‘You SHALL Be a Blessing’
Yael Eckstein | October 12, 2021
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.” — Genesis 12:2
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Lech Lecha, which means “go to yourself,” from Genesis 12:1–17:27.
In my home, I try to pass on to my children the same sense of generosity that I learned from my own parents by caring for those in need with genuine concern, respect, and love.
My husband and I bring our children with us once or twice a month to help distribute aid to needy Jews around Israel. In addition, we have multiple tzedakah (charity) boxes placed around our home in order to encourage giving regularly and spontaneously. We also place money in our tzedakah box before lighting Shabbat candles on Friday evening. On Shabbat, we invite anyone without a place to eat to come share a meal in our home with our family.
My intention is to teach my children to give in the fullest sense — to give their money, their time, their attention, and their empathy. I don’t want them only to give as an act that they do. I want them to identify as givers. I want them to see charity and help for the needy as who they are.
‘You Shall Be a Blessing’
We see the importance of identifying with blessing others right at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
The last phrase in this verse — “and you will be a blessing” — has a nuance in the Hebrew that is missed in translation. The Hebrew for “you will be” in this verse is heyeh. Every other time that this word appears in the Bible, it is a command. In other words, heyeh doesn’t really mean “you will be.” It means “you shall be.” The Hebrew for “you will be” is ve’hayita, not the word used in our verse.
When God told Abraham heyeh beracha — “you shall be a blessing” — He wasn’t telling him that he will bless other others. God’s mission for Abram was that he must become a blessing, that blessing others is not only something that he must do. It must become his identity.