Vaeschanan – More Than Just a Yissacher and Zevulun Partnership

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As the gabbai calls up the first Aliyah to be read from the Torah, the Artscroll Siddur notes: “Addressing the congregation, the gabbai calls upon them to show honor to G-D by giving honor to His Word – The Torah – which is about to be read. The congregation responds with a blessing to all who are called to the Torah and who are loyal to it” (see The Complete Artscoll Siddur page 439, 440). The “blessing” is actually a pasuk found in this week’s Torah portion of Vaeschanan, which states: “You who cling to Hashem, your G-D, you are alive today” (Devarim 4:4).

There is a fascinating explanation of this pasuk in the gemara, Kesubos 111b. The gemara says: “§ Rabbi Elazar said: The common, uneducated people will not come alive in the future, as it is stated: “The dead live not” (Isaiah 26:14). In other words, those who were already considered dead in their lifetimes will not come back to life afterward either. This idea is also taught in a baraita“The dead live not”; one might have thought that this is referring to everyone, i.e., none of the dead will live again. Therefore, the verse states: “The shades [refa’im] rise not” (Isaiah 26:14). This teaches that the verse is speaking of one who weakens [merapeh] himself from matters of Torah. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to Rabbi Elazar: Their master, i.e. God, is not pleased that you say this of ordinary Jews. Rather, that verse is written about one who weakens himself and succumbs to idol worship. Those who commit this great sin do not merit to be resurrected in the future. Rabbi Elazar said to him: I teach it from a different verse, as it is written: “For Your dew is as the dew of light, and the earth shall bring to life the shades” (Isaiah 26:19). Rabbi Elazar explains: Anyone who uses the light of Torah, which is called the dew of light, the light of Torah will revive him; and anyone who does not use the light of Torah, the light of Torah will not revive him. Since Rabbi Elazar saw that Rabbi Yoḥanan was grieved over the distress of common, uneducated people, he said to him: My teacher, I have found for them a remedy from the Torah so that they will merit life in the World-to-Come, as it states: “But You who cleave to the Lord your God, are alive every one of you this day” (Deuteronomy 4:4). But is it possible to cleave to the Divine Presence? Isn’t it written: For the Lord your God is a devouring fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24)? Rather, this verse teaches that anyone who marries his daughter to a Torah scholar, and one who conducts business [perakmatya] on behalf of Torah scholars, by investing their money, and one who utilizes his wealth to benefit Torah scholars with his property in some other way, the verse ascribes him credit as though he is cleaving to the Divine Presence.”

The Gemara is telling us that every Jew should strive to cling to Hashem, and in this way one will merit to be a part of the future resurrection. In fact the gemara in Sanhedrin 90b brings this pasuk as a proof towards the resurrection of the dead, as it says: “And there are those who say that it is from this following verse that he said to them his ultimate proof: “But you who cleave to the Lord your God every one of you is alive this day” (Deuteronomy 4:4). Wasn’t it obvious with regard to the children of Israel whom God was addressing, that “every one of you is alive this day?” Rather, the meaning of the verse is: Even on the day when everyone is dead you will live; just as today every one of you is alive, so too, in the World-to-Come every one of you will be alive.”

The Gemara in Kesubos clearly states that the ticket to being resurrected is a deep involvement in Torah learning. Rebbe Yochanan was terribly grieved by the thought of the myriad of people who are not entrenched in Torah study who will not be resurrected. However, Rebbe Elazar brought in this pasuk to teach that if one cleaves to Torah scholars he or she will also receive the ticket to be resurrected.  

The Maharsha on this gemara observes that there were 3 types of cleaving mentioned: (1) With one’s body by marrying off his daughter to a Torah scholar. (2) Letting a Torah scholar benefit from one’s possessions, which is clinging through money. (3) Doing business for the scholar, which is not considered clinging through money, because in this instance one is not giving away any of his own money, but rather it is an intellectual clinging, to give him pleasure in whatever way possible.

on the point of the gemara discussing doing business for the Torah scholar, says it means one should be engrossed with the money of Torah scholars, in order to bring them investments, so that they can be free to be engrossed in Torah study through these means. Indeed, it writes: “You are all alive today,” for through clinging to Torah scholars they will merit to live [i.e. resurrection]. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

If there are people who are putting all their efforts and brainpower into figuring out what are the best investments for the Torah scholars, in order to earn enough money to live without going out to work and taking away time from learning, then why can’t they use all that energy and brainpower for their own Torah learning, a direct ticket to eternal life, instead of piggybacking on the Torah scholar?

There is a very important lesson to be learned from this, which might sound obvious, but is part of the fundamentals of Jewish life. Every single person has his or her own unique purpose in life. Granted, everyone has to set aside some time to learn Torah each day, but there are only a few individuals who are able to and should, dedicate their lives towards learning and spreading Torah to the populace. This is necessary for the world to exist, for we need scholars to be fluent and experts in the Guide Book to Life, the Blueprints of Creation, i.e. The Written and Oral Torah. Therefore they have to be able to dedicate their entire life to gaining those essentials,  teaching them and applying them throughout the world.

However there is an equally necessary need for people to take care of these Torah scholars and their families, in order that they can dedicate their life to these means. Therefore G-D created people in such a manner that some of them have the capacity to learn Torah fulltime, while others have a penchant for business, or for making investments, and yet others are handymen, doctors, lawyers, etc.

But all of us were created for one purpose; to serve Hashem and to do His Will. So the business people, doctors, handymen, etc. – if they marry off their daughters to Torah scholars and help support them, or actively make their lives and the lives of their family easier and more comfortable, they are not only doing a great kindness, but are fulfilling their purpose in creation, by enabling the world to continue to exist. That is how one can earn his or her ticket for the World to Come and eternal life.