Thursday, January 12, 2006

CHASSIDIC DIMENSION: Ya'akov's Blessings (Vayechi)


Tevet 12, 5766 * January 12, 2006


Parshat Vayechi

Ya'akov's Blessings
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The Torah portion of Vayechi relates the blessings Ya'akov bestowed upon his children, the 12 tribes, prior to his demise.

In these blessings, Ya'akov blessed Yehudah with the strength of a lion, Binyamin with the hunting attributes of a wolf, Naftali with the swiftness of a deer, and so on.

Upon concluding the individual blessings, the Torah goes on to say: "All these are the tribes of Israel, 12 in all, and this is what their father said to them as he blessed them; each individual according to his blessing did he bless them."

Rashi notes that the verse should perhaps have stated: "each individual according to his blessing did he bless him." Rashi explains this in the following manner: "Since he gave Yehudah the strength of a lion, Binyamin the hunting attributes of a wolf and Naftali the swiftness of a deer, one may think that he did not include all of them in all the blessings. Therefore, the verse states "he blessed them."

Rashi thus informs us that Ya'akov intended that every tribe be blessed with all the aforementioned qualities. The difference between one tribe and the other was merely that the blessing mentioned for a particular tribe reflected that tribe's strong point. All the other qualities, however, were also received by them directly from Ya'akov.

Chassidus explains that a blessing involves the drawing down upon the individual who receives it of that which he possesses in his source above. A blessing thus reveals one's innate qualities and characteristics.

This is the meaning of "each individual according to his blessing did he bless them" - each tribe received the blessing which stemmed from its own source; it had already been designated from above as the quality of the selected individual was drawn down by Ya'akov.

In light of the above, we must understand Rashi's comment that all the tribes were included in all the blessings: Since a blessing involves the revelation within an individual of his latent qualities from his own unique source, how could these blessings be transmitted to the other tribes as well?

The difficulty resolves itself when we realize that Ya'akov blessed the 12 tribes, not as 12 distinct individuals, but rather as they were encompassed within himself, their father. At their source, all the brothers were truly one. When this unity is revealed, it becomes clear that all the above-mentioned qualities are possessed by each tribe; by blessing them as he did, Ya'akov brought all these qualities to the fore.

Thus, Ya'akov's blessings were indeed superior to blessings that tap only an individual's particular source; the Patriarch blessed his offspring with these qualities as they - the tribes as well as the blessings - existed within Ya'akov. Therefore, although each tribe had a dominant attribute, all the tribes received the other blessings as well.

There is an important lesson here in terms of our own spiritual service:

The fact that each Jew is descended from a particular tribe offers us a guide to our particular mode of spiritual service. / For example, some tribes excelled in commerce, or shone through their charitable endeavors, while others excelled in Torah knowledge.

The fact that each tribe received all the blessings teaches us that, while one may have his own aspect of Divine service, one can and should shine brilliantly while engaged in other aspects as well.

Thus, the business person engaged in Torah study can qualitatively achieve as much as the full-time Torah scholar. And conversely, the Torah scholar must engage in doing good deeds with the intensity of a person who devotes most of his life to helping others.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXV, pp. 285-291)


Featured Audio Class on

Vayechi - Jacob's Unrequited Desire
By Moshe New

“Jacob called for his sons and said, ‘Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days”. Rashi explains: He attempted to reveal when Moshiach would come, but the Shechinah withdrew from him. So he began to say other things.

More Audio/Video


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