Asher was the eighth son of Yaakov Avinu, and the second son of Zilpah, the handmaiden of Leah. He was born, according to the Midrash “Yalkut Shimoni” on the 20th of Shevat, and lived 123 years.
Upon his birth,
Leah said, “...It
is my good fortune! For women have called me fortunate! And she called his
name ‘Asher.’ ” (Bereshit 30:13) The Prayer “Ashrei,” that begins “Ashrei
Yoshevei Vaysecha” “Fortunate are those who dwell in Your house.” (Tehilim
84:1) reflects the meaning of the common “shoresh” or “root” of the word
“fortunate” and the name “Asher.”
In Parashat “Ve-Zot HaBerachah,” Moshe says of Asher,
“...May he be pleasing to his brothers...” Rashi explains this in two ways:
the first, that there was economic cooperation among the Tribes of Israel;
the Tribe of Asher provided oil to the other Tribes, while they provided
Asher with grain. The second is that the women of the Tribe of Asher were
exceptionally beautiful and virtuous, very fit to be wives of High Priests
The Tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali camped and marched together in the Wilderness (BaMidbar 2:25-31), and were called the “Camp of Dan,” that was the “Me’aseph lechol HaMachanot,” the “Camp that trailed behind and gathered in the stragglers from all the other Camps.” (BaMidbar 10:25) In so doing, they also served as the rear-guard of the Jewish People, having learned the bitter lesson of Amalek, who in a cowardly fashion had attacked the stragglers when the People of Israel had just crossed the “Yam Suf,” the Sea of Reeds. In their hatred of the Jewish People and its G-d, Amalek was willing to sacrifice itself, knowing full well that it could not defeat the Jewish People, which was fighting with HaShem on its side. It only wished to “cool down” the terrifying image that the People of Israel had cast upon the entire non-Jewish world at that time.
The inheritance of the Tribe of Asher lay in the western part of the western Galilee, and its border was on the Mediterranean. In the Book of “Yehoshua,” the area of the Tribal inheritance is described as containing 22 cities. But in the Book of “Shophtim,” we see that the Canaanite nations continued to reside in six of the largest cities that lay on the coast in the inheritance of Asher, whom they were unable to conquer. “But the Asheri dwelt among the Cana’ani, the inhabitants of the Land; for they did not drive them out.” (Shophtim 1:32)