Kli Yakar Genesis: Vayechi
Fragmentation of a Merchant’s Mind
The Patriarch Jacob gives his sons prophetic and barely decipherable blessings (Genesis Chapter 49).
For his ninth son, fifth one from Leah, he states:
“Zevulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea, and he shall be a shore for ships, and his flank shall be upon Zidon.” Genesis 49:13
The Kli Yakar repeats the maxim that the Tribe of Zevulun was destined to become merchants, sailing to far off destinations to make a living. Furthermore, he states the famous partnership that existed between the Tribe of Zevulun and the Tribe of Yissachar. The Tribe of Yissachar became a bastion of Torah scholars, dedicating themselves exclusively to full-time study, enabled only by the generous support of Zevulun.
Jacob’s prophecy however contains a warning as well, according to the Kli Yakar. The verse has Zevulun in three distinct places. Zevulun shall live in one place (‘shore of the sea’), travel to a second place to conduct business (‘shore for ships’), and his merchandise will be in a third place (‘Zidon’ – commercial center of ancient near east). The Kli Yakar explains that having ones mind on three (or more) geographic locations fragments the mind, reduces performance and increases anxiety (I wonder what he would say about multi-tasking or our global village).
He thus claims that Yissachar has a better quality of life and piece of mind. Nonetheless, the reward of Zevulun is greater, hence their being placed ahead of Yissachar in the blessings.
May those merchants amongst us enjoy greater piece of mind and less fragmentation, whether mental or geographical and may those blessed with the portion of Yissachar appreciate the sacrifice.
To my brother Boaz (also the star of my fictional series) on the occasion of his 40th (!) birthday. May his fragmentations subside and the merchandise increase.