The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes
This series will follow the sons of Yaakov from birth and trace their tribal legacy throughout Tanach. We will follow famous leaders and prophets of the different tribes, discovering the character traits and life patterns that characterize them and their descendants.
The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes: Lesson 1
THE LEGACY OF THE TWELVE TRIBES: Dear Students, I am very excited to have the opportunity to teach this class, my first for WebYeshiva. According to Chazal, Rosh Hashana marks the creation of the world. In the creation of any element, the first moments are critical. We are familiar with the concept of DNA, how one small cell contains all of the genetic material of an individual’s genetic makeup. So too we believe that Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the year, holds all of the ‘genetic material’ for the coming year. It is on this day that our year’s potential is determined, acting as the DNA for the coming year. Some people even refrain from sleeping, lest it foreshadow the coming of a ‘sleepy year.’ The basis of this tradition is the belief that what happens on Rosh Hashana is a microcosmic representation of what the coming year will bring. In Tanach, the first time a word or character appears is always critical to our understanding of its future significance. The same is true with an individual, and even more so concerning one of the tribes of Israel. Their first appearance on the scene and the circumstances surrounding their birth are critically important in understanding them as individuals and as leaders. Our story, therefore, begins in Breishit chapter 29, where the tribes’ birth is recounted. After this, we will begin to follow the tribes throughout their national journey in an attempt to map out a macrocosmic understanding of what becomes of the young children we meet in Breishit. We cannot possibly cover all 12 tribes in a 7 week course. Therefore we will start by analyzing the story of the tribes’ birth, gaining a sense of both the children and their mothers’ development. In the following weeks, we will enter the lives and trace the development of three specific tribes. That being said, I want to note that other tribes that will not be covered in depth this semester will find their way into our shiurim as well, since the destiny of brothers and cousins are unavoidably intertwined. Feel free to peruse the sheets, however there is no need to prepare for the first class before we meet. Do not worry about Hebrew source material—Everything will be explained in English during the actual class. For future sessions, I will let you know what chapters I would like you to review ahead of time. However, for this first meeting all you need to bring is a Tanach, an inquisitive mind and an open heart. Shabbat shalom! ~Yosefa  The total count becomes 13 when Yosef is split into Efraim and Menashe.
The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes: Lesson 2
LEVI: A STORY OF TRANSFORMATION: Dear Students, It was wonderful to have the oppurtunity to meet some of you this past week. We introduced our topic and discussed the naming of the tribes. We focused more on the mothers fo the tribes then we will in the future. I know many of you had questions. I would prefer you email me so that I can answer your questions via email because I want to try and leave time for questions regarding this week’s shiur at the end of this week’s class, instead of beginning class with questions from last week’s shiur. You need not prepare for this week’s shiur in any particular way, however, a review of the sources is always helpful. Until Wednesday… Yosefa
The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes: Lesson 3
THE TRIBE OF DAN: TORAH: Dear Students, For the next two weeks we will be studying the tribe of Dan. I have attached the source sheets that will take us through the next two classes to this email. Feel free to peruse and gain a sense of the upcoming shiurim. Next week there will be reading to do in preparation, but this week we will introduce the topic, following a similar style as was done with Levi. Until tomorrow, Yosefa
The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes: Lesson 4
THE TRIBE OF DAN: NEVI’IM: Dear students, This past class we discussed the character traits of Dan as they present themelves in Torah. We discussed Dan’s leadership qualities, as a secondary leader to Yehuda’s primary leadership, the tribe’s relationship with Yehuda, the sneaky quality Dan draws upon when necessary, Dan’s search for a home amongst the other tribes, and the theme of mixed lineage. Next week’s shiur will draw upon these themes as we track their influence over Dan in the stories about the tribe in Navi. As I mentioned at the end of class, we can not possibly cover all of Shimshon’s career in one class and in fact, Shimshon is only one section of next week’s shiur. Therefore, I ask you all to read the chapters relating to Shimshon (Shoftim chapters 13-16) very carefully, looking for the stories’ connection to the themes we discussed this week. We will spend a good portion of the class discussing the Shimshon narratives and I would like to hear YOUR thoughts on the stories and their overall placement in the Dan tapestry. If you have time, feel free to take a peek at the story about Dan’s conquest of Laish in Shoftim chapter 18. We will spend the larger portion of next week’s class learning that chapter inside and in depth. I have also uploaded introductory remarks to the book of Shoftim to give you a bit of a sense of the book. This was something I wrote a few weeks ago for a program I coordinate called Al Haperek which helps people study Tanach through guided question sheets sent to their email inbox each week. For more info on the program, see the Matan website: Al Haperek Wishing you all a Shabbat shalom and enjoyable learning! ~Yosefa
The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes: Lesson 5
CONCLUSIONS REGARDING DAN AND THE BEGINNINGS OF EFRAIM AND MENASHE: Shalom students, Next week we will complete our unit on Dan and begin our next unit on Efraim and Menashe which will most probably take us through the end of this short semester. I have attached here an updated source sheet for Dan and will send the Efraim sheets shortly before the shiur as we will only have a chance to look at these two children in Breishit which does not necessitate preparation.. Feel free to review the story of Micha’s idol and the conquest of Laish in chapters 17-18 of Shoftim. Consider them in light of what we have discussed so far. We will also be touching upon I Melachim 12 as the concluding story to our chapter on Dan. Shabbat shalom, Yosefa
The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes: Lesson 6
EPHRAIM AND MENASHE: Dear students, I have attached a chart to help us feel prepared for next class. As I mentioned last night, Ephraim and Menashe is a much more complex topic than Dan-a topic that still took 3 classes to cover. Unfortanely we only have 1.5 classes left for Ephraim and Menashe so we will not be able to see every related source. The class will be organized surrounding important concepts as opposed to going through every source which mentions them as individuals and as tribes. This will require basic familiarity with many sources. That being said, I have made a chart with all of the important sources, mapped out for you. This will enable you to review any of the relevant chapters before the next class and also help keep us organized as we learn together. I would suggest printing it out and having it in front of you for next class. We will also use it as a basis for comparison between the two tribes. I have also attached the source sheets for the next 2 classes. Shabbat shalom! Yosefa
The Legacy of the Twelve Tribes: Lesson 7
EFRAIM AS A METAPHOR; WHY TRIBES?: Dear students, I have attached a study sheet to help you learn the material we did not get to in last night’s shiur. This sheet covers the stories of Gidon and Yiftach, two judges from the tribe of Menashe. At some point in their careers they come into tense contact with the tribe of Efraim. Feel free to look over the materials in much depth! I have also summarized two articles for you which sort of put all of the different pieces together that we discussed last night. Next week we will discuss how Efraim, the leading tribe, eventually becomes the representative of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. We will end with a discussion of what the tribal system contributes to our national tapestry. Our final class will take place a week from Monday at 10pm as I will not be able to teach this coming Wednesday night. You will receive a reminder from the office early next week. Shabbat shalom and chodesh tov–feel free to be in touch with any questions,