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Vayechi-Spiritual Globalization

“And this is what their father spoke to them and he blessed them” (Vayehi 49:28). Why is it not written that he blessed him, but that he blessed them? Because Jacob divided the land

among his sons, and gave Yehudah the area that produces barley and Binyamin the area that produces wheat, nevertheless, he included each of them with the others, so that they can each enjoy the benefits from the others. (Midrash Tanchuma Vayehi #16)

In the blessings Jacob gives his children, he stresses their personal strengths and weaknesses, he compares each one to a specific animal and he singles out the characteristics that make each one of the tribes unique.

There is a risk though in emphasizing and encouraging individuality. First of all, it may lead to competition and animosity, where each one is convinced that their way of living and serving God is the right way and that all other approaches to Judaism are inferior or even invalid (as in the case of Rabbi Akiva’s students).

Furthermore, if one insulates himself from anything that is not exactly what one is used to, it doesn’t allow one to gain from the diversity that exists outside of one’s limited space.

Jacob ends his blessing to each one of his sons with a collective blessing; by including each of them with the others, he is sending a powerful message.

Of course, the individual identity of each tribe is fundamental to the establishment of the Jewish people. Jacob strengthens their sense of uniqueness and what they alone can contribute to the whole. However, he also urges them to cross the boundaries that separate the tribal territories.

He does not wish for Yehudah to eat only barley, nor does he want Binyamin to know nothing else but the taste of wheat.

In an effort for spiritual globalization as well, Jacob pushes his sons to go beyond what makes them different, and while holding on to their individuality, learn to be permeable and benefit from what the others have to offer.

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