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    Z’vulun & Yissachar

    HandshakeDiv’rei Torah on the weekly reading usually skip the final section of the Torah, V’Zot HaB’rachah, presumably because it is read on Simchat Torah and doesn’t have a Shabbat to itself. A pity, since there is so much to think and speak about in this section.

    As an example, there is the verse in Moses’s blessing (Deut.33:18), “Rejoice, Z’vulun, in your going out, and Yissachar in your tents”.

    Mentioning these two tribes together echoes their long-established association that has its beginning in the patriarch Jacob’s blessing of his sons (Gen. 49:13-14).

    The sages explain that the two brothers, Z’vulun and Yissachar, and the tribes named after them, had a mutually beneficial partnership: Z’vulun were seafarers who went out to make a living, supporting Yissachar who were scholars who stayed home to study. Yissachar in turn brought spiritual benefit to Z’vulun.

    In that sense Z’vulun were known for their “going out” for business, and Yissachar for their life in the tents of Torah.

    (It is said that there was a similar partnership between Moses Maimonides and his brother, which worked well until the trading brother lost his life at an early age.)

    This is how many of the commentators take the verse from V’Zot HaB’rachah. However, the Targum Onkelos follows a line of rabbinic commentary that considers that Z’vulun’s going out is for the purpose of war against an enemy: the notion of “going out” at the beginning of Parashat Ki Tetzei is “going out to war”.

    Onkelos also says that Yissachar’s expertise is “to set the time of the festivals in Jerusalem”. The responsibility for making calendrical decisions in those days, long before the scientific calculation of the calendar, required Torah knowledge acquired whilst sitting in the tents of study, and the tribe of Yissachar are already acclaimed in the Bible as experts in this field (I Chron. 12:32).

    In a broader sense, Yissachar’s studies equipped them with the wisdom and vision to assess the events of the times: the verse in I Chronicles calls them “people who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”.

    In that sense Yissachar’s strength was in policy and Z’vulun’s in tactics.

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