Our parasha relates the deaths of one of history’s most spiritually dynamic couples, Sarah and Avraham: “And Sarah died in Kiriath Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan, and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her” (Bereishit 23:2), and later, “And Avraham expired and died in a good old age, old and satisfied, and he was gathered to his people” (25:8).
Shortly after the Torah narrates the story of Avraham’s passing, we encounter the following pasuk: “Now it came to pass after Avraham’s death, that G-d blessed his son [b’no] Yitzchak, and Yitzchak dwelt near Be’er Lachai Ro’i” (25:11).
Midrash Tanchuma, Parashat Lech Lecha IV, notes that prior to Avraham’s arrival on the historical scene, Hashem, and Hashem alone, bestowed blessings upon mankind. As proof, the Midrash cites the cases of Adam, Chava and Noach, where we find: “And G-d blessed them, and G-d said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…’” (1:28), and “And G-d blessed Noach and his sons, and He said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” (9:1).
According to the Midrash, at the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha, when Avraham responded to Hashem’s call, this changed: “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and [you shall] be a blessing [v’heyei bracha].”
At this juncture, our Midrash suggests that Avraham acquired the ability to bestow a bracha upon others.
If that is the case, why did G-d, rather than Avraham, bless Yitzchak in our parasha — 13 chapters later? The Midrash suggests that when Yitzchak was born, Avraham very much wanted to bless him. Unfortunately, he saw with ruach hakodesh, prophetic insight, that both Esav and Yaakov were to come forth from him. As such, he refrained from blessing him. Avraham declared: “Let the Master of the World come and bless he Whom He so desires.”
In sum, though Avraham had been given the gift to bless others, he did not bless Yitzchak, since he knew Yitzchak’s progeny would include both Esav and Yaakov, and he did not want his bracha to rest upon Esav.
Avraham therefore declared: “Let the Master of the World come and bless he Whom He so desires.” According to this interpretation, the phrase “G-d blessed his son Yitzchak,” refers to Avraham as the father, and Yitzchak as his son.
In his commentary on the Torah, the Alshich interprets our pasuk, “Now it came to pass after Avraham’s death, that G-d blessed his son Yitzchak, and Yitzchak dwelt near Be’er Lachai Ro’i,” in a very different manner. Although he begins by agreeing with our Midrash that the Almighty gave Avraham the ability to bless others, he diverges by suggesting that, in order to avoid blessing Yishmael, Avraham withheld his blessings from his entire family. After Avraham’s passing, Hashem, therefore, directly imparted His bracha to Yitzchak.
Additionally, the Alshich asserts that the word “b’no” in the phrase, “G-d blessed his son [b’no] Yitzchak,” appears to be superfluous, since we certainly know by now that Yitzchak was Avraham’s son. Why, then, does the text add the word, “b’no?” He offers a fascinating response to this question, a keen insight into our relationship with the Almighty:
“But it may well be said that it is the normal way for one who buries his father to become profoundly saddened — for his father’s shadow has departed from upon him. Yet, when he is a tzaddik, he is not afraid, for he knows he remains a son to Hashem … [This, then, is the correct interpretation of the phrase] ‘G-d blessed his son Yitzchak,’ namely that after the death of Avraham, Hashem blessed Yitzchak His son, as if to say, ‘If Avraham has departed, [do not fear,] for you are a son to Me. [Moreover,] I am your Father who exists for all eternity.’ Therefore, [G-d] blessed him [Yitzchak] to strengthen his heart.”
Clearly, few of us possess the righteousness of Yitzchak Avinu. Yet we can all take comfort in knowing that Hashem has told us, “You are children of the L-rd, your G-d” (Devarim 14:1). No matter how many challenges and trials we may encounter in our lives, and no matter how dark the night may be, a new dawn of Hashem’s deliverance will surely burst forth.
As Yaakov Avinu taught us so long ago, in Bereishit 49:18, “For Your salvation, I hope, O L-rd!” May this time come soon and in our days.