Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Yissachar or Zevulun - Who are You?


As Moshe our teacher prepares to leave the world, he leaves each of the tribes with a blessing fitting to the qualities most inherent in each. Moshe tells each tribe that there is something unique that they have to offer the world. When each does the job they're supposed to, there is an air of peace within the Jewish people. Twelve tribes bring twelve approaches to life in general. Working together and uniting brings peace to them all. Each tribe applies the talents they have been blessed with – from the unique soul position in the world of souls – and through this, in this world the tribes get along well with each other, bringing complete perfection to the world.

The two tribes that stand out as showing this approach of unity are the tribes of Yissachar and Zevulun. Moshe blesses them (Deuteronomy 33:18):

"And to Zevulun he said, 'Rejoice Zevulun in your excursions, and Yissachar in your tents.'"

Zevulun and Yissachar are a team. Together they succeed. In this world there are two vital ingredients for any Jew – Torah, and earning a living to be able to live! If there is no Torah, there is no flour, and if there is no flour, there is no Torah. In the days of the giving of the Torah – over 3300 years ago, this was true, all the more so today, we see how difficult it is to be able to do both – to be able to master the entire Torah and spend the necessary time working to earn a living just to be able to live like ordinary people.

Rashi teaches, "Zevulun and Issachar made a partnership, Zevulun dwelt at the seashore and would go out to engage in commerce in ships, earning a living, and feeding Issachar – and they (Issachar) would sit and study Torah. Therefore the Torah preceded Zevulun to Issachar (in the giving of the blessings) because the Torah of Issachar only came about through Zevulun… Zevulun would be successful in business, and Issachar would be successful in the tents of Torah, to sit and calculate the years and fix the months."

The Torah is vast and complex. Every sincere Jew wants to master it in its entirety. Those who spend time learning know only too well just how much one needs to spend time learning with a clear mind in order to master the Torah and to know what it is that is demanded from each of us. Many will never reach these higher levels of understanding the complexities of Jewish law and mysticism, but we often turn to our leaders to guide us in the right direction. Without the means for these giants in Torah to be able to learn, not only will they not succeed in learning, but those desiring the advice they so often need, will be unable to gain this when the time comes. The relationship must be an equally responsible one. One in which each party has respect for the other.

Earning a living does not exempt one from learning Torah, and learning Torah does not exempt one from earning a living. Those, however, who feel ashamed of our Torah giants for having "wasted away" their lives "irresponsibly" while "being dependant on others" to support them may wish to take another look at the relationship that brings happiness to the world and to G-d. It is one where the Torah scholar – knowing his strengths, applies them to studying, so that he will be able to teach others and thus bring about a world filled with knowledge, growth and upright living. The businessman in turn, knowing that his blessing of wealth comes *only* from G-d, continues to pursue his life earning the means for him to live – and also to provide for the Torah scholar – who also provides for this world in ways most of us can never begin to understand.

While we read these passages of the Torah, we may wish to look up from the book for a moment and think about our lives today. Where is the real tribe of Zevulun today? And where is Issachar?! Those who have studied Jewish history know fully well that they no longer exist – certainly not in a revealing way, anyway. We know about the tribe of Levi, and encounter this tribe often, especially when the Levi is called to the Torah in second place. We know of the descendants of Aharon the Kohen (also the tribe of Levi) because they are called to the Torah for the first reading. And we know that the majority of Jews living today are from the tribe of Yehuda – that tribe that cleaved to the true ways of Torah living as instructed by the better kings of Yehuda, beginning with King David and continuing through his son Solomon. It seems that many living today are also from the tribe of Benjamin. Though the other tribes have disappeared, we await our reuniting with them with the revelation of the Messiah.

But what ever happened to Zevulun and Issachar?! Surely this pair should likewise have continued to exist?! This was a powerful team. Brothers who cared for each other with immense love. Surely the unique relationship – the financial support of the one together with the Torah learning of the other should well have continued its relationship throughout the generations?!

Perhaps it should have, but perhaps something else happened along the way. Perhaps the partnership fell through. Perhaps it could be that Zevulun finally earning his millions of dollars chose to keep it for himself. And perhaps, the tribe of Issachar totally immersed in Torah study could simply not continue learning anymore – when there is no flour, there is no Torah. And so, the tribes disintegrated, to be lost for thousands of years.

Today, we may well only have the tribe of Yehuda and Levi (and perhaps Benjamin too) spending time studying Torah and fulfilling Mitzvot. But what will be if the attitude taken in days gone by continues? Could it be that those studying Torah could simply fall away (once again?!) And if so, it may be that those spending their days in earning millions (for themselves) could find themselves abandoned from the true values of Torah, ultimately assimilating into the nations of the world – just as happened to the tribe of Zevulun thousands of years ago.

We can take a great lesson from the history of the Jewish people. When we as a team – work together – when we realise our strengths and the strengths of others, and help support each other as best as we can, with the talents and knowledge that we have… perhaps then we will have the greatest happiness possible. G-d blesses some with abundant wealth, while others, no matter how hard they try, earn the barest minimum to live. The Torah scholars are still consulted for answers to life's most basic questions, they are asked to pray for their brothers and sisters too, but they lack the financial means to continue learning and praying in peace, to be able to provide those answers and prayers when they are needed.

If so, our duty is a clear one. When we see that we are blessed in our commerce, we must push ourselves more and more, to give more and more so that those who lead our nation can continue to do so with clear heads, being able to enjoy the satisfaction of learning and teaching, helping others to grow and cope with life's daily battles. In return, those giving may well find themselves with the greatest of rewards, as they finally see themselves making a contribution to this world that has its effects around the entire world. It is through this that we have ultimate peace. It is a world of giving and taking. A world of business and a world of Torah. A world of appreciation for each other and the talents we can give each other – without any criticism whatsoever. Through mutual understanding and mutual giving, we are able to benefit others, and in turn benefit ourselves so that each of us is able to feel blessed each day with our contribution to the world.

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1 comment:

Ehav Ever said...

Interesting derash. I really enjoyed it.


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