14 Jun 2006

Born on the 11th of Marcheshvan and lived one hundred fifteen years. (“Yalkut Shimoni,” Shemot 162)

Binyamin was the second son of Yaakov and Rachel, and the twelfth and youngest son of Yaakov overall. He was born between Beit E-l and Ephrat, and it was such a difficult birth that Rachel died in childbirth. As her soul left her, she gave her newborn son the tragic name “Ben-Oni,” “Son of My Mourning,” but Yaakov changed it to Binyamin. According to the “Zohar HaKadosh,” Part 1, 202, Binyamin’s facial appearance resembled that of his mother. And according to the Mechilta on Parashat Yitro, he was the only one of the brothers who was born in “Eretz Yisrael.” Rachel was buried by the side of the road and is the only one of the Matriarchs who is not buried in the “Me’orat HaMachpela,” the Cave of Machpelah. Yaakov saw in prophecy that his descendants would pass by on that road on their way to Exile in Babylon, and he wanted the tender-hearted Rachel to be there to comfort them.

As the second of Rachel’s sons, and the only one left to him after the disappearance of Yoseph, Yaakov resisted mightily the idea of sending Binyamin as well with the brothers. This was the demand of the viceroy of Egypt, really Yoseph, who was replaying a chapter of his life with his younger brother, to test whether their brothers had repented from their evil behavior vis-à-vis him. But Yaakov finally relented and, when Yoseph threatened to take Binyamin as his slave, Yoseph understood from Yehuda’s self-sacrificing behavior that the brothers had indeed repented. The time had come for Yoseph to reveal his identity to his brothers. Thus, Binyamin was the instrument for the re-unification of the Family of Yaakov in Egypt, before the travail of Exile began there.
Binyamin had ten sons, and he named them all for an aspect of his relationship with his brother, Yoseph, that he had been deprived of, due to Yoseph’s sale into slavery. To take just one example out of ten, “Chupim” was given that name because Binyamin had not witnessed Yoseph’s “chupah;” his wedding.
Perhaps it was because of his tremendous love and affection for his older brother, Yoseph, and his suppression of any tendency towards sibling rivalry, that Binyamin was rewarded with having his portion in the Land of Israel include the site of the Holy Temple.

In VeZot HeBerachah, Moshe Rabbeinu blesses the Tribe of Binyamin and calls its founder “…Friend of HaShem, Who resides confidently upon him, Who hovers over him all of the day and…” as it were, “rides between his shoulders.”