Vol. 22 No. 50
Parshas Ve'zos ha'Brachah
The Twelve Tribes
(Adapted from the Ramban)
"May Reuven live and not die, and may his men be counted (among the tribes). And this is thanks to Yehudah … ".
Although Moshe followed Ya'akov Avinu in the content of the B'rachos that the latter bestowed upon his children, as Chazal learn from the word "ve'Zos", used by both Ya'akov at the conclusion of the B'rachos in Vayechi (49:28) and by Moshe at the introduction to the B'rachos here, he did not follow the order in which he conveyed those blessings.
Before going into detail about the differences regarding the order of the B'rachos, let us first discuss some general differences between the two, as presented by the Ramban.
One major point that will explain some of the nuances (not mentioned by him) that distinguish the two sets of B'rachos is the fact that whereas Ya'akov was blessing his individual sons, Moshe was blessing the tribes.
An important principle to bear in mind when viewing the tribes is the fact that there are always twelve, the Ramban explains. Consequently, if for some reason, one tribe is added, then another tribe must be omitted.
Consequently, whereas Ya'akov counted Yosef (bear in mind that he had already blessed Efrayim and Menasheh independently), Moshe listed Efrayim and Menasheh as two tribes. This he did, the author explains, because G-d listed them as two tribes, with regard to the Inauguration of the Mizbe'ach, the flags and the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael. Consequently, Moshe had to preclude one of the other tribes. Often, when Yosef is counted as two tribes, Levi is omitted, as happened a number of times in the desert. In this instance however, Moshe did not want to omit Levi, seeing as he is the source of blessing through whom all the other tribes are blessed. So he omitted Shimon, a small tribe, whom Ya'akov barely blessed and whom he "split-up among Yisrael". (See also following Article)
Shimon & Levi
It is interesting to note how, although Ya'akov placed Shimon and Levi in the same boat, chastising them for the role that they played in the incident with Sh'chem in place of a B'rachah, Moshe Rabeinu did not take his cue from Ya'akov on this point. After he omitted Shimon from a direct B'rachah (See Rashi, end of Pasuk 7), he issues Levi with a beautiful B'rachah.
The reason for this would appear to be because Levi turned over a new leaf in Egypt, where they became the model Tribe, studying Torah and being respected for their learning even by the Egyptians. Shimon, on the other hand, did not make amends. On the contrary, they grievously sinned by Ba'al Pe'or, breaching the standard of morality which their ancestor Shimon himself had set with regard to his sister Dinah.
* * *
The Order of the B'rachos
(Adapted from the Ramban)
This is how the Ramban explains the order of the B'rachos of Moshe Rabeinu:
Reuven … First a). because he was the first tribe to receive his inheritance (and most of the B'rachos concern that inheritance), and b). because he was the firstborn, and Moshe was Davening that his name should not be blotted out on account of his sin (of switching the beds of Bilhah and Le'ah); so he Davened that both he and his status should remain intact.
Yehudah … since he was the first to inherit in Eretz Yisrael proper and because he was the leader who led Yisrael into battle.
Levi …who lived in Yerushalayim together with Yehudah, and who would eventually bring Korbanos there.
Binyamin …because their inheritance was situated next to that of Yehudah, as Yerushalayim and the Beis-Hamikdash lay in between them, and the Levi'im resided among them both. (These three tribes formed a triumvirate that was destined to play a significant role later in history).
Yosef (Efrayim & Menasheh) …who received their inheritance after Binyamin.
Zevulun & Yisachar …the last two sons of the main mothers. Moshe placed Zevulun before Yisachar - because Zevulun sustained Yisachar (as Rashi explains) just as Ya'akov did. And also because that was the order that they received their respected portions - Zevulun and then Yisachar.
Gad, Dan, Naftali & Asher. And he concludes with the sons of the maidservants (Bilhah & Zipah), listed in their order of birth, except for Gad (who was born after Naftali and) whom he placed first a). because they received their inheritance first, and b). because, in his capacity as the firstborn of Leah's maidservant, Zilpah, he belonged to the flag of Reuven. In fact. Dan, Naftali & Asher comprised a camp of their own.
* * *
(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)
To explain why Shemini Atzeres is called 'Simchas Torah' and why everyone celebrates with the Torah, the B'nei Yisaschar cites the Zohar. Bearing in mind that the Midah of Ya'akov Avinu is Torah (which is synonymous with Emes), the Zohar in Parshas Emor points out that Unklus translates the word "Atzeres" as 'K'nishu' - gathering. This is because, following the visit of the Ushpizin (Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and Aharon) who rotate during the seven days of Succos, on Shemini Atzeres they all visit as a group, led by Ya'akov Avinu, who leads the rejoicing. And it is in connection with this gathering that the Torah writes in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah "How praiseworthy are you Yisrael (i.e. Ya'akov), who is like you!" which explains why we read this Parshah on Simchas Torah.
And the Navi Yeshayah writes "And He said to me 'You are my servant Yisrael, in whom I will be glorified!' "
The author continues - 'And since Ya'akov's Midah is Emes (as the Navi Michah writes "You give Emes to Ya'akov"), and the Torah is called 'Toras Emes' ('Blessed be Hashem who gave the triple Torah to the third father' - Gemara Shabbos, 88a) , that is why we rejoice with the Torah on this day (the day on which Ya'akov leads the proceedings) and that is why it is called 'Simchas Torah'.
* * *