Sunday, January 07, 2007

Yisakhar ~ Zevulun

Today I noticed something that I had originally noticed last year, when doing "original flavor" Shnayim Miqra’ ve’Ehhad Targum (this year i've moved on from targum Unqelos to peirush RaSh"Y, next year who knows?

Anyway, remember how Ya‘aqov/Yisra’eil blesses his 12 sons/tribes in Bereishit/Genesis 49?

Zevulun and Yisakhar are told:
Zevulun will dwell at the seas' shore;
and he, a shore for ships, with his flank by Tzidon.

Yisakhar is a large-boned donkey,
sprawling among the sheepfolds

(or: fireplaces, rows of household vessels).
And he saw a resting place, that it's good,
and the land, that it's pleasant;
and he tilted-down his shoulder to bear,
and became a working serf.

(translation based on JPS, Fox, and RShR"H)

The most common explanation for this seems to be that the tribe of Zevulun participated on commerce and international trade, supporting the tribe of Yisakhar, who spent all their time 'bearing' the 'burden' of learning Torah, teaching Torah, and making Halakhic decisions.

Unqelos, however, has a very different interpretation:

זְבוּלוּן, עַל סְפַר יַמְמַיָּא יִשְׁרֵי;
וְהוּא יְכַבֵּישׁ מָחוֹזִין בִּסְפִינָן וְטוּב יַמָּא יֵיכוֹל,
וּתְחוּמֵיהּ יְהֵי מָטֵי עַד צִידוֹן.

יִשָּׂשכָר, עַתִּיר בְּנִכְסִין — אַחְסָנְתֵיהּ, בֵּין תְּחוּמַיָּא.
וַחֲזָא חוּלָקָא אֲרֵי טָב, וְיָת אַרְעָא אֲרֵי מַעְבְּדָא פֵּירִין;
וִיכַבֵּישׁ מָחוֹזֵי עַמְמַיָּא וִישֵׁיצֵי יָת דָּיְרֵיהוֹן,
וּדְיִשְׁתְּאַרוּן בְּהוֹן יְהוֹן לֵיהּ פָּלְחִין וּמַסְּקֵי מִסִּין.

(my Aramaic is rusty, but i believe it means something like...)

Zevulun will dwell on the coast of seas;
and he will conquer regions by ships and eat the sea's bounty,
and his territory will stretch to Tzidon.

Yisakhar is burdened(?) with property(?) —
his storehouses(?) are between territories.
And he saw the earth that it's good, and the land that it produces fruits;
and he conquered the regions of nations and destroyed their inhabitants,
and those that remained there, they made them work and pay labor-taxes.

Completely different image of the tribes of Yisakhar and Zevulun, eh?

No sitting around the beit midrash "shtaiging" it up for these guys.
No supporting the 'learners' with peaceful trading voyages.

Nope, just lots of war. War and conquering, with (possibly coordinated) land and sea-based invasions! Not to mention the killing people part, or the forcing the survivors to work for you part.

Which do you think is a more realistic portrait of Lei’a's youngest tribes?


Blogger Knitter of shiny things said...

Want me to check out the archaeology of where they lived and sea what it says?

I bet we will find that in the land where Yisakhar lived, there will be remnants of parchment and fibers from fur, which obviously came from the strimels they wore :)

I'm inclined to agree with you on the war thing. People back then did not have enough surplus income to devote their time to Torah study or to support other people in their studying.

Yisakhar lived in an area where the land was ideal for farming. There's no way they could be there, not farming....

More later when I'm not about to fly to Philly.

1/07/2007 10:00 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

and sea what it says

"sea" [sic]? Intentional pun?

1/07/2007 1:28 PM  
Blogger Ha-historion said...

If only I paid attention to Onkelos when I used to maabir sidra, I would have known this years ago. Quite interesting.

Heres a thought, a Peshara(compromise) may be in order here. Maybe Issachar were scholar-warriors (sifra v'sayafa).

1/08/2007 3:19 AM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

I suppose it would be unsporting of me to insist that Issachar was the name of Yakov's donkey.....

Love the translation of Onkelos - my Aramaic is twixt rusty and so far non-existent as to be merely a fond thought of at some point in time learning it.

1/08/2007 4:56 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


I thought we already answered that question!


i hope so ;-)


speaking of ספרא וסייפא, have you seen the בבא cartoon haggada?


"Indiana was the DOG's name!"

1/08/2007 8:50 PM  
Blogger Knitter of shiny things said...

Ok, I'm confused. What does the Hyrax thing have to do with my archaeological interpretation of Isachar and Zebulun?

1/08/2007 11:27 PM  
Blogger Knitter of shiny things said...

Oh wait. NM. Hah! Hyrax fur= fur for strimels. It all makes sense.

Sorry, I'm a bit slow tonight.

1/08/2007 11:29 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


read the comments of that other post and you'll learn what they made shtreimels out of!

1/09/2007 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought the Yissachar line was referring to agricultural settlement in the Yizrael valley, with "bein hamishpataim" referring to the mountains on either side.

1/11/2007 5:19 AM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

very interesting. shabbat shalom.

1/19/2007 2:03 AM  

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