Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the beginning (the firstfruits) of my manly strength and vigor; [your birthright gave you] the preeminence in dignity and the preeminence in power. But unstable and boiling over like water, you shall not excel and have the preeminence [of the firstborn], because you went to your father's bed; you defiled it -- "he went to my couch! Simeon and Levi are brothers [equally headstrong, deceitful, vindictive, and cruel]; their swords are weapons of violence. read more.
O my soul, come not into their secret council; unto their assembly let not my honor be united [for I knew nothing of their plot], because in their anger they slew men [an honored man, Shechem, and the Shechemites], and in their self-will they disabled oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel. Judah, you are the one whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down to you. Judah, a lion's cub! With the prey, my son, you have gone high up [the mountain]. He stooped down, he crouched like a lion, and like a lioness -- "who dares provoke and rouse him? The scepter or leadership shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah, the Peaceful One] comes to Whom it belongs, and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding His foal to the vine and His donkey's colt to the choice vine, He washes His garments in wine and His clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker and more sparkling than wine, and His teeth whiter than milk. Zebulun shall live toward the seashore, and he shall be a haven and a landing place for ships; and his border shall be toward Sidon. Issachar is a strong-boned donkey crouching down between the sheepfolds. And he saw that rest was good and that the land was pleasant; and he bowed his shoulder to bear [his burdens] and became a servant to tribute [subjected to forced labor]. Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites at the horse's heels, so that his rider falls backward. I wait for Your salvation, O Lord. Gad -- "a raiding troop shall raid him, but he shall raid at their heels and assault them [victoriously]. Asher's food [supply] shall be rich and fat, and he shall yield and deliver royal delights. Naphtali is a hind let loose which yields lovely fawns. Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well (spring or fountain), whose branches run over the wall. Skilled archers have bitterly attacked and sorely worried him; they have shot at him and persecuted him. But his bow remained strong and steady and rested in the Strength that does not fail him, for the arms of his hands were made strong and active by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob, by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, By the God of your father, Who will help you, and by the Almighty, Who will bless you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings lying in the deep beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father [on you] are greater than the blessings of my forefathers [Abraham and Isaac on me] and are as lasting as the bounties of the eternal hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was the consecrated one and the one separated from his brethren and [the one who] is prince among them. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at night dividing the spoil.
Let [the tribe of] Reuben live and not die out, but let his men be few. And this he [Moses] said of Judah: Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him to his people! With his hands he contended for himself; but may You be a help against his enemies. And of Levi he said: Your Thummim and Your Urim [by which the priest sought God's will for the nation] are for Your pious one [Aaron on behalf of the tribe], whom You tried and proved at Massah, with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah; read more.
[Aaron] who said of his father and mother, I do not regard them; nor did he acknowledge his brothers or openly recognize his own children. For the priests observed Your word and kept Your covenant [as to their limitations]. [The priests] shall teach Jacob Your ordinances and Israel Your law. They shall put incense before You and whole burnt offerings upon Your altar. Bless, O Lord, [Levi's] substance, and accept the work of his hands; crush the loins of his adversaries, and of those who hate him, that they arise no more. Of Benjamin he said: The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him; He covers him all the day long, and makes His dwelling between his shoulders. And of Joseph he said: Blessed by the Lord be his land, with the precious gifts of heaven from the dew and from the deep that couches beneath, With the precious things of the fruits of the sun and with the precious yield of the months, With the chief products of the ancient mountains and with the precious things of the everlasting hills, With the precious things of the earth and its fullness and the favor and goodwill of Him Who dwelt in the bush. Let these blessings come upon the head of Joseph, upon the crown of the head of him who was separate and prince among his brothers. Like a firstling young bull his majesty is, and his horns like the horns of the wild ox; with them he shall push the peoples, all of them, to the ends of the earth. And they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh. And of Zebulun he said: Rejoice, Zebulun, in your interests abroad, and you, Issachar, in your tents [at home]. They shall call the people unto Mount [Carmel]; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness, for they shall suck the abundance of the seas and the treasures hid in the sand. And of Gad he said: Blessed is He Who enlarges Gad! Gad lurks like a lioness, and tears the arm, yes, the crown of the head. He selected the best land for himself, for there was the leader's portion reserved; yet he came with the chiefs of the nation, and the righteous will of the Lord he performed, and His ordinances with Israel. Of Dan he said: Dan is a lion's whelp that leaps forth from Bashan. Of Naphtali he said: O Naphtali, satisfied with favor and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the Sea [of Galilee] and [its warm, sunny climate like] the south. Of Asher he said: Blessed above sons is Asher; let him be acceptable to his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil. Your castles and strongholds shall have bars of iron and bronze, and as your day, so shall your strength, your rest and security, be. There is none like God, O Jeshurun [Israel], Who rides through the heavens to your help and in His majestic glory through the skies. The eternal God is your refuge and dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He drove the enemy before you and thrust them out, saying, Destroy! And Israel dwells in safety, the fountain of Jacob alone in a land of grain and new wine; yes, His heavens drop dew. Happy are you, O Israel, and blessing is yours! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the Shield of your help, the Sword that exalts you! Your enemies shall come fawning and cringing, and submit feigned obedience to you, and you shall march on their high places.