V’zos Haberacha

Devarim 33:13:

 וּלְיוֹסֵף אָמַר מְבֹרֶכֶת ה’ אַרְצוֹ מִמֶּגֶד שָׁמַיִם מִטָּל וּמִתְּהוֹם רֹבֶצֶת תָּחַת

And of Joseph 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

In Moshe’s blessing to the Tribe of Yosef in V’zot Haberacha, one of the blessing, as explained by Rashi, is that the waters from beneath the ground in Yosef’s portion of the Land of Israel rises to the surface to saturate the ground above.

I would like to humbly suggest a (somewhat shorthand) explanation of what this blessing might mean, based on a few ideas said over by Rav Aryeh Lebowitz shlita

In Sefer Breishit, Yosef is described as being very attractive – “Yefat to’ar v’yefat mar’eh”  (39:6)
Rashi in Breishit 49:22 says that women in Egypt would come to gaze at Yosef.
Exterior beauty seems to be an odd characteristic of Yosef HaTzaddik for the Torah to stress…what is really being conveyed?
The Ramban refers to Sefer Breishit as Sefer Ha’Avos, and Sefer Shemot as Sefer Ha’Banim.
Yosef’s death is recorded at the end of Breishit and at the very beginning of Shemot, because Yosef had characteristics of both forefather and son. He is the bridge.The Midrash says that the Arbah Minim correspond to the following figures and traits:

  • Esrog = Avraham: Heart, Ba’al chessed
  • Lulav = Yitzchak: Spine, Gevurah, Courage.
  • Hadas = Yaakov: Eyes, ‘Seeing is believing’, Emes
  • Aravot = Yosef: Lips — revealing inner beauty (to hopefully be explained…)

How do we define beauty?

The Gemara in Keddushin 49b says that 10 measures of beauty came down to the world, and 9 were taken by Yerushalayim.
Yerushalayim is certainly beautiful now, but was not always so outwardly beautiful, yet there is intrinsic beauty. The Kotel isn’t the most gorgeous structure in the world, but it represents so much beauty and unseen history.

Rav Lebowitz explains that the opposite of beauty in Judaism is something sullied and dirtied; something that you can’t see beyond the surface.

Yofi/beauty is clarity; the ability to see what lies beneath.
The world, by contrast, typically describes beauty in external terms.

Yosef/Aravot (the least externally attractive of the Arbah Minim) are likened to lips; lips/language take thoughts that can’t be seen and gives them expression; they uncover what is hidden. Language and word usage – implemented properly –  is what separates us from the animal kingdom.

The bracha for the Tribe of Yosef in V’zos Haberacha is that specifically the richness from below the surface is what makes the ground fertile and beautiful.
וּמִתְּהוֹם רֹבֶצֶת תָּחַת

Yosef may have been a handsome guy, but that’s not what we celebrate. We admire and try to emulate his deep inner strength and beauty, and it is that authentic attractiveness that can bridge generations and make our rich mesorah attractive from father to son; from one generation to another.

A main aspect of Sukkot is to teach and remind all generations to come, that Hashem protected us as we left Egypt. As Vayikra 23:42-43, says:

…בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים
לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

Yosef’s inner qualities and middah of clarity is a good place to start when trying to accomplish this directive.

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