Ya'akov calls out for his sons to come to him, in order to tell them what would happen in the acharit hayamim. From Bereshit 49 verse 28 we learn that Ya'akov gave the tribes a bracha (blessing).

But look at some of the 'blessings':

  • Bereshit 49:4: Unstable as water, have not thou the excellency; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it--he went up to my couch.
  • 49:6-7 Let my soul not come into their council; unto their assembly let my glory not be united; for in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they houghed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
  • 49:14 Issachar is a large-boned ass, couching down between the sheep-folds.

How are these blessings? P.s. i took the story of Ya'akov as an example, but there are more of these blessings which seem to carry a negative load within them.


4 Answers 4


Shadal explains that the pasuk is talking in the general case, even if in individual specific cases, it was not a blessing.

Shadal on the verse

Each, as he blessed them: which, each one, he blessed in accordance with his blessing, a specific blessing to each of them. (And so I have found afterwards to the Ramban in parashat Miketz.) And if there are those among them he did not bless, behold, it applies to the majority.


The bracha is that Ya'akov is speaking to Reuven and Shimon to state that in spite of what they did wrong, they are still his children and merit the general blessing that he had given to all 12 of them. Additionally, he pointed out (only now) what they had done wrong so that they could fix it and do better. He also pointed it out only now so that they could see that he was saying it from completely pure motives, now that he was about to die.

Note that Levi took this to heart and made his trait of zealousness a blessing to serve Hashem.

Reuven took it to heart and became the tribe that was known for Teshuvah.

Moshe Rabbeinu did not include Shimon because he still had the problem.

Vay'chi 49:28

כָּל אֵלֶּה שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר וְזֹאת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָהֶם אֲבִיהֶם וַיְבָרֶךְ אוֹתָם אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר כְּבִרְכָתוֹ בֵּרַךְ אֹתָם:

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them and blessed them; each man, according to his blessing, he blessed them.


וזאת אשר דבר להם אביהם ויברך אותם: והלא יש מהם שלא ברכם אלא קינטרן. אלא כך פירושו וזאת אשר דבר להם אביהם מה שנאמר בענין. יכול שלא ברך לראובן שמעון ולוי, תלמוד לומר ויברך אותם, כולם במשמע:

and this is what their father spoke to them and blessed them: Now is it not so that some of them he did not bless, but [in fact] chided? Rather, this is what is intended: And this is what their father spoke to them-what is related in this section. One might think that he did not bless Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. Therefore, Scripture states: and he blessed them, meaning all of them. — [From Pesikta Rabbathi 7]

איש אשר כברכתו: ברכה העתידה לבא על כל אחד ואחד:

according to his blessing: With the blessing destined to befall each of them.

ברך אותם: לא היה לו לומר אלא איש אשר כברכתו ברך אותו, מה תלמוד לומר ברך אותם, לפי שנתן ליהודה גבורתו של אריה, ולבנימין חטיפתו של זאב, ולנפתלי קלותו של איל, יכול שלא כללן בכל הברכות, תלמוד לומר ברך אותם:

he blessed them: Scripture should have said, “each man, according to his blessing, he blessed him.” Why does Scripture say, “he blessed them” ? Since he (Jacob) bestowed upon Judah the might of a lion, and upon Benjamin the power to seize like a wolf, and upon Naphtali the fleetness of a gazelle, I might think that he did not include all of them in all the blessings. Therefore, Scripture states:“he blessed them.” - [From Tanchuam Vayechi 16]

The bracha of Yissaschar is indeed a blessing speaking of his dedication to the Torah and his accepting willingly the burden of study.

Vay'chi 49:14

יששכר חמור גרם: חמור בעל עצמות, סובל עול תורה כחמור חזק שמטעינין אותו משאוי כבד:

Issachar is a bony donkey: Heb. חִמֹר גָרֶם, a bony donkey. He bears the yoke of the Torah, like a strong donkey which is laden with a heavy burden. — [From Gen. Rabbah 99: 9]

רבץ בין המשפתים: כחמור המהלך ביום ובלילה ואין לו לינה בבית וכשהוא רוצה לנוח רובץ לו בין התחומין בתחומי העיירות שמוליך שם פרקמטיא:

lying between the boundaries: like a donkey, which travels day and night and does not lodge in a house, but when it lies down to rest, it lies between the boundaries, in the boundaries of the towns where it transports merchandise. — [From Zohar vol. 1, 242a]


Going broader than the Brachos of Yaakov. Several sources that describe how there's good in every bad situation - the proverbial silver lining to every cloud.

The Gemara in Brachos (60b) says "all that Hashem does is for the good." This came off of the Mishnah's statement that "for measurement that Hashem metes out to you, you should thank Him greatly." Similarly, the famous Nachum Ish Gamzu used to say to everything that would happen, "This, too, is for the good" (Taanis 21a).

Regarding the snake's curse to crawl on its belly (Bereishis 3), Bereishis Rabbah comments that it was to its good: after all, snakes can escape more easily through holes in walls from predators.

There are certainly dozens of sources like these. The point is, in everything bad that happens, there's something good. To address your specific examples:

-Yaakov told Reuven off over the incident with the beds. Or did he? According to one version (Shabbos 55b), the line means that his sin was cleared. According to the others, he's just mentioning Reuven's sin. Either way, Yaakov isn't saying that Reuven henceforth will no longer be the firstborn; that decision seemingly was made back in Vayishlach when the incident actually happened (see Rashi to Bereishis 35:23).

-Shimon and Levi get cursed and lose their portion of Eretz Yisrael. Except that they don't get cursed, and it was to their benefit that they were scattered. Read the passuk carefully: "Cursed be their anger." Not them - their anger. As far as being scattered, Rashi points out that since teachers are from Shimon and Levi collects Terumos and Maaseros, they need to be scattered throughout Yisrael to do their job properly.

-Yissachar was given a blessing as well. Rashi, still quoting the Midrash, says this line is metaphorical and refers to the fact that many Talmidei Chachamim were descended from Yissachar.


As I wrote in this answer:

Ralbag writes the following at the end of Parshas Vayechi:

רבים יתמהו מזה לפי שכבר ימצאו מבניו שלא ברך אותם כמו הענין בראובן ושמעון ולוי עד שהוכרחו לומר שכבר ברך אותם איש כברכתו ולא נזכרו אלו הברכות ואולם מה שנזכר מזה הוא מה שהודיע אותם מה שיקרם באחרית הימים

Many have been astounded by this, for we already find that he did not bless some of his sons, as is the matter with Reuven, Shimon, and Levi. To the point that they were forced to say that he had already blessed them, each one in accordance with his blessing, and those blessings are not mentioned. But what is mentioned here is what he informed them about what will occur to them at the end of days.

Though he goes on to disagree with this, according to this interpretation the Torah does not mention the blessings of anyone.

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