Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Tribe of Issachar

As the ancestors of the tribes of Israel, the lives and personalities of each of the twelve sons of Jacob significantly impact the history and behavior of the tribe members who descended from them.

Jacob’s deathbed blessing to Issachar was: “Issachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching between the saddlebags. When he saw how good was security, and how pleasant was the country, he bent his shoulder to the burden” (Genesis 49:14-15).

Issachar inherited a section of the Land of Israel that was pleasant, fruitful and bordered by other tribes rather than foreign nations. The reference to Issachar as a strong-boned donkey can be understood as a reference to material comfort. The word for donkey, chamor, is also the word for material luxury.

Once Issachar saw that he had comfort and security, he “bent his shoulder to the burden.” This is considered a reference to the natural partnership of the Tribe of Issachar with the Tribe of Zebulun. While Zebulun toiled in commerce, Issachar “toiled” in Torah. The Torah scholars of Issachar were thus supported by the merchants of Zebulun.

At the end of his life, when Moses blessed the tribes, he spoke of Issachar and Zebulun together, saying: “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and, Issachar, in your tents. They shall call people unto the mountain; there shall they offer sacrifices of righteousness; for they shall suck the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand” (Deuteronomy 33:18-19). Even before they settled on the land, their mutual relationship was developing.

“Rejoice...in your tents,” Moses proclaimed to Issachar. Staying in the tent is a reference to those who sit and study Torah. This was later confirmed in the Book of Chronicles: “From Issachar, men who understood the times, and knew what Israel ought to do” (I Chronicles 12:32).

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