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Moses gave his final blessings to the Israelites; firstly tribe-by tribe, finally all together:
Of Asher, he said: Asher is the most blessed of children. He shall be pleasing to his brothers, and dip his feet in oil (33:24).
The words "baruch mi-banim Asher" are normally translated as "Asher is the most blessed of children. The sense of the pasuk is that Asher's territory will be extremely suited to the cultivation of olives. Olive oil, an extremely valued commodity then (and now), will be produced in huge quantities. It will be sold far and wide, and become a source of the greatest wealth.
The Sforno understands"baruch mi-banim Asher" differently. Instead of rendering it as "Asher is the most blessed of children", he translates it as "Asher is blessed by the children". (The word 'mi' can be interpreted both ways.) The Sforno observes that it often happens that siblings get jealous when one brother is wealthy and successful. Thus Moses' blessing to Asher was that his wealth should be a source of harmony amongst the brothers rather, and not a source of envy and discord. And that should also come from his capacity to supply essential consumables at good prices. Asher would profit; the other tribes would get cheap products.
It may be suggested that according to Sforno's interpretation, Asher's blessing of being appreciated rather than envied is a climax of a theme in the Torah; sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is a big issue from Cain and Abel onwards. It recurs with Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. The turning point came with Moses: instead of sibling rivalry between Moses and Aaron, G-d declares to Moses: "Aaron your brother… is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart" (Ex. 4:14). It was that spirit that was to be maintained between the tribes; the inter-sibling rivalry was not to degenerate into inter-tribal rivalry.
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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