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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Vayechi: A Box of Blessings

וישלח ישראל את ימינו וישת על ראש אפרים והוא הצעיר ואת שמאלו על ראש מנשה שכל את ידיו כי מנשה הבכור

And Yisroel (Yaakov) extended his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head though he was the younger and his left hand on Menashe’s head. He maneuvered his hands, for Menashe was the firstborn.

The holy Chofetz Chaim zt”l, when approached for his bracha, would sometimes instruct the petitioner to consider studying Torah instead. “Why come to me for brachos?", he would say. "Is there any bigger bracha than learning a Mishna or a daf of Gemara?”

The Chofetz Chaim

Certainly, the Chofetz Chaim wasn’t trying to hold back good from others. He was not stingy with his love and compassion for the Jewish People. What was he trying to tell the poor man?

The great Mashgiach, Rav Yeruchim Levovitz of the Mirrer Yeshiva, explained that the Chofetz Chaim was teaching the man a valuable lesson: There is no such thing as a Box of Brachos, which a Tzaddik can dispense at will. People think it is so -- because they misunderstand the essence of a bracha. A bracha "blesses" something that already exists. It can tap into its potential and nurture its growth. Not create something from nothing.

The Chofetz Chaim wanted the man to know that the best nurturer of potential is Torah itself. Torah, with its transformative powers, brings out the best in each of us. It surfaces every good spark we have inside, and helps us build upon and actualize it.


Yosef was afraid when he saw his father place his right hand on his younger son. He feared the blessings would not work because Yosef believed that Menashe, the older, had greater potential of the two. Yaakov was giving his main bracha, symbolized by the right hand, to Ephraim, the younger son.

This is not going to do anything, Yosef exclaimed. How can you primarily bless the younger son if the potential for greatness lies with the older son?

“I am aware”, Yaakov replied. Yaakov meant that he knew, through prophetic vision, that Ephraim had the greater potential, and the bracha to actualize it was rightfully his.

13th Siyum Hashas

We see from the Torah that, although a Tzaddik's blessing is certainly powerful, it will not create something from nothing. It is only an aid to surface our potential. And learning Torah does that, too -- just like the Chofetz Chaim said.

The recent global gathering to celebrate the Torah was a tremendous inspiration. It too, is a "bracha", in the sense that it can inspire us to grow to even greater heights in our learning and avodas Hashem.


Never underestimate a sincere compliment

The Gemara tell us not to take the blessing of a simple person lightly. Rav Reuvein Feinstein shlita explained that it does not only mean that a simple person's bracha can happen. It also means that a simple, sincere compliment can be the biggest bracha! To the right person, at the right moment, a few words of praise can be just what they need to hear -- and push him towards greatness! Never underestimate the power of your words!

If so, we all have a Box of Brachos at our disposal. Let us see the good in others -- and tell them so. Let's try to give out loads of Brachos as we help each other be the best.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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