by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"Zevulun will settle by the seashore... Yissocher is a bony
donkey, lying between the borders." [49:13-14]
Rashi explains that Zevulun will live near shipping ports, engaging
in business and providing sustenance to Yissocher - for the latter
will be studying Torah. "This is what Moshe said, 'Zevulun,
be happy as you go out, and Yissocher, in your tents.' [Dev. 33:18]
Zevulun goes out and does business, while Yissocher studies Torah
in the tents."
What sort of study is involved? Rashi says, "'A bony donkey'
- A donkey with prominent bones. He carries the yoke of Torah
like a strong donkey which is carrying a heavy load."
The yoke of Torah is just that - a heavy responsibility and obligation.
Those who truly study it not merely full-time, but "day and
night," are recognized by the Torah as deserving of our support.
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Kagan, explains that HaShem created
the world knowing that it was impossible for the entire nation
to be engaged only in Torah study, and that it would also be necessary
to engage in "the ways of the world." Therefore, when
dividing the land of Israel among the tribes, He suggested to
us the necessary partnership between Yissocher and Zevulun.
Each one fills a unique and necessary purpose: Yissocher loved
Torah study, so much so that the tribe produced 200 heads of the
Sanhedrin, the nation of Israel's Supreme Court, and they
taught Torah to all of Israel. Zevulun was heavily involved with
business, so they could not dedicate themselves to Torah in this
fashion - but they supported and sustained their brothers in the
tribe of Yissocher, giving them whatever they needed.
In Jewish thought, we know that our primary purpose is the pursuit
of our spirituality and the study of Torah. But one person cannot
do everything alone. Yissocher and Zevulun _together_ are considered
"the pillars of the world." And this even has ramifications
within Jewish law: the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish
law, says [Yoreh Deah 246] that "one who does not
know how to learn himself, or is very involved with business and
finds it difficult to learn, is obligated to support those who
study Torah. And it will be considered for him as if he studied
Imagine! If someone is involved in business, but helps support
Torah study, it is "considered for him as if he studied Torah
himself!" By law!
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis,
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.