Issachar and Kinnuyim
(too old to reply)
2009-07-29 06:12:41 UTC
X-No-archive: yes
***@brown.edu writes:

" Dov is Hebrew for "Bear." Secondly, the doublet Issachar-Dov, (or
Issachar-Ber, or sometimes even Issachar-Dov-Ber for good measure) has been
fairly popular, apparently because several famed rabbis or scholars down the
ages had that name (including notably a brother of the Ga'on of Vilna).
However, there is a slight anomaly involved in combining Issachar with Dov
and thus characterizing Issachar as a bear.

" The Bible does indeed associate some of Jacob's sons with specific
animals; see Jacob's deathbed "blessing" of his offspring in Genesis 49),
which characterizes Judah as a lion and Benjamin as a wolf. Genesis 49 is
thus the source of the common name-combinations Yehudah Aryeh (in Yiddish,
Yuda-Leib) and Binyamin-Z'ev. But Gen. 49:14 calls Issachar "hamor garem"
a "heavy-boned ass" (i.e. not a bear at all)! So I've always been
mystified at the association of Issachar with Dov or Ber and never managed to
track it down. Perhaps calling him a bear was felt to be more polite than
calling him an ass! "

I appreciate Dr. Wegner's elucidation. We have indeed discussed the Dov-Ber issue
many times on this site. When kinnuyim were introduced in Western Europe, they
were generally words (frequently animals) associated in the Torah with biblical
names. Most prominent, originally, was Yehuda (Judah) and its kinnuy Leon. These
kinnuyim are based mostly, as Dr. Wegner describes, on terms used by patriarch
Jacob in blessing his sons [Bereshit, 49] and also by Moses in his farewell
blessings to the 12 tribes [Devarim 33]. These kinnuyim were originally in the
local or contemporary language Spanish, French, Latin, German and eventually
Yiddish. It was only around 1760, that the animal kinnuy name was back-translated
into the Hebrew equivalent. Dr. Wegner's guess is absolutely right. The ass or the
donkey is a noble, valuable beast of burden in the Middle East. In German, Ass and
Donkey have the same name, Esel. which is something of a curseword in German, both
"slow" and "stupid." Accordingly Those who originally determined a kinnuy for
Issachar therefore chose another strong four-legged animal, the bear, Baer or Ber
in German, Ber in Yiddish. In Medieval heraldry, especially in Germanic countries,
the standing Bear had a special place of power and authority, only slightly
inferior to the roaring lion.

The most prominent early bearer of the Triple-barreled name was Issachar Dov Baer,
the Maggid of Mezerich and leader of the Hassidic Movement after the death of its
founder, the Ba'al Shem Tov, in 1760. One might say that this Dov Baer of Mezerich
had an advantage over the Dov Baer of Vilna (more properly known as Dov Baer
Ashers), mentioned by Dr. Wegner in that he was successor of the founder rather
than the contemporary, younger brother, of a great leader.

By that time, however, the kinnuy Baer for Issachar had been well established, and
it would be difficult to establish, as Dr. Wegner attempts, a specific rabbi as
the source for the name's popularity
Michael Bernet, New York
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S. A. Josovic
2009-08-02 23:21:56 UTC