We begin a new Book of the Chumash this week, Bamidbar, commonly referred to in English as “Numbers” because the book begins with God ordering a census of our people.
In addition to the census, we also learn how the tribes are arranged and encamped around the Mishkan. We are told their locations, the names of the princes and the population of each tribe.
Reuven leads Shimon AND Gad on the South. Ephraim leads Menashe AND Benyamin on the West. Dan leads Asher AND Naftali on the North.
The Torah tells us the Yehudah leads Yissocher-Zevulun on the East side of the Mishkan. The Sages make much of the fact that each of the pesukim that identifies the trio of tribes in each direction uses the word “AND” or the Hebrew letter “Vav” to introduce the third tribe (Gad: Bamidbar 2:14, Binyamin: Bamidbar 2:22, and Naftali: Bamidbar 2:29). But there is no “AND” or “Vav” to introduce the tribe of Zevulun in the next sentence (Bamidbar 2:7).
The Sages point to this “omission” to demonstrate that the tribes of Yissocher and Zevulun treated each other as co-equals. Neither was superior to or subordinate to the other. The Sages dig deeper. Each of the tribes was known for a trait or specialty. What were the traits and specialties of Yissocher and Zevulun? We learn that Zevulunites were sea merchants living along the Mediterranean Coast. Its flag pictured a boat. The tribe of Yissocher was known for its scholarship and its teachers. Its flag consisted of the moon and stars because of its mastery of astronomy.
Teachers were probably not paid well even in those days and our Midrash teaches that Zevulun supported Yissocher in its Torah study. Yissocher taught Zevulun and the other tribes Torah.
The Torah teaches that those who support Torah scholarship and make Torah study possible are just as important (if not more so) as Torah scholarship itself is. We all have an obligation to learn and seek understanding in our Torah and what it means to be a Jew, but we also have an obligation to support each other and our communal institutions that make such opportunities available to us.
Some may consider Torah scholars to be on a higher rung on the social ladder than laborers and sailors, but the omission of the “AND” tells us that this is not true. There is no such distinction. Supporters of Torah are entitled to and derive the same kavod and mitzvah credit as those whose study and communal service they support and make possible.
Are you a learner, a supporter of learning or both?
This Shabbat we learn with Rabbi Joey Krakoff. His plan is “…to focus on the desert experience in the aftermath of The Giving of the Torah and how God transferred the Divine Presence from Sinai to the Tabernacle as a kind of portable Mount Sinai.” He is also planning “…to spend some time on Shavuot, the formative moment of Revelation and the true meaning of the Census.”
Our Shabbat Torah Study (STS) begins at 9:45 a.m. and finishes in time for the Rabbi’s Sermon in the Main Sanctuary for those interested. Come as you are stay as long as you like.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameyach,
Disclaimer: This Blog is something I enjoy doing as part of my personal Torah Study and as a volunteer to promote some of the wonderful Torah Study, Congregational Learning and other programming at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan. I am not asked to do it. Some have even asked me to stop! I am not paid by anyone for my weekly writing. It is not reviewed or edited by anyone before publication except me (though it might be better if it was). The ideas, thoughts and concepts I express are generally those of our many great sages, scholars and rabbis, past and present. Since our heritage and legacy is so deep and rich, spanning thousands of years, it would be a rare occurrence for me to come up with a truly original thought as opposed to sharing knowledge and wisdom gleaned from others. The brevity required by the blogosphere and the interest of a “quick, screen shot” reading does not lend itself to footnotes and appropriate attribution. The way that I express an idea is my own, but the idea itself will generally be fruit picked from an orchard planted by one of our many sages. For convenience, I may attribute an idea to the Torah, Talmud, and Midrash or to the “Sages” rather than providing the exact citation. If you would ever like to know the precise source, please do not hesitate to write and I will forward it to you. I am not a scholar. I am not a tzadik. I am not even close. I just enjoy Torah, the richness of our heritage, and the love and warmth of Judaism and this is one of the ways that I have found to share it. As always, if you would like to be removed from this list, please feel free to write. Also, feel free to share this with others and write me to include them on my list.