Tuesday, October 06, 2009

An Alternate Yisachar-Zevulun Model

There is a familiar midrash about the relationship between Yisachar and Zevulun. The Bible says (Deut. 33:18):

ולזבולן אמר שמח זבולן בצאתך ויששכר באהליך.
And to Zevulun he said: "Rejoice, Zevulun, in your going out, and Yisachar in your tents."
The familiar midrash, quoted by Rashi, is that Zevulun goes out to work in order to support Yisachar who is studying Torah rather than working. This Yisachar-Zevulun relationship is an agreement by which they both share the reward of Yisachar's Torah study.

There is, however, an alternate midrashic tradition that is worthy of mention. The Yalkut Shimoni (par. 960) writes:

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שמח זבולון בצאתך מלמד שהיה זבולון סרסור לאחיו והיה לוקח מאחיו ומוכר לכנענים ומן הכנענים ומוכר לאחיו.
Rejoice, Zevulun, in your going out -- This teaches that Zevulun was a broker for his brother and would buy from his brother and sell to the Canaanites (or merchants) and buy from the Canaanites and sell to his brother.
In other words, Yisachar was a local merchant, which allowed him to stay at home rather than travel. Zevulun was a traveling salesman who enabled Yisachar to stay home, which presumably allowed him more time to study.

According to this version of the midrash, both Yisachar and Zevulun were businessmen. Neither learned Torah full-time. One, however, was able to choose a profession that allowed more time for religious study and the other chose a more challenging profession to enable the other to have more time.

This is an important lesson for those at the time of their lives when they are choosing their professions. There are different kinds of jobs and you need to choose one which fulfills your goals in terms of time consumption. You can choose a profession that allows you more time to study Torah or you can be an enabler of Torah. Of course, you can be something else entirely. There are more tribes than just Yisachar and Zevulun.

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