Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 3 October 2015 / 20 Tishri 5776

Parshat Vzot Haberacha

by Rabbi Pinchas Kasnett
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Here, at the conclusion of the Torah, Moshe gives a blessing to each of the tribes. However, a blessing to the tribe of Shimon is conspicuously absent. Abarbanel says that the blessing for Shimon is actually contained within the blessing to Yehuda: “And this to Yehuda, and he said: Shema (listen), O G-d, to Yehuda’s voice, and return him to his people; may his hands fight his grievances, and may You be a helper against his enemies.” (Devarim 33:7) The word “Shema” has the same root as the name “Shimon”.

Furthermore, this is what the Torah says in regard to Shimon’s birth: “And she (Leah) conceived again and bore a son and declared, ‘Because G-d has heard that I am unloved He has given me this one also.’ And she called his name Shimon.” (Bereishet 29:33)

The Hebrew word for listen and heard is the same.

When Moshe asks G-d to listen to the voice of Yehuda he is asking Him to listen to Yehuda when he calls on G-d in times of war. When he goes out against his enemies, G-d should protect him and return him to his people. This blessing is also directed to Shimon as well, since the verse states “andhe said, as if it were a totally new blessing. Moshe is emphasizing that the tribe of Shimon would be joined with the tribe of Yehuda in the inheritance of the Land. This is to the advantage of Yehuda, as G-d will listen to the voice of Shimon just as He listened to the voice of his mother Leah.

Abarbanel then explains that the last part of the verse also indicates that Yehuda and Shimon will be connected. “His hands” is a reference to Yehuda, who, although capable of fighting the battles alone, will be joined by Shimon who will be a “helper against his enemies” and will inherit the Land with him.


Abarbanel also addresses the question of why Yaakov’s blessings to his sons generally widely differ from Moshe’s blessings to the tribes, which carry the names of those same sons. Yaakov’s blessings to his sons were based on their specific character traits and their responsibilities as role models — the Patriarchs of the nation that would emerge. The Midrash (Bereishet Rabbah 100:12) in reference to the verse “And this is what their father spoke to them” (49:28) states that Yaakov is saying that in the future someone like me (Moshe) will bless you; he will begin from the point where I conclude. Yaakov stopped with the description of the nature of his sons. Moshe continues, not with their individual characteristics, but rather with what follows from those characteristics as they pertain to the contribution of each tribe to the establishment of a nation.

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