Ask the Rov: What are the rules for creating a Yissachar-Zevulun partnership?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah
In Moshe Rabbeinu’s blessings to the shevatim, he said, “Rejoice, Zevulun, in your departure, and Yissachar, in your tents.” Rashi explains that these two shevatim formed a partnership — Zevulun would venture out into the sea to make money, and they would support Yissachar, who studied Torah.1
This arrangement is not a form of tzedaka but rather a bona fide partnership. As the Midrash explains, they shared their livelihood and also shared the reward for the Torah study.2
The Alter Rebbe rules that one who can’t learn full-time should learn as much as he can, and for the rest of the day, he should do business so he can support Torah scholars. In this way, it will be considered as if he learned the entire day, and the Torah study he enables is attributed to him.3 The Rebbe explains that each individual has his specific shlichus in the world, and Hashem ordained that one person should be involved in business and the other one be immersed in Torah study.4
Support earns shared merit specifically in the Torah study going forward, by enabling the study to happen. Conversely, the merit of past Torah study isn’t something that can be “sold.”5
While some poskim require a stipulation to form the partnership,6 others hold the support itself is sufficient, and so is implied from the above Alter Rebbe.7 Though some poskim actually formulated a written contract, it isn’t really necessary.8
To reap the deal’s full benefits, some poskim require the arrangement to include providing the Torah scholars with fifty percent of all profits or at least supporting the Torah scholar with his financial needs.9 But most poskim hold that partial support can still be considered a lower-ratio partnership.10 In any case, any form of support is a great mitzva, even if it doesn’t have the special advantage of the Yissachar-Zevulun partnership.
While some write that this support money is considered a true business partnership and cannot come off of maaser, others counter that it is nevertheless a form of tzedaka and may be counted as maaser if stipulated as such from the outset.11 Some restrict it to a maximum of half of one’s maaser money.12
Rashi notes that Zevulun is mentioned first in the posuk because they are the ones who enable the Torah study of Yissachar. The Rebbe explains that it is specifically Zevulun who facilitates the dira b’tachtonim. Moreover, one who causes others to do a mitzva is considered even greater in some ways than those who actually did it.13
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From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash