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   by Jacob Solomon

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The scepter shall not depart from Judah… (49:10)
Let (the blessings received by Jacob) be on the head of Joseph (49:26)

The Parasha recounts the individualized messages and blessings that every son received from Jacob, the patriarchal father. Each had a different nature and potential. It was the father's skill in delivering a few well-chosen words to each which would enable them (and their descendants) to maximize their gifts and personalities. Some would achieve that through business (Zebulun), others through farming the land (Asher), others in military prowess (Gad), and others in more sedate activities (Issachar, following Rashi). Some abruptly needed to change their outlook and ways of thinking (Reuben, Simeon, Levi), and others needed encouragement to develop existing positive personality traits further (Judah).

Yet it was Judah, not Joseph, who received the blessing of being the ancestor of the future ruling dynasty of the Israelites. And it was Joseph, not Judah, who was blessed with wealth in all matters. For the 'blessings received by Jacob' were 'from the dew of the heaven and from the fat of the land' (27:28) - applying to all types of farming. Judah's were more limited: only in the production of wine and milk (49:11-12). Surely Joseph was the more fitting candidate for the monarchy, in view of his skilled administration as viceroy of Egypt saving Jacob's family and the region at large from death by starvation.

A closer look at the two profiles helps to understand the nature of Jacob's blessings.

Judah's position in the family as the fourth son of Leah (who was not Jacob's first choice wife) did not by itself make him an obvious choice. Yet he did show positive personal qualities. He was the one who took responsibility for Tamar's pregnancy (38:26), even though the circumstances in which it happened might disgrace him in the public eye. He was the one who finally persuaded Jacob to allow Benjamin to accompany the brothers the second time they went down to Egypt - and placed himself on the line - absolutely - should Benjamin not return (43:8-9). And it was he that stepped forward and made the impassioned appeal to the Viceroy for Benjamin's release, declaring his wish to replace him as prisoner (44:18-34). Indeed, it was Judah who Jacob chose to prepare the way for his arrival in Goshen (47:28).

Joseph, however, never had to take full responsibility. True, he showed the initiative following his interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams in suggesting how the region might prepare itself during the forthcoming seven years of plenty. However, the instructions were given by Pharaoh, and from then on, Joseph acted as his second in command only. So Joseph, as a capable and honest administrator, was blessed with wealth in supplying food in the future as he had done in the past…

But, in contrast, it was Judah acted as first in command - regal quality. That is eminence in leadership - to be proactive on behalf of others when required, and to take full responsibility in times of crisis.

Strong sense of direction from the monarchy, backed by appropriate distribution of wealth was the essential combination for the thriving of the Israelites in the Promised Land. However that relationship broke down after the Division of the Kingdom (Kings 1:12). But its resumption in the future is stressed by the Prophet Ezekiel: "Take for yourself one wooden tablet and write upon it 'for Judah…' and take another wooden tablet and write upon it 'for Joseph…' and bring them together as one tablet, and they shall become one in your hand." (Ez. 37:16-17)

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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