Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Vayechi – A Guaranteed Return On Investment

The calendar year is coming to a close. Investment firms are reminding us to contribute to our IRA’s before year-end. Non-profits are sending emails to contribute now to gain our tax deductions. Everyone is looking to get the biggest bang for the buck. In our lives, and in our Parsha as well, the theme is getting our affairs in order to better secure the future.

Although I am not a financial advisor, I would like to share the best investment advice which the Torah reveals to us.

Yaakov gathers all his children together before he passed away and gives a specific bracha (blessing) to each of them. Upon careful scrutiny, however, some of those brachos seem not to be blessings at all. For the first three sons, it was more of an admonishment! Rav Yerucham Levovitz explains that Yaakov was actually giving his children the greatest gift: a deep, penetrating insight into the nature of their character. This prophetic insight would serve as a pivotal tool to help achieve their success in life.

The tribe of Yissachar, which Yaakov compares to a donkey carrying a heavy burden, is compared to one who dedicates himself to rigorous Torah study and who bears the responsibility – the burden — to understand and explain the Torah correctly to all of Bnei Yisroel. The tribe of Zevulun, symbolized by a ship setting sail on a voyage, represents people in the business world embarking on new business ventures. The relationship between the two is apparent, as Yaakov Avinu groups them together.

The Chofetz Chaim explains that Hashem — the source of all good and kindness — knew that it’s impossible for the people of theentire nation to solely dedicate themselves to the study of Torah all day. Some would need to work and earn an income! Yet, the Gemara Nedarim says, “If not for those who toil in Torah day and night, the heavens and earth would cease to exist.” Moreover, Rav Chaim Volozhin says the world only spins because of the words of Torah that are being learned. Therefore, Hashem made different time zones to ensure that even while it’s night in one part of the world, it is day somewhere else and people are awake learning Torah.

Still, this Torah existence cannot survive independently without support. Therefore, Hashem created the Yissachar-Zevulun partnership. Yissachar studies day and night and Zevulun is the businessman who generates the income. It’s a true partnership. Both are essential – Zevulun is the business partner of Yissachar. Further, the Shach quotes the Zohar which tells us this partnership is so binding that the special reward for studying Torah is shared equally between the two. Supporters of Torah learning receive the best in this world and the next!

The Sfas Emes adds that Zevulun should be truly excited in each new business venture, for he is guaranteed success because his partner Yissachar is studying in yeshiva. Reward in this world comes with business success; reward in the next world comes with the Torah learning he shares. It’s a great proposition!

After Yaakov blessed each tribe, the verse says,” Ish k’virchaso barech osum,” – he blessed each person according to his nature. Rashi tells us Yaakov gave an additional blessing to the effect that each tribe will have an intrinsic element and quality of all the other tribes. As such, Zevulun – those who work – also have an aspect of Yissachar and also need to dedicate time themselves to study. The Chofetz Chaim says further that everyone — even those who study all day — are also obligated to donate to help further Torah study.

So, as we look to make our year-end donations, let’s remember that the best investment — with a guaranteed return on investment — is Torah. The more shares one buys in a company, the more of a portion he has in that company AND the more dividends and revenue he will receive when the stock value increases. The same is true for our investment in support of Torah. The resulting continuation and spread of Torah learning will benefit us personally, the Jewish people as a whole, and even the rest of the world! What a payoff!


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