Aliya Summary: Jacob summoned all his sons, and delivered to each a poetic, and sometimes cryptic, parting personal message. Reuven was chastised for his impetuousness and for “ascending upon his father’s bed.” Shimon and Levi were rebuked for their anger, which expressed itself in the killing of the Shechemites and the attempted execution of Joseph. Judah was blessed with monarchy, success in waging battle, and an abundance of wine and milk in his portion. Zevulon was blessed with success in his sea-trade endeavors. Jacob likened Issachar to a thick-boned donkey who finds both rest and ample work. Dan was blessed with the tenacity of a serpent and the ability to judge.
While the first three messages to Reuven, Shimon and Levi were harsh, the fourth (to Yehuda) was positive. Yaakov called Yehuda a “cub and a lion”. Yehuda was both because he was a fierce leader when he needed to be (which translates to his future descendants), and had a soft side when that was required (Rashi: like reasoning with his brothers about the merits of killing vs not killing Yosef, and admitting his mistakes with Tamar). While all the tribes displayed distinct and special characteristics, Yehuda was the first to display an ability to modify his characteristic cased on the situation, a quality worth learning to emulate.