The Torah ends with blessing – v’zot ha-b’rakhah, Moses’ very last words of blessing to the tribes of Israel – and it also begins with blessing – almost.
Actually, the first four days of Creation pass by without any mention of this action or state of being. Nothing is blessed on those day. It is only on the fifth day of Creation that we first encounter blessing. Then God blesses all the creatures brought into being on that day, the fish in the seas and the birds of the skies. God says, “Be fruitful and multiply!” (Gen. 1:22) And then blessing is found in the sixth day, as well. God blesses the newly created human beings with the same blessing of fruitfulness.
Apparently blessing had to wait until the fifth day because it had to be bestowed on living creatures. It was they, not the light or the sky or the waters or the stars, who are given the blessing to grow and be numerous. Those other parts of Creation are set to be as they are. Only living beings can multiply and generate new life. Blessing seems essentially connected to the potential for increasing life, just as we pray for the blessing of life during the Days of Awe.
God is the source of blessing at the beginning of the Torah. By the end of the Torah it is a human being – blessed by God at the start of the Torah – who is the one who bestows blessing. Moses’ last words – spoken only moments before his own life would end – are words of blessing to those who would continue living after him. This is how he chose to expend his last ounce of life: by bestowing blessings to the living. What is blessed in endowed with the power to bless, in turn.
So it is important for us to notice, in the Torah’s story of Creation, the next appearance of blessing. After the living creatures are blessed on the fifth and sixth days, we again find blessing being granted on the Seventh Day. But to whom? To what living being is the blessing of growth and increased life bestowed? The answer is that blessing is given to the Seventh Day herself! Shabbat is bestowed with blessing just as much as human beings are blessed. The implication is clear. Shabbat, too, must be fruitful and increase, which means that Shabbat has the power of increasing life.
For millennia that life-giving power was stored up and lay dormant until it was unleashed through its bestowal upon the people of Israel. May we be blessed by the blessings of Shabbat. And, like Moses, may we then be transformed into vessels of ongoing blessing to others.
Shabbat Shalom v’ Hag Same`ah
Rabbi David Greenstein
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Sea Creatures, Photo by Shifaz Abdul Hakkim on Unsplash
Insect, Photo by Siim Lukka on Unsplash
Birds, Photo by Gareth Davies on Unsplash
Deer, Photo by Andreas Dress on Unsplash
Baby, Commercial Stock Image
Thank you to John Lasiter for suggesting the title and selecting an image for this Torah Sparks – Rabbi Greenstein
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