May the LORD bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
peace be on Israel. — Psalm 128:5–6
Why did God choose Abraham? Abraham was not the first to acknowledge God. Noah had a relationship with God, and his descendants Shem and Eber not only knew God, but they had also set up a place where they could study and learn about the one true God. So what was so unique about Abraham that God chose to make a covenant with him?
The Jewish sages explain that Abraham was the first to take God’s message out into the world. He pitched his tent on a major highway, opened it on all four sides, and invited strangers to come in for a drink and hear about God. The sages liken Shem and Eber to a bottle of perfume that has a cork in it – what good does it do? But Abraham, they teach, was like an open bottle of perfume – spreading a wonderful fragrance out into the world and leaving a tangible impression on anyone who crossed his path. That is why Abraham was chosen to partner with God.
Psalm 128 confers great blessings onto those who fear the Lord and walk in obedience. But then the psalm ends with a blessing about seeing the prosperity of Jerusalem and asking for peace in Israel. What do these have to do with the blessings of the righteous? Why would a righteous person, sitting in the middle of America with a great family and plenty of sustenance, need peace in Israel?
Psalm 128 is designed to remind us that until there is peace in Jerusalem, and subsequently the whole world, none of us is ever complete. We can have all the blessings in the world, and yet something is still missing. Abraham brought God’s message to the world because he realized that we are all connected. If any single human being was missing out on God, then Abraham, too, was missing something.
Humanity is like one body, and the sages compare Jerusalem to the heart. Only when there is peace in Jerusalem will there be peace throughout the world. And only when there is peace in the world will the truly righteous individual have peace.
When asking for God’s blessings, let’s do so in the spirit of Abraham, who prayed on behalf of the whole world. As we pray for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem, and therefore the world, only then will our blessings be complete.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President