Benjamin: Tribe of Kislev

Kislev (כִּסְלֵו) is called the month of dreams because nine of the ten dreams explicitly mentioned in the Torah occur in the Torah portions of Kislev (, which explains why Kohenet associates Kislev with the Baalot Ov (בַּעֲלַת-אוֹב)– but what does that have to do with Benjamin?   Benjamin is the last son of Jacob and the only full brother of Joseph.  When he was born Rachel named him Ben-Oni (בֶּן-אוֹנִי), son of my sorrow (Genesis 35:18), as she died giving birth. Jacob renamed him Benyamin (בִּנְיָמִין), son of the right hand – or good luck (Jewish Encyclopedia).  Just in the moment of his birth, Benjamin is both a blessing and a curse.

I find it interesting that Benjamin’s birth is part of Genesis 35.  In this one passage Jacob’s camp gives up their “strange gods” (35:2-4), Rebekah’s nurse Deborah dies (35:8), Jacob is given the name Yisrael (35:10), Ben-Oni is born (35:18), Ben-Oni is renamed Ben Yamin (35:18), Rachel dies (35:19), and Issac dies (35:29).

The next we hear of Benjamin is in Gen 42:4, when his other brothers are sent to Egypt to seek food to relieve the family from the famine.  He appears nowhere in the story between his birth and the next time he plays another role as a catalyst of events over which he has no control.

When, Benjamin, this beloved child is given his blessing by Jacob:

“Benjamin is a wolf that raveneth; in the morning he devoureth the prey, and at even he divideth the spoil.”

Gen 49:27

Does this sound like the blessing you give a beloved child?

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The tribe of Benjamin was known as incredibly skilled warriors, and a bit ruthless.  But in the end, this last child of Yisrael, is the ancestral line that gives us our first King – Saul.  Another interpretation that makes a great deal of sense to me is that Benjamin’s blessing refers to the Temple where offerings were given the morning, and the edible portions divided among the priests and people in the evenings. (Jewish Encyclopedia)  I also think it is very possible that is refers to the fact that his birth (morning) caused the death of Rachel, but in the end (evening) his life brings great good by reuniting the family and his tribal lands are the ones set aside for the the Temple.

The blessing of Moses (Deut 33:12), brings a new sense of the blessing of Benjamin and what we can learn from it.

“Of Benjamin he said: The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him; He covereth him all the day, and He dwelleth between his shoulders.”

This seems to clarify his first blessing for me.  Those wolf’s pack does not need to fear him.  He will feed not only himself, but also those in his protection.  Who would challenge a “ravenous wolf?”

I think the lesson I find in the Tribe of Benjamin for Kislev is reconciling how bad or tragic events can lead to unexpectedly beautiful or positive things.  It is the challenge to reconcile how any war can be just.  It is the challenge to transform the fear caused by nightmares into becoming better people in the waking world.  How do we accept that for the pack to be fed — something may have to die? Do we see the archer’s bow (קֶשֶׁת), the astrological sign for Kislev, as the ability to protect ourselves or wage war? Even if we see the Keshet (קֶשֶׁת) as the rainbow — how do we reconcile the destruction of the flood and survival of one small group with the death of millions?  How do we reconcile the death and destruction of Hanukkah with the celebration of our deliverance?

How do we do transform what could be the greatest curse into the greatest blessing?

This is the lesson I found.  What do you see?