Which Forefather Are You Like?


Jewish educator Lori Palatnik says each one of us has a personality type based on Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.

by Lori Palatnik

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the former Rosh HaYeshiva of Aish HaTorah, taught me about how our three forefathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—each represent a particular drive in people and a different way of approaching life. These three basic personality types are manifested differently in soul than in body, and although everyone has all three personality types based on the forefathers within them, there is one type in each person that is our “default”—the one we go to instinctively in almost every situation. I use this wisdom on a daily basis: in counseling, parenting, marriage, teaching—and I find it the most user-friendly of all the personality systems. Below are the three types and how they are manifested in the soul.

1. Chaim

Positive traits: The word chaim means “life.” These are people who see the depth of life. A chaim soul is a thinking soul—a person whose main pleasure drive lies in understanding. Our forefather, Jacob, embodied this quality. The Bible describes him as a “man of the tent,” who studied all day (as opposed to his brother, Esau, who was a “man of the fields”; a hunter). A person who has this type of soul drive tends to have far above average intelligence—not just smart, but someone who possesses a type of intelligence that could be described as thinking “outside the box.” They are the creative geniuses of the world and the most complex of all the types. What you see is not exactly what you get. They are deep, very deep, and their minds never rest. Their main pleasure is thinking and understanding.

Potential obstacles: Because they are “outside the box” thinkers, others sometimes have difficulty understanding those with a chaim soul; they are the most misunderstood of all the types, and they know it. A kid who is a chaim soul is the one in class, or the one in the family, who feels “different.” That’s usually not a good feeling, even as an adult. Being a chaim soul is especially challenging as a woman. Women are relationship beings, and chaims have the hardest time with relationships. Their strength is in their ideas and insights, not necessarily in social graces or repartee. They tend to be introverts (but there are exceptions), and you will find them at parties in the corner, having a deep discussion with a rocket scientist on the existence and importance of black holes. Chaims also have a hard time with rules, regulations, and authority, which is a problem since we live in a world of all three. It is painful for them to work within a set system because they feel restricted and, again, misunderstood. They march to the beat of a different drummer.

Natural fit: Chaims, because of their superior and complex intellect, would do wonderfully working in a think tank, in research and development, or as a professor. They may lose their keys, phones, and wallets on a regular basis, and forget to take out the garbage, but they are the inventors and architects of the big ideas, and their depth makes them infinitely fascinating.

2. Bracha

Positive traits: As much as chaim is mind, bracha is heart. Bracha means “blessing.” Abraham, the first Jew, embodied the essence of bracha. He was personable—connecting to people, reaching out to others and inviting them into his tent, where they would enjoy good food, song, and words of wisdom. A chaim soul gets pleasure thinking and understanding, while a bracha soul gets pleasure in relationships, connection, emotion, and experience. They tend to be extroverts (but not always), and as much as chaim souls can tend to see the glass as half empty, brachas see it half full… and they are the first ones to invite you to share it. You know the fun, party guy in college, who was everyone’s friend? Chances are he was a bracha. What is the positive of being a bracha soul? People love brachas because brachas love people. They have that positive energy that simply attracts people.

Potential obstacles: What is the challenge of a bracha soul? They are so busy having a good time that they are often missing out on the depth of the world. They are skimming along on the surface, enjoying the pleasures of this world, without realizing that there is something deeper going on. When a bracha soul asks someone, “How are you”?, and that person replies hesitatingly while looking down, “fine,” the bracha accepts them at their word and is satisfied that they are indeed fine. But, in fact, the person is not fine; the bracha simply did not pick up on the body language, voice tenor, and nuances that accompanied the answer.

Natural fit: A bracha soul, because of their knack for communication and personable qualities, do well in professions that involve people. If you were hiring someone to be the receptionist at an ad agency, you would want a bracha front and center. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and a bracha soul will make everyone feel happy and welcome. Bracha souls also make great parents because they will create a positive energy in the home and really enjoy the kids. They love to have guests, and enjoy making them feel welcome. (But be careful, they can sometimes overdo it and invite way too many people).

3. Tov

Positive traits: The word tov means “good,” and a tov soul is a person who is driven to do what is right. Isaac, our forefather, was 37 years old when his father, Abraham, was told by God to sacrifice him. He was not a young child naively going to his death. He was a grown man who was ready to die for God, for it was the right thing. A tov will always do the right thing, even in the face of enduring personal pain, or causing pain to others.

Potential obstacles: Problems can arise when tov souls are mistaken in what is truly “right.” Tovs see the world as black and white and have a difficult time seeing or living in the gray area between. Remember the chaim soul who has a difficult time with rules and regulations? Well, tovs invented them. They love to know clearly what is expected in every situation. They have a very strong sense of right and wrong and have a hard time with people who do not. They have difficulty accepting transition or journey, for they are only happy when they are securely in one place or the other. However, life is a journey, and it takes time to grow in many areas of our lives, whether it is spiritually or professionally. Tovs have little patience for themselves and for others in this area. For them, it’s all or nothing.

Natural fit: These critical, anal-retentive types can make you crazy, but they have a power and strength beyond compare. My husband says, “Tovs run the world.” They are organized and driven to do the right thing, qualities that many companies admire and revere. They rise to the occasion and are the toughest of all the types. You can throw a lot at a tov, and they will not only keep going, they will survive and thrive. Chaims and brachas are much more sensitive. Tovs not only run companies, but they also make great housekeepers. You don’t want a chatty bracha type or a dreamy chaim cleaning your house. You want a “can do,” “go to it” person who will whip through your house, getting pleasure seeing things tidy, cleaning, and making order.

About the Author

Lori Palatnik
Lori Palatnik is a writer and Jewish educator who has appeared on television and radio and is the author of Friday Night and Beyond: The Shabbat Experience Step-By-Step, Remember My Soul: What to Do in Memory of a Loved One, and co-author of Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It From Your Life and Transform Your Soul. Lori is the director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, an international project that brings hundreds of women to Israel each year on highly subsidized programs in order to inspire them with the beauty and wisdom of their heritage. Lori can be reached at LPalatnik@aish.com.


  1. Dalia Melamed June 26, 2015 Reply

    loved it! No matter how many times I listen or read about this subject , I get something new out of it!
    Thank you Lori!
    Shabbat Shalom
    Dalia Melamed

  2. would be interested to hear the three types regarding the body. Thanks, Michael

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