Find Your Blessing - ויחי

Friday, 6 January, 2023 - 10:52 am

Find Your Blessing

At the conclusion of the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Torah, Jacob, as he is about to pass away, called his twelve sons and blessed each one with a unique blessing. The book of Genesis is full of stories about brothers contending for their father’s affection and legacy. Throughout the book, we read how, in each generation, only one child was selected to carry on his parents' legacy. Finally, at the conclusion of the book, we read how all the brothers were blessed. Each of Jacob's twelve sons possessed  a unique quality and gift, indispensable to the fulfillment of the Divine mission to transform the world to holiness.   

While the Torah implies that all twelve sons were blessed, "(All these are the twelve tribes of Israel… each man, according to his blessing, he blessed them"), it seems that Reuben, the first Son, was not blessed, and Simeon and Levi were, in fact, cursed with harsh words: 

Simeon and Levi are brothers; stolen instruments are their weapons.

Let my soul not enter their counsel; my honor, you shall not join their assembly, for in their wrath they killed a man, and with their will they hamstrung a bull.

Cursed be their wrath for it is mighty, and their anger because it is harsh. I will separate them throughout Jacob, and I will scatter them throughout Israel. (Genesis 49:5-7)

Upon deeper reflection, however, we discover that, like the other brothers, Simon and Levi were indeed also blessed by Jacob, revealing their unique gift and spiritual purpose.  

Jacob identified and cursed the anger and wrath of Simeon and Levi ("Cursed be their wrath for it is mighty, and their anger because it is harsh"), Jacob addressed their tendency to violence that caused them to kill the entire city of Shechem in retribution for the defilement of their sister Dinah. Yet, Jacob also identified the path for them to "elevate" their personality, refine their character, and direct their passion to holiness. 

Rashi explains that Jacob's words "I will separate them throughout Jacob, and I will scatter them throughout Israel", refer to the tribe of Levi which was destined to serve in the temple, and would, therefore, not receive a portion in the land of Israel, instead they would scatter around the land to collect the tithings. The tribe of Simeon, too, would travel around Israel as teachers of young children. In other words, Jacob was demonstrating that the same qualities expressed in a negative way could be channeled to public service, with a determination and uncompromising commitment on behalf of "Jacob" and "Israel", in matters of holiness. 

As descendants of Jacob, each of us possesses a unique, indispensable personality that is critical to the Jewish mission. We must find our unique blessing and allow it to shine forth. 

Adapted from the Kli Yakar


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