CONTEXT AND REASONS
placement of Netanel ben Tzu’ar, the nasi
of Shevet Yissaschar, as the second
of the leaders of the tribes of Israel to bring his sacrifices in connection to
the dedication of the Mishkan draws
the attention of the commentaries.1
Rashi, Bamidbar 7:19 states that Shevet Reuvain, already slighted by the
fact that Shevet Yehuda went first,
felt that it was only proper that they should now go second. The question thus
emerges: why, in fact, did Yissaschar go second? Rashi presents the answer that
Moshe, as he explained to Reuvain, was directed by God to simply follow the
same order by which the nation of
Rashi, however, also presents other reasons, based on merit, for Yissaschar going second. First, as presented in Divrei Hayamim I 12:33, this tribe was noted for its excellence in Torah scholarship. Second, the tribe and, specifically, its nasi, Netanel be Tzu’ar, were the ones that gave the tribal leaders the idea to participate in the dedication of the Mishkan through these pledges of sacrifices. So what was it? Was there a significance in going second on these days of dedication – and thus, in the latter’s participation on this day, a perceivable slight to the tribe of Reuvain and a declaration of praise for the tribe of Yissaschar – or not? Was Yissaschar’s participation on the second day an indication of the significance of this tribe or, possibly, an indication of relative insignificance in that it was, in a certain way, subordinate to the tribe of Yehuda? As I pondered these questions, though, my thoughts began to question what the actual tribes in the Sinai perceived. The context of the statement in Divrei Hayamim that is the source for Rashi’s statement regarding Yissaschar’s exceptional Torah scholarship is the time of Dovid HaMelech.2 Is Rashi thereby actually telling us that the tribe of Yissaschar went second because eventually they would become a tribe of exceptional Torah scholarship or is Rashi informing us that this tribe was already, in the desert, noted for its Torah scholarship, simply referring to this verse in a most general way? When we read the Torah with our knowledge of Jewish history, we have a certain appreciation of the text. I thus wonder how the actual participants in the event understood what was transpiring.
so many ways, this question may colour our understanding of many events. We are
told that Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Yehuda went first in this order
of dedication. We, as readers of the text, are not surprised for this shevet is the tribe of the monarchy as
reflected in the eternal house of malchut
Beit Dovid, the royal house of David. What, however, did the nation of the
desert understand when Nachshon went first? Did they, through some prophetic
perception of the future, also recognize the eventual placement of this royal
house within the constitution of the nation and thus also saw Nachshon in that
light as we do? Or did they have some understanding of the placement of Yehuda
within the nation already from previous events such as the manner by which
Yehuda took charge in the episode with Yosef in
Rabbi Benjamin Hecht
1 Bamidbar 7:18.
2 The actual focus of the verse is the ingathering of men of military might into the camp of Dovid after the fall of Shaul HaMelech. Its indication as a source for the Torah scholarship of Yissaschar is, as such, not literal but is a derived understanding through the procedures of Torah analysis. It is often the case that a Torah analysis of a verse will yield conclusions that are not in line with the simple meaning or literal reading of a verse. This is a result of a verse being written at least with some level of ru’ach hakodesh, Divine spirit. As Ntziv, Darcha Shel Torah 3:1,2 states, the fact that a verse was written with ru’ach hakodesh informs us that this verse can be analyzed in a manner outside of its context. That the specific context of this verse is not connected to Torah scholarship does not detract from a conclusion through proper Torah analysis that it is speaking to this regard. Nonetheless, we may question details such as the time period to which this analysis is applicable.
3 There are so many ways that Yehuda reflected the ability of leadership within this story such as, for example, when he steps forward to cause his father Yaakov Avinu to send Binyamin with him. See Bereishit 43:3.
4 See, further, Bamidbar Rabbah 13:7 which, actually, ties the two events together.
this regard, one could easily contend that since Nachshon led
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