The Shepherd of Israel


motzei Shabbos: Vayechi 5781

“His bow abode firm, and the arms of his hands were made supple, by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, from thence, from the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel.”

– Genesis 49:24, JPS 1917 Tanach

“He will continue to act as the Shepherd of Israel preserving His people.”

– Sforno on Genesis 49:24,

Joseph endured much in his life; he managed to avoid injury from the “archers” who “dealt bitterly with him” (Genesis 49:23); figuratively speaking, his brothers as well as Potiphar and his wife (Rashi). “His bow abode firm” (Genesis 49:24), inasmuch that he succeeded in his mission, despite the circumstances, brought on by his adversaries. Above all, he was strengthened by “the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Additionally, Joseph served as a shepherd to his family, bringing them down to Egypt, providing for them during the famine, and establishing them in Goshen. He was also like unto “the Stone of Israel,” inasmuch that he was in a position of royalty, and the son of Israel. For the word stone implies kingship (Zechariah 4:7), having to do with the primary position of the nation.

Also, the Hebrew word for stone, even, may be reckoned as a formation of the two Hebrew words , av and uvein (father and son). Not only was Joseph the son of Jacob, likened unto him in strength of character, Joseph himself was referred to as avrech, meaning father, further indicating his role as well towards the Children of Israel.

Yet, in the plain sense of the verse, “the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel appears to be another name for “the Mighty One of Jacob.” The blessing given to Joseph by his father continues, “Even [strengthened] by the G-d of thy father, who shall help thee, and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee” (Genesis 49:25). This passage may be viewed as exemplifying the nature of our Shepherd, who will guide us through the dark valleys of life, so that we will not go astray, as mentioned in Psalm 23. “The L-RD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalms 23:1). May He provide us with all of our needs, both material, and spiritual.

chazak, chazak, v’nischazeik

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