The Wolf In The Pack || Insights into The Tribe of Benjamin

May 27, 2022

By: Rabbi Amichai Cohen

 

Attribute: The Lower Tzadik

Tribal Sign: Wolf

Month: Cheshvan - Scorpio

Stone: Jasper

Color- Multicolor 

Tribal Land- Central East Israel

 

Benjamin The Son of Jacob 

The tribe of Benjamin is one of the most powerful yet enigmatic of the 12 Tribes. 

Although Benjamin is the youngest of the tribes, Benjamin has shaped the story of the Jewish people throughout the ages on spiritual, political, and leadership levels. 

 

Let us begin speaking a bit about his life. 

Benjamin was born on the 11th of Cheshvan by the road from Bethlehem where his mother Rachel tragically died while giving birth to him. 

Rachel called him “Ben-Oni”, the son of my pain, while Jacob called him “Ben Yamin”, the son of right.

It is a big deal to change a name for another name and so the very essence of Benjamin is shrouded with the mystery of transforming pain into the light. 

The Midrash says that the name Benjamin can be broken into ben yamin (ימ”ן), which has the numeric value of 100, hinting at the fact that Benjamin was born when his father was 100 years old.

Commentators such as the Ramban and Radak hint that Benjamin’s role in the world was to transform negativity into light.

As merely a newborn, Benjamin was born into a melodrama where there was both grief and joy present at the same time.

Benjamin was destined to never know his mother and to contend with the inevitable thoughts that it was he who was the cause for her demise. In many ways, Benjamin was living his life for his mother Rachel.

Nevertheless, Benjamin’s birth and life breathe a novelty of newness and innovation into the soul of the collective 12 tribes.

The month in which this life and death pendulum occurs is significant, the Hebrew month is called Cheshvan. 

Cheshvan is the only month in the Jewish calendar that does not have any holidays that fall within it. This is why our Sages called it “Mar” or bitter Cheshvan. 

Kabbalah teaches that the letters “Mar” also spell “Ram” which means exalted. 

The Zohar says that the purpose of creation is to “transform the bitterness into sweet and the darkness into light”. 

Within this transformation is where the divine can flow freely into all of existence, thereby actualizing the very purpose of creation.

 

 

The Jasper- Self-control and Transformation

 

Benjamin’s stone is the jasper. Jasper is multicolored and the stone is usually brown in color but can also be found in shades of grey, blue, white, purple, pink, red, orange, and yellow. One of the most common interpretations of the spiritual meaning of Jasper is that it carries energy, or vibration of peace, calm, and tranquility. 

Jasper is a balancing stone and can help one to relieve any burdens they may be shouldering that are not theirs to carry. It helps clear the mind and is a powerful protector against negative feelings, moods, and vibrations.

In Hebrew, Jasper is called Yoshpe. Yoshpe is made up of two words Yeah and Pe- there is a mouth. The commentators explain that Benjamin had to control his mouth by not revealing to his father Jacob that Joseph was indeed alive and was sold by his brothers. 

Another explanation given by the Zohar is that Benjamin only had intimate relations with his wife only for the sake of having children, during the 22 years that Joseph was in Egypt. He controlled his temptation and remained steadfast in his conviction of finding his long-lost brother. 

The Izbizer Rebbe says that the jasper stone is directly connected to the role of Benjamin. Benjamin lived by the Eastern border of the land of Israel and he used to elevate the wisdom of the nations of the world. He says that Yosh Pe, means elevating the mouth or wisdom of the nations.  

Since Benjamin’s purpose in creation was to sift through the good and negative of the wisdom of the nations, he was given the blessing by Moses “between his shoulders he resides”. This blessing literally refers to the Temple in Jerusalem, which is shorter than the other mountains that reside in that region. The spiritual significance is that the light of the Temple is not meant to be aloof from the world but rather to draw down and permeate the lowest realms of existence

The Izbizer Rebbe says that on a spiritual level, Benjamin had to use his intuition to distinguish and quantify the novel decisions he was making regarding elevating the wisdom of the nations. He was able to extract the light from the darkness of the nations and the world at large and channel this wisdom for its higher purpose. Much like a load in between one’s shoulder may sway to one side over the other. He was brave enough to follow his intuition and believe that at the end of the day everything will turn out as divinely intended by the higher Divine will. 

The Izber gives the example of King Shaul, who when given an. opportunity to kill  Agag King of Amalek, he chose to have him remain alive. This caused his ancestor Haman who wanted to destroy the Jewish people to come into existence. Nevertheless, the Talmud says that  “the children of Haman studied Torah in Bnei Berak”, referring to the future generations of Haman that repented and were amongst the greatest of sages who extracted the light from the darkness. The inner intention of Shaul and Benjamin is to extract the good from the negative and to ultimately transform the bitterness into sweetness. 

 

 

The Lower Tzadik

The Talmud says that Benjamin was one of only four Tzadikim who went up to paradise without any sin at all. Our Sages tell us the four which include Amram the father of Moses, Jesse the father of King David, and Kilav the son of King David who had merited eternal life if not for the decree of death due to the primordial sin of the tree of knowledge.

The Midrash says that all of the tribes took part in the selling of Joseph, except for Benjamin. All the 12 tribes were born outside of Israel, with the exception of Benjamin was born in the Holy land.

Shela Hakdosh says that Benjamin was on a loftier spiritual level than his brothers because he never bowed down to Esau.

On a deeper level, Benjamin is the perfect fusion of Tzadik and Ba’al Teshuva- master of repentance.

Kabbalah teaches that the two wives of Jacob represent the two realms of souls within the Jewish people. Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob represents the realm of the completely righteous, whose inner and outer reality are beautiful and one.

On the other hand, Leah was described as having soft eyes from the tears that she shed because she saw that she was destined to marry Esau. She was introverted and yearning for completion and inner healing.

Rachel represents the realm of the Tzadik and Leah represents the one who is in the process of repentance. One who has tremendous potential but whose outer reality doesn't always reflect the inner striving and yearning as the process of transformation is unfolding.

 

Jacob loved Rachel

 

Why would Jacob favor or love one of his wives over the other?

Kabbalah teaches that Jacob’s love for Rachel can not be taken at face value.

Jacob loved Rachel because he represented the Sefira- emanation of Tiferet on the Kabbalistic tree of life. 

Tiferet is considered the main persona of the 6 emotional Sefirot. 

Tiferet which means beauty encompasses opposites and is the seat of compassion. It is the middle column of the Sefirot and therefore encompasses them all. 

Rachel represents the Sefira of Malchut or kingship and the lower letter Hey of the tetragrammaton name of G-d. 

Indeed the first kings of Israel came from the lineage of Rachel. Joseph was a king and the first official King of Israel, Shaul was from the lineage of Rachel. 

Leah on the other hand represents the realm of Binah or understanding/intuition and the higher letter Hey of G-d’s Tetragrammaton name. 

Jacob loved Rachel so much because the union of Jacob and Rachel represents a union that Kabbalah calls a union of Zeir Anpin and Malchut. 

Jacob’s love for Rachel was not only a physical one. 

Rachel’s spiritual beauty and her ability to embody that beauty in the material world is what Jacob saw as the ultimate expression of Godliness in this world, and the purpose of creation. 

Joseph the older child of Jacob and Rachel was the beloved son of Jacob, which led him to be despised by his brothers and eventually thrown into a pit and later sold as a slave in Egypt. 

Chassidut teaches that the tribes could not understand the spiritual level which Joseph was on. He was a conduit for the divine energy in this world. The tribes are all shepherds who valued seclusion and meditation as the ultimate connection to the divine. 

Joseph represents the higher Tzadik, the Sefira of Yesod which draws both spiritual and material blessings to the world.

The Zohar terms Benjamin the “lower Tzadik”, whose job is the uplift the world by controlling one’s internal temptations and natural reactions. Kabbalah explains that this realm is called the Yesod of Malchut. In other words, Benjamin’s role is connected to both Joseph and Judah. 

 

Judah and Benjamin

The Rashbam says that the tribe of Benjamin remained loyal to the dynasty of David when the ten tribes split under Jeroboam. When King Assa conducted wars against surrounding enemy states, Binyamin supported him. The same held true under the reign of the kings Jehoshaphat and Chizkiyah, both Kings of the Davidic dynasty.  

After coming out of Egypt, the Israelites found themselves in front of the daunting reality of the Sea of Reeds in front of them and the Egyptians chasing them from behind. What were they going to do?

The Midrash says a quarrel broke out as to who should have the privilege of throwing himself into the sea first. The leader of the Tribe of Yehuda, Nachshon ben Aminadav, leaped into the waves and was followed by the Tribe of Benjamin. When the members of the Tribe of Yehuda noticed that the Tribe of Benjamin had preceded them, they began to throw stones at the Bnai Benjamin. Similarly, Hashem said, "I know that the quarrel between Yehuda and Benjamin was for My honor; I shall therefore reward them both." Benjamin was rewarded by having the Beit Hamikdash built in his portion, and Yehuda was rewarded with royalty.

There is a debate as to the sectoral lineage of Mordechai. The verse in the Megilat Esther says “Ish Yehudi”, literally a man from Judah, signifying that he was from the Tribe of Judah. Yet the Talmud concluded that he was actually from Benjamin as it says “Ben Yemini”. The Talmud makes the hazy distinction that Benjamin and Judah are similar in terms of the self-sacrifice and leadership levels they offered the entire Jewish people. 

Benjamin is the only other Tribe besides Judah and Levi that were not exiled by the Assyrian Kingdom. This means that the current population of Jewish people is from the Tribe of Benjamin. 

The Talmud says that the Temple in Jerusalem was in the tribal region of both Judah and Benjamin. The Temple was located in the portion of one tribe while the Sanhedrin was located in the portion of the other

A strip of land protruded from the portion of Judah and entered into the portion of Benjamin, and the altar in the Temple was built on that strip. The righteous of the tribe of Benjamin would agonize over it every day, desiring to take it into its portion, due to its unique sanctity. 

Just as a wolf looks to consume prey, the tribe of Benjamin yearned for holiness.

 

 

The wolf 

Before Jacob passed away, he blessed each of his sons. Benjamin’s blessing was: “Benjamin is a wolf, he will prey; in the morning he will devour plunder, and in the evening he will divide the spoils (Genesis 49:27) From Asher will come rich food, and he will yield regal delicacies.

Why is Benjamin likened to a devouring wolf?

 An explanation offered by the Sages is that the custom of wolves is to attack either early in the morning or in the evening, both periods when there is not much light. 

We find support for this in Chabakuk 1,8. Benjamin’s rise to power also occurred at the dawn of Jewish monarchies in the persona of King Shaul, and once more near the end of the Temple period, under the leadership of  Mordechai. Subsequently, there was never again true Jewish political independence, and the religious leadership was in the hands of the אנשי כנסת הגדולה, a college of 120 elders. 

Famed commentary Rashi offers two interpretations as to what the devouring wolf represents: 

He is a wolf for he will prey. He prophesied: 

{1} that they were destined to be “grabbers”: “and you shall grab for yourselves each man his wife”, in the episode of the concubine in Gibeah. 

{2} and he prophesied about Saul, that he would be victorious over his enemies all around.

The second interpretation is indeed a profound blessing, addressing the most glorious period of the tribe of Benjamin: Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, would be the first king of Israel and would devour his enemies. 

The first interpretation, however, is baffling. 

The “concubine of Gibeah” and its aftermath were one of the most horrific events in the Jewish people's history in the land of Israel. 

A mob in Gibeah, a town in the tribal portion of Benjamin, violated a Levite's concubine, leading to her death. To demonstrate his outrage, the Levite dismembered her corpse and sent her remains to each of the tribes. 

After the Benjaminites refused to hand over the perpetrators, the other tribes waged war and decimated the tribe of Benjamin, of whom only 600 men survived. 

Before the battle, The other tribes had taken an oath not to allow their daughters to marry men from Benjamin. After the war, the other tribes felt remorse at having doomed Benjamin to extinction. To circumvent their oath, the other tribes allowed the Benjaminites to “grab” wives from Shiloh. 

Of all the blessings Jacob could have blessed his beloved child Benjamin, why did he begin with the most tragic event in Benjamin's future? What kind of a blessing is it that after the tribe was nearly wiped out, they had to “grab” and “devour” girls of other tribes to avert extinction? 

While, on the surface, “devouring wolf” does not appear to be an appropriate blessing, Chassidic philosophy explains that, in reality, the blessing to Benjamin is perhaps the greatest blessing of all. 

The blessing to Benjamin, the final blessing Jacob gave to his children, is also the most profound. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that the devouring wolf represents the ability to turn around after moral and physical failure. Despite being, in the aftermath of the war, in the absolute lowest abyss, physically, spiritually, and morally, the Benjaminites were able to change course. They were able to forcibly “devour” and pull themselves away from the negative behavior and attitudes that led to their downfall and seek to rehabilitate and refine. 

The devouring wolf represents the inner force, strength, and courage necessary to pull one away from one’s habits and character and begin a new path. 

When the tribes saw the transformation in Benjamin's surviving members, they too sought to help Benjamin rehabilitate and take their place amongst the tribes of Israel once again. 

The blessing to Benjamin, the ability to gather the courage, to transform negativity into growth and rehabilitation, reflects the theme of the second half of the book of Genesis. 

As Joseph reiterates to his brothers after the passing of his father: “Indeed, you intended evil against me, but G-d designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.” 

The entire episode of Joseph, spanning the last four portions of Genesis, expresses this truth: while there is evil in this world, while the brothers sought to do evil to Joseph, G-d blesses us, as he blessed Joseph, with the ability to transform the evil into an opportunity for growth and life. 

  

Energy connection with the tribe of Benjamin

The main energy that the tribe of Benjamin manifests is the fortitude to stick to and maintain your ideals and the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

When the sun sets and it is hard to see, remain focused on the fact that this too shall pass and the light will shine in a greater measure for those who believe.

Be adamant in who and what you are following and connecting with. Are the influences in your life positive or do you need to align yourself with new inspirational people and ideas?

Just as Benjamin stuck with the Kingdom of Judah, you want to stick with the truth of the core of your being.

Lastly, do not fear others because you may be small, young, inexperienced, etc. The belief in yourself and in the Divine light that shines within that you have all it takes 🙏

 

Thank you to Esther and the wonderful Emunah builders project for sponsoring this article. Check out www.emunahbuilders.com for Emunah inspiration!

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