Who were the distinctive Twelve Tribes of Israel? – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on August 20, 2020

Much of the Book of Genesis zeros in on the family that became the nation of Israel. Its an inspiring and intriguing story but missing many details we would really like to know.Midrashic literature fills in many of the blanks, but the text itself reveals nothing about Abrahams background before he was chosen by God and shares little information about Abrahams son, Issac. Jacobs few recorded conversations mainly express strife and sadness.And what of Jacobs sons, who form the foundation of the Twelve Tribes of Israel?Relatively full pictures emerge of Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Judah and Joseph. Yissachar, Zevulun, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher and Benjamin not so much.In Tribal Blueprints: Twelve Brothers and the Destiny of Israel, Nechama Price pieces together a wonderfully cohesive portrait of each brother and his tribe by pulling strands from the Five Books of Moses in addition to Joshua, Judges and Kings.The New Jersey resident has masters degrees in Jewish education and in Bible from Yeshiva University, teaches at its Stern College of Women and directs its Graduate Program in Advanced Talmud Studies for women. She previously contributed essays to YUs two-book series Mitokh Ha-Ohel, Essays on the Weekly Parashah from the Rabbis and Professors of Yeshiva University.Tribal Blueprints, her first book, takes the textual analysis approach that considers not only traditional rabbinic interpretations but also literary similarities and connections. This methodology provides a richer understanding of characters, themes and messages across the biblical expanse.Theres an abundance of material about Judah and Joseph, whose words and deeds take up many verses in Genesis and whose descendants are major figures in later books of the canon.Regarding the silent brothers, Price gathers clues from the circumstances of their birth, the blessings given them by their father at the end of his life, and the characteristics of their offspring.Tribal characteristics, she says, repeat themselves over and over.The personalities of Shimon and Levi, for example, likely reflect the sadness and antipathy that surrounds their mother, Leah, which causes them to grow up with strong feelings of anger against injustice, as they perceive the unfairness in the way their mother is treated.These feelings are channeled quite differently over time. While Shimons descendants manifest all of these attributes in a negative way, the author writes, many of Levis descendants become the greatest leaders in history.PATTERNS ALSO can be discerned among sons about whom the text reveals little.The maidservants four children do not have distinct stories or personalities, yet Price discerns that Dan, oldest son of Rachels maid, Bilha, somehow stands out. And indeed, his tribe influences Jewish history and produces more distinguished individuals than do Naftali, Gad or Asher.Epitomized by Samson, Dans most famous descendant, the tribe of Dan will lead and be successful against his enemies; yet concurrently, he will be isolated, angry, and disliked by those around him.Naftali and Asher seem to fulfil the important roles of dutiful followers of their father and their dominant half-brothers. Throughout history, they are happy to follow; they never rebel or assume leadership positions, the author notes.Naftalis only known descendant, Barak, is depicted in Judges as a capable general. Nevertheless, he is willing to lead a battle against the enemy only if accompanied by Josephs descendant Devora, the leader/judge of his time. He never becomes the hero; that is a role destined for Devora, Price writes.About Gad we know only that his father describes him as capable of victory against his enemies, and that his tribe joined Reuvens in settling on the east side of the Jordan River.By contrast, there are more stories about Yosef than any about other tribe. The Torah narrates Yosefs life from adolescence through his experiences as a slave, a prisoner in jail, and then as viceroy of Egypt.... Interestingly, throughout his life, he is always second in command, never the ultimate leader. Therefore, it is not surprising that his descendants will have many leadership positions, but will trail behind the leadership of Yehuda.Among Josephs descendants are Joshua, Devora and Yerovam the latter who rules over the 10 tribes following their split from the kingdom of Judah. Similar to Yosefs kingdom being secondary to Yehudas, in the future, the messiah from Yosef will come first, but will be secondary to the messiah from the tribe of Yehuda.This easy-to-read book contains fascinating insights leading to Prices conclusion: The tribes are not just a random amalgam of blood relatives. Rather, they all display distinctive manifestations of their ancestral heritage. These traits follow them throughout history and the patterns are remarkably clear in the stories of their descendants. Tribal Blueprints is a worthy addition to the Maggid Tanakh Companions Series, which includes such titles as Subversive Sequels in the Bible by Judy Klitsner, and Creation: The Story of Beginnings by Jonathan Grossman. A perfect companion, in my opinion, is Tamar Weissmans book Tribal Lands: The Twelve Tribes of Israel in Their Ancestral Territories (Judaica Place, 2015). The author wrote for The Record in New Jersey for over a decade, has been freelancing for secular and Jewish publications since 1984 and is a staff writer for ISRAEL21c.TRIBAL BLUEPRINTS TWELVE BROTHERS AND THE DESTINY OF ISRAELBy Nechama PriceMaggid Books288 pages; $37.95

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Who were the distinctive Twelve Tribes of Israel? - The Jerusalem Post

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