The blessings from our parents… the blessings to our children…

Genesis 27: 30-38

The scene breaks your heart – Esau returns from the field to bring his father what might be his last meal and finds that his brother Jacob has come to their father in deceit and taken his blessing away. Father and son are both in tears as Esau pleads, “Don’t you have any blessing for ME?” (God forbid, Esau should know that his mother Rebecca set the whole thing up. I can’t imagine how many sessions on the couch Esau would have needed had he realized that Mom really DID love Jacob best!)

It makes me wonder about the blessings that all of us have received from our parents – as well as the blessings we who are parents are passing down to our children. To be sure, as Rabeinu Larry Hoffman writes, we all receive mixed blessings – even curses, so to speak – from our parents.

Our task as children, regardless of how many years have passed, is to acknowledge both the “blessings” and the “curses,” to be grateful for the former and forgiving for the latter. Indeed, I believe that we truly become adults when we forgive our parents and take responsibility for who and what we. Our parents did the best they could given who they were at the time, how they themselves were raised, what they knew, and what they could not possibly have known.

As parents, we do our best to bring blessings to our children, yet we can’t help but unintentionally burden our children with what they will later regard as curses. Every person is different, and what is a blessing for one is a curse for another. And what is felt as a curse today may be seen as a blessing tomorrow (or 20 years from now). As parents, we can only do our best given who we are, how we were raised, what we know, and what we cannot possible know except in hindsight.

Later, when Jacob and Esau meet again, both have grown. Jacob has struggled with the angel of the “heel” he was and the mensch he strives to become. Esau has become satisfied, not with what he had been given or not but with what he himself had earned.

Ultimately, the blessings and curses we have received become what we make of them, as do we ourselves.

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