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    Two ways of saying the name – Vayyetzei

    Issachar IsacharOne of Jacob’s sons was called Issachar (Gen. 30:18), in Hebrew Yissachar. There is an alternative reading, Yissas’char.

    The problem is caused by the doubling of one of the consonants in the name.

    Since the Torah text has no vowels or indicative points we are not certain what to do with the double shin – or is it a double sin, or maybe a shin plus a sin? Can we ignore one of these letters altogether and leave it out of the reckoning?

    There are various guide rules which help the reader, but it is important to note that the verse itself gives a hint of what Issachar’s mother Leah had in mind.

    The birth of this son led her to feel specially grateful to God and to say, “God has given me my reward (s’chari)”. So Yissachar indicates, yesh sachar, “there is a reward”.

    In practice it is so difficult to pronounce a shin and a sin in succession, as would be the case if we said, Yish-sachar, so the shin has become absorbed in the sin and the name has a double sin.

    The Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi) sees theological significance in the words yesh sachar, which to him suggest the principle of sachar va’onesh, Divine reward and punishment.

    The question is what really is the question. Are we saying “Human deeds bring reward or punishment from On High”? Or “Do we take every reward as proof that the person has acted righteously and every suffering as evidence that the person has misbehaved”?

    If the second version is correct, this is the ancient problem of righteous people who suffer, yet their suffering can’t be evidence of sin, and of wicked people who prosper, which is unfair because it shows that crime does pay.

    Hence the ethical way of approaching the Biblical passage is to adopt the first version of the question as a warning, “Watch what you do, because you might incur Divine punishment”.

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