Wednesday, December 27, 2017

the bracha of self awareness

Ya'akov's final charge to his children concludes, "V'zos asher dibeir lahem avihem vayivarch osam..." (49:28)  This is the blessings that he gave them. 

Blessings?  Reuvain was told that he is impetuous.  Shimon and Levi were told that they were guilty of murder, that they angered too quickly and plotted to do wrong.  What kind of blessings are these?  Ibn Ezra (48:1) writes in fact that what Ya'akov told his children was not a bracha -- it was a nevuah of their future.  Afterwards, "vayivarech osam..." he gave them some blessing that is not recorded, but what was said until that point was prophecy (see also Ohr haChaim 49:28).

Ralbag disagrees and says that yes, even what was said to Reuvain, Shimon, and Levi is a bracha.  It's a bracha to know you are impetuous.  It's a bracha to know you anger easily.  It's a bracha to know you are aggressive.  When a person recognizes their own personality traits -- and I deliberately say traits and not flaws -- then they can control and channel those traits properly.  It doesn't have to be a flaw if you are aware of it and manage it properly.  The bracha Ya'akov gave his children is the bracha of self-awareness.


  1. --does the Ralbag presuppose that the three sons mentioned were yet unaware of their traits? why would their father wait until his dying day to inform them?

    maybe Yaakov was expressing [1] his last will, that the sons properly channel their (familiar) traits and [2] his testament, his nevuah (= his bracha), that if they tried to do so they would succeed, converting those traits into defining strengths

  2. "...if you are aware of it and manage it properly." Otherwise, a fool's paradise is better than the hell of self awareness.

    1. Hypersensitivity to "mussar" can be life-threatening. I prescribe a dose of the proper chassidus. Or the Ali Shur.

  3. The baalei mussar say on this that giving tocjacha is the greatest bracha cause now you can change , fix and do better. It's giving real life!
    Ela mai, we see that Levi took the mussar and to such an extant that they stayed in Goshen, weren't swayed, dedicated their lives to avoda to a level of mi lashem eilai.