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“A charming son is Joseph, a charming son to the eye; each of the girl climbed heights to gaze. They embittered him and became antagonists; the arrow-tongued men hated him. But his bow was firmly emplaced and his arm were gilded, from the hands of the Mighty Power of Jacob—from there, he shepherded the stone of Israel. [That was] from the God of your father and he will help you, and with Shaddai—and He will bless you [with] blessings of heaven from above, blessings of the deep crouching below, blessings of the bosom and womb. The blessings of the your father surpassed the blessings of my parents to the endless bounds of the world’s hills. Let them be upon Joseph’s head and upon the head of the exile from his brothers.” (Genesis 49:22-26)
“Of Joseph he said: Blessed by Hashem is the land—with the heavenly bounty of dew, and with the deep waters crouching below; with the bounty of the sun’s crops, and with the bounty of the moon’s yield; with the quick-ripening crops of the early mountains, and with the bounty of eternal hills; with the bounty of the land and its fullness, and by the favor of Him Who rested upon the thornbush; may this blessing rest upon Joseph’s head, and upon the crown of him who was separated from his brothers. A sovereignty is his ox-like one—majesty is his, and his glory will be like the horns of a re’eim; with them shall he gore nations together, to the end of the Land; they are the myriads of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh.” (Deuteronomy 33:13-17)
The righteous Joseph’s life is the ultimate story of the phoenix rising from the ashes, predestining the history of the Jewish people. After enjoying special attention in the house of Jacob, he was sold to slavery by brothers jealous of his nightly dreams predicting his dominion over them. He was peddled off as a servant to the house of Potiphar, soon to be framed for licentiousness by a Potiphar’s lusting wife. He was thrown into a dark cellar from where G-d arranged the circumstances to provide for his meteoric rise to become the most powerful man in the land of Egypt. From this perch he was able to save the entire house of Jacob. The sages tell us that the ultimate redemption will come through two Messiah’s, the son of David, and the son of Joseph. So, while Joseph was rejected by his brothers, it was he who saved his brothers from starvation, and it will be he who aids in the final deliverance.
Joseph earned the unique distinction that Jacob blessed each of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menasseh, giving them the status of tribes themselves. In Lynette Joel’s “Joseph” of her Twelve Tribes of Israel series, she ties together the complex themes of these two tribes into the overall picture of the story of Joseph. The wheat represents Joseph’s first dream, in which he saw his brother’s sheaves of wheat bowing down to his. The stars, the sun, and the moon represent Joseph’s second dream in which they were all bowing down to him. The ox and the ram symbolize the integration of brute strength and physical beauty inherent in Joseph’s leadership, and the images within them tell the story of Joseph’s life, culminating in the blessings of Jacob to Ephraim and Menasseh.