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Vayechi: Even Yisrael

In Jacob’s blessing to Joseph, he says, “From the hands of the Noble One of Jacob, from there, shepherds Even Yisrael/ the Rock of Israel”. What is the meaning of the unique phrase, “Even Yisrael”? According to the simple explanation, it refers to all the children of Israel, whom Joseph ‘shepherded’ and sustained. Some of the commentators explain that “Even” means the essence, as the Radak writes: “Because the stone is a strong object in one piece, he called all of Israel a stone”. Another explanation is that Even refers to a unique form of the word “Av, “father”, “referring to father and family” (Rashbam).

Rashi quotes Unkelus, who translates ‘Even’ as “father and sons” and explains that Even/אבן is the combination of the words, ‘Av-ben’/אב-בן father/son. We can combine the explanations and say that the final nun of Even denotes minimization, and thus, Even/אב-ן is a small Av/father/אב – meaning that the son, himself is a small father. Thus, the family is created: A big father gives birth to a small father and together, there is an ‘Even’.

What is the connection between Even and the father-son relationship? The stone is heavy, (as in the verse, “koved even”, “heaviness of the stone) and it is reminiscent of the commandment, “Honor (Kabed – from the root for heavy) your father and your mother.” In other words, the mitzvah of honoring one’s father means to relate to him as something heavy, weighty and present. The son may sometimes feel that the weight is oppressive and cramps his style, but he must learn to honor (kabed) the weightiness (koved). In short, the son gives the father koved, weightiness, by virtue of the fact that he honors him (kavod). (This means that he does not ignore him and is certainly not embarrassed by him).

We saw, however, that the stone is a “strong object”. Something hard and inflexible. Hardness is a more essential characteristic of the stone than weightiness. (Weightiness is relative). If the son gives his father weightiness (koved) by honoring him (kavod) – then the father gives the son hardness. In other words, the essential assertiveness of the son, as it is expressed, for example, by self-sacrifice, comes from the father. The father is the point of hardness within the son, and the son is the weightiness of the father.

And what about the mother? The numerical value of the expression “Even Yisrael” equals “Beit Ya’akov”. Before the giving of the Torah, God said, “So you shall say to Beit Ya’akov, (the House of Jacob)”. According to our Sages, Beit Ya’akov refers to the women. Within the warmth and softness of motherhood, there is much assertiveness of the Even. It is the catalyst to unify the two properties of weightiness (from son to father) and hardness (from father to son) of the Stone of Israel.

Image by Sara from Pixabay

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