But a good father knows the character of each of his children, and Jacob saw Reuben as too flawed in personality to deserve pre-eminence over his brothers.
What stood in Reuben’s way? Jacob’s answer is clear: “Unstable as water, you will not have the excellency” (verse 4). Rashi explains, “You are quick-tempered, like water which rushes in its flow”.
Why does Jacob overlook not only Reuben, but the next two sons, Shimon and Levi, too?
Because “weapons of war are their livelihood… cursed be their anger, for it is fierce” (verses 5-7). Like Reuben, they have an unstable personality and cannot control their passions.
Who then secures Jacob’s confidence? Judah, the next son: “Judah, it is you whom your brothers shall praise” (verse 8).
Though no paragon of virtue, Judah has a calmer disposition than his brothers: “He kneels down and rests like a lion… who shall rouse him up?” (verse 9).
Judah does not jump up and lash out. He shows enough serenity to control his tongue and his actions. Judah can be relied upon more than his older brothers can. He does not speak or act hastily or impetuously. Too much is at stake. His decisions are carefully thought out and enunciated calmly.
This trait is yishuv hada’at, equilibrium, abbreviated as yishuv, sedateness, which is one of the 48 paths to Torah (Avot 6:6).
Like leadership, Torah knowledge is compromised if one is in too much of a hurry to consider where the truth really lies.