Bereishit 48:10 begins:

וְעֵינֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ כָּבְד֣וּ מִזֹּ֔קֶן לֹ֥א יוּכַ֖ל לִרְא֑וֹת

Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see.

However, pasuk 8 says:

וַיַּ֥רְא יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יוֹסֵ֑ף וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מִי־אֵֽלֶּה׃

And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said: ‘Who are these?’

Verse 11 also says:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֔ף רְאֹ֥ה פָנֶ֖יךָ לֹ֣א פִלָּ֑לְתִּי וְהִנֵּ֨ה הֶרְאָ֥ה אֹתִ֛י אֱלֹהִ֖ים גַּ֥ם אֶת־זַרְעֶֽךָ׃

And Israel said unto Joseph: ‘I had not thought to see thy face; and, lo, God hath let me see thy seed also.’

What is this contradiction here? It says twice that Yaakov saw them, but it also says that he could not see. Rashi does not address this.

  • 1
    I thought about the same question during today's Torah Reading. Eshkoah for the question and the answers.
    – jutky
    Jan 3, 2015 at 22:36

3 Answers 3


Rashi doesn't address it, but other commentators do. The Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Sforno, and Chezkuni all agree on this: Yaakov was "legally blind" to the point that he could not see any details, but was able to see that there was a person there.

This is actually similar to personal experience. My mother is nearly like this: she can discern shapes, but no details without her glasses.

To quote those sources:


ראה שהם בני אדם אבל לא הכיר מי הם:‏

He saw that there were people, but he didn't recognize who they were.


אף על פי שכתוב לפנינו ולא יוכל לראות. יש רואה דמות אדם ואין מכיר דמות פניו.‏

Even though the preceding verse said that he wasn't able to see, he could see the shape of a person, even if he couldn't see the details on the face.

Ibn Ezra:

ואחר שאמר וירא ישראל את בני יוסף איך יאמר לא יוכל לראות. רק טעמו לראות היטב שיכירם.‏

After the verse says "And Yisrael saw the children of Yosef," how could it say that he wasn't able to see? Rather, the verse (that says he wasn't able to see) means that he couldn't see enough detail to recognize them.

(Translations kindly donated by @Shokhet)

  • IMHO RaSh"I does address this as @user6591 points out in his answer.
    – Lee
    Dec 21, 2015 at 21:27

The Baal HaTurim here says to see what he wrote in parshas Vayeitzei 29 17 ועיני לאה רכות. There he says there are three psukim that start similarly. That one, ועיני ישראל כבדו מזקן & ועיני רשעים תכלנה ,איוב י׳א כ׳. He says Leah's eyes got weak because of her fear of marrying Eisav. He quotes a Medrash Hagadol (8) that Yaakov's eyes got weak because he saw the Yeravam and Achav coming out of Ephraim and Menasheh. This is why Leah's eyes and Yaakov's eyes got weak, because of the eyes of the rishaim. So according to this, Yaakov's eyes were fine up until he saw Ephraim and Menasheh.

Rashi in Vayechi also mentions this idea of Yaakov losing his ruach hakidesh after seeing the bad progeny, Yeravam and Achav from Ephraim and Yehu and his sons from Menasheh. He is quoting the Tanchuma #6 that actually asks how can it be that Yaakov didn't recognize them after spending seventeen years with them.

The answer being the loss of the shechina. It would be possible to combine these two pshatim, the weak eyes being the result of the los of ruach hakodesh, and I'm pretty sure when I was a kid in school that was the standard, but the Tanchuma continues that Yosef prayed for the ruach hakodesh to return, which it did. Rashi mentions this as well, but in passuk 9, before the Torah mentions that Yaakov's eyes were weak, so unless you can claim that part is out of order, or some other idea, it seems these won't work together.

  • Or HaHayim HaQadosh on the verse also brings down the Tanhhuma you cite (specifically 48:8).
    – Lee
    Dec 21, 2015 at 21:30
  • Respectfully, this answer could be greatly improved if formatted and phrased more succinctly.
    – Lee
    Dec 21, 2015 at 21:32

it doesnt say he could not see. it says his eyes were "heavy".

once read a midrash somewhere that says he could not open his eyelids due to their being swollen and they had to be propped open so he could see. probably due to his tremendous hasmada learning day and night.

  • 1
    לא יוכל לראות?What about
    – Scimonster
    Jan 4, 2015 at 22:11
  • @Scimonster does ‏ make a difference in comments?
    – MTL
    Jan 4, 2015 at 23:08
  • @Shokhet Probably, but i did that from my iPad and didn't think of it.
    – Scimonster
    Jan 4, 2015 at 23:10
  • 1
    ....meaning to say, the verse cited does say that his eyes were heavy, but it also says (right after that) "לֹ֥א יוּכַ֖ל לִרְא֑וֹת"
    – MTL
    Jan 4, 2015 at 23:29
  • @Scimonster your question is on the midrash not me. and according to you, how do you explain the word "heavy"
    – ray
    Jan 5, 2015 at 6:27

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