Printed from
Every one of the 12 tribes has its specific energy which it must manifest in this world.

Twelve Tribes – Twelve Paths

Twelve Tribes – Twelve Paths

Twelve Tribes – Twelve Paths
Every one of the 12 tribes has its specific energy which it must manifest in this world.

In the Torah portion of Vayechi – which closes the book of Genesis – we read how Jacob blesses his children, the twelve tribes, in his last days. In these blessings lie many secrets foretelling events to come. As the verse tells us: And Jacob called to his sons, and said: "Gather together, that I may tell you what will happen with you in the end of days."

As a blueprint for life, these blessings have much to teach us.

As a blueprint for life, these blessings have much to teach us. Each of the twelve tribes reflects a unique path in life. As the verse tells us at the conclusion of the blessings: All these are the twelve tribes of Israel... every one according to his blessing he blessed them. (Gen. 49:28) What is the meaning of the words "every one according to his blessing?"

"Blessing" in Hebrew also means to ‘draw down’ (in Hebrew, ‘hamshocho’, from the root ‘mavrich’). Every one of the tribes has his particular journey, his specific energy which he must manifest in this world. Indeed, our Sages teach that the Re[e]d sea split into twelve paths, providing a separate path for each of the twelve tribes.

To understand these twelve paths we must study the different ways that the tribes are described in the Torah. We find three descriptions for the tribes. First, when they are named by their mothers, (Gen. 29-30; 35:18) each child/tribe is given a name with a particular meaning for a specific reason. Second, when Jacob blesses them before he passes away. (Gen. 3-28) And finally, when Moses blesses them at the end of the Torah. (Deut. 33:6-25)

In addition the tribes are named and specified many times in the Torah – when they enter Egypt, when they leave Egypt, during their 40 year journey through the Sinai wilderness they travel and camp as tribes, their Temple dedication offerings are repeated twelve times (though they brought the same offerings) to emphasize the twelve unique paths.

Here is one of many applications of these twelve paths, based primarily on Yaakov’s blessings.

Reuben – The First
Simeon – The Aggressor
Levi – The Cleric
Judah – The Leader
Dan – The Judge
Naphtali – The Free Spirit
Gad – The Warrior
Asher – The Prosperous One
Issachar – The Scholar
Zebulun – The Businessperson
Joseph – The Sufferer
Menashe – Reconnection
Ephraim – Transformation
Benjamin – The Ravenous Consumer

...harnessed properly, the ‘bechor’/Reuven energy can change worlds...

Reuben – the first-born (‘bechor’) – represents the powerful energy of everything that comes first. The first fruit, the first moments of the day, the beginning of every creation – has enormous amount of energy. "Unstable like water,’ this power can go either way: If harnessed properly, the ‘bechor’/Reuven energy can change worlds; if abused it can destroy. Like water, it can be the source of life, but if left unchanneled, it erodes its environment and can flood its surroundings.

Simeon is aggressive gevura – the antithesis of Reuven’s chesed/water. The fierce anger and cruel wrath that can result from unbridled gevura must be eliminated lest it turns into weapons of violence that consume the person and all those he comes in contact with. [The lesson of this today is self understood].

Levi is the tribe chosen to serve in the Temple. "Levi" also means ‘attached’ or ‘joined’. Levi is the personality of dedicating your life to serving a higher calling. Of freeing yourself from your bounds to material survival and attaching yourself to Divine service (see Rambam, end of Hilchot Shemittah v’Yovel).

Judah means acknowledgement (‘hoda'ah,’ as in ‘modeh ani’). Judah’s name also includes the four letters of the Divine name Havaya. Judah is the leader; his descendants would be the kings of Israel, beginning with King David and concluding with Mashiach. Judah is the path of selflessness (‘bittul’) – the most vital ingredient in true leadership.

Dan is the path of law and order (‘dan’ means to judge). Objective justice is the heart of any civilization.

Naphtali is the free spirit personality. Like a ‘deer running free’ – breaking out of the status quo – independence is a necessary component in growth. Yet, this free spiritedness must always take care to ‘deliver words of beauty.’

Gad is the warrior archetype. Expanding on the justice of Dan, Gad is ready to fight for his beliefs. The warrior is necessary to both defend our cherished values and to protect our freedoms.

Asher is both prosperity and pleasure. Asher is the dimension of blessing beyond the norm – to be given more than what is necessary for survival. Asher is the personality of not just getting what you need, but also enjoying it.

Issachar is the scholar. Scholarship provides wisdom, clarity and direction. It is the foundation of any system. Issachar is the dedication to immerse in study and education.

Zebulun is the merchant, the businessperson personality. His role is to enter the marketplace and redeem the Divine sparks within the material world (the ‘secret treasure hidden in the sand’ (Deuteronomy 33:19)). Zebulun complements Issachar; they forge a partnership: Zebulun supports the scholar, he funds houses of scholarship, which earns him a right to partake in the reward of Issachar’s studies.

Joseph is the element of suffering in life.

Joseph is the element of suffering in life. Yet, he not only survives; he thrives. He achieves greatness through his challenges. He overcomes all adversaries and becomes a great leader, saving his entire generation. Despite his corrupt environment, he maintains his spiritual integrity. The powerful light that emerges from darkness in Joseph divides into two dimensions – his two sons: Menashe and Ephraim:

Menashe represents the ability to not succumb to the powers of the Egypt/‘mitzraim -constraints’ that want to make you forget your spiritual roots. To remain connected regardless of the challenges.

Ephraim takes it even further. It is not enough to just survive in an alien environment, but to thrive – to ‘be fruitful in the land of my affliction.’ Ephraim is the power to transform the difficulties into Divine power.

Benjamin is hungry, hungry for the Divine sparks in all of existence. So, like a ‘ravenous wolf’ Benjamin recognizes that his mission is to passionately seek out the Divine energy embedded in matter, devour it, consume and elevate it.

Twelve tribes. Twelve paths. All necessary to reach our destination.

Which personality are you? What part do you need to develop?

May we discover our path and live up to it. And may that help us reach the time -- at the end of days - when we will gain clarity as to who belongs to what tribe. (See Rambam, Laws of Kings 12:3) Perhaps the significance of this revelation is the crystallization that will come in the time when the 'world will be filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.'

[From //]

© The Meaningful Life Center. Rabbi Simon Jacobson is the author of the best-selling Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe (William Morrow, 1995), and the founder and director of the Meaningful Life Center.
Sort By:
Discussion (12)
January 11, 2017
How can I find out which tribe I'm from
locust grove
December 18, 2016
"Which tribe am I"
Jewish tradition says this is one of the tasks Moshiach will fulfill
Tzefat, Israel
October 3, 2016
How can I find out what tribe I come from?
Irma Narain
Paramaribo, Suriname
August 10, 2016
How can I find out what Tribe I come from?
Columbus, Ohio
February 28, 2016
Robyn in Washington
Develop the one that's the stronger of the three first
Then do the same with the second and third
God bless you and your calling,
Minnesota Lin
February 25, 2016
What if you see your traits in 2 or 3 of the tribes..yikes
February 10, 2016
The house of Israel is the instrument for the blessing of all nations and Adonai blesses as He promised. The 12 Tribal Nations of Israel will sit in the UN and promote the awareness that all humans are from Noach. The nations will understand that Israel is only the instrument in the mighty hands of Adonai who is blessing all with food, home and clothing and taking care of widows, fatherless, homeless, needy, hungry, sick, unfortunate, illiterate, ignorant and the weak. All nations will come together and work for the needy and the weak and share the burdens with common human blood related family concern.
Shmuel Yacobi
September 28, 2015
My last name was Pincus - am I a Levite?
April 15, 2015
The real question is, which trait one does one not identify with. Since, that is the one "trait" one must explore within himself.
The problem does not lay in "which trait the individual identifies with" that is easy. Once you read the characteristics of each personality, one knows instantly.
Thus, it stands to reason that exploring the traits one does not identify with, it will bring about completeness, to the person, then it will affect those in close contact with him, then his community. Why, because the person now has an awareness of completeness.
Toronto, ON
March 1, 2015
May you please tell me what tribe Peter came from please
Deborah alderman rick

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.