Naphtali: Tribe of Adar II

Naphtali is the second son of Jacob and Bilah, a handmaiden of Rachel. His name, as relayed in Genesis 30:8 means, “ And Rachel said: ‘With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.’ And she called his name Naphtali.”  When I read this, I immediately went to check and see if this was the same word used in Genesis 32:25 to describe Jacob wrestling with the angel, and it is not.  That word seems to be translated “struggled” (יֵּאָבֵק) where as the root of Naphtali’s name (נַפְתּוּלֵי) seems to translate more truly as wrestling, or “twists.”  I find the translation of “twists” to be fascinating.  It seems lighter and less ominous than struggling.

Naphtali is traditionally symbolized by a leaping dear.  This is from Jacob’s blessing in Genesis 49:21, “Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.”  According to some commentaries, this refers to how quickly the fruit in the tribal district of Naphtali ripened, which gave cause for blessings.  In Moses’ blessing, Deuteronomy 33:23, Naphtali is describe as, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the sea and the south.”  If nothing else we can see from these blessings that Naphtali was favored, and I think good with words.

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Let us imagine that the message of Naphtali is that of the poet or minstrel.  If this were not a leap year, the Netivah, face of Shekhinah, associated with the month would be the Fool.  I can easily see Naphtali as the poet-jester,  entertaining us by leaping, dancing and reciting poetry and songs.  So what does that mean in a leap year?  What happens to Naphtali when the Weaver (אורגת) is our Netivah of the month?  In this case, Naphtali uses his poetic gifts to weave a beautiful tapestry to help us find all the meaning hidden away in the Book of Esther.

The lesson of Naphtali is to use all the powers of dance and verse to uncover the mysteries of the Book of Esther, to weave our world into a better place.  If G!d(dess) created the world with words, then maybe we affect Tikkun Olam, repairing of the world, or at least Tikkun haNefesh, repairing of the soul, through the power of art, verse, music, and dance.