In the Torah portion of Ki Tavo
we learn about (Deut. 27:11 – 26
) the blessings and curses that were uttered on the mountains of Gerizim and Eival. Six tribes stood on Mount Gerizim, and six on Mount Eival. When uttering the blessings, the Levites faced Mount Gerizim, and when uttering the curses, they faced Mount Eival. The six tribes who stood on Mount Gerizim were Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yissachar, Yoseph, and Benyamin while Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Dan, and Naftali stood on Mount Eival.
There are several explanations as to why the tribes were divided in this way:
Sons of the Handmaidens
Rabeinu Bachaye and the Chizkuni explain that the tribes who came from the handmaidens (Bilha and Zilpa) were chosen to stand on the mountain of curses as they were of less esteemed lineage. Since six tribes were needed for each mountain and there were only four tribes from the handmaidens, the oldest and youngest tribes who were descendants of Leah were added– Reuven as the oldest and Zevulun as the youngest.
In addition, since there was a suspicion that Reuven had committed adultery with Bilha, G-d wanted to clear his name publicly. It would be inconceivable for G-d to have a tribe descended from a person who sinned with his father’s wife answer “Amen” publicly to the curse uttered against one who commits that sin. (“Cursed be he who lies with his father’s wife, for he has uncovered his father’s shame (Deut 27:20.”) In fact, according to the Midrash (cited in Tzror HaMor), up until this point, the stone of Reuven on the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol was dim because he was suspected of the above-mentioned sin. After this event, Reuven’s name was cleared, and his stone began shining.
Support with Torah
The Chida (in Tzror HaMor
) adds that Moshe added the tribes of Reuven and Zevulun to the four tribes who descended from the handmaidens in order to strengthen them spiritually with tribes who excelled in Torah. We see that Reuven excelled in Torah from a verse in Divrei HaYamim (I 5:6) where it says, “Be’erah, his son,… was the prince of the Reubenites.” The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Nach 516) says that Be’erah, the prince of Reuven, was like a wellspring of Torah. The tribe of Zevulun had the merit of Torah because they supported the tribe of Yissachar in their Torah study. Moshe placed Reuven next to Gad and Asher to support them with his Torah, and Zevulun next to Dan and Naftali to support them with his Torah.
Kingship, Torah, Sanctuaries, and Excessive Judgments
The Tzror HaMor also says that the six tribes who were on Mount Gerizim (the mountain of blessing) were each there for certain reasons.
Yehudah was considered the king of the tribes.
Yissachar was the prince of Torah.
Yosef had the Mishkan built in his section of land (Shilo).
Binyamin had the Beit HaMikdash built in his territory.
Shimon and Levi were involved in killing the people of Shechem. Because they were associated with severe judgment, they could not be on the mountain of curses as that would cause an excessive amount of Divine judgment.
In addition, Moshe was not planning to bless Shimon before he passed away (in Parshat Vezot Habracha). As such he didn’t want to be overly harsh with him at this point as well.
The Fourth Curse
The fourth curse was “Cursed be he who misguides a blind person on the way.” The “blind person” refers to one who is unaware of something while “one who misguides him” refers to the person who gives him bad advice (Rashi). The Malbim adds that this can also refer to one who flatters others instead of reprimanding them for their wrongdoings.
Here is a vignette about giving good advice from Rabbi Eliyahu Papu, author of the Peleh Yo’etz:
Follow the Path of Light
“If someone comes to you for advice, tell him what you believe to be G-d’s will. Do not advise him to go against the will of G-d even if you sense that this is what he wants. Instead, instruct him to go in the true path–to nullify his will and fulfill G-d’s will.
“For example, if he seeks advice on how he can get out of repaying a loan, tell him, ‘Brother, don’t do this. This is not the path of light. Even if you will not be prosecuted in an earthly court, you will be unable to escape the heavenly court.’ Speak such words to him until you elevate him from the path of death to the path of life (Ya’alzu Chassidim by Rabbi Eliezer Papu, author the Peleh Yo’etz, ot 130).
Seeking Counsel – Rav Ashi
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 7a
) says that when Rav Ashi was asked a difficult question in the laws of treifut (whether an animal had a wound which would render it nonkosher), he would gather all of the butchers of his town and ask their opinion on the matter. (These butchers were also shochtim, ritual slaughterers, who knew these laws.) Rav Ashi explained that by consulting with others, he was also sharing the responsibility in case a wrong ruling was given. In his words, “in order that only a splinter from a beam reach us” (in terms of the level of responsibility).
Those Who Are Not Rav Ashi
The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out (Igrot Kodesh vol. 13, pg. 375) that Rav Ashi did this despite the fact that he was the Rosh Yeshivah, the author of the Babylonian Talmud, and a wealthy man (with vast experience). If even he sought advice, how much more so a person who is not on the level of Rav Ashi should consult with others when faced with a difficult question. The others need not be “the butchers of the city” (i.e., people of a lower stature), but can be his colleagues.
Selling Land in Israel – Consult with Three Friends
Someone asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe about selling his property in Israel to pay for his daughter’s wedding expenses. The Rebbe replied that, in general, our sages did not approve of selling land in Israel but that an exception is made for wedding expenses. Even so, the person should retain some of his properties. As far as the travel expenses, the Rebbe indicated that it may not be worthwhile to sell for this purpose (as it may be wiser for some people to miss the wedding).
In any case, the Rebbe advised that the questioner should seek the counsel of three friends who should consider the details of the case and that G-d Almighty would give them the wisdom to give him proper advice (Igrot Kodesh 17 pg. 42).
Three Friends – the Power of the Community
On many occasions the Lubavitcher Rebbe told people to consult three friends regarding their questions. He would say that the ruling of three Jewish people had the strength of a community, thus adding weight and merit to their decision (ibid, page 166 and vol. 3 pg. 245). The Rebbe was echoing the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe who wrote (Igrot Kodesh Rashab 3:194) that he had a tradition that the ruling of three people has great power. The Rebbe Rashab said that he believed the tradition came from the Baal Shem Tov. It is also based on the verse in Mishlei (11:14) תְשׁוּעָ֗ה בְּרֹב יוֹעֵץ – “Salvation comes from taking much counsel.”
Here are some examples of the types of questions the Rebbe said this for:
- When someone asked about visiting the countries behind the Iron Curtain (in 1968) [ibid].
- To someone who was trying to figure out which career path to take (Igrot Kodesh 11:43).
- To someone who was trying to figure out in which neighborhood he should live (ibid pg. 413).
- To someone who had concerns regarding his daughter beginning to date for shidduchim (Igrot Kodesh 12:174).
- To an educator who wasn’t sure how much of his time he should spend in independent Torah study (18:142).
A Mashpia, a Spiritual Guide
On a different occasion the Rebbe mentioned that one of the three friends should be his mashpi’a (spiritual mentor) [Igrot Kodesh 11: 247].
Study the Torah of the Rebbe
On one occasion when it seems that certain Chassidim wanted to know what the Previous Rebbe’s opinion might be about a certain issue (this occurred after the Previous Rebbe had passed away), the Rebbe advised that those who had the question should study the Chassidic teachings of the Previous Rebbe, recite the chapter of Tehillim which corresponded to his age, and then discuss the matter between themselves. The idea that Chassidim can figure out their Rebbe’s opinion when they are unable to ask him is based on a story with the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek. He once sent a chassid of his by the name of Reb Ahron Belinitzer to represent him regarding certain communal affairs to the Russian government in St. Petersburg. The Tzemach Tzedek told him that if he ever wasn’t sure about what his (the Tzemach Tzedek’s opinion) was, he should think deeply about it and that G-d would assist him in coming to the correct decision. This seems to have worked (Sefer HaToldot Maharash, pg. 64).
May We Always Seek and Receive Good Counsel!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!