“Zevulun was engaged in business and provided sustenance for the tribe of Yissachar, who were learning Torah”. (Rashi on Bereishis 49:13)
This past week, Klal Yisrael went through a very emotional experience. Thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) participated in a siyum hashas. Torah learned by all of Klal Yisrael, every day, with everyone learning the same page. A part of Reb Meir Shapiro’s idea was to unify Klal Yisrael with one project. Indeed, Ashkenazim and Sefardim, Chasidim and and Misnagdim, all came together learning the daf and celebrating the great event of the siyum.
There is a question, however, that needs to be explained. While we applaud and appreciate groups who completed this immense project, but those who were present saw the simcha in the eyes of the bystanders. Why were the bystanders who didn’t finish Shas so happy? The Bartenura, on the Mishna in Bikurim, tells us that when the people did the mitzvah of bringing bikurim to Jerusalem, those who were on the side who were not part of this mitzvah were nevertheless obligated to stand for them. One may think that the same is true by those who didn’t finish Shas, that their “job” was to stand and applaud and appreciate the efforts of those who did.
However, limud Hatorah is different than all other mitzvos. The agreement between Yissachar and Zevulun was not only that Zevulun was the enabler of Yissachar to learn; rather it actually became Zevulun’s mitzvah. This is true to the point that many meforshim say that in the world to come Zevulun will understand the Torah that Yissachar learned, as if he himself learnt it. We don’t find this kind of union regarding other mitzvahs (See Yorei Deah 246:1 where the Rama states that if a person is unable to learn, he is obligated to help others learn and he also gets reward as if he learned). Indeed, there is an aspect of arvus, in that if you can help someone perform a mitzvah, you are obligated to do so, but you don’t get the reward as if you did it.
It is said over in the name of Reb Chaim Brisker, that the mitzvah of learning Torah not only demands that one learn Torah himself, but it also demands that Torah be learnt. This, in a sense, is a communal obligation. Meaning, that if you facilitated someone else’s learning, you would be promoting Torah learning, which is part of your obligation.
As I sat in Binyanei Ha’Umah over a week ago and took a look at the crowd of people there, the enthusiasm that I saw for the honor of the Torah showed me that those spectators were actually participants. And according to the approach of the Reb Chaim Brisker, this is indeed so. When we applaud, persuade and encourage the learning of Torah of others, we share in the mitzvah like Zevulun shares the Torah of Yissachar.
Rav Aharon Kotler is quoted as saying that, true, Zevulun may get the same reward in the world to come as Yissachar, but if you want to know who has olam hazeh you can look at those who learn Torah and see their shining eyes and smiles on their faces. A new cycle of Daf Hayomi has just begun; to the people who are learning now we say to them, “Chazak chazak v’nischazeik!”