Asher was the second son born to Zilpah, Jacob’s wife, the former handmaid of Leah. The ninth son in the household (after Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Dan, Naphtali and Gad), he was named Asher, which means ‘fortunate’ after Leah declared upon his birth: ‘Good fortune for me, for women have called me fortunate!’
Almost nothing is known of the life of Asher other than his name, which means both fortune and wealth. Both of these elements seemed to have defined his essence. The Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 71:10) teaches that Asher was so prosperous in his business undertakings that he never needed to stay in an inn (i.e. that he did not have to travel to find financial success).
Before his death, Jacob gathered his sons and gave them each a blessing that specifically reflected their personalities and predicted their futures. To Asher, he said: ‘His bread will have richness, and he will provide kingly delicacies (49:20),’ inferring that Asher was, and would continue to be, a wealthy man.
While the Torah lists Asher’s four sons (Yimnah, Yishvah, Yishvi and Briah) in Genesis 46:17, it is interesting to note that his daughter, Serach, is also mentioned–the only granddaughter of Jacob to be mentioned. Serach bat Asher is credited with using her beautiful voice to ease her grandfather’s shock when Jacob’s sons informed him, upon their returning from Egypt, that Joseph was still alive.
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