Community Rabbi Corner, Nov. 17, 2017

Rabbi Howard Tilman
Congregation Beth Israel
Scotch Plains, NJ
Parashat Toldot

Each week, Shabbat is full of blessings: the blessings we say in our Tefilot (prayers), the blessings we say around the table, and the blessings we share with our family. In Parashat Toldot, we see many beautiful examples of blessings - a blessing God shares with Rebekah for her two children, a blessing Isaac shares with Esau, and two blessings Isaac shares with Jacob. The first blessing Isaac offers Jacob begins, “May God give you of the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, abundance of new grain and wine.” (Gen 27:28)
On its surface, this is a powerful blessing, hoping for the gifts and sustenance and stability to always remain with his son. The rabbis look deeper though and teach in a Midrash, a rabbinic legend, that each of these represents a certain area of study. "From the dew of the heavens." This is Torah. "And the fat of the Earth." This is Mishnah. "Abundance of new grain." This is Talmud. "Abundance of wine." This is Aggadah - Legend. (Genesis Rabbah 66:3) According to this reading, the blessing Isaac offered to Jacob was the gift of study and learning. But not just of one sort; instead, it’s the full depth of Judaic knowledge.
There are many blessings we hope to share with our children - all the hopes of health, happiness, and success. But the blessings of education and learning are among the greatest blessings we can offer. This is part of what makes the gift of a Jewish education so important. Opening doors, building connections, deepening understandings, learning values. Just as Isaac shared this blessing with Jacob, so too may we share this blessing with all of our children and students.