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Blessing of the 12 Tribes through the eyes of Marc Chagall

Seq.

Tribe

Blessing by Jacob (Gen 49)

Blessing by Moses (Deut 33)

Gem-stone

Flag color/ symbol

Chagall color / blessing quote / symbols

1 -L1

Re'uven

3 -- Re'uven, my firstborn, my might, first-fruit of my vigor!

Surpassing in loftiness, surpassing in force.

4 -- Headlong like water -- surpass no more! For when you mounted your father's bed, then you defiled it -- he mounted the couch. [Fox]

6 -- May Re'uven live and not die, but let his menfolk be few-in-number. [Fox]

Ruby (ahdem)

Red / man-drakes

Blue / Jacob 49:3

  • Sky and water merging -- almost no land
  • red mandrakes in lower right
  • animals constantly in motion -- no place to rest (like the raven and dove at the end of flood story)

2 - L2

Shim'on

5 -- Shim'on and Levi such brothers, wronging weapons are their ties-of-kinship!

6 -- To their council may my being never come, in their assembly may my person never unite! For in their anger they kill men, in their self-will they maim bulls.

7 -- Cursed be their anger, that is so fierce! Their fury that is so harsh! I will split them up in Yaakov, I will scatter them in Yisrael. [Fox]

(not mentioned)

Topaz (pitdah)

Green / Town of Shechem

Blue / Jacob 49:5

  • Each animal heading in a different direction
  • All of heavens: sun, moon, earth (day and night) all witnessing the scattering
  • Houses near bottom
  • Partially green animals
  • ”evil eye” in lower left panes reflecting the punshiment
  • Shimon’s name is separated from Levi’s in the window -- Chagall wanted to distance Levi from the sentiments expressed against Shimon

3 - L3

Levi

See above

8 -- To Levi he said: Your Tummim and your Urim for your loyal man, whom you tested at Massa/Testing, you quarreled with him by the waters of Meriva/ Quarreling.

9 -- Who says of his father and his mother: I have not seen them, his brother he does not recognize, and his children he does not acknowledge -- for they have guarded your sayings, your covenant they have watched over.

10 -- Let them instruct your regulations to Yaakov, your Instruction to Israel, putting smoking-incense in your nostril, and complete-offerings on your slaughter-site. [Fox]

11 -- Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the works of his hands: smite through the loins those who rise against him, and those who hate him, that they rise not again. [Fisch]

Emerald (bareket)

1/3 white, black and red / Urim and Thum-mim

Yellow / Moses 33:8

  • urim and thummim generate a brighter light than any other source
  • symmetry: Urim and Thummim; magen david (2 triangles), 2 birds, 2 quadrupeds, 2 tablets of the law, 2 prominent candles
  • text in the tablets is Moshe’s blessing of Levi -- no hint of Jacob’s curses
  • first fruits are being offered
  • All Kohanim and Levi'im are descended from Levi -- Chagall himself was a Levi

4 - L4

Yehuda

8 -- Yehuda, you -- your brothers will praise you, your hand on the neck of your enemies! Your father's sons will bow down to you.

9 -- A lion's whelp, Yehuda -- from torn-prey, my son, you have gone up! He squats, he crouches, like the lion, like the king-of-beasts, who dares rouse him up?

10 -- The scepter shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the staff-of-command from between his legs, until they bring him tribute, -- the obedience of peoples is his.

11 -- He ties up his foal to a vine, his young colt to a crimson tendril; he washes his raiment in wine, his mantle in the blood of grapes;

12 -- his eyes darker than wine, his teeth, whiter than milk. [Fox]

7 -- And this is the blessing of Yehuda: and he said: Hear, Lord, the voice of Yehuda, and bring him to his people, let his hands be sufficient for him; and be you a help against his enemies. [Fisch]

Turquois e (nofech)

Blue / a lion

Red / Jacob 49:8

  • Much of the window appears drenched in tones of blood/wine
  • Crouching lion, surrounded by walls and houses of Jerusalem
  • crown -- Davidic dynasty
  • hands -- Yehuda's hands are strong, yet dangerous -- are they placing or taking the crown?
  • Flag color (blue) around lion's head and the hands

10 - L6

Zevulun

13 -- Zevulun, on the shore of the sea he dwells; he is a haven-shore for boats his flank upon Tzidon. [Fox]

18 -- To Zevulun he said: Rejoice, O Zevulun, in your going-out, … [Fox]

Diamond (yahalom)

White / a ship

Red / no quote

  • A large boat returning home towards sunset
  • Lower left corner -- an overturned boat -- defeated by Zevulun?
  • Large multi-colored fish arrayed as an arch of joy
  • diamond-bright bits of white in the window
  • Moshe’s blessing links Zevulun to Yissakhar. Chagall shows this via small bits of green in Zevulun’s window, corresponding to small bits of red in Yissakhar’s window.

9 - L5

Yissakhar

14 -- Yissakhar, a bone-strong donkey, crouching among the fire-places.

15 -- When he saw how good the resting-place was, and how pleasant was the land, he bent his shoulder to bearing and so became a laboring serf. [Fox]

18 -- … and Yissakhar, in your tents.

19 -- Peoples they will call to the hills, there they will slaughter-offerings of victory, for the abundance of the seas they will suck, the hidden treasures of the sand. [Fox]

Sapphire (sapir)

Black / a strong-boned donkey or sun and moon

Green, Jacob 49:14

  • large donkey, bearing a burden of: animals, vegetation, and a city
  • snakes along borders, look like vines -- perhaps the snake of Eden
  • tent flanked by two tablets -- this is the most scholarly tribe
  • hands are palm open, an inviting position
  • ”abundance of the seas” in Moshe’s blessing helps connect to Zevulun.

5 - B1

Dan

16 -- Dan, his people will mete-out-judgment, (to all) of Israel's branches together.

17 -- May Dan be a snake on the wayside, a horned-viper on the path, who bites the horse's heels so that his rider tumbles backward. [Fox]

18 -- I wait-in-hope for your salvation, O Lord! [Fisch]

22 -- To Dan he said: Dan is a whelp of lions leaping forth from Bashan. [Fox]

Opal (leshem)

Sapphire / a serpent

Blue / Jacob 49:16

  • snake entwined against a 3 branched menorah
  • horses in lower right
  • elements of Samson (the Danite): swords, knife, quarter circle of the sun, "frowning" walled city
  • incomplete leader -- one hand being burned by candle, one candle dark, "Israel" separated from "tribes/branches"

7 - Z1

Gad

19 -- Gad, goading robber-band will goad him, yet he will goad at their heel. [Fox]

20 -- To Gad he said: Blessed be he that expands Gad, like a king-of-beasts he dwells, tearing arm, yes (and) brow. [Fox]

21 -- And he provided the first part for himself, because there the portion of a lawgiver was reserved; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel. [Fisch]

Agate (achlama)

A mix of black and white / a tent or camp

Green / Jacob 49:19

  • a whole troop of creatures attacking walled tower
  • large crowned bird with bloody shield
  • heel of central animal being attacked by word "ekev"
  • variegated rays (like variegated colors of agate) emanating from the shield or the sun

8 - Z2

Asher

20 -- Asher, his nourishment is rich, he gives forth king's dainties. [Fox]

24 -- To Asher he said: Most blessed of sons, Asher! May he be the favored-one of his brothers, dipping his foot in oil.

25 -- Iron and bronze your bolts, and as your days, your strength.

26 -- There is none like God, O Yeshurun, riding (through) the heavens to your help, in his majesty in the skies.

27 -- A shelter is the Ancient God, beneath, the arms of the Ageless-One. He drove out from before you the enemy, saying, "Destroy!"

28 -- So Israel will dwell in security, alone, the fountain of Yaakov, in a land of grain and new-wine; yes, his heavens drop down dew.[Fox]

29 -- Happy are you, O Israel: who is like you, O people save by the Lord, the shield of your help, and one who is the sword of your excellency! your enemies shall submit themselves to you; and you shall tread upon their high places. [Fisch]

Beryl (tarshish)

Aqua-marine / an olive tree

Green / Jacob 49:20

  • olive symbols: dove with olive branch, olive trees on right, 7 branched menorah lit with oil, pitcher of oil in lower left
  • central crowned bird ready to feast on the riches of the tribe

6 - B2

Naftali

21 -- Naftali, a hind let loose, he who gives forth lovely fawns.[Fox]

23 -- And of Naftali he said: O Naftali satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord: possesses you the west and the south. [Fisch]

Amethyst (shevoh)

Rose / a hind

Yellow / no quote

  • Most likely following Moshe’s blessing -- large deer (hind) resting, perhaps after being blessed by God. Images like the Israeli post office of a fast running deer follow Jacob’s blessing.
  • A scene of the Negev (south) -- intense sunlight, solitary tree, large raptor soaring overhead

11 - R1

Yosef

22 -- Yosef is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. [Fisch]

23 -- Bitterly they shot at him, the archers assailed him,

24 -- yet firm remained his bow, and agile stayed his arms and hands -- by means of the hands of Yaakov's Champion, up there, the Shepherd, the Stone of Yisrael.

25 -- By your fathers' God -- may he help you and Shaddai, may he give-you blessing: Blessings of the heavens from above, blessings of Ocean crouching below, blessings of breasts and womb!

26 -- May the blessings of your father transcend the blessings of mountains eternal, the bounds of hills without age. May they fall upon the head of Yosef, on the crown of the consecrated-one among his brothers. [Fox]

13 -- And of Yosef he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that couches beneath,[Fisch]

14 -- from excellence of the sun's produce, from excellence of the moon's crop.

15 -- And from the tops of the ancient hills, from the excellence of the age-old mountains,

16 -- from the excellence of the land its fullness, the favor the of Seneh-bush Dweller; may it come on the head of Yosef, on the brow of the consecrated-one among his brothers.

17 -- His firstling bull -- it has splendor, the horns of the wild-ox, his horns; with them he shall gore the peoples together, the ends of the earth. They are the myriads of Efrayim, they are the thousands of Menashe.[Fox]

Onyx (shoham)

Black / a picture of Egypt (both Eph and Men). A bullock (Eph only). A wild ox (Men only)

Yellow / no quote

  • Three main views of phrase “Ben Porat Yosef”: wild ass or bull, beloved son, fruitful bough -- Chagall chose the 3rd view.
  • Yosef's name in the sun
  • Fruit and trees abounding
  • Tree bough hanging over wall
  • Bow/arrow didn't harm him
  • Crowned bird
  • Joshua's hands holding the shofar (at Jericho) or God's blessings or Messiah ben Yosef?

12 - R2

Binyamin

27 -- Binyamin, a wolf that tears-to-pieces! In the morning he devours prey, and then, in the evening, divides up the spoil.[Fox]

12 -- To Binyamin he said: The beloved of the Lord! He shall dwell in safety by him; he shall cover him all day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.[Fisch]

Jasper (yashpe)

A mix of all the colors / a wolf

Blue / Jacob 49:27

  • Beam of sunlight amid much darkness (morning/ evening)
  • Wolf (looks more like a bear or a lion)
  • headless animal on the ground -- already divided
  • golden city of Jerusalem (coming from the shoulders of the wolf)
  • large central multi-colored war shield
  • The name is split into 2 segments: bet, nun, yod on one side of the shield, mem, yod, nun on the other. It could be read as “benei-min.” Perhaps this is an allusion to the sexual crimes described in Judges 19,20.

Notes:

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