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Huff, Puff and Stuff

Huff, Puff and Stuff

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Remember the story? Something about an evil wolf in hot pursuit of three animals of a highly non-kosher variety. In the end, their security depends upon the stability of their homes. Two houses topple in the face of the predator's powerful puffs. Only the third home, made of the right stuff, endures.

In the Torah portion of Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3), Leah, the wife of Jacob, delivers her sixth child. Leah is ecstatic; having given birth to as many children as all of Jacob's other wives combined, she is confident that the bulk of her husband's attention will now be showered upon her. She names the child Zebulun, proclaiming, "Now my husband will make his permanent home (zebul) with me" (ibid. 30:20).

On the surface, there is a problem. Leah proposes that Jacob's permanent home be established on the basis of the birth of Zebulun, but the personalities of Jacob and Zebulun are inherently disparate. Jacob is synonymous with Torah study. According to the Kabbalists, the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are equated with the three "pillars" upon which the world is supported — Torah study, prayer and charity — Jacob constituting the pillar of Torah. Zebulun, on the other hand, is by nature a businessman. "Zebulun shall dwell by seashores," the Torah tells us; "engaged in commerce," Rashi explains (ibid., 49:13).

If we listen closely, the Torah is telling us something. In a Divinely ordered universe, where some things refuse to rhyme but everything has a reason, this symbolic linkage of Torah and business comes with a valuable lesson.

A Jewish home built exclusively on Torah runs the risk of coming down in a puff. Life is not lived in a book and a home is not constructed from paper. The Torah is meant to serve as a manual for real living in an often less than real world. To properly corroborate and actualize its truths, as well as challenge and realize the spirit of the Jew, the Torah must be experienced in the context of worldly struggle.

So the worldly businessman who makes it his business to conduct his affairs in accordance with the will of G‑d is, in many respects, ahead of the isolated scholar who sits over his books oblivious to his surroundings. Our businessman has shown that he will not allow the ways of the world to come in the way of his relationship with G‑d. Were the world to sneak up on our sheltered scholar, we could not be certain of the outcome.

Jacob knew this first hand, having "prospered exceedingly" both spiritually and materially while hard at material work over a twenty-year period in the employ of his uncle Laban.

Therein lies the eternal lesson of the "permanent home" that Zebulun presents to Jacob: resist the temptation to live on an island; instead, establish yourself on the mainland. In business, do not fear affluence, as long as you're out there to influence rather than be influenced. This way, your home will be impervious to the puff of the big bad wolf.

Dovi Scheiner is the editor of Kosher Spirit magazine, a publication affiliated with the OK Kosher Certification.
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Anonymous London, UK November 9, 2010

This is good Hi, just wanted to say i appreciated what this is saying. Our relationship with G-d should be LIVED OUT in our conduct amongst people. Reply

Eric S. Kingston North Hollywood, CA April 4, 2006

Be the bridge between Heaven and Earth
Understand the Torah with Goodness and Worth
Be a scholar but also know
Deeds not done cannot sown

So trust and G-d and bind His Ways
Through your daily dealings of your day
And if your roots are deep within the ground
No wind will blow your structure down! Reply

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