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The Three Major Divisions of Israelite Tribes

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

The Three Major Divisions of Israelite Tribes and their Fundamental Traits.

The responsibility for what is written below is ours.  The views presented are not our own (unless otherwise indicated) but those of the sources.
 Fishel Mael presented (and usually explained)  these sources. We are giving them over to our readers as we understand them. 
Our presentation may not in every case be an exact reflection of  the views of Rabbi Fishel Mael.
In some few cases our own understanding of  the sources he quotes from may be slightly different.
If anyone disagrees with what is written below and wishes to contest or criticize it they should direct their attention to us first of all.
One of the works that Rabbi Mael appears to use extensively in this chapter is "Takanat HaShavim" by Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Hillel(?).

We have introduced a few Hebrew terms from Jewish Religious Philosophy.
Do not be put off by this. Consider them generic names for psychological principles.

Division of the Tribes into Three Groups.
The 12 Tribes may be divided into three:  (1) The Children of Leah and (2) the Children of Rachel, and (3) the Children of the Maidservants (Bilha and Zilpah).

The Children of Leah:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon.

The Children of Rachel:
Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), Benjamin.

Children of the Maidservants:
From Bilha: Dan and Naphtali.
From Zilpah: Gad and Asher.

These Three Divisions parallel Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Abraham (Chesed -Lovingkindness) is paralleled on the negative side by Ishmael who is given over to sexual lust.
The Children of Leah also have this attribute in its positive and negative aspects.

Isaac (Gevurah - Heroism, Assertiveness) paralleled on the negative side by Esau (Edom) who is linked with anger, jealousy, pride, and murderous attributes, as well as with idolatry.
The Children of Rachel also have this attribute in its positive and negative aspects.

Jacob (Tiferet -  Striving for Glorious Perfection, Truth, also associated with Happiness, and Mercy) encompasses the attributes of Abraham and Isaac together.
The Children of the Maidservants also have this attribute.
[Brit-Am Comment:
It may be said that in one sense they are more complete than the others.
On the other hand they lack the inner drive to be exceptional in either the positive or negative sense. They are less liable to degenerate as much as the others but neither will they reach the same heights.]
The Children of Leah are characterized by Lovingkindness and its offshoots such as love and desire and on the negative side a tendency to sexual transgression.

The Children of  Rachel (Bnei Rachel: Benjamin and Joseph) are characterized by Gevurah - Heroism, Assertiveness, Fear of Heaven,  Respect.
On the negative side,  less sex but more anger, murder; a tendency to idolatry.  Anger and pride lead  to idolatry.
The Descendants of  Rachel (Benjamin and Joseph) have a tendency to be sexually correct but have a murderous inclination.
[Brit-Am Comment: This may sound strange to us but think about it. The French (Reuben i.e. Leah) are known more for being romantic than violent. The British (Ephraim) may be sexually loose and gentlemanly rather than violent. Nevertheless, internationally they are known for the violence of their football fans rather than sexual desires. Also all Israelite Groups are intermixed both amongst each other and with other peoples. We distinguish Tribal elements only in the general sense.]
The Children of Leah (Bnei Leah):
Problem of Lust: Reuben and Bilhah, the concubine of his father (Genesis 35:22); Er and Onan the sons of Judah who wasted their seed upon the ground (Genesis 25:5-10); Zimri and the death of 24,000 from the Tribe of Simeon due to fornication with the Midianite women (Numbers 25:6-15) ; David and Bat-Sheva (2 Samuel 11).
Thy are less inclined to idolatry.
The Children of Leah hate the actions of Esau that are the opposite of their own inclinations. They are not the opponents of Esau like Joseph is. In order to be the adversary it is necessary to have coped with the same temptations.
That is why it is Joseph who will eventually overcome Esau (Obadiah 1:20).

Bnei Rachel have the qualities of  Yirah (fear, respect), and Gevurah (heroism, assertiveness, overcoming).

The Children of the Maidservants [Bilhah, handmaiden of Rachel) and of Zilpah, handmaiden of Leah, comprise a  category in their own right.
They have the quality of Tiferet (Glory?) that combines Truth and Happiness.  They are more balanced.  They are marked by contentment and inner happiness.
They have Respectability and self-respect but are less liable to go against whatsoever consensus they find themselves in.
The negative side is a tendency to an exaggerated sense of honor and pride tending to idolatry.

The elder Children of Leah, Reuben, and Simeon were encamped in the south, together with Gad (from the maidservant of Leah, Zilpah).
The Children of Leah had the quality of Chesed (Lovingkindness) pertaining to the south wind of desire and development.
Gad was exceptional. Gad needed to be close to Reuben to moderate him.

The Children of the Maidservants, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, had the quality of Tiferet (Strive for Glory, Truth) and were in the north. The north wind pertains to gold, of comfort, and serenity.
The north is also associated with idolatry.

The six remaining tribes were in the center.
The youngers sons of Leah, Yehudah, Issachar, Zebulon were encamped in the east.  These younger sons had received a more moderate measure of the qualities of Leah when compared to their brothers.
The three descendants of Rachel, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, were in the west.  The Children of Rachel also possessed a relative moderating quality. They had a tendency to anger and murder. They inclined towards the north. They also had the qualities of lust and loss of control that they were liable to channel in homicidal directions. They were however relatively clean of idolatry and foreign inclinations.

The inheritance of the Tribes in the Land of Israel reflected their encampments in the Wilderness.

Megaleh Amukot (Paraphrased): The Divine Presence is in the west.  This is connected to 12 different possible permutations of the Divine Name, one for each of the Tribes of Israel.

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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