitchak Avinu had originally intended for Eisav.  The chidush was based loosely on a fun gematria, but required that a bracha should be understood as relating to material success.  That makes sense for a few reasons.  First, Chazal say that "kol bi'dai shamayim chutz mi'yiras shamayim" (everything is in the hands of heaven except for fear of heaven), so it should not be in the hands of a human blesser to affect the spiritual success of the blessee.  I mean, if HaShem is taking His celestial and eternal hands off that, I am guessing that even the avos didn't get to put there hands into that either.  Also, Chazal say that bracha operates on thing hidden from the eye; that obviously means physical, because the spiritual is always hidden from the eye.  There is more like that, but I didn't have anything definitive.

The key word there is "didn't"; past tense.  I saw a fascinating Mishna Brura that, I believe, really cinches things.  The Shulcha Aruch OC 128:25 discusses how to handle birkas kohanim in a shul that has only kohanim (I've never been in such a minyan, of course, though vaskin in Chicago is pretty darn close).  The Shulchan Aruch says that if you only have 10 total, then everyone goes up to duchan.  Who are they blessing?  Those working in the field.  Who will answer "amein"?  The women and children in shul.  Why not say they are blessing the women and children?  Says the Mishna Brura: the women and children in shul is not enough of a reason to give a blessing.  Hang on!  Hang on!  Let me finish...

Suppose, on the other hand, there are more than 10 kohanim.  In that case only the "extra" kohanim should go up to duchan and leave 10 to answer "amein".  Says the Mishna Brura: even though having a single Yisrael would be enough of a reason for the blessing ceremony, having less than 10 kohanim is not enough of a reason to give a blessing.  The Mishna Brura uses the same words to explain why having no men at all in shul or less than 10 kohanim is not enough of a reason for the blessing!  So there you have it: the blessing is not primarily for women and children in shul, but for the men who are working in the fields to support them.  Neither is the blessing primarily for kohanim (who should be busy with the avoda in the beis hamikdash, may it be rebuilt soon and in our lifetime), but for the men who are working in the fields to support them.  In other words, the bracha in meant for success in material undertakings.

Pretty good, I think.  One problem, there is a kohain in the vasikin minyan who has been giving my trouble since he was a teenager.  Yehuda pointed out to me that there is a targum yonason that says that the birkas kohanim go on spiritual undertakings (at least the second bracha).  I am still going with my p'shat, but certainly need to investigate further.  Thanks, Yehuda.


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