I really wanted to talk about וזאת הברכה, but it is never read on Shabbat so it tends to get skipped. So we’re going to start with בראשית, and ה׳'s ברכות, and try to understand what a ברכה is.
ה׳ gives ברכות three times in בראשית:
It’s important to note that in each case, ה׳ creates, then blesses. And in the first two, the blessing is פרו ורבו. Note the distinction with the plants, where reproduction is part of creation:
So what is going on? What does ויברך mean?
Rabbi Akiva Tatz likes to point out (though I don’t have a source on hand, unfortunately) that each of the letters of ברך have a “double” value: ב is 2, כ is 20, and ר is 200. A בריכה, a pool, really represents a spring:
Similarly, the knee is how we kneel and rise:
That’s what is means when we “bless” ה׳; we are praising Him as the source of Blessing. When ה׳ blesses something in the world, He is giving something “more”, something that isn’t inherent in the created world. ה׳ created the animals to reproduce, but added the ברכה of פרו ורבו:
The laws of nature allow that human beings could hunt other species to extinction, and the ברכה is that this won’t happen. One could write an ecological דבר תורה about our responsibility to maintain that ברכה of biodiversity, that ה׳ has given us the free will and power to destroy other species, but our duty is to prevent that. But I won’t go there.
Similarly with the ברכה to אדם is a gift of something more than how they were created (and with great power comes great responsibility):
And שבת also gets a ברכה, something more:
So how does a human being give a ברכה? How I give you something more than what you already have? The easy answer is, I give you stuff:
But that’s obviously not what we usually mean by giving someone a bracha. It could just mean a greeting; I give you my attention and honor:
But that’s also not what it ususally means. It has some connection to ה׳'s bracha:
A ברכה in this sense is a תפילה, but one that is directed at others. ה׳ doesn’t necessarily promise that He will accede to every request, but at least He will listen. The answer may be “no”, but at least it will be answered. And that is what Moshe offers at the end of his life, after the תורה שבעל פה of most of ספר דברים, and the נבואה of פרשת האזינו. It is his own תפילה:
And it’s important to realize that the fact that Moshe is an איש האלקים may help with the ברכה, but giving a ברכה is not dependent on רוח הקודש. It is dependent on our generosity:
As long as we can pray for others in a selfless way, we too have the power to bless others:
And I think that is the lesson of וזאת הברכה אשר ברך משה. He doesn’t spend his last day praying for himself. He spends it praying for all of כלל ישראל. And that is a real ברכה.