Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Parshas Zos haBracha 5778

In this week's parsha we find various blessings given by Moses to the various tribes. While most of us grew up with a view of these verses as interpreted by Rashi, there are many other opinions in the commentators. Here are some selected ones (see Sefer Shaarei Aharon for a complete list).

Reuben - the blessing that Moses gave this tribe was that "may Reuben live and not die". The obvious issue with this verse is that Reuben already died. While Rashi interprets this as referring to the world to come, Targum Onkelos interprets this as referring to the future day of Judgment and the death of the wicked following that day, thus asking G-d not to judge Reuben as wicked. Rabbeinu Bachya interprets this verse as a reference to reincarnation, asking G-d not to reincarnate Reuben again and let him die again, but rather keep him alive in the World of Souls. 

Simeon - is skipped, either because he never repented from the story of Schechem or because of the story of Baal Peor.

Judah - Tzror HaMor interprets the blessing as a reference to the four ways kings often win wars. As follows (33:7): "Hear, O LORD the voice of Judah" - through prayer;  "And restore him to his people" - through a larger army; "Though his own hands strive for him" - through their own strength; "Help him against his foes." - through outside help from G-d but not other human beings

Levi - while Rashi interprets the verse of the Tribe of Levi not knowing their families as a reference to the Golden Calf, Targum Jonathan interprets that verse as a reference to their work in the Temple / Tabernacle. Because the Tribe of Levi is performing their work elsewhere, they often do not see their families.

Benjamin - while Rashi interprets the blessing as referring to the land of Benjamin; the Talmud (Baba Bathra 17a) teaches us that this blessing means that Benjamin's body did not decay. The Talmud (Shabbos 55b) also tells us that Benjamin was one of the four people who never sinned.

Joseph - Rabbeinu Bachya cites from a Midrash that Joseph got a blessing for his land because he withstood the temptation of Potiphar's wife while Adam (the first man) got the land cursed because he listened to his wife. Also, Rashi interprets part of the blessing as referring to water coming from below the land, seemingly as a reference to mountain aquifer in Israel.

Zebulun and Issachar - the blessing to these tribes is interpreted by Rashi as a reference to Zebulun's commerce and Issachar's learning. Bechor Shor and Hizkuni interpret this as a reference to the commerce of Zebulun because he lived on the sea shore, and the tents that Issachar spread to watch over his fields because they were bountiful and he did not need to go out for commerce like his brother. HaEmek Davar learns that Zebulun and Issachar went to war together, and while Zebulun fought his brother had tents near the battle where he learned and prayed for his brother.

Gad - Shach learns that Gad wanted his land even though it was impure due to idol worship because Moses was going to be buried there. Malbim learns that they picked that land because it was given by Moses himself and not selected by lottery.

Dan - Gra learns that Dan is compared to a lion just like Judah, because they took land on opposite ends of Israel. Mincha Belula learns that Messiah will come from these two tribes with his mother from Dan, and his father from Judah.

Naphtali - HaEmek Davar learns that there are two types of riches - actual riches and being happy with what one has, and Naphtali had both.

Asher - Chizkuni learns that Asher was the one who told the other brothers about the story of Reuben and the couch. The brothers scolded him for it, and Moses here reverts that. The Talmud (Succah 56) teaches us that the brothers excommunicated Asher when they say that his daughter Serach knew that Joseph was sold (through prophecy). Moses here reverts the curse. Gra learns that the children of Asher were beautiful because of the oil and they married Kohanim who were rich (because of the incense).

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