Reuben / Reuven / Re’uven רְאוּבֵן
What imageries are included in the description of Reuben?
The artwork features Reuben’s traditional tribal symbol—the mandrake. This comes from the account in Gen 30:14 where Reuben went out into the fields during the wheat harvest and found some mandrake plants. The image portrays the mandrake in three different stages of its life. There is the flowering plant, then the shoot, and lastly the full-grown exposed root. In Gen. 49:4, Reuben is described as turbulent as the waters; therefore the reason for the depiction of a stormy weather scene with raging waves. and the appearance of Reuben’s Hebrew letters in a water-like transparency. The background features the Dead Sea coastline with the salt formations on the shore and a view toward Masada, which both are included in Reuben’s allotted territory.
The Meaning of the Name Reuben
In Gen 29:32, it states, “Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben for she said, “It is because the L-RD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” The name Reuben is made up of two halves; “re’u” means “look” or “see,” and “ben” means “son.” Thus, the name Reuben expresses the fact that re’u—G-d saw my needs, and therefore blessed me with ben—a son. The Chassidic masters teach that the name Reuben refers to “sight,” a highly tuned level of G‑dly awareness that is so real that it is as if the person actually perceives G‑d with his own eyes. No amount of argument will convince a person that he did not see something when he did. This experience is unambiguous and definite. The name Reuben expresses certainty and immediacy in our awareness of G‑d. Therefore, Reuben has been translated to, “look, a son,” “see a Son,” “who sees the Son,” “a vision of the Son,” or “behold the Son.” In Hebrew, the word, Reuben, also sounds like, “he has seen my misery.”
The Biblical Blessings for the Tribe
In Genesis 49:3-4, we find that Jacob’s last words for him were, “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” Moses blessed the tribe in Deut. 33:6 by saying, “Let Re’uven live and not die, nor his people be few.”
The traditional symbol for Reuben is the Mandrake. The reference to it is from Gen 30:14, “During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
The Tribe of Reuben was allocated to the territory immediately east of the Dead Sea. It reaches from the Arnon River in the south, and as far north as the Dead Sea stretches, with an eastern border vaguely defined by the land dissolving into desert. The territory included the plain of Madaba. Reuben’s terrain encapsulated the land of the earlier kingdom of Sihon. Reuben is portrayed as having arrived east of the Jordan after leaving Egypt. However, rather than taking land on the west of the Jordan, he took land on the east instead because they owned a large number of cattle and the territory seemed suitable for pasture.
The tribe is characterized as fickle – unstable as water, and condemned to dwindle in power and size. Reuben’s biggest failing was interfering with his father’s marital life. This act cost him his birthright. His shining moment was when he dissuaded his brothers from killing Joseph and instead confined him to a pit. According to Gen. 37:22, he intended to return and rescue him. Later, when the family journeys to Egypt during the famine, he attempts to persuade his father that he should take responsibility for Benjamin while in Egypt.