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In naming the heads of the tribes in parshat Mas'ei, there is an inconsistency when naming the heads of the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin. The word bnai ("sons of") is not mentioned before the name of these tribes as it is used for all the others.

Also nasi ("head") is not mentioned for Yehuda, Binyamin or Shimon.

Why are these words missing for just these tribes?

  • both are good questions addressed by mefarshim. See here. I'm too busy to make a formal answer out of it... – רבות מחשבות Jul 11 '18 at 16:11
  • BTW, Dan and @DoubleAA, I think that point about Nasi not being mentioned should be a separate question... – רבות מחשבות Jul 11 '18 at 16:27
  • @רבותמחשבות I don't have access now to your link. If you want, briefly explain why these issues are unrelated. – DanF Jul 11 '18 at 16:36
  • why would you think that they are related? One refers to the name of the shevet, one refers to the title of the person. Also the nasi thing is also for shimon... – רבות מחשבות Jul 11 '18 at 17:06
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In his commentary on these verses, R' Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests related tentative answers to both of these questions.

First, he suggests that "מטה בני" - "the tribe of the sons of" - connotes "the tribe as the higher unit to which the individual -בני subordinate themselves." Given that, perhaps Yehuda and Binyamin, for whom the בני is missing, are meant to be thought of as more subordinate themselves to the larger whole of the nation than the other tribes are, since their territory was destined to have the national Temple on it.

Related to that, these two tribes, and Shim'on, which lived inside Yehuda's territory, perhaps thought of their own tribal leaders as a little less elevated ("נשיא") than the other tribes did theirs, since they were so close to the geographic focus of God's sovereignty.

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