Naphtali / Naphtali נַפְתָּלִי
What imageries are included in the depiction of Naphtali?
The Artwork of Naphtali incorporates its traditional emblem of the deer let loose which was set free taken from Genesis 49:21. There is a hidden flying bird in the blue clouds, which is the symbol for this freedom. The image of Naphtali includes the fruit basket, which is an alternative symbol for the tribe. Their fruit ripened first in the whole land and was brought to Jerusalem for HaBikurim. The background features the Sea of Galilee—part of the tribe’s inherited territory in the Promised Land. The detailed description of the symbolism is mentioned under the additional notes. The dominantly red foreground was chosen because it is the tribe’s color.
The Meaning of the Name Naphtali
In Genesis 30:8, Rachel said: “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.” Naphtali means “my struggle” or “my wrestling.”
The Biblical Blessings for the Tribe
Moses blessed the tribe in Deut. 33:23 by saying, “Naphtali is abounding with favor and full of the blessing of the Lord. He will inherit the west and the south of the Sea of Galilee.” Jacob’s blessing comes from Gen. 49:21, “Naphtali is a hind let loose (set free); he expresses beautiful saying; he utters beautiful words.” It is also translated as “Naphtali is a doe set free or a swift deer that bears beautiful fawns.”
The traditional symbols for Naphtali include the deer, hind, gazelle or stag, and sometimes features a fruit basket.
The tribe of Naphtali settled in northern Canaan and were described as brave soldiers in the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:18). The territory of Naphtali was the sixth to be decided by lots at Shiloh in the tribal division of the land. In Josh. 19:32-39, we find the description of its borders. It ranged from the Tabor to the Jordan and its northern boundary extended to Sidon. From Moses blessing we can find that it included the areas of the south and west of the Sea of Galilee. The southern portion of the region was acting as a natural pass between the highlands of Canaan with several major roads, such as those from Damascus to Tyre and Acre, which ran through it. The prosperity this situation brought seems to be prophesied in the blessing of Moses.
The Tribe of Naphatli inherited a part of the Promised Land, which was going to be very favorable and G-d blessed. In this region, bordering the Sea of Galilee, was the highly fertile plain of Gennesaret called the Valley of Genosor. It was characterized as an earthly paradise, where fruits ripened first in the whole land. It was from this part of the land that the First Fruits were brought to the Beth Hamikdosh in Jerusalem as a thanksgiving offering to G-d.
The Midrash expands on the Sea of Galilee and its relationship to the tribe of Naphtali:
The people of the tribe of Naphtali earned G-d’s blessings in the fullest measure because their conduct was in fullest compliance with G-d’s will. Their reward will be both in the World to Come (which is likened to the “sea”), as well as in this present world (likened to “land”). The sea is a vast area covered by water; we cannot see what’s going on in the sea. But on land we can see everything. Similarly, the World to Come is called the “Hidden World,” while the present world, the “here and now,” is called the “Revealed World.” More importantly: When a person is about to make a sea voyage, he must provide himself with all the necessary needs for his long voyage, since on high seas there is nothing he can buy; only on land, before he sets out to sea, can he obtain all his necessities. Similarly, the Torah teaches us this world is where a person prepares for the Eternal World, the World To Come (Olam Habba), and the only things that count in the Eternal World are the eternal values a person acquires in this world.
Naphtali has a hidden blessing in Gen. 49:21 where it says: “He expresses beautiful sayings.” That means that the tribe of Naphtali will be blessed with outstanding Torah scholars. The “sea” – because of its vastness and depth and being largely hidden and steeped in mystery – is a symbol of Torah, for it is written in Job 11:9: “Her measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”
Naphtali consists of two Hebrew words. The first means “dripping honey” as in, “The Torah and Mitzvos are sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:11). And the second word adds up to 40, an allusion to the Torah that Moses received in 40 days on Mount Sinai.
The Song of Deborah is certainly among the most “beautiful sayings” that the Tribe of Naphtali produced. In fact, one of my earliest large printed canvases included the entire song in Hebrew and English back-screened on the red wall. Indeed, the Song of Deborah is only second to the Song which Moses and the children of Israel sang after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. The Prophetess Deborah is the most famous daughter of the Tribe of Naphtali.
Naphtali was known as a messenger of good news; he was the first to reach Jacob to bring the good news that Joseph was still alive in Egypt, in addition to speedily dashing off to Egypt to bring the deed of land title for the Cave of Machpelah to show proof that Esau had sold his burial spot to Jacob. Esau did not want to allow it, claiming that the last free burial spot was his.
The Gemstone for Naphtali is an Amethyst (Akhlama), which is purple. For the flag banner it is a light red color. It is also mentioned that the tribe’s color is deep red or burgundy.