...this Shabbos amongst many other things we will encounter the births of 11 of the Shevatim. Now by all accounts they were to become extraordinary people - to the point that we refer to them often as the Shivtei Ka.
Perhaps the most well known aspect of the Shevatim are their names. In jewish schools the world over children come to know the names of the 12 shevatim almost as if they were members of their own family. This year for the first time I actually paid attention the pesukim that detail their names and the ideas behind each of them. They are as follows:
וַתַּהַר לֵאָה וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ רְאוּבֵן: כִּי אָמְרָה, כִּי-רָאָה יְהוָה בְּעָנְיִי--כִּי עַתָּה, יֶאֱהָבַנִי אִישִׁי.
And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said: 'Because the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.'
וַתַּהַר עוֹד, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתֹּאמֶר כִּי-שָׁמַע יְהוָה כִּי-שְׂנוּאָה אָנֹכִי, וַיִּתֶּן-לִי גַּם-אֶת-זֶה; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, שִׁמְעוֹן.
And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said: 'Because the LORD hath heard that I am hated, He hath therefore given me this son also.' And she called his name Simeon.
וַתַּהַר עוֹד, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתֹּאמֶר עַתָּה הַפַּעַם יִלָּוֶה אִישִׁי אֵלַי, כִּי-יָלַדְתִּי לוֹ שְׁלֹשָׁה בָנִים; עַל-כֵּן קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ, לֵוִי.
And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said: 'Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have borne him three sons.' Therefore was his name called Levi.
וַתַּהַר עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתֹּאמֶר הַפַּעַם אוֹדֶה אֶת-יְהוָה--עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, יְהוּדָה; וַתַּעֲמֹד, מִלֶּדֶת
And she conceived again, and bore a son; and she said: 'This time will I praise the LORD.' Therefore she called his name Judah; and she left off bearing.
וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, דָּנַנִּי אֱלֹהִים, וְגַם שָׁמַע בְּקֹלִי, וַיִּתֶּן-לִי בֵּן; עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, דָּן.
And Rachel said: 'God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son.' Therefore called she his name Dan.
וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, נַפְתּוּלֵי אֱלֹהִים נִפְתַּלְתִּי עִם-אֲחֹתִי--גַּם-יָכֹלְתִּי; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, נַפְתָּלִי
And Rachel said: 'With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.' And she called his name Naphtali.
וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה, בגד (בָּא גָד); וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, גָּד
And Leah said: 'Fortune is come!' And she called his name Gad.
וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה--בְּאָשְׁרִי, כִּי אִשְּׁרוּנִי בָּנוֹת; וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, אָשֵׁר
And Leah said: 'Happy am I! for the daughters will call me happy.' And she called his name Asher.
וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה, נָתַן אֱלֹהִים שְׂכָרִי, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי, לְאִישִׁי; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, יִשָּׂשכָר
And Leah said: 'God hath given me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband. And she called his name Issachar.
וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה, זְבָדַנִי אֱלֹהִים אֹתִי זֵבֶד טוֹב--הַפַּעַם יִזְבְּלֵנִי אִישִׁי, כִּי-יָלַדְתִּי לוֹ שִׁשָּׁה בָנִים; וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, זְבֻלוּן
And Leah said: 'God hath endowed me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.' And she called his name Zebulun.
וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַתֹּאמֶר, אָסַף אֱלֹהִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי
וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף, לֵאמֹר: יֹסֵף יְהוָה לִי, בֵּן אַחֵר
And she conceived, and bore a son, and said: 'God hath taken away my reproach.' And she called his name Joseph, saying: 'The LORD add to me another son.'
My ponderings stem from the following: w/ the exceptions of Yehuda, Gad & Asher the thoughts behind the names of the Shevatim are not what I would expect to lie behind the foundations of the future of Klal Yisroel. By and large they would seem to come from non-positive feelings, and that's being charitable in some cases - I don't know...it just struck me as kind of off.