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Diverse Blessings and the Blessing of Diversity

09/27/2023 11:30:12 AM


In the final portion of the Torah, V'zot Habrachah, we find ourselves at a poignant moment. Moses, the revered leader of the Israelites, stands on the threshold of eternity. The Children of Israel stand before him, aware of the impending loss they will soon face. Mourning, reflection, and transition are at the forefront at this solemn moment, and if we look closely, we might see a little more...

Moses, in his genuine affection for the Israelites, delivers blessings to each tribe (aside from Simeon’s, perhaps to keep the number at a neat 12). Each is simple and sincere, as if Moses is saying, "I don't need elaborate speeches to express my love for you." He touches briefly on the strengths and weaknesses of each tribe, taking the time to bestow a unique blessing on each. In this individualized attention, we see the profound bond between Moses and the Israelites; he acknowledges that each tribe is unique, but he loves them for who they are and wishes great things for them after he is gone. Since each one tribe is a little different, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all blessing!

A personal favorite is this little snippet: And of Zebulun, he said: “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, and Issachar, in your tents.” A bit perplexing and cryptic, perhaps, but there is often profound wisdom to be found within simplicity…

How often do we “rejoice” in our going forth? There are travel arrangements to be made, insurance to be procured, perhaps even vaccinations that are required, a visa, a new suitcase, a travel toothbrush, a theft-resistant travel bag, etc. And that is for 21st-century travel! Moses, more than anyone, knew the inconveniences that come with going forth, but this did not stop him from encouraging the tribe of Zebulun to rejoice in their travels, to celebrate movement and exploration. This might be a simple nod to Zebulun's history as a seafaring tribe, but the call to “rejoice” is a strong one, a reminder to embrace life's journeys and transitions. It reminds us that there is value in venturing into the unknown, in exploring new horizons, and in facing change with an open heart.

Issachar’s tribe, on the other hand, is told to find joy "in [their] tents." Clearly, some are not meant for the road or for the sea, and Moses seems to encourage them to lean in and enjoy their more stationary lifestyle. They may find fulfillment in the familiar and the comfortable, and that’s okay too. We have all felt the meaning in appreciating the peace and joy in the everyday aspects of life – our families, our traditions, our ability to bring friends and loved ones together under one roof. Issachar’s blessing recognizes that happiness need not always be sought in distant places or grand adventures; it can be cultivated right where we are.

Together, the blessings of Zebulun and Issachar encourage us to strike a balance between the thrill of exploration and the solace of stability. They remind us that life is a journey with different seasons, and each of these seasons has its unique joys. Whether we are "going forth" into uncharted territories or finding contentment "in our tents," there is a place for happiness in every facet of our lives.

On some level, this one verse also highlights the beauty of diversity among individuals and tribes. It acknowledges that we are not all the same, and our paths to happiness may vary. Some of us are wanderers, seekers of new experiences, while others find comfort in the familiar routines of home and family. Most of us, probably, are a bit of both. In these short and simple blessings bestowed upon Zebulun and Issachar, Moses underscores not only the meaning in venturing out and seeking solace within, but the valuable lesson of honoring and respecting our different personalities and needs, encouraging us all to find joy in our individual and collective journeys.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rebecca Abbate

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784