Zevulun (ca. 1562 B.C.E. – ca. 1452 B.C.E.)

February 11, 2014

Click on Sons of Yaakov for a general introduction to the lives of these individuals who constituted the original Jewish People.

According to “Midrash Yalkut Shimoni” on Shemot, 162, Zevulun was born on the seventh of Tishrei, and lived one hundred ten years. Zevulun was the sixth son that Leah bore to Yaakov, and his tenth son overall.

It is almost pathetic to see how Leah continues to attempt with her last son to draw Yaakov closer to her. Leah phrased her feelings after bearing Zevulun with words beginning with the letter “Zayin:” “The Almighty hasendowed me (‘zevadani’) with a good endowment (‘zeved’); now my husband will make his permanent home (‘yizbeleni’) with me, for I have borne him six sons.” (Bereshit 30:20)

Yaakov, in his berachah to Zevulun (Bereshit 49:13), foresaw a time that the Tribe of Zevulun would be very active in seafaring commerce: “Zevulun shall settle by seashores. He shall be at the ship’s harbor, and his last border will reach Zidon.”

Moshe joins Zevulun with his brother Yissachar in his final words to the Tribes, foreseeing a partnership where one of the Tribes (Zevulun) devotes itself mainly to traveling the seas in pursuit of commerce, while supporting the Tribe of Yissachar, which would devote itself to the study of Torah; and the spiritual reward for the learning of Torah would be split between the two. “Of Zevulun he said, ‘Rejoice, O Zevulun, in your excursions, and Yissachar, in your tents… For by the riches of the sea they will be nourished, and by the treasures concealed in the sand.” (Devarim 33:18-19)

Rashi comments on Zevulun’s blessing: “…Moshe spoke of Zevulun before Yissachar (even though Yissachar was the elder) because the Torah of Yissachar came about because of the efforts of Zevulun.” (“Bereshit Rabbah” 99:9)

Rashi says that Zevulun will be so successful in business that he will have significant time as well to devote to Torah. He cites the Gemara Megilah 6a where we see that the “bounty of the sea” refers to the tuna fish and to the “chilazon” (an aquatic creature, not yet 100% exactly identified, that was the source of “techeilet,” the aquamarine dye that was used to color the threads of Tzitzit), and the “concealed treasures of the sand” refers to “white glass” that is found in the sand.

Rashi also cites Devorah’s praise of Zevulun as “Zevulun is a Tribe that was ready to risk its life,” (Shophtim 5:18), referring to the time that the Tribe of Zevulun (unlike some of the other Tribes, that were chastised by Devorah) valiantly volunteered to fight in the Battle against Yavin, King of Canaan.

The inheritance of the Tribe of Zevulun was adjacent to and north of the Tribe of Yissachar, with a coastline on the Mediterranean, that allowed it to engage in sea commerce.

The founder of the Tribe, Zevulun ben Yaakov, was buried in the city mentioned in his father’s “Berachah,” as his “final border,” Zidon.