Yaakov gives Yosef what many commentators assume is the actual city of Shechem as an additional inheritance (see Genesis 48:22, especially according to Rashi's interpretation). Why did Yaakov choose to give that specific city to Yosef?

I realize he says that he conquered it himself, but I don't know if that is a reason for giving it, especially in light of the commentaries who say that Yaakov didn't actually conquer it himself (Shimon and Levi did).

  • 3
    I hope you don't mind I added a link to your question, and strengthened the question with Rashi's comment. Nice question! || You might want to consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. You might also want to pick a more descriptive username, unless 8735 is your favorite number :) I hope to see you around Mi Yodeya!
    – MTL
    Jan 15 '15 at 20:35

Ramban on that verse answers that the city of Shechem was the only portion of the Land that Yaakov could give to Yosef, as it was the only one that was under his control. Here's his conclusion, though it's worthwhile to read the entire piece.

והנה אמר לו עשיתי עמך כל הטובה שיכלתי לעשות לך לעת שהייתי יכול לעשותה כי אין ברשות יעקב בארץ רק שכם אחד שאין בידו לגזול מאחד מבניו את נחלתו רק הבכורה היתה לו לתת אותה לטוב בעיניו והנה נתן אותה אליו

Thus, Yaakov said to him Yosef: "I have done for you all the good that I was able to do at this time," because the only portion (שכם) of the Land that Yaakov had control over was the portion of the firstborn; he was unable to give Yosef any other portion, because he couldn't "steal" from his other sons' inheritances. The only thing he could give Yosef was the firstborn portion, which was his. Therefore, this is the part that he gave to Yosef.

(translation mine, loosely based on Artscroll's)

  • Isn't this not assuming it refers to the actual city of Shechem? Jan 15 '15 at 21:11
  • No, I don't think so. Ramban makes several references throughout the piece to the actual city.
    – MTL
    Jan 15 '15 at 21:12
  • Actually, maybe not. Rereading the Ramban now.
    – MTL
    Jan 15 '15 at 21:15
  • I don't understand how/why was the city of Shechem under his control? Especially since he had been living in Egypt with his entire family for years.
    – user8735
    Jan 15 '15 at 21:15
  • 1
    I don't think you are correct. He is telling Yosef that he is giving him an extra portion in the land, which the Jewish people take from Sichon and Og the kings of Emori. He isn't refering to the city of Shechem. He is referring to his ability to give an extra portion from his choosing. Why that portion should be the city of Shechem is not the discussion of the Ramban. Jan 15 '15 at 21:18

See here . While this iste seems to focus on Kabbalist views, this specific article, I think, mentions so "practical" (non Kabbalistic) reasons. Excerpts:

Rashi's comments point to the many distinct facets of the city Shechem, and the rich meaning of the place. First, Rashi mentions Shechem's role as a place of burial, given as a reward for performing this great mitzvah. Joseph performing this mitzvah leads to an incredible "chain of mitzvahs," performed by ever higher entities. The mitzvah of burying Jacob is charged to Joseph, whose burial is charged to Moses, whose burial, in turn, is performed by Hashem himself. (See Talmud Sotah) After Moshe passes, it is Joshua, a descendant of Joseph from the Tribe of Ephraim, who is charged with actually burying Joseph inside the Land of Israel. Interestingly, the passage quoted by Rashi is actually juxtaposed with Joshua's own passing. Even more fascinating is the fact that both Joshua and Joseph were 111 years old when they died. One could speculate about whether Joshua and Joseph were not in fact one and the same.

Rashi then explains how Shechem is associated with the extra portion of the firstborn. Shechem has many other associations with being the "first:" Shechem is the first place visited by Abraham, Jacob, as well as Joshua when entering the Land of Israel. Even in modern times, the first settlement established in Judea and Samaria after the Six Day War was Elon Moreh, which is another biblical name for the city Shechem. Shechem is the gateway to the Land of Israel.

Related to the above, Rashi then notes that Shechem was taken from Eisav, who behaved like an Amorite and lied to his father. Jacob is characterized by the fact that all of his children remained true to their Judaism and Jewish identity (Mitatoh Shleimah - "his bed was complete"). Furthermore, Jacob is associated, first and foremost, with the truth ("Titen Emeth L'Yaakov," "Give truth to Jacob"). The Torah also states that Shechem was acquired monetarily by Jacob (similar to how Jacob acquired the birthright), and that it is one of the places that Gentiles are unable to even claim that they were stolen by the Jews. (Genesis 33:18-19; Midrash Rabbah)

The article cites other connections / reasons as well.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .