Parshas Bamidbar

Who Supported Whom?!

“The tribe of Zevulun, and the leader of the sons of Zevulun is Eliav the son of Cheilon.” (Bamidbar 2:7)

I heard the following two stories directly from the subjects involved:

After Reuven became engaged, his father offered to support him in kollel for 5 years. That meant that Reuven would not have to worry about earning a living for 5 years. During that time, he would be able to devote himself to learning Torah fulltime, while his father supported him. This occurred at a time when the idea of learning in kollel was not yet commonplace. After making this commitment, Reuven’s father suffered a massive heart attack. Baruch Hashem, he recovered. He was able to keep his commitment and he supported his son’s Torah learning for 5 years. Soon after those 5 years, Reuven’s father suffered another massive heart attack from which he did not recover. During the shiva period of mourning, a distinguished rabbi consoled Reuven, telling him that the timing of his father’s two heart attacks was not coincidental. His father had probably gained an extra 5 years of life in the merit of the 5 years that he had supported his son’s Torah learning.

Shimon was supported by his wealthy father, enabling him to learn Torah for many years. This also took place before the idea of learning in kollel was widespread. After many years, Shimon was offered a job in his yeshiva, as a mashgiach ruchani. He thanked his father for all his help and told him that he no longer needed his financial support. Immediately afterwards, there was a fire in his father’s factory and his father lost much of his wealth. Apparently, Hashem had given his father the extra money to be able to support his Torah learning.

Who really supported whom?! Who really helped whom?!

After leaving Egypt, Bnei Yisroel traveled through the desert. Each time that they set-up camp in the desert, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was set up, encircled by 3 shevatim (tribes) on each of the 4 sides. The Ba’al HaTurim points out an anomaly. When the Torah lists the third shevet that camped on each side, it writes the letter “vav”, “and”. This shows that this shevat and that shevat camped on a particular side of the Mishkan. However, the Torah does NOT place the letter “vav” before recording the tribe of Zevulun. Why not? The Ba’al HaTurim quotes Midrash Tanchuma who explains that the tribe of Zevulun worked in business and helped to sustain the tribe of Yissachar. Since the tribe of Yissachar did not have to worry about earning a living, they were free to devote all their time to learning Torah. Thus, the Torah did not want to write the tribe of Yissachar “and” the tribe of Zevulun, which would seem to infer that the tribe of Zevulun was secondary to the tribe of Yissachar. The Torah wanted to make it seem as if they were all one shevet. The Torah wanted to give the message that they both received EQUAL reward. Those who support Torah learning receive an EQUAL reward as those who learn Torah. Rabbi Yissocher Frand wrote, “Yissachar and Zevulun are partners, inseparable both in this world and the next. Death did not end the relationship between Yissachar and Zevulun – Zevulun enjoys the same reward in Olam Habah as Yissachar does.” (Rabbi Frand on the Parashah 2) What a powerful message! This is relevant in our times as well. There are many people who support others, enabling them to learn Torah the entire day. The supporters of Torah have an equal share of the great reward for learning Torah, as do those who learn it!

We see a similar message in the blessings that our forefather Yaakov gave to his sons before his death.  The Torah lists the order of the blessings. The sons of Yaakov were listed in the order of their births. The only exception was that Zevulun, although younger, was mentioned ahead of his brother Yissachar.  Why? Chizkuni (Beraishis 49:13) says one explanation is that Yaakov foresaw that in the future it would be thanks to the financial support of shevet Zevulun, that the shevet of Yissachar could devote themselves to intensive Torah study.

What was Zevulun’s occupation? Sforno (and others) says that they were merchants who traveled the seas to make a living (Beraishis 49:13).

Alshich (Devarim 33:18) says, generally merchants who traveled on the seas were unhappy. They didn’t know if they would be successful and make a profit or if they would lose money.  They feared for their safety in the stormy seas, and they feared pirates. They were unable to feel relaxed until they returned home after successfully making a profit. The merchants of Zevulun were different. As they traveled the seas, they felt happy and confident that they would be successful, in the merit of their “partners”, the people from shevet Yissachar, who were learning Torah. In fact, the merchants of Zevulun were so successful in business that they were able to influence peoples of other nations to recognize the greatness of Hashem.

Sforno says that shevet Zevulun had choice wares to sell that were not found among the other nations. Rashi (Devarim 33:19) says that through shevet Zevulun’s trading, merchants of other nations came to Eretz Yisroel. Once they were already in the land of Israel, they went to Jerusalem to find out more about the G-d of the Jews. When the merchants saw all the Jewish People serving one G-d and eating kosher food, they were so impressed that they become true converts to Judaism. All this was due to Zevulun’s support for Yissachar’s Torah learning.

As the holiday of Shavuos, the day that we received the Torah, approaches,

we should remember two things. Learning Torah is so precious!

One should learn as much Torah as he is capable of. The reward for that is infinite!

Supporting others’ Torah learning, is also very precious!

In fact, in Olam Haba, one will know all the Torah learning that his partner had learned.

Furthermore, if one helps support the Torah learning of others, he will be reward handsomely.