Zevulun shall settle by seashores. He shall be at the ship's harbor, and his last border will reach Zidon. (Bereishis, 49:13)

Zevulun shall settle by seashores... Zevulun was involved with business and provided food for the Tribe of Yissachar and they would toil in Torah. This is what Moshe said: 'Zevulun, rejoice in your going out and Yissachar in your tents' (Devarim, 33:18); Zevulun would go out to do business and Yissachar would toil in Torah in the tents. (Rashi, 49:30, sv.)

Yaakov blesses his son Zevulun to succeed in his business endeavors. Rashi adds that Zevulun would spend the much of his time working, in order to provide for his brother, Yissachar so that he could devote all his attention to learning Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu similarly blesses Zevulun in assuming this role, and even blesses the younger Zevulun before his older brother, because Zevulun enabled Yissachar to learn, unhindered by concerns of livelihood. The tradition of this partnership has been emulated by numerous people throughout history, with wealthy people supporting Torah scholars.

Many commentaries explain that the reward for a person who assumes the role of Zevulun is that in the Next World he will sit in the same section as Yissachar and merit to understand all the Torah on the same level.[1] Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky poses a strong question on this explanation: He understands that it is possible for the Zevulun figure to be taught the Torah when he ascends to the Next World. Yet he points out that Torah is only acquired through a life of toiling in Torah, including a person reviewing his learning numerous times. Indeed, Yissachar himself only merits all his knowledge through such intense toiling and review - how, then can Zevulun suddenly receive the same knowledge as Yissachar without having toiled in Torah to anything like the same degree?!

He begins his answer by bringing the Talmud that a child is taught all of the Torah in the womb and when he is born, an angel taps him above his lip and causes him to forget all the Torah.[2] This Talmud teaches that it is possible, in theory, for a person to know all the Torah without working for it, as is the case with the fetus. However, as it says in the Prophets, 'Man was created to toil'. Therefore, that Torah goes deep inside him and his job is to invest his energies into reacquiring all the Torah that he has forgotten.

Rabbi Kamenetsky explains, based on this idea, that everyone has an inherent connection to all of the Torah since he has already learned it in the womb, but toil is required to regain that Torah. The normal manifestation of this toil is through Torah learning itself. However, he suggests that there is another kind of toil which can also enable a person to relearn the Torah he learnt in the womb: That is if someone toils in something other than learning, in order to facilitate the Torah learning of someone else. With this, he returns to the question of how, in the Next World, Zevulun can merit to be taught all the Torah that Yissachar learned in this world. The answer is that, like everyone, Zevulun has an inherent connection to all the Torah that he learnt in the womb. He does not toil in Torah but he does toil in his work in order to enable Yissachar to learn Torah. Because his intent in his work is for the sake of Torah learning, his toiling fulfills the requirement of 'Man was created to toil' and he can assume his rightful place in the Next World learning Torah together with Yissachar.

Rabbi Kamenetsky's explanation teaches an important principle. A person can toil in any number of areas and for any number of reasons. For example, he may work hard in order to provide for his family and to support Torah learning and other important needs, or he can do the very same work for less altruistic reasons, such as for the ultimate goal of being wealthy - there is nothing necessarily wrong with having wealth but it is not meant to be an end in and of itself. The very same work can be viewed as excessive effort for transitory goals, or as a portion in Torah learning that can enable him to fulfill his obligation of toil and earn him a place in the Next World alongside Torah scholars.

It is important to end that the commentaries point out that there is, nonetheless, a difference between Yissachar and Zevulun that is demonstrated in the following story: Rabbi Aaron Kotler once met with a very big donor who supported many Torah institutions. The latter asked Rabbi Kotler that since Yissachar and Zevulun share in the merits of the Torah learned by Yissochar and sponsored by Zevulun, what is the difference between the two? Rabbi Kotler responded that regarding the rewards in the Next World he is indeed correct and they shall both reap the rewards of the Torah that was upheld by Zevulun, yet the difference lies here in This World. Those immersed in Torah study experience the highest levels of pleasures in this world, pleasures that are only possible by cleaving to Torah study directly. This reminds us that no matter what a person occupies most of his time with, the deepest connection to God he can create in this world is through Torah learning.

May each person merit to fulfill his obligation of toiling in the way most suited for him, and at the same time, merit to cleave to the Torah through his own learning, to the greatest degree possible.


1. See Emes LeYaakov, Parshas Vezos Habracha, p.542, footnote 7 for an outline of Acharonim who make this point, including the Chida, the Chofetz Chaim, and Rabbi Aharon Kotler.
2. Niddah, 30b.