At the end of his life, Jacob called together his family for one last meeting. He used the opportunity to personally bless each of his 12 children with their own unique blessing. Each child received a blessing that matched his personality. Many of the symbols that the tribes used as their “branding” came from the descriptions Jacob used during his final hours.
The moment must have been surreal. Jacob and the fathers of the future tribes of Israel. We learn many lessons from the last behaviors of Jacob, however there is one gem that we can glean from one word that the Torah chose to use.
At the very end of the blessings the Torah says, “and he [Jacob] blessed them, each according to his blessing he blessed them”. The commentators point out that it should have said each according to his blessing he blessed him, why does it use them at the end of the verse?
One explanation offered is that each personal blessing wasn’t only for the particular son it was offered to, rather it was also for them, all the rest of the children. Jacob highlighted and blessed a unique character trait in each of his sons and in turn blessed the rest of the children with that trait as well. Jacob knew that for the Jewish people to survive all of their future tribulations, they would need the collective strength of all his children. No one characteristic would be enough, rather the cumlitive power of his children would provide the generations with the fortitude, understanding and practical behaviors necessary.
As Jewish people living 3,600 years later we must understand that our collective strength will be what allows us to survive as a people even as we are scattered around the world. In this great technological age it is easy to understand how we can come together from different corners of our planet to achieve a common goal. Let us pray that we merit to bring all Jacob’s blessings to fruition and usher in an era of peace and tranquility for the world.