"The Levites must speak up, saying to every individual of Israel..." (Deut. 27:14)

There are eleven specific curses here. Rashi explains this number as corresponding to all 12 tribes except Simeon, whom Moses did not want to curse explicitly because he was planning not to bless him explicitly when he blessed all the tribes, either.

We may associate the 11 curses with the 11 tribes as follows:

  1. Who makes any graven or molten image: This refers to the tribe of Dan, since Abraham foresaw that they would set up a public idol in competition with the Temple in Jerusalem
  2. Who degrades his father and mother: This refers to the tribe of Asher, whose territory will be blessed with material abundance, which in turn can lead a child to rebel against his parents.
  3. Who pushes back his neighbor’s landmark: This refers to Issachar, who is likened to a donkey who rests between towns, where the possibility exists for falsifying borders.
  4. Who figuratively misguides a "blind person" on the way: This refers to Benjamin, whose descendants succumbed to the misguided counsel of those who advised returning to Egypt after Aaron’s death, and who thereby suffered great losses in the ensuing battle.
  5. Who perverts the judgment: This refers to Judah, whose descendants will be scholars and judges, and therefore must be careful not to pervert justice.
  6. Who fornicates with his father’s wife: This refers to Reuben, who was implicated in meddling in his father’s marital affairs.
  7. Who engages in carnal relations with any animal: This refers to the tribe of Gad, who possessed an abundance of cattle, and therefore was particularly exposed to this possibility.
  8. Who fornicates with his sister: This refers to Naphtali, since the very name of the progenitor of this tribe alludes to close ties between siblings, which although commendable, also expose them to this possibility.
  9. Who fornicates with his mother-in-law: This refers to Joseph, who was tested by the seduction of Potiphar’s wife, who later became his mother-in-law when he married her daughter Asnat.
  10. Who strikes his fellow in secret: This refers to Levi, who attacked the city of Shechem together with his brother Simeon.
  11. Who takes a bribe: This refers to the tribe of Zebulun, who were destined to be merchants, and therefore particularly exposed to this possibility.

Adapted from Sichot Kodesh 5733, vol.2, pp.371-376; 5734, vol.1, pp. 8-14
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org