This week’s parsha closes the book of Bereishit / Genesis, focusing in larger part of the blessings that Jacob/Israel gives to his twelve sons. The blessings come in the form of Biblical poetry, a genre that I hope to have the tools to crack years from now. In the meantime, I was struck by the verse summarizing the blessings. After they are complete, the Torah tells us: “These all are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father told them; and he blessed them, each man according to his blessing he blessed them” (Bereishit 49:28, all translations mine). On this verse, Ibn Ezra states: “Each man according to his blessing. When each of the blessings came, thus did he bless them, similar to “Each man according to the interpretation of his dream” (Bereishit 41:11).” Ibn Ezra is here highlighting that Yosef (Joseph) may have inherited his ability to arrive at the essential nature of another person from his father. Just as Yosef interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s employees correctly, so too the twelve blessings given by Yaakov to his sons are fitting.
We see this focus on knowing your fellow’s true nature once more as the parsha closes. Yosef’s brothers are afraid that, with their father now dead, Yosef will seek vengeance for all the harm they caused him earlier in his life. They plead before him to have mercy on them. Yosef is touched, and promises that he would never seek vengeance for something that was in Hashem’s hands all along, saying: “And now, do not fear, I will sustain you and your children. And he comforted them, and he spoke to their hearts” (Bereishit 50:21). This is the most intimate way the Torah has of underscoring the point made in the dream and blessing interpretation above. Yosef knew exactly what his brothers needed to hear to be mollified, and he allowed them to live on with their families in this foreign land in relative peace.
Joseph and Jacob
Bearers of great wisdom