Jacob's intention in gathering his children in this chapter was to impart specific blessings and prophecies to each of his sons before he passed away. The blessings allowed Jacob to express his love and guide his children as they continued on their paths in life. It is written: 'Each according to his blessing he blessed them.' Although the words spoken to Reuben, Shimon, and Levi may seem less favorable, Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel explains that Jacob intended to explain to his sons who among them is worthy of kingship and capable of leading politically. This description mainly explains the essence of the blessings.
Reuben, '[You have] the restlessness of water.' A person without patience cannot lead politics. Politics requires patience.
What about Shimon and Levi? They are fanatics, religious fanatics. Zealotry can sometimes be beneficial in extraordinary times in history. But using zealotry all the time to lead a country is not suitable.
What about Zebulun? Zebulun 'will dwell on the coast of the seas,' meaning he has a broad, universal culture and is essentially inclined to favor the region over the good of his nation.
And what about Issachar? 'A strong-boned donkey,' he studies Torah, a direction that does not see much value in political independence. Therefore, it is written, 'He saw a resting place, that it was good, and the land, that it was pleasant, and he bent his shoulder to bear [burdens], and he became an indentured laborer.'
So what about Dan? Dan knows how to fight, but he knows how to fight guerrilla wars like Samson the hero, which is good when the aim is towards independence but not suitable for leading a whole country...
On the other hand, we see that 'Gad, a troop will troop forth from him,' seems as if he can lead an entire army, but the continuation of the sentence claims that he will also, 'and it will troop back in its tracks.' When he conquers, he thinks the direction he conquered can also be returned. He has no genuine connection to the land.
So maybe Naphtali and Asher? Naphtali is known as a person who ' utters beautiful words,' meaning he can be the Minister of Education, Minister of Culture, While Asher can be the Minister of Economics 'and will yield regal delicacies.'
However, neither Naphtali nor Asher can see the big picture. Therefore, the two of them are not candidates to lead the nation.
What about Joseph? On the contrary, it is written that 'his bow was strongly established, and the arms of his hands were made firm by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob,' but he is not drawn to adoration, and 'They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; yea, archers despised him.' So, Joseph can only sometimes lead the nation due to his individuality.
What about Benjamin? 'he will prey; in the morning, he will devour plunder, and in the evening, he will divide the spoil.' He can rule at the beginning of the monarchy like Saul and at the end of the monarchy like Esther and Mordecai, but he cannot continue the historical sequence.
And what about Judah? 'A lion cub.' Judah is primarily a cub, then a lion, then a lioness. He knows the secret of 'Kimah kimah,' which means Patience in Politics, and therefore he draws adoration. '[as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you.' He is suitable to rule.
[All quotes from Genesis 49]
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