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Naftoli and His Tribe

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

Library » History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Naftoli was the fifth son of our father Yaakov. He was the younger of the two sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maid, whom Rachel had offered to be Yaakov's wife, hoping that she (Rachel, who had as yet no children) would have a child through her. His older brother was Dan.

When Yaakov blessed the tribes, he said about Naftoli: "Naftoli is a swift deer. He expresses beautiful sayings." (Gen. 49:21)

Our Sages of blessed memory relate that Naftoli was truly swift as a deer. When the brothers returned from Egypt with the happy tidings that Yosef was alive, Naftoli was the first to reach Yaakov to bring the good news.

Many years later, when Yaakov's body was brought from Egypt to be buried in the Cave of Machpelah. Esau did not want to allow it, claiming that the last free burial spot was his. Naftoli was the speedy messenger who dashed off to Egypt and brought the Bill of Sale which clearly stated that Esau had sold this burial spot to Yaakov.

The blessing of our Father Yaakov to Naftoli was also fulfilled when the Land of Israel was divided among the twelve tribes. At that time, the tribe of Naftoli received a very fertile part of the Land of Israel - the Valley of Genosor (The Sea of Galilee), where fruits ripened first in the whole land. It was from this part of the land that the First Fruits (Bikurim) were brought to the Beth Hamikdosh in Jerusalem as a thanksgiving offering to Hashem.

Naftoli, being the last tribe mentioned in the entire "Order of the Flags" must have been the rear guard who gathered up also the stragglers of his own camp
At the time when Naftoli came to Egypt, together with Yaakov's entire family of 70 souls, Naftoli had four sons. These branched out into four family clans. Upon leaving Egypt with the entire Jewish people, 210 years later, Naftoli's tribe counted 53,400 males of military age (20 years and older), apart from women and children.

The Nasi (Prince or Head) of the tribe of Naftoli was Achira, son of Enan. The tribe ranked sixth among the tribes, according to the number of tribesmen. Forty years later, when the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel, under the leadership of Yehoshua, son of Nun, the tribe of Naftoli counted 45,400 -8,000 fewer, and was the eighth highest among the tribes at the latest count.

In the "Order of the Flags" in which the Jewish people marched through the Desert of Sinai (eastward) to the Promised Land, the twelve tribes were divided into four divisions ("camps"), consisting of three tribes each, and headed by a leading tribe assigned to be the standard-bearer. The whole Jewish people encamped, as well as marched, in the form of a quadrangle (square), with the Ohel Mo'ed (Tabernacle) in the center, surrounded on all sides by the tribal camps. In between the Ohel Mo'ed and the tribal camps was the Camp of Shechinah, where the Kohanim and Leviim had their tents. Thus, on the east of the quadrangle was the camp of the tribe of Yehudah, flanked by Issachar and Zevulun; in the south were Reuven with Shimon and Gad; Efraim with Menasheh and Binyamin, were on the west; and Dan, with Asher and Naftoli, were on the north. (Num. ch. 2).

The Dan camp was the one that gathered together the stragglers of all the other camps. Naftoli, being the last tribe mentioned in the entire "Order of the Flags" must have been the rear guard who gathered up also the stragglers of his own (Dan's) camp, if there were any.

After the Mishkan (Sanctuary) was set up, and the Heads of the tribes (Nesi'im) brought their offerings for the Dedication of the Altar (Chanukat Hamizbe'ach), Achira was the Head of the tribe of Naftoli who was the last of the twelve Nesi'im to bring his offerings.


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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Erev
The day beforehand. For example, "Erev Pesach" means the day before Passover.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Esau
Rogue son of Patriarch Isaac and Matriarch Rebecca. Elder twin of Patriarch Jacob.
Rachel
Third of the four Jewish matriarchs. Daughter of Laban, favorite wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Died while giving birth to Benjamin in 1557 BCE.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Ruth
1. A Moabite woman who accompanied Naomi, the Jewish mother of her deceased husband, back to Israel. She converted, married, and was the ancestor of King David. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles the events of Naomi's life.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
Chumash
The Five Books of Moses.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
Shechinah
Divine Presence.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.