Bereisheet (Genesis): Vayechi > Ch 49

Jacob blesses his 12 sons, the twelve tribes of Israel, and dies

  • Jacob called for his sons and said, "Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days. Gather and listen, sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel, your father.
  • Reuben you are my firstborn, my strength and the first of my might. [You should have been] superior in rank and superior in power. [You have] the restlessness of water; [therefore,] you shall not have superiority, for you ascended upon your father's couch; then you profaned [Him Who] ascended upon my bed.
  • 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.
  • Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father's sons will prostrate themselves to you. A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah. From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples. He binds his foal to a vine, and to a tendril [he binds] his young donkey. [He launders] his garment with wine, and with the blood of grapes binds his raiment. [He is] red eyed from wine and white toothed from milk.
  • Zebulun will dwell on the coast of the seas; he [will be] at the harbor of the ships, and his boundary will be at Zidon.
  • Issachar is a bony donkey, lying between the boundaries. He saw a resting place, that it was good, and the land, that it was pleasant, and he bent his shoulder to bear [burdens], and he became an indentured laborer.
  • Dan will avenge his people, like one, the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a serpent on the road, a viper on the path, which bites the horse's heels, so its rider falls backwards. For Your salvation, I hope, O Lord!
  • [As for] Gad, a troop will troop forth from him, and it will troop back in its tracks.
  • From Asher will come rich food, and he will yield regal delicacies.
  • Naphtali is a swift gazelle; [he is one] who utters beautiful words.
  • A charming son is Joseph, a son charming to the eye; [of the] women, [each one] strode along to see him. They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; yea, archers despised him. But his bow was strongly established, and his arms were gilded from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob; from there he sustained the rock of Israel, from the G-d of your father, and He will help you, and with the Almighty, and He will bless you [with] the blessings of the heavens above, the blessings of the deep, lying below, the blessings of father and mother. The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my parents, the ends of the everlasting hills. May they come to Joseph's head and to the crown (of the head) of the one who was separated from his brothers.
  • Benjamin is a wolf, he will prey; in the morning he will devour plunder, and in the evening he will divide the spoil."
  • All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them and blessed them; each man, according to his blessing, he blessed them. And he commanded them and said to them, "I will be brought in to my people; bury me with my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which field Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for burial property. There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebecca, and there I buried Leah. The purchase of the field and the cave therein was from the sons of Heth." And Jacob concluded commanding his sons, and he drew his legs [up] into the bed, and expired and was brought in to his people.


 
Rashi Commentary

  • Simeon and Levi are brothers [They were] of one [accord in their] plot against Shechem and against Joseph: “So they said one to the other, ‘…So now, let us kill him…’ ” (Gen. 37:19f). Who were “they”? If you say [that it was] Reuben or Judah, [that cannot be because] they did not agree to kill him. If you say [that it was] the sons of the maidservants, [that cannot be because] their hatred [toward him] was not [so] unmitigated [that they would want to kill him], for it is stated: “and he was a lad [and was] with the sons of Bilhah” (Gen. 37:2). [It could not have been] Issachar and Zebulun [because they] would not have spoken before their older brothers. [Thus,] by necessity [we must say that] they were Simeon and Levi, whom their father called “brothers.” - [from Gen. Rabbah, Shitah Chadashah]
  • for in their wrath they killed a man These are Hamor and the men of Shechem
  • and with their will they hamstrung a bull They wanted to “uproot” Joseph
  • my son, you withdrew Heb. עָלִיתָ, you withdrew yourself and said, “What is the gain [if we slay our brother and cover up his blood]?” (Gen. 37:26) (Gen. Rabbah 99:8).
  • until Shiloh comes [This refers to] the King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs (שֶׁלוֹ) , and so did Onkelos render it: [until the Messiah comes, to whom the kingdom belongs]. According to the Midrash Aggadah, [“Shiloh” is a combination of] שַׁי לוֹ, a gift to him, as it is said:“they will bring a gift to him who is to be feared” (Ps. 76:12). - [From Gen. Rabbah ed. Theodore-Albeck p. 1210]
  • a viper Heb. שְׁפִיפֹן. This is a snake, and I say it is given this appellation because it bites,“and you will bite (תְּשׁוּפֶנוּ) his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
  • the rock of Israel A contraction of אָב וּבֵן, father and son, [which Onkelos renders as אַבְהָן וּבְנִין], fathers and sons.


 

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