By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
Yaakov finishes giving Brachos to his sons. The Torah concludes and tells us, “Yaakov blessed them; each one according to his blessing he blessed them.” Rashi asks questions on a few points in this Passuk: Yaakov doesn’t seem to bless all of his sons; rather it seems as if he cursed Reuven, Shimon, and Levi? Secondly, the Passuk first tells us that he blessed all of them and then says that he blessed each one according to his own blessing-why the redundancy?
Rashi answers these questions by explaining that the Torah is telling us that although it appears that Yaakov cursed the aforementioned shvatim, he really did bless them as well. The shvatim collectively received the brachos that Yaakov had received from Yitzchok and Yitzchok from Avrohom. In order to avoid the assumption that Reuven, Shimon, and Levi only got this collective bracha the Torah tells us that each received his own personal bracha.
Although Rashi adequately answers the apparent difficulties in this Passuk, we are still left to wonder as to the content of the brachos of Reuven, Shimon, and Levi, as it would seem that they were only rebuked and perhaps even cursed by Yaakov. (continued on other side)
If we examine what Yaakov said to these shvatim we will notice that Yaakov didn’t merely tell them that they behaved improperly and were consequently punished, but rather he scrutinized very specific points and episodes. When addressing Reuven, Yaakov makes reference to a particular episode and tells him that it stems from his instinct to act with haste when angered, and that as a result he lost part of his position of greatness.
In light of their tendencies to act rashly when angry, when addressing Shimon and Levi, Yaakov emphasized that together they are a ‘recipe for disaster’. Therefore, Yaakov Avinu recommends that they live apart from one another, and more generally, that they be dispersed amongst B’nei Yisroel.
After a bit of examination we see that Yaakov Avinu didn’t simply criticize Reuven, Shimon, and Levi, but rather that he gave them constructive criticism. Yaakov pointed out their shortcomings and offered insight into the remedies for these pitfalls.
Perhaps Rashi isn’t leaving us with any question, as the Torah does indeed specify what their brachos where. The Torah tells us of the rather precious bracha that they received-these points of rebuke and guidance, ‘constructive criticism’, they got from Yaakov Avinu.
In life, we tend to scorn being told of our shortcomings and therefore tend to resent criticism. In reality, to know of our shortcomings and even more so, to know how to remedy them, is one of the greatest blessings for which one could ask. Rebuke is something we should all learn to cherish, and thus, use constructively.