Twelve Tribes and Months

June 24, 2009

4 min read


Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )

The underpinnings of the universe tie together in sets of 12.

The twelfth Torah portion includes the death of Jacob, leaving the Twelve Tribes to lead the people. Interesting.

Counting the tribes, we see that Menashe and Ephraim, two grandchildren of Jacob, are given the status of "tribes." Why weren't the other grandchildren tribes? Why isn't just their father, Joseph, a tribe? Why isn't Jacob's daughter, Dinah, a tribe?

It must be that the tribes are not merely the sons of Jacob, but they represent a spiritual reality. It was predestined that there must be 12.

Twelve months, 12 tribes, 12 zodiac constellations - they all revolve around each other in a spiritual realm and influence us from above. The kabbalistic Book of Creation, attributed to Abraham, reveals the underpinnings of the universe, and ties together sets of 12.


A lunar cycle lasts 29-and-a-half days, and continues like this indefinitely. Earth revolves around the sun for 365 days and contains no "months." The Hebrew calendar combines the two systems, lunar and solar by counting 12 months and calling it a year, lasting approximately 354 days. Therefore, the Hebrew calendar is considered "luni-solar."

(An extra month is added in some years to keep the holidays in the same seasons.)

Secular society uses the Gregorian Calendar, that has undergone some changes over the years from Egypt to Rome and beyond. At this point, the months (Jan., Feb., etc.) have no relationship to anything astronomical.

If you want to be more in touch with the spiritual forces influencing the world, you must get back in touch with a Hebrew calendar. Each Hebrew month has its own flavor and impact on us.

The Hebrew word for "tribe" is shevet, which also means staff or rod. A ruler used to have a staff, rod or scepter as a symbol of power and authority. Just as a ruler has power over the people, tribes had a power structure, and the months of the year have authority over us.


A fascinating man lived in the 13th century, who wrote the most famous Gematria (kabbalistic numerology) commentary on the Five Books of Moses. One of 10 children of a great sage named Rabbeinu Asher, Rabbi Yaakov excelled in many areas of scholarship. His commentary includes all of the Gematria codes mentioned above. One interesting example is the following:

In this week's portion, Jacob gives blessing to his children, who are to carry on the tradition as the nation of Israel with a covenant from the Almighty. They are one entity made up of 12 parts. Rabbi Yaakov finds an interesting reference to this in the blessings of Jacob:

Each blessing has the name of the tribe and the blessing. Each time a tribe is mentioned, if you take the first letter of the next word and its numerical value, and add all the "first letters" of the word after the name of the tribe, the sum total is 365, the days of the solar year.

If you do the same thing with the last letter of the last word of each blessing and add them all up, the sum is 354, the days of the lunar year. Rabbi Yaakov then compares a passage from Jeremiah (31:34-35):


"So says God, Who gives sun for light during the day, the fixed laws of the moon and stars for light at night... If these laws depart from me, says God, then also the seed of Israel will stop being a nation before me for all time."


Each Hebrew month and year has its own parameters of what challenges we are facing, and how those challenges affect our overall growth. In order to tap into that power, we must be aware of the months and their power.

Spiritual Exercise:

Get a Hebrew calendar. Find out what month we're in. Find out what day of the month this is. Find out your Hebrew birthday (click here). Do a spiritual accounting before the next month on the areas of growth in which you'd like to see an accomplishment.

Next Steps