Parashat Ki Tavo (When you come) Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22
Last year during Parashat Ki Tavo I wrote,
“In this week’s Torah portion, Moses foretells Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land and an important ritual which the Children of Israel will go through. This ritual involved the 12 tribes standing on two mountains: Mount Grizim and Mount Ehval. Mount Grizim is associated with Blessing, while Mount Ehval is connected to the Curse. What is interesting is why Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Issachar, Yosef and Binyamin are commanded to stand on Mount Grizim; while Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naftali are ordered to Mount Ehval. The first six tribes mentioned in this passage all came from either Leah or Rachel. These two women were part of Abraham’s family. Abraham is associated with Blessing. All the other tribes, except Reuven, came from either Bilhah or Zilpah. These two were maidservants and therefore associated with the Curse. Why was this? The answer is because sin and the curse go together. Where is the idea of sin found within the text? One needs to remember that the firstborn of Jacob was Reuven. He was not listed with the other brothers who came from the Matriarchs Leah and Rachel. Why was Rueven left out? The answer is found in the book of Genesis. “And it came about when Israel (Jacob) was dwelling in that Land and Reuven went and laid with Bilhah the concubine of his father and Israel heard.” Genesis 35:22
This sinful act brought a curse upon Rueven as he lost his right as the firstborn and it was given to the sons of Yosef (See 1 Chronicles 5:1).
Sometime after writing this, I was speaking with some friends and the wife kindly pointed out an error in one of my statements. While I was right in asserting that all those who were on Mount Grizim were either from Leah or Rachel, I was incorrect in stating that in regard to Mout Ehval, all those who were called to stand there, except for Reuven, were from either Bilhah or Zilphah. For Zebulun, was also from Leah. The question which must be pondered is why was Zebulun also commanded to stand on the mountain which relates to the curse? Perhaps the answer is found in Leah’s comment after Zebulun was born.
“And Leah said, ‘G-d has endowed me a good endowment; this time my husband will live with me / extol me for I have born him six sons and she called his name Zebulun” Genesis 30:20
Leah recognized that it was HaShem that had provided to her the six sons; however instead of simply being thankful for her family, she hoped that these sons would cause Jacob to live permanently with her, rather than also with her sister Rachel. The point is that she saw her situation as in a competition with her sister and desired to be exalted above Rachel. Whenever we strive to exalt ourselves over others we will bring upon ourselves the judgment of G-d. This lesson seems to be confirmed by the next verse, which informs the reader that Leah gave birth to a daughter and she was called Dinah. The name Dinah relates to the judgment of HaShem.
The name Zebulun is derived from the Hebrew word which means, “to dwell with one in a permanent manner” or “to be extolled.” In this context, these thoughts lead to the displeasure of G-d or Him bringing a curse upon the one who holds such thoughts. This is one possible explanation for why Zebulun was included with those who are listed on Mount Ehval.
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