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The Importance of the Tribes.

[Based on the work ("Shivtei Yisrael") of Rabbi Fishel Mael.]

There were 12 sons of Jacob.  They gave rise to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jacob had 4 wives all of whom bore him sons.

Leah bore Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Yehudah (Genesis 29:31-35), Issachar and Zebulon  (Genesis 30:17-20).
Rachel bore Joseph  (Genesis 30:22-24) and Benjamin (Genesis 35:16-18).
Bilhah (maidservant of Rachel) bore Dan and Naphtali  (Genesis 30:10-13).
Zilpah (maidservant of Rachel) bore Gad and Asher (Genesis 30:5-8).
These are the twelves tribes of Israel  (Genesis 49:28).

The Sages said that the number of Tribes had to be twelve. The whole of creation was designed parallel to the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Midrash (Pesikta Rabata 4):
# Everything that God created, HE created by virtue of the twelve tribes. One finds 12 months in a year, 12 constellations in the sky, 12 hours in the day, 12 hours in the night,. The Holy One Blessed He said:
Not even what is on high and what is below did I not create except by virtue of the 12 tribes.... #

The number of Tribes is parallel to the primary powers of creation. There are 12 on the positive and 12 on the negative side.

The whole of Creation is dependent upon the existence of the 12 tribes. Each one parallels a fundamental primeval force.
In the Bible we find other numbers associated with  the Tribes and these too have cosmic significance.

The Malbim (Genesis 49:4) explains that even though the Tribe of Joseph became two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, the quorum was kept at 12 in the Bible by counting Joseph as only one tribe or by leaving out the Tribe of Levi. In the Book of Ezekiel (ch. 48) we find the number of tribes given as 13.  The extra one will be applicable in the Messianic Era.

In the same way that each tribe was unique in itself and differentiated from the other tribes by its name, its emblem, its particular stone on the Breast Plate, and by the specific month attributed to it, so too did each tribe have its individual approach to worshipping the Almighty.  There were occasions when the Tribes all performed the same actions but differed in their intentions. At other times we find differences in the formulations and manner of keeping the commandments.

Each Tribe inherited its own territory in the Land of Israel. The territorial Tribal apportionments had their own characteristics and reflect those of the Tribes who received them.

Each Tribe gave rise to Prophets and Judges except, according to one opinion, for the Tribe of Simeon.

Each Tribe has its own angel.

Jerusalem is destined to be redeemed only by virtue of the tribes (Midrash Schocher Tov, Psalms 122).
Each Tribe has its own role to play in the future Redemption (Sfat Emet on Chanucah 632).

For More on this Subject:
To see more articles based on the work of Rabbi Fishel Mael go to:

To see more Brit-Am articles concerning Rabbinicial Sources and the Tribes of Israel, go to:

To see more Brit-Am articles concerning the Tribes of Israel in general, go to:

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