Nechama Leibowits (Studies in Genesis), pp. 278-9
We may note the contrast between the two [blessings]. On the one hand Esau was promised abundance, fatness, power and dominion--material blessing. But the Abrahamic mission, the blessing of seed and the promise of the land were not bequeathed to Esau, since such a spiritual blessing cannot be conferred by succession but only granted to the one who is deserving of it.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (Excerpt from Union Seminary Quarterly Review, January, 1966)
Shakespeare's Hamlet said: "To be or not to be, that is the question." But that is no problem. We all want to be. The real problem, biblically speaking, is how to be and how not to be; that is our challenge, and it is what makes the difference between the human and the animal...The meaning of God is precisely the challenge of "how to be."
Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel (“Can Jews and Christians Pray Together?” in International Service of Jewish-Christian Documentation, 1992, Volume XXV, Numero 1, Pages: 2-6)
Prayer serves many aims. It serves to save the inward life from oblivion. It serves to partake of God's mysterious grace and guidance. Yet, ultimately, prayer must not be experienced as an act for the sake of something else. We pray in order to pray. Prayer is a perspective from which to behold, from which to respond to, the challenges we face. Man in prayer does not seek to impose his will upon God; he seeks to impose God's will and mercy upon himself. Prayer is necessary to make us aware of our failures, backsliding, transgressions, sins.
Rabbi Harold Kushner, When Children Ask About God, p. 159
We must avoid the “Santa Claus” mentality which presents God with a shopping list of our desires. What we do when we pray is express the hope that our lives will be marked by the presence of those qualities we consider divine, the wish to act justly, practice compassion, speak the truth and build peace. We acknowledge in prayer that we depend on God for all these qualities, that though we have them in potential, we need the sustaining force we call God actually to practise them in our lives.
Questions for Thought and Discussion
Think of a time when you felt "blessed" by someone else through praise, words of encouragement or the like. In what way(s) were you transformed by the blessing? Have you ever blessed someone else, and what was that like?
Closing Thought: Isaac's two different blessings for Jacob foreshadow Jacob's own evolving attitude towards prayer. In his younger years, prayer is a "shopping list" he sends to God (Gen. 28:20-22). Later, a more mature Jacob sees in prayer the power of personal transformation (Gen. 32: 25-33).