Saturday, January 14, 2017

What They Didn't Teach You In Yeshiva About Yissacher

(This post has been edited from its original version)

In the charedi yeshivos I attended, I was taught that the tribe of Yissacher were sitting and learning in kollel, being supported by the tribe of Zevulun. Like much of what I was taught in these yeshivos, however, it turns out that this is not found in Tanach, and has far less support in Chazal or even the Rishonim than one is normally led to believe.

The Torah says the following about Yissacher and Zevulun:
Zevulun shall dwell by the seashore, he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall rest on Sidon. Yissachar is a strong-boned donkey, crouching among the sheepfolds; when he saw how good was the resting place, and how pleasant was the country, he bent his shoulder to the burden, and became an indentured laborer. (Gen. 49:14-15) 
Certainly, at a level of pshat, this means that Yissacher was working his land (and, as many people vociferously insist when one talks about the Six Days of Creation not necessarily referring to 144 hours, Ain mikra yotse midei peshuto). Thus, Rashbam explains "crouched among the sheepfolds" to refer to their being in "the borders of the city - plowing and working the land," as opposed to Zevulun, who were traveling overseas to engage in commerce.

Still, Chazal add an additional layer of interpretation. Here is what Chazal say about these verses:
Zevulun was busy with his merchandise trading (pragmatya - a Greek word that is the root of the English word "pragmatic") and would provide food for Yissacher, who was a Ben Torah… and when Moses came to bless the tribes, he preceded the blessing of Zevulun to that of Yissacher: “Rejoice, Zevulun, in your going out, and Yissacher in your tents” – Rejoice, Zevulun, in your going out, due to that which Yissacher is doing in the tents. (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 72:5)
But when it says that Zevulun was busy with trading "his" merchandise, whose merchandise is it referring to? The Midrash later explains that it is referring to Yissacher's merchandise:
Zevulun preceded Yissacher, because Zevulun was busy with merchandise trading and Yissacher was busy with Torah, and Zevulun came and provided him with food, therefore he preceded him. With regard to him, Scripture states, "It is a tree of life to those who support it." Yissacher would gather in (his produce) and Zevulun would bring it on ships and sells it, and bring Yissacher all his needs. (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 99:9)
"Rejoice, Zevulun in your going out" - This teaches us that Zevulun was a merchant for his brother, and he would take [produce] from his brother and sell it to the gentiles, and take from the gentiles and sell to his brother." (Sifre, Vezos Habracha 13; similarly in Midrash HaGadol)
It should first be stressed that this is the drash of the passuk, not the pshat. Incidentally, I recall once being in a shul where the depiction of the tribes on the Aron or windows showed a Torah for Yisschar, instead of a donkey. This stood in contrast to the depictions for the other tribes, which showed the pshat of the verses rather than the drush. I can't for the life of me remember which shul it was, but when searching on Google for pictures, I came across the one included in this post, which likewise shows a lion for Yehudah but a Torah for Yissacher!

But, in any case, the key point to note is as follows: These Midrashim do not say that the tribe of Yissacher were simply sitting in the beis hamidrash while Zevulun brought food for them. Instead, they say that Zevulun were assisting Yissacher by marketing their produce.

Now, there are other sources which just talk about Yissacher being busy with Torah and Zevulun providing them with sustenance. However, these may not conflict with the Midrashim cited above; it may be that they are simply less specific about how it took place. Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 13:16 does imply that Zevulun was simply giving hand-outs, but it should be born in mind that Bamidbar Rabbah is of far later authorship (and thus less authority) than Sifre and Bereishis Rabba.

In any case, the position of Midrash Bereishis Rabba and Sifre, that Yissacher were farming their land, is also self-evident from the Torah itself. After all, Yissacher had land! They weren't just letting it lie fallow. They worked it and farmed it, and Zevulun marketed it for them, which freed up some of their time for Torah study.

Furthermore, consider this: Why was it only Zevulun that was helping Yissacher? Why didn't any of the other tribes want in on it? The logical answer is that Zevulun was uniquely suited to help them, because they had ships, which meant that they could market their produce for them.

The notion that the tribe of Yissacher did not work at all, aside from going against the plain meaning of the Torah, would go against the general philosophy that we find in the writings of Chazal and the Rishonim. Their view was that the ideal is for a Torah scholar to be self-supportive, but license was given for supporting those serving the community; see my monograph on "The Economics of Torah Scholarship in Medieval Jewish Thought and Practice." This is somewhat similar to the view of Rambam with regard to the nature of the financial aid that may be given to Torah scholars: the investment of funds, and assistance in business (see my post "The Truth About A Much-Abused Rambam").

Finally, what about the description of Yissacher bending his shoulder to the burden and being "an indentured laborer"? Rashi, following the Midrashic non-literal interpretation, explains it to refer to the tribe of Yissacher toiling in Torah and serving the people with Torah teachings. It should be noted that, in line with the standard outlook of the Rishonim and before the mystical innovations of R. Chaim of Volozhin, we see that serving the nation with Torah is interpreted as meaning teaching Torah, not learning Torah.

But Ibn Ezra gives a more pshat-oriented explanation of the verse. He explains that the tribe of Yissacher were not powerful men and didn't want to go out to war. They preferred to stay farming the land - and in place of serving in the army, they paid a special tax! Bet you weren't taught that in yeshivah!

79 comments:

  1. No, but I did learn it at Matan

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  2. Growing up there was always the donkey. But I remember when the word came down that that was disrespectful, somehow, and got changed (as on the cover of The Midrash Says) to a man carrying a burden.

    Neither is really correct, as it happens, unless you're *only* doing the blessings of Yaakov. Bamidbar Rabbah tells us Yissachar's flag had the sun, moon, and stars on it, as Divrei HaYamim tells us that Israel's astronomers came from that tribe. Maybe they made a living making calendars. :-)

    The OU Center in Jerusalem has on their Aron Kodesh twelve symbols picked, it seems, deliberately to avoid any animal pictures. Yehuda is a crown. Dan is just scales. I think Yissachar is a Torah. And Naftali, for some reason, are two hands (gloves?) holding a book.

    Don't get me started on the "Yis-sachar" craze.

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    1. Don't get me started on the "Yis-sachar" craze.

      Do you mean "Yi-sas-char"? Because "Yis-sachar" is correct.

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  3. However, רש׳׳י on that פסוק explains as we have "all been taught in Yeshiva", that זבולון would do business and יששכר would learn. רש׳׳י says:
    שהיה זבולן עוסק בפרקמטיא, וממציא מזון לשבט יששכר והם עוסקים בתורה, הוא שאמר משה (דברים לג יח) שמח זבולן בצאתך ויששכר באהליך, זבולן יוצא בפרקמטיא ויששכר עוסק בתורה באהלים:
    It says no where here זבולון would market יששכר's produce. There is nothing in this רש׳׳י that denies that מדרש, it its, however, not what he says.

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    1. Rashi is simply quoting Chazal. פרקמטיא means merchandise trading, and is referring to the merchandise of Yissacher (in the Midrash, there is the extra clarifying word שלו). Remember, Rashi would not argue with Chazal, and remember too that Yissacher had land!

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    2. Also, consider this: Why is it only Zevulun that is helping Yissacher? The answer is that Zevulun was (a) adjacent to Yissacher and (b) had ships, so they were able to market Yissacher's produce.

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    3. Great article. However, is it not rather obvious that the distortion of this brief Torah passage is simply to push the idea that employed Zevulun's should be supporting unemployed Yissachers engaged in learning? Unfortunately, the proper maxim to apply to this and many similar issues that appear religious on the surface is simply "Its not the money, its the the money."

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    4. Rabbi Slifkin, I appreciate the way you edited your post.

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  4. Making the product is EASY. Selling the product is HARD.

    Thus, Zevulin haso great merit.

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  5. The Chazal is based on Divrei Hayamim describing Bene Yissachar as יודעי בינה לעתים

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  6. "זבולן לחוף ימים" קדם זבולן ליששכר. ולמה? שזבולן עוסק בפרקמטיא ויששכר עוסק בתורה, עשו שותפות ביניהם, שיהא פרקמטיא של זבולן ליששכר, שכן משה ברכן, "שמח זבולן בצאתך ויששכר באהליך" (דברים לג, יח). "שמח זבולן בצאתך" לפרקמטיא, משום ד"יששכר באהליך" עוסק בתורה. למה? "עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה" (משלי ג, יח), לפיכך הקדים זבולן ליששכר, שאלמלא זבולן, לא עסק יששכר בתורה, ומתוך שנתייחד יששכר בתורה ולא עסק בפרקמטיא, ולא היה לו עמל בדבר אחר, לפיכך כתוב בו: "מבני יששכר יודעי בינה לעתים" (דברי הימים א יב, לג). "יששכר חמור גרם" יששכר נותן עצמו על התורה, כחמור למשוי, וזבולן מביא באניות הסחורה. "רובץ בין המשפתים" אלו התלמידים שלו שמרביצין תורה בארץ ישראל לפני חכמים, שנאמר: "אם תשכבון בין שפתים כנפי יונה נחפה בכסף" וגו' (תהלים סח, יד). "וירא מנוחה" זו תורה, שנאמר: (ירמיה מה, ג) "יגעתי באנחתי" ומנוחה לא מצאתי. "כי טוב" זו תורה, שנאמר: (משלי ד, ב) "כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם". "ויט שכמו לסבול" עולה של תורה. "ויהי למס עובד" מס זו הלכה, כשהיו טועין היו שואלין ומבקשין מידן, שנאמר: (שופטים ה, טו) "ושרי ביששכר עם דבורה, ויששכר כן ברק בעמק", בעומקה של הלכה שלח ברגליו:
    תנחומא

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  7. I'm not sure what the point of this post is. I mean, if two tribes, or people, make an agreement where one learns and the other provides financial support, where's the problem? If the Haredi community had made such an arrangement, where one group learns while the other supports it financially, would you have had a problem with that?

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    1. If the Haredi community had made such an arrangement...

      As one of my teachers used to say, "if your grandmother had wheels, she'd be a streetcar."

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    2. No one has an issue with a voluntary arrangement.

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    3. The problem is that this agreement was never made by Israeli society. Rather it is assumed by one party and rejected by the other, hence the conflict. It is even more problematic because this midrash is used as a justification

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    4. Avi, it's not true that nobody has an issue with a voluntary arrangement. Rambam is definitely against such things. And it goes against Chazal's ideal of being self-supportive. Also, it drains resources and does not contribute to society.

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    5. I was commenting from a sociological perspective. And people are to spend money on things others view as a waste. You should be careful, lest your high horse run you into a tree branch.

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  8. While I agree with the principle, it is not accurate to render "Zevulun was busy with Yissacher’s merchandise trading" when all you have in the original is a pronoun. Moreover, GenR may be vauge, NumR is quite explicit למה זכה זבולון להקריב שלישי?לפי שחיבב את התורה, והרחיב ידיו לפזר ממונו ליששכר, כדי שלא יצטרך שבט יששכר לפרנסה, ולא יתבטל מלעסוק בתורה, לפיכך זכה זבולון להיות שותף לתורה, והיה חבירו של יששכר, ולכך הקריב אחריו ואחר יהודה, לקיים מה שנאמר (משלי יח): מתן אדם ירחיב לו ולפני גדולים ינחנו

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    1. There's another source in GenR, 99:11, which is more explicit that it was Yissacher's produce:
      יששכר כונס וזבולון מביא באניות ומוכר ומביא לו כל צרכו
      By the way, GenR is of much greater authenticity than NumR.

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    2. Neither one is "more authentic".

      I think the honest response would be that this is a machloket in Chazal, and it is legitimate to hold by either side of it.

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    3. But you wrote "Like much of what I was taught in these yeshivos, however, it turns out that this is a relatively recent concept and is not found in Tanach, Chazal or even the Rishonim." Is NumR no longer "Chazal or even the Chazal or even the Rishonim"? Zohar is another clear source אמר רבי יהודה זבולון ויששכר עשו ביניהם תנאי, שאחד ישב ויהגה בתורה, (שהוא יששכר), ואחד יצא ויעסוק במסחר, (שהוא זבולון), ויתמוך ביששכר, שכתוב ותומכיה מאושר. והיה יורד בימים לעשות מסחר, וחלקו היה כן, כי הים היה נחלתו.

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    4. Genesis Rabbah is 5th century i.e. Chazal. Num. Rabbah is 12th century i.e. Rishonim.
      I may have to correct my post, though, to say that *some* Rishonim apparently did understand that Yissacher was not working, even though this is against the earlier Midrashim and the plain understanding of the passuk. (I still have to think more about whether Num. Rabba and Zohar are clearly saying that Yissacher was not working the land at all.)

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    5. As I mentioned on Facebook, even Genesis Rabbah is not clear that Yissachar worked. Genesis 99 says that Yissachar would gather his merchandise on donkeys and Zevulun would sell it... Alternatively, just like a donkey bears a heavy load so too does Yissachar bear the burden of Torah." They are two separate explanations of the possuk. It does not contradict the earlier Midrashim, and it doesn't contradict the plain understanding of the possuk any more than saying he learned part of the day and worked part of the day does.

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    6. I don't understand what you are claiming. Gen. R. 99:9 says clearly that Yissacher was כונס. There is nothing in Gen. R. 99:9 that disputes that. Then in 99:10, there is a different discussion, about the significance of the word Chamor, in which different explanations are given. None of these are out to conflict with 99:9.

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    7. You're right... I was looking at 99:10 not 99:9. In 99:9 it combines the two, Zevulon is engaged in the more time consuming aspect of the business, while all Yissachar does is the gathering and then he is free to learn.

      I thought you were quoting from 99:10 which seems to separate the two... first it says that Yissachar brought the merchandise to Zevulon who would then sell it (the significance of the donkey being that that was the method of bringing the merchandise to Zevulun), and then alternatively that the donkey is just a metaphor for Torah. In 99:10 it can be understood as two separate explanations- either Yissachar did part of the business by transporting the merchandise to Zevulun (with no indication that Yissachar was involved in learning any more than Zevulun was- I guess I would call this the more pshat oriented explanation), and then there is the drash explanation that the donkey is a metaphor for Torah with no indiciation that Yissachar was involved in business at all.

      It's clear there is a source that Yissachar did work minimally in addition to learning, but you could also learn 99:9 and 99:10 as two separated shitos- that 99:10 disputes 99:9 in that Yissachar working is NOT part part of the Torah metaphor derash explanation. That certainly seems to be how Rashi learns it as he makes no mention that Yissachar did any work. I would sooner say that it's a machlokes in Chazal (or at least one can legitimately see this as a machlokes within Chazal) instead of saying that this philosophy has no source in Chazal.

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    8. I agree that there are Midrashim in line with the other view (and I have revised the post accordingly), but I don't think that 99:10 is one of them. I don't think that the second part means to negate the first part; I think it's just giving a different insight into the donkey symbolism.

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  9. Very good read.... i find philosophy and science the main antidote to blind empty religion

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  10. Having gone through the articles you cited above one only need to look at society today to fully understand the Rambam and the depth of his insight.

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  11. NOTE: I have revised parts of the post, after doing some further research. Thanks to Yoni Weinberg for his input.

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  12. I think it is sort of dishonest to tried to discredit Bamidbar Rabba because it states an opinion different from the one you are trying to espouse. Also, the Tanchuma quoted above is quite explicit. In either case it is clear that you will do anything and make small Diyukim in medrashim to discredit those who have dedicated their lives Lasheves B'veis Hashem.

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    1. I'm not discrediting Bamidbar Rabba, I am pointing out something that is taught as standard in all yeshivos, that texts that come five centuries later are of lesser authority.
      The Tanchuma is not explicit at all. On the other hand, Bereishis Rabba and the Sifre are certainly explicit. You seem to have a problem with them.

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    2. ומתוך שנתייחד יששכר בתורה ולא עסק בפרקמטיא, ולא היה לו עמל בדבר אחר

      'The Tanchuma is not explicit at all'

      can you please explain your contention?

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    3. Oops, I missed that. I agree, that certainly seems to tilt the other way. Still, I am not 100% sure. Perhaps it could be saying that Yissacher only had to farm their land (which, as the passuk indicates, produced crops very easily), and they didn't have to also bother with the effort of marketing the produce.

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    4. "I am pointing out something that is taught as standard in all yeshivos, that texts that come five centuries later are of lesser authority."

      The Rambam in his Moreh Nevuchim cites the Bamidbar Rabba compilation twice (Acc. to Kapach's index of sources).
      SO it was apparently standard in the Rambam's Beis Midrash as well as in contemporary yeshivos.

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  13. I think you are not being intellectually honest here. You made a strong claim:

    "Like much of what I was taught in these yeshivos, however, it turns out that this is a relatively recent concept and is not found in Tanach, Chazal or even the Rishonim."

    Imagine someone leveraged this attack against a shita of yours and you were able to point out a midrash that supports your exact approach, how would you react?

    I understand it is hard to admit you made a mistake, but I would have a lot more respect for you if you showed you are capable of doing so.
    Instead, by sticking to your post's criticism, I have a hard time interpreting it as anything other than the fact that you are more interested in being "right" and continuing your agenda than presenting the truth.
    I think the "uneven playing field" this time is tilted against you. You got caught in the same trap that your opponents were in. You claimed something didn't exist, and all that is needed to knock out your claim is showing that it did exist.
    Do the right thing and pull the plug on this one.

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    1. "Imagine someone leveraged this attack against a shita of yours and you were able to point out a midrash that supports your exact approach, how would you react?"

      I would react that the statement was incorrect. Since some people did indeed point out texts that seem to support the other approach, I revised my statement in the post to read instead that it "has far less support in Chazal or even the Rishonim than one is normally led to believe."

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    2. Raymond : we call this 'playing the man rather than playing the ball'. It's a common failing among R. Slifkin's ceitics. But it's weak beer.

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    3. I think Raymond has a point here.

      As Larry pointed out below, there's very good reasons to object to the current Kollel system.

      However you are not arguing from that side. You are saying that there is little basis for the yissachar zevulun relationship in early sources. That opens you up to the same attack as you made on your opponents: they just have to find one source that did hold of it, and say they are basing their views on that opinion. Especially as bereishis rabbah doesn't explicitly object to the principle of a yissachar zevulun relationship, just holds it didn't exist. In theory it might agree its an ideal state of affairs, but just never occurred.

      This from a textual basis those advocating a yissachar zevulun relationship are well grounded.

      The point to fight is in showing that it's an impractical and damaging system.

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  14. Rabbi Slifkin, your minimally verbalized underlying concept- that the current popular Yissacher – Zevulun construct is not a good thing, is entirely correct. Unfortunately, you have come under fire here for trying to support your viewpoint with quotes from centuries ago rather than with logic. The problem with supporting arguments in this fashion is that you can always find a Rabbi or sage who has the opposite viewpoint, given that the Jewish Textual Corpus is vast. There can be no learning without earning for many reasons. One cannot truly understand many Torah concepts without being immersed in the real world. Theory without seeing its real application is often meaningless. It is like trying to understand how to ride a bicycle by reading the manual instead of getting out and actually trying to ride. When applied on a mass scale, the Y-Z notion creates a large group of people whose emotional development is curtailed by lack of contact with the real world and whose moral development is curtailed by lack of personal responsibility. And of course, the model is not economically sustainable over the long run. Finally, the main thrust of Judaism is to bring holiness into the world, not to take it out of the world. These considerations apply just to the Y side of the arrangement. There are, of course, negative factors for the Z side as well. I would urge you to support your views with logic and facts before resorting to quotes!

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    1. Logic FOR SURE doesn't work with these people.

      Torah MAY work with these people, at least for those on the fringes.

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  15. I find it hard to believe that H' gave us a land with fields to support ourselves and an entire section of klal yisroel rejected that just to sit and learn. I think that Natan is correct.

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    1. Reality contact... There was no "learning" and no "Torah study" at the time Y&Z are said to have lived. This is merely a notion put forward in later times to justify certain financial arrangements. Actually thinking that pre-Torah individuals had access to the Torah leads to logical absurdities that have been illustrated on this blog in the past.

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    2. There is not a single person who applies the relationship to the actual sons of Yaakov. Your criticism is entirely without basis.

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    3. Larry - what did Yaakov do for 14 years in Yeshivas Shem?

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    4. Baal Ha Boss, both that 'yeshiva' and Ya'akov taking off 14 years to study are mythical. The entire basis for a 14 year hiatus is due to a particular inference drawn from Esav marrying Ishmael's daughter, Machlat, after Ya'akov left for Haran. The verse describing that marriage mentions that she was the daughter of Ishmael and the sister of Nevayot. Since both are named the inference is drawn that this was the year that Ishmael died so that she was engaged while Ishmael still lived but was actually given in marriage by Nevayot. Rashi does the relevant math. Avraham was 86 when Ishmael was born and 100 when Yitzchak was born. Ishmael lived to be 137 so that Yitzchak (14 years younger( was 123 and Ya'akov was 63 (he was born when Yitzchak was 60). If Ya'akov left home at that time at age 63 there is an unaccounted 14 years to the time when he arrived at Lavan's house and started his labors there. The latter calculation is arrived at from the statement that Ya'akov was 130 years old when he came to Egypt. Yosef was then 39. Ya'akov had come to Lavan 14 years prior to Yosef's birth when he was 77 (130-39-14).

      However, there is no need to assume that Ishma'el was still alive when the shidduch happened. Esav was motivated to seek another wife from Avraham's family in an attempt to appease his parents who were distressed about his earlier marriages. He came to Nevayot 14 years after Ishma'el's death (Machlat was born about the time of her father's death) seeking his sister in marriage simply because she was the daughter of Ishma'el. This eliminates the time discrepancy and the need to rationalize it with yeshiva attendance against the clear directive of his parents.

      The sages were not interested in merely telling stories. The point of this mythical tale was to emphasize the importance of lengthy torah study which they considered a justification for disobeying the admonition of parents who may only envisage a separation of several years. Ya'akov served as the prototype yeshiva bachur in their telling.

      Y. Aharon

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    5. For Avi:
      The original Yissachar is an archetype who if felt to have passed his alleged characteristics on to his descendants. The commentators derive his characteristics from Yaakov's blessings.Here, straight from the OU website:"Rashi interprets the Blessing in the context of Yissachar being a hard laborer in the field of Torah. He will “bend his shoulder” to bear the yoke of Torah, and will have great success in that field." There are other quotes of this type from other commentators if you search for them. I agree that the Y-Z relationship was not likely there at that time, but it appears that his activities were interpreted as involvement in Torah study.

      For Baal:
      Of course, you know what he did.He wore a black hat (Borsalino), black coat (never mind the heat),and started out with Torah study using Rashi's commentaries. He then went on to mishnayos. Finally, he got to Gemara. However, I am not sure if he studied the Yerushalmi or the Bavli. Which Talmud do you think he studied?

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  16. When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?


    John Maynard Keynes

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  17. Maybe I missed it, but why do you consistently spell the name "Yissacher"? Isn't there a kamatz under the chaf, יִשָּׂשכָר? Even the LXX has Ἰσσαχάρ.

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    1. The first ש (sin) has a דגש חזק, which causes the letter to geminate (double) when pronounced. So the syllables are: Yis-sa-char.

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    2. My question was about spelling it "YissachER". And BTW, the dagesh would make it Yi-ssa-char. There would not be a shva under the first sin. See Radak (also in Minchas Shai).

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    3. Correction to my earlier comment: The Radak states that a dagesh chazak WOULD put a shva under the first split letter, hence Yis-sachar (from Yesh Sachar), as Avi correctly wrote above.

      But back to my original question: R' Nathan, why the "E" in YissachER"?

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    4. Making mistakes in human. I just wanted to clarify it, since that is a common spelling in chareidi circles (e.g. Rabbi YISSOCHER Frand) but I cannot find any basis for this in dikduk. I blame yiddish.

      Delete
  18. You may have a point because the Gemara says somewhere that when a talmid chacham comes to the market with his wares he is given the opportunity to sell his wares before anyone else. That would parallel what you are saying here.

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  19. I think that an important source in this is Ketubot 111b and Rashi's explanation there. The gemara there reads:

    (דברים ד, ד) ואתם הדבקים בה' אלהיכם חיים כולכם היום וכי אפשר לדבוקי בשכינה והכתיב (דברים ד, כד) כי ה' אלהיך אש אוכלה אלא כל המשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם והעושה פרקמטיא לתלמידי חכמים והמהנה תלמידי חכמים מנכסיו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו מדבק בשכינה כיוצא בדבר אתה אומר (דברים ל, כ) לאהבה את ה' אלהיך ולדבקה בו וכי אפשר לאדם לידבק בשכינה אלא כל המשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם והעושה פרקמטיא לתלמידי חכמים והמהנה תלמידי חכמים מנכסיו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו מדבק בשכינה

    Note that making prakmatia for Talmidei Chachamim is distinct from allowing Torah scholars to benefit from his assets. And the purpose is to join up with Torah scholars.

    Rashi explains making prakmatia for Talmidei Chachamim as follows:

    העושה פרקמטיא - מתעסק בממון ת"ח כדי להגיע לידם שכר והם פנויין לעסוק בתורה ע"י אלו וכתיב חיים כולכם היום ע"י דיבוקן של תלמידי חכמים יזכו לחיות:

    "He engages with the money / assets of the Torah scholar to bring them profit, and in this way they are able to engage in the Torah..."

    (My reading is that one who engages in the pragmatia in this way would take a some share in the profits, but this is not necessarily what Rashi holds.)

    This explicit source can shed light on what Rashi felt, in general, about what Chazal meant by engaging in the pragmatia of Talmidei Chachamim.

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  20. Kesef Mishnah, Talmud Torah 3:10, in discussing the Ramba"m's stricture against taking money for learning offers a number of examples from both the words and the deeds of Chaza"l to justify taking support for learning, teaching and judging. However, he does not mention Yissachar/Zevulun. One should always be wary of arguments from silence, but it seems to me that if Y/Z had the resonance it does today he would have cited it.

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  21. One of the primary arguments seems to be that since Yissachar had land they obviously used it and not leave it unattended to. This doesn't present any problem with the fact that they had people engaged in constant Torah study. look at the "charedi" world today. (I find the term charedi to be very loosely defined and divisive when used in journalism, particularly when spelled with only an "h"). There are plenty of people working, and if a college education and army service weren't requirements for many jobs, you'd have even more charedim working. The workforce within the American yeshiva world is even more robust and even in places like Lakewood the vast majority of people don't stay in learning or even klei kodesh their entire lives. There simply is an ideal that one who is successful in learning can and should do so for as long as circumstances allow. The Midrashim don't imply that absolutely nobody from Yissachar worked, and the same applies today.

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  22. The fabled Yisschar-Zevulun agreement is a kind of Valhalla, a mythical utopia imagined wistfully in the day-dreams of countless would-be Yissachar's that never was and never will be. (I mean, on any appreciable level.) It gave rise to the expression, "A lot of Yisssachar's, not so many Zevulun's." Its Never Never land, but like winning the lottery, its fun to dream about.

    One of the odd things about it is the insistence of poskim that such an agreement must be split 50/50. Anything less would be mere tzedkah, and hence not a true Yissachar-Zevulun agreement. The scholars of the Gentile world always looked for a "patron" that would support them, but they never had the temerity to think someone might actually give them HALF of his income. But we Jews, when we dream, we dream big. Nothing less than half.

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    Replies
    1. Is there such a thing as a Y-Z agreement in Halacha?

      Delete
    2. Oh yeah. According to R. Moshe it has to be a 50/50 split. You can find sample documents (shtaros) to create the venture in various seforim, including the Chazon Ish. [Let me know if you're interested, I'll be happy to be your Yissachar.]

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    3. see Rav Moshe Feinstein (IggroI Moshe, YD.4.37) on his definition of the Yissachar-Zevulun arrangement.
      KT|
      Joel Rich

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  23. Larry,

    Do you have an email address I can contact you on? I want to ask you a question as I thought your comment was extremely profound.

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    Replies
    1. I would not want to publicize my email but thanks for the compliment. Joshwaxman made a comment similar to mine.

      Delete
    2. I have a separate email account for my blogger profile. Just a suggestion.

      Delete
    3. Hello Avrohom,
      Try this email address: 7larry2017@dispostable.com
      You must reply to this address fairly soon.

      Delete
    4. I meant this comment of yours:

      Rabbi Slifkin, your minimally verbalized underlying concept- that the current popular Yissacher – Zevulun construct is not a good thing, is entirely correct. Unfortunately, you have come under fire here for trying to support your viewpoint with quotes from centuries ago rather than with logic. The problem with supporting arguments in this fashion is that you can always find a Rabbi or sage who has the opposite viewpoint, given that the Jewish Textual Corpus is vast. There can be no learning without earning for many reasons. One cannot truly understand many Torah concepts without being immersed in the real world. Theory without seeing its real application is often meaningless. It is like trying to understand how to ride a bicycle by reading the manual instead of getting out and actually trying to ride. When applied on a mass scale, the Y-Z notion creates a large group of people whose emotional development is curtailed by lack of contact with the real world and whose moral development is curtailed by lack of personal responsibility. And of course, the model is not economically sustainable over the long run. Finally, the main thrust of Judaism is to bring holiness into the world, not to take it out of the world. These considerations apply just to the Y side of the arrangement. There are, of course, negative factors for the Z side as well. I would urge you to support your views with logic and facts before resorting to quotes!

      Seems to be that your comment might touch on the nature of Torah and Torah study.

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    5. Sent you an email.

      Delete
  24. But Ibn Ezra gives a more pshat-oriented explanation of the verse.... Bet you weren't taught that in yeshivah!
    Actually, can't recall many Ibn Ezra's at all that I was taught in yeshiva

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  25. There were 12 tribes that received portions of land in Eretz Yisrael. Two of them had some sort commerce/education arrangement, the details of which have been mostly lost to the ages. But, what about the other 10? Ten tribes didn't engage in such an agreement. Why the focus on two, when the majority didn't do that? We don't know why. However, if we look toward the majority for guidance, why so much focus on the anomaly of Yissacher and Zevulan?

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  26. Rashi in his comments says that a source of merit is the 200 Roshei Beis Din that Yissachar supplied to Klal Yisrael. There is no discreditation there of the many thousands of people of Yissachar, who either way, must have spent at least a considerable part of their lives in learning. Why not?

    It is a simple fact that in order to create people of such stature, there needs to be a certain culture. (This is stated by RSR Hirsch.) Torah is learned 'bachaburah' - in a group. You can't expect to designate one person at the age of 20 to be the future gadol, and to spend the next 40 years learning in isolation. I personally spent numerous years in learning, and can not contemplate the possibility of having spent those years in solitary study.

    Whatever side of the argument you take here, I think that the 'culture' of learning that is necessary to provide a standard of rabbinic leadership (something I think all sides would agree is necessary) is never fully credited.

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  27. While the verse in Deut 33:18, "Rejoice Zevulun in your goings out and Yissachar in your tents" can be interpreted as Yissachar being homebound while coupled with Zevulun. With a further conjecture, this can be seen as indicating (torah) study. However, that is not the sense of Gen. 49:14,15 where physical toil in indicated for Yissachar. Moreover, it is clearly not the implication in Chron. I 7:4,5 which mention 36,000 Yissacharites constituting raiding military bands and 87,000 mighty military men of Yissachar.

    The evident implication from Tanach is that the idea of a tribe being devoted to torah study and supported by a neighboring tribe is a later invention of the sages aimed at encouraging people to emulate such behavior.

    Y. Aharon

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    Replies
    1. Assuming it is a later invention of the sages, would that be a reason to follow such behavior or to not follow it? It seems to me that if the sages deemed this a behavior to emulate, then one would be pretty justified following it.
      I am curious which direction you are implying

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    2. Raymond, the Gemara in Berachot mentions the dispute between the Tana'im, R' Shimon b' Yochai and R' Yishma'el on torah only vs. torah ve'avodah with the latter opting for the combination of study and work. It concludes that many acted according to R' Shimon and were unsuccessful, while many acted according to R' Yishmael and were successful. Clearly, the sages didn't envisage thousands of men opting for torah study only. It even cautions the individuals appropriate for a life devoted to full-time torah study that it may not work out and is inadvisable. This is in addition to the general Tana'itic injunction requiring fathers to teach their sons a trade.

      The myth of the tribe of Yissachar being devoted to torah study can be viewed as encouragement for individuals to pursue such a life if their financial support was assured. That would not apply if such support was provisional or uncertain.

      Y. Aharon

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  28. The thing entirely ignored in this discussion is that there was a tribe designated to be learners and teachers (and priests) and the rest of the tribes were explicitly ordered by the Torah to financially support them. I am not sure why "emulating" Yissachar is any easier or better than emulating Levi

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    Replies
    1. Alex, you're right, of course, about the role of the Levite tribe. As Moshe said in his farewell blessing about his tribe, "They will teach your judgments to Jacob and your torah to Israel..". In turn, they were to be supported by the Ma'aser tithe placed on the farmers. It was recognized, however, that this arrangement would leave many in poverty, and instructions were given to not neglect the Levite - together with other impoverished groupings. The distinction between the Levites and would-be emulators is that the former were specifically designated by the torah for their educational role. Those who preach a 'torah-only' lifestyle, however, focus on study per se rather than as an avenue to teaching. Nor is it incumbent on anyone besides family to support such study activity when the sages have generally counseled a self-supporting mechanism involving economic activity. The myth revolving about the alleged role of the lost tribe of Yissachar adds little to our understanding of the priorities in Jewish education.

      Y. Aharon

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  29. What about the gemara Sotah 21a seems to support the yeshiva explaination, see also the מאירי שם ורבינו ירוחם

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please specify what exactly you are trying to prove and where exactly from.

      Delete

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