Shabbat Parashat Naso| 5765
When Second Place is First-RateHarav Yosef Carmel
One of the questions that troubled Chazal in our parasha is how the head of the Tribe of Yisachar, Yaakov’s ninth son and Leah’s fifth, merited to bring the special korbanot (sacrifices) to inaugurate the Mishkan (Tabernacle) second among the tribal heads. Looking at the p’sukim and Chazal’s comments on them, we find several answers.
While the korbanot of most of the tribal heads were introduced with the word “korbano (his sacrifice),” in Yisachar’s case it says “hikriv et korbano (he brought his sacrifice),” with a letter yud missing from “hikriv”(Bamidbar 7:18). This brings us to our first explanation. With the missing letter, the word can be read as a command, “hakrev.” When the Tribe of Reuven (the firstborn) complained about the snub of their not being among the first to sacrifice, Moshe responded that Hashem had commanded that Yisachar sacrifice second (Sifrei, Bamidbar 52). But what was the specific reason that Yisachar merited such recognition? That brings us to our next explanation.
It was Yisachar who came up with the idea that the tribes should provide wagons to transport the Mishkan from one place of encampment to the next. This fact is hinted in the change of name of one of the tribe’s patriarchs, Yov, who is called Yashuv in Divrei Hayamim (I, 7:1). This hints to the fact that he came up with an idea. A further midrash (Sifrei, ibid.) says that it was this same initiative of Netanel, head of the tribe, that endowed the tribe as a whole with a special characteristic. They are praised as being “those who know wisdom for the times, to know what Yisrael should do” (Divrei Hayamim I, 12:33).
We also have a rule that he who runs away from honor will have honor run after him. The missing yud in “hikriv” may hint at Yisachar’s humility. They did not seek a prestigious position, and, as a reward, they received one.
Chazal also take note of the name of the tribal head, Netanel, which is made up of two words: to give and the Name of Hashem. The Midrash Aggada (Bamidbar 1:8) learns the name as a reference to the fact that the tribe members gave their hearts to the study of Torah, which Hashem had given over to Bnei Yisrael. Yaakov also referred to Yisachar’s willingness to muster all their energy to carry the load of Torah leadership (Bereishit 49:15), in merit of which they deserved the great honor bestowed upon them.
Finally, Chazal inferred from the name of Yashuv in the context of its mention later in our sefer (Bamidbar 26:24) that Yisachar was praised for establishing courts already during the years in Egypt (Sifrei, ad loc.). This important, trailblazing step, which they took to ensure justice before the rest of the tribes and before they were commanded, was recognized with the honor of bringing korbanot before the rest, as well.
To summarize, we see that showing initiative, a spirit of volunteerism, acceptance of Torah leadership, and establishment of batei din, along with humility, were ingredients of Yisachar’s success. Let us all strive to be students of Yisachar.
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