- Rabbi Ben Tzion Spitz
If a song's about something I've experienced or that could've happened to me it's good. But if it's alien to me, I couldn't lend anything to it. Because that's what soul is all about. -Aretha Franklin
On his deathbed, our Patriarch Jacob bestows prophetic last words upon his sons, the twelve tribes of Israel. His final oration is given in poetic and often hard-to-decipher language.
To his first three sons, Reuven, Shimon and Levi, he gives what appears to be harsh criticism. To Reuven, he castigates him for his impetuousness. Shimon and Levi are cursed for their violence.
Judah and Joseph receive long and expansive blessings. The other sons get short, cryptic, prophetic blessings. This includes the blessing to his son Naftali, which can be loosely translated as follows:
“Naftali is a doe let loose; he giveth goodly words.”
The Berdichever explains that Naftali is compared to a doe, for a doe has very strong legs and can move quickly and lightly. This hints at the fact that he had extremely strong faith in God, for there is some connection here between the concept of “legs” and God.
Because of Naftali’s great faith he then gives “goodly words,” namely, song. Naftali would sing to and praise God from the very depths of his being, based on his steadfast faith in God.
He goes on to quote the ancient translator Yonatan ben Uziel, who states that the tribe of Naftali went on to produce beautiful singers, because the tribe possessed great faith in God. This great faith compelled them to always sing beautifully to God. The faith, the soul, caused the beautiful singing.
The Berdichever highlights that when a person achieves faith in God, they too will break out into song and praise of God.
May our songs be full of soul, faith, praise and joy.
To Shira and Amichai IshRan who survived the terrorist attack last week. Their strength, their courage and their song are inspiring. And to the memory of their son who was killed, Amiad Israel Hy”d.