Looking at a Cryptic Phrase: A Survey of Parshanut and a New Approach
The Main Text:
1 א

(א) וַיִּקְרָ֥א יַעֲקֹ֖ב אֶל־בָּנָ֑יו וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הֵאָֽסְפוּ֙ וְאַגִּ֣ידָה לָכֶ֔ם אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־יִקְרָ֥א אֶתְכֶ֖ם בְּאַחֲרִ֥ית הַיָּמִֽים׃

(ב) הִקָּבְצ֥וּ וְשִׁמְע֖וּ בְּנֵ֣י יַעֲקֹ֑ב וְשִׁמְע֖וּ אֶל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֥ל אֲבִיכֶֽם׃

(ג) רְאוּבֵן֙ בְּכֹ֣רִי אַ֔תָּה כֹּחִ֖י וְרֵאשִׁ֣ית אוֹנִ֑י יֶ֥תֶר שְׂאֵ֖ת וְיֶ֥תֶר עָֽז׃

(ד) פַּ֤חַז כַּמַּ֙יִם֙ אַל־תּוֹתַ֔ר כִּ֥י עָלִ֖יתָ מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אָבִ֑יךָ אָ֥ז חִלַּ֖לְתָּ יְצוּעִ֥י עָלָֽה׃ (פ)

(ה) שִׁמְע֥וֹן וְלֵוִ֖י אַחִ֑ים כְּלֵ֥י חָמָ֖ס מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶֽם׃

(ו) בְּסֹדָם֙ אַל־תָּבֹ֣א נַפְשִׁ֔י בִּקְהָלָ֖ם אַל־תֵּחַ֣ד כְּבֹדִ֑י כִּ֤י בְאַפָּם֙ הָ֣רְגוּ אִ֔ישׁ וּבִרְצֹנָ֖ם עִקְּרוּ־שֽׁוֹר׃

(ז) אָר֤וּר אַפָּם֙ כִּ֣י עָ֔ז וְעֶבְרָתָ֖ם כִּ֣י קָשָׁ֑תָה אֲחַלְּקֵ֣ם בְּיַעֲקֹ֔ב וַאֲפִיצֵ֖ם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ס)

(ח) יְהוּדָ֗ה אַתָּה֙ יוֹד֣וּךָ אַחֶ֔יךָ יָדְךָ֖ בְּעֹ֣רֶף אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ יִשְׁתַּחֲוּ֥וּ לְךָ֖ בְּנֵ֥י אָבִֽיךָ׃

(ט) גּ֤וּר אַרְיֵה֙ יְהוּדָ֔ה מִטֶּ֖רֶף בְּנִ֣י עָלִ֑יתָ כָּרַ֨ע רָבַ֧ץ כְּאַרְיֵ֛ה וּכְלָבִ֖יא מִ֥י יְקִימֶֽנּוּ׃

(י) לֹֽא־יָס֥וּר שֵׁ֙בֶט֙ מִֽיהוּדָ֔ה וּמְחֹקֵ֖ק מִבֵּ֣ין רַגְלָ֑יו עַ֚ד כִּֽי־יָבֹ֣א שילה [שִׁיל֔וֹ] וְל֖וֹ יִקְּהַ֥ת עַמִּֽים׃

(יא) אֹסְרִ֤י לַגֶּ֙פֶן֙ עירה [עִיר֔וֹ] וְלַשֹּׂרֵקָ֖ה בְּנִ֣י אֲתֹנ֑וֹ כִּבֵּ֤ס בַּיַּ֙יִן֙ לְבֻשׁ֔וֹ וּבְדַם־עֲנָבִ֖ים סותה [סוּתֽוֹ׃]

(יב) חַכְלִילִ֥י עֵינַ֖יִם מִיָּ֑יִן וּלְבֶן־שִׁנַּ֖יִם מֵחָלָֽב׃ (פ)

(1) And Jacob called his sons and said, “Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come.

(2) Assemble and hearken, O sons of Jacob; Hearken to Israel your father:

(3) Reuben, you are my first-born, My might and first fruit of my vigor, Exceeding in rank And exceeding in honor.

(4) Unstable as water, you shall excel no longer; For when you mounted your father’s bed, You brought disgrace—my couch he mounted!

(5) Simeon and Levi are a pair; Their weapons are tools of lawlessness.

(6) Let not my person be included in their council, Let not my being be counted in their assembly. For when angry they slay men, And when pleased they maim oxen.

(7) Cursed be their anger so fierce, And their wrath so relentless. I will divide them in Jacob, Scatter them in Israel.

(8) You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the nape of your foes; Your father’s sons shall bow low to you.

(9) Judah is a lion’s whelp; On prey, my son, have you grown. He crouches, lies down like a lion, Like the king of beasts—who dare rouse him?

(10) The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet; So that tribute shall come to him And the homage of peoples be his.

(11) He tethers his ass to a vine, His ass’s foal to a choice vine; He washes his garment in wine, His robe in blood of grapes.

(12) His eyes are darker than wine; His teeth are whiter than milk.

2 ב

Questions:

  1. What does "acharit hayamim" mean? Does is mean "End of Days" or "later days" (i.e. "end of an era")?
    • If "End of Days" then we have two options: (1) We have to dig deep to find the hidden messages Ya'akov is saying or (2) Ya'akov was TRYING to convey something about this but ended up getting sidetracked.
    • If "end of an era" we need to know what that era is and what Ya'akov is trying to convey.
  2. Is Yehudah's "blessing" a directive or a prophecy?
    • If it's a directive, we have a few further questions: When does this happen? Now? Later? Is there an end point? We can look at the world and determine if we're listening or not to the directive (see Ramban)?
    • If it's a prophecy, we can look at history and the moment we see a non-Yehudah king, we can say that the prophecy didn't happen.
  3. What is "ad ki yavo shilo"?
    • What is "shilo"?
    • Who is "he"?
3 ג

I. A Survey of Classical Parshanut

Approach: End of Days + Prophecy Shilo = Name for Mashiach
4 ד

(י) לָא יַעֲדֵי עָבֵד שָׁלְטַן מִדְּבֵית יְהוּדָה וְסַפְרָא מִבְּנֵי בְנוֹהִי עַד עָלְמָא עַד דְּיֵיתֵי מְשִׁיחָא דְּדִילֵיהּ הִיא מַלְכוּתָא וְלֵיהּ יִשְׁתַּמְּעוּן עַמְמַיָּא:

Approach: End of Days + Prophecy (1) Shilo = Name for Mashiach (2) Shilo = Present for him (i.e. Mashiach)
5 ה

(ג) עד כי יבא שילה. מֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ שֶׁהַמְּלוּכָה שֶׁלּוֹ, וְכֵן תִּרְגְּמוֹ אֻנְקְלוֹס. וּמִדְרַשׁ אַגָּדָה שִׁילוֹ – שַׁי לוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, יֹבִילוּ שַׁי לַמּוֹרָא (תהילים ע"ו):

(3) עד כי יבא שילה means until the King Messiah will come, whose will be the kingdom (Genesis Rabbah 99:8). Thus too does Onkelos render it. A Midrashic interpretation is: שילה is the same as שי לו, a present unto him, as it is said, (Psalms 76:12) “Let them bring (שי) presents unto him that is to be feared.”

Approach: End of Days + Prophecy (1) Shilo = Peace
6 ו

(ג) עד כי יבא שילה הנה תיבת שילה מורכבת משרש שול ומורה שולים ומשרש שלה המורה שלום כלומר שלום הסוף.

(3) עד כי יבא שילה, the word שילה is a composite of the root שול meaning שולים, boundaries, margins. The other part of the word is based on the root שלה, the root of the word שלום.

Approach: End of Days + Prophecy Shilo = Baby
7 ז

(ג) ופירש שילה, בנו, מן ובשליתה. ודעת המתרגם על המשיח ותרגם שלה כמו שלו דיליה, וכן בב"ר (שם) עד כי יבא שילה עד שיבא מי שהמלכות שלו, וענין זה כאדם האומר לאחד קח זה עתה עד שאתן לך יותר.

(3) שילה; a reference to David’s son, seeing that the meaning of the word is derived from Deuteronomy 28,57 ובשליתה, i.e. “and against her afterbirth, etc.” Onkelos understands the word as referring to the Messiah. He bases himself on the variant spelling here still having the same meaning as שלו, “his.” This is also the way Bereshit Rabbah 99,8 understands the word שילה in our verse. Yaakov would be saying that Yehudah’s preeminence would not be short-lived, but would continue until the coming of the Messiah, the one to whom royalty would belong permanently. The whole blessing to Yehudah could then be compared to a father saying to his son: “accept this token in the meantime until I can give you the real thing!”

Approach: End of an Era + Prophecy Shilo = Name of THE place
8 ח

(א) לא יסור שבט מיהודה - המלכות שניתן לו להשתחוות לו כל אחיו שנים עשר, לא תפסוק ממנו כל אותה הגדולה ולא מחוקק - ושררה מזרעו עד כי יבא - יהודה שילה - כלומר, עד כי יבא מלך יהודה הוא רחבעם בן שלמה שבא לחדש המלוכה בשילה שזהו קרוב לשכם, אבל אז יסורו עשרת השבטים ממנו וימליכו את ירבעם ולא נשאר לרחבעם בן שלמה רק יהודה ובנימין.

(1) לא יסור שבט מיהודה, the position of royalty which all his 12 brothers bestowed on him, i.e. that they all prostrate themselves before him, will not be removed from him until Shiloh. Yehudah, i.e. King Rechavam of Yehudah son of Solomon who wanted to confirm his ascendancy to the throne in Shechem, which is very close to Shechem. (Kings I 12) [In the event, his stupidity in listening to inexperienced irresponsible counselors lost him most of his kingdom so that he ruled only over Yehudah and Binyamin. Ed.]

Approach: End of an Era + Prophecy Shilo = Name of a prophet from THE place
9 ט

(ג) עד כי יבא שילה כי אז נחלקה מלכות בית דוד ונתנה לירבעם מלכות עשרת השבטים וזהו עד כי יבא שילהשנאמר ויבואו שילה וימליכו עליהם את ירבעם. ד״‎א עד כי יבא שילה אחיה השילוני שהיה משילה שקרע בגדי רחבעם לי״‎ב קרעים.

(3) עד כי יבא שילה, “until the arrival of Shiloh, when the kingdom will be split, and Jerovam will be appointed to rule over ten of the twelve tribes. Yaakov refers to the people after the death of Solomon assembling to appoint Jerovam and to dissent from Rechavam, Solomon’s son and successor. [There is no verse in the Bible stating that this occurred at Shiloh;] perhaps our author understands “shiloh” as a reference to the prophet Achiyah Hashiloni, who had first informed Jerovam that he would become king over the ten tribes in Kings I 11,29, and who resided in Shiloh, as we know from Kings 14,2. Ed.] An alternate explanation: Yaakov simply referred to Achiyah the prophet who stemmed from Shiloh, and who told Jerovam who was at the time fleeing from the wrath of King Solomon that he would become King over ten tribes, but at the same time warning him not to interfere with the Kingdom of Yehudah, a remnant of David’s empire. (Kings I 11,2931.)

10 י

II. A New Approach

We know that there will be "a" place...
11 יא

(ה) כִּ֠י אִֽם־אֶל־הַמָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֨ר יקוק אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ מִכָּל־שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֔ם לָשׂ֥וּם אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שָׁ֑ם לְשִׁכְנ֥וֹ תִדְרְשׁ֖וּ וּבָ֥אתָ שָֽׁמָּה׃

(5) but look only to the site that the LORD your God will choose amidst all your tribes as His habitation, to establish His name there. There you are to go,
12 יב

(יא) וְהָיָ֣ה הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר֩ יקוק אֱלֹקֵיכֶ֥ם בּוֹ֙ לְשַׁכֵּ֤ן שְׁמוֹ֙ שָׁ֔ם שָׁ֣מָּה תָבִ֔יאוּ אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֑ם עוֹלֹתֵיכֶ֣ם וְזִבְחֵיכֶ֗ם מַעְשְׂרֹֽתֵיכֶם֙ וּתְרֻמַ֣ת יֶדְכֶ֔ם וְכֹל֙ מִבְחַ֣ר נִדְרֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּדְּר֖וּ לַֽיקוק׃

(11) then you must bring everything that I command you to the site where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name: your burnt offerings and other sacrifices, your tithes and contributions, and all the choice votive offerings that you vow to the LORD.
...and that place is Shiloh!
13 יג

(א) וַיִּקָּ֨הֲל֜וּ כָּל־עֲדַ֤ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ שִׁלֹ֔ה וַיַּשְׁכִּ֥ינוּ שָׁ֖ם אֶת־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וְהָאָ֥רֶץ נִכְבְּשָׁ֖ה לִפְנֵיהֶֽם׃

(1) The whole community of the Israelite people assembled at Shiloh, and set up the Tent of Meeting there. The land was now under their control;
14 יד

(ט) כִּ֥י לֹא־בָּאתֶ֖ם עַד־עָ֑תָּה אֶל־הַמְּנוּחָה֙ וְאֶל־הַֽנַּחֲלָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־יקוק אֱלֹקֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃ (י) וַעֲבַרְתֶּם֮ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ וִֽישַׁבְתֶּ֣ם בָּאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יקוק אֱלֹקֵיכֶ֖ם מַנְחִ֣יל אֶתְכֶ֑ם וְהֵנִ֨יחַ לָכֶ֧ם מִכָּל־אֹיְבֵיכֶ֛ם מִסָּבִ֖יב וִֽישַׁבְתֶּם־בֶּֽטַח׃ (יא) וְהָיָ֣ה הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר֩ יקוק אֱלֹקֵיכֶ֥ם בּוֹ֙ לְשַׁכֵּ֤ן שְׁמוֹ֙ שָׁ֔ם שָׁ֣מָּה תָבִ֔יאוּ אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֑ם עוֹלֹתֵיכֶ֣ם וְזִבְחֵיכֶ֗ם מַעְשְׂרֹֽתֵיכֶם֙ וּתְרֻמַ֣ת יֶדְכֶ֔ם וְכֹל֙ מִבְחַ֣ר נִדְרֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּדְּר֖וּ לַֽיקוק׃

(9) because you have not yet come to the allotted haven that the LORD your God is giving you. (10) When you cross the Jordan and settle in the land that the LORD your God is allotting to you, and He grants you safety from all your enemies around you and you live in security, (11) then you must bring everything that I command you to the site where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name: your burnt offerings and other sacrifices, your tithes and contributions, and all the choice votive offerings that you vow to the LORD.