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«Halachic Responsum regarding the Yissochor-Zevulun contract and the financial support of Shimon Achi Azaria A friend of mine who is a respected ...»

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Halachic Responsum regarding the "Yissochor-Zevulun" contract and the

financial support of Shimon Achi Azaria

A friend of mine who is a respected supporter of Torah, asked me several

questions concerning the concept that is commonly referred to as the

“Yissochor-Zevulun contract.” What is the reason for drafting this document,

and in what circumstances is it applicable? Furthermore, should a supporter of

Torah draft such an agreement?

Response: The Shulchan Aruch [R’ Yosef Karo] in Yore Deah (Chap. 246,

paragraph 1) writes the following:

Someone who finds it impossible to study on his own, either because he is incapable or because he is loaded with too many other commitments should financially support those who have dedicated themselves to studying Torah.

Commenting on this passage the Rema [R’ Moshe Isserles] notes:

The person who is supporting the scholar is regarded as if he himself had studied Torah. Furthermore, a person may enter into an agreement with his friend in terms of which he will dedicate himself to the study of Torah and the friend will agree to support him, and the reward that is accrued will be divided between them. However if someone has already studied Torah, he cannot sell his reward to that supporter in return for money (Toldos Odom Vechavo [TO”V] [Rabbenu Yeruchom], Part II on Sotah).

Commenting on the Rema, the Shach [R’ Shabtai Cohen] says:

When the Rema says, “the reward that is accrued will be divided between them,” the reward refers to both the [spiritual] reward for the study of Torah and the [physical] reward of his profit. The parties share both these rewards equally … When the Rema says “he cannot sell his reward to that supporter”, the words “to that supporter” should be deleted, as indeed he cannot sell his reward to anyone.

The Taz (Turei Zahav) makes a similar comment to the Shach in that he cannot sell his reward to anyone.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (ibid) comments on the source of the Rema’s Halacha:

The TO”V Part II Sotah says “it would appear that the scholar forfeits his reward since [by offering it for sale] he has annulled his share in it, and so it is written in the commentaries”. Refer to the responsa of Maharam Alashker (Chap. 101) in the name of R’ Hai Gaon, and see also the book Aish Dos of Rabbi Alfandari.

My teacher, the Gaon R’ Yehoshua Heschel Eichenstein Shlito, told me (in the name of the foremost Halachic authority of this generation R’ Yosef Sholom

Elyashiv Shlit”a) a specific formula for drafting a “Yissochor-Zevulun” contract:

This agreement is entered into between [A] and [B]. [A] promises to give (x) amount every month for (x) months, starting from (date) to Rabbi [B] so that he may devote his time to the study of Torah.

Regarding the Torah study that is made possible as a result of the financial support, the reward for facilitating the study of Torah goes exclusively to [A], as is mentioned in Rabbi Alfandari’s book Aish Dos on Parshas Vayelech (referred to in Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s commentary on the Shulchan Aruch), as in the case of Shimon Achi Azaria.

I have certain queries on all that has been mentioned thus far. First, according to the Shach, does the Rema when speaking of an agreement between the two parties only provide for the situation where the spiritual reward for studying Torah and the financial reward of the income earned are evenly split? Is there perhaps an alternative way in which the supporter may receive a partial reward for the study that is done through his beneficence, whether or not there is a contract? Or is the way proposed by the Rema as interpreted by the Shach the only way in which a supporter may receive part of the reward for the Torah studied by the scholar?

Secondly, we need to analyze the version of the contract attributed to Rav Elyashiv. If one refers to tractate Sotah (21a, which is the source for this rule, as quoted by the Vilna Gaon in (note 8 of) his commentary on that chapter of the Shulchan Aruch) one will note that the Talmud only provides for the situation where the supporter supports the scholar for his entire livelihood.

See Rashi who says:

Shimon Achi Azaria [Shimon the brother of Azaria] is a Tana ( a scholar who lived during the Mishnaic period and whose comments are recorded in the Mishna) of the first Mishna of Tractate Zevachim, who was able to study thanks to the generosity of his brother who was in business. This brother fully supported Shimon in order to reap the benefit of his studying. It is for this reason that Shimon is referred to as Azaria’s brother (rather than as the son of his father - in order to honor Azaria).

In a similar vein R Yochanan, who was supported by the Nassi, is referred to as R’ Yochanan of the Nassi’s House (even though they were not related).

If so, how is it possible to make a contract in terms of which the supporter binds himself to only partially support the scholar, as is implied in the text of the contract that we quoted? Furthermore, why do we need to draft a contract at all in order for the supporter to receive a reward for enabling others to study Torah? And, if in fact one who supports a scholar for his entire livelihood - as stipulated by the Shimon Achi Azaria system - does not need to sign a contract in order to receive a reward for facilitating Torah study, and the whole idea of a contract was only instituted so a partial supporter may also receive a reward for facilitating Torah study, since in the absence of an explicit contract a partial supporter receives no reward, how do we know that this contract can in fact accomplish it’s goal so that the supporter receives his reward? If the above is true, then perhaps the contract does not help the supporter receive a portion of the reward for Torah study when only partially supporting someone who studies Torah?

In order to fully understand the entire issue, I will quote the words of the Maharam Alashker and R’ Chaim Alfandari (in his book Aish Dos, Parshas Vayelech) in their entirety, especially since both sources are difficult to obtain.

The following is the full text of the Maharam Alashker’s Halachic responsum:

Rav Hai Gaon has responded to the following problem: May a person who regularly fasts on Mondays and Thursdays, after a certain period declare that the [spiritual] reward accrued for fasting should go to a specified individual? Or may a person declare that he has sold his [reward in the] fasts for x amount and confirm this transaction by performing a kinyan (an action that renders a sale legally valid)?

Similarly, if one gave his friend a gold coin in order that his friend read a portion of the Torah and the merit for reading it will accrue to him, can he benefit from this transaction?

He answers: We have seen that all these scenarios are silly and baseless. How can it be that the reward for someone performing good deeds will accrue to another? Is it not written (Yechezkel 18: 20) that “the righteous person receives [the fruits of] his righteousness and the wicked person receives [the fruits of] his wickedness,” therefore just like a person cannot be punished for the sin of another, so too one cannot receive reward for someone else’s merits. Is it plausible to think that the reward for performing a mitzvah is a portable commodity that can be transferred to another person? If the person due to receive the reward knew its true value he would never have transferred the reward, and the receiver would never have agreed to accept it. Actually, the essence of the reward is the [heavenly] honour and prestige bestowed on the righteous person for his performance of good deeds. In fact there are various groups of righteous people who behold the Divine Presence, and are greeted with [the angels] praising them and saying: “You who are righteous rise to your level of righteousness and dwell in your fitting place, you who has overcome his [evil] inclination, who has borne the burden of mitzvos, who has not turned to the common pleasures, but rather has chosen to put away all cravings, to suffer the yoke of your Creator, to deny yourself all pleasure because of your fear of Him; Come now and receive your reward and reap the benefits of the radiance of the Divine Presence.” In contradistinction this fool who has sold [the reward for] his fasts, “a dog has eaten his meal,” for what reward does he receive from G-d if he has already received money for fasting? He has not fasted and denied his body and soul all pleasure for the sake of G-d, but for monetary profit. He is more likely to be punished for such behavior for defaming the name of Heaven and exploiting the mitzvos for financial gain.

This however must be distinguished from the case of someone who pays a teacher to teach what must be taught, and anyone who pays the wages of such a teacher receives great [spiritual] reward. Furthermore, someone who assists others who are involved in the study of Torah and in the performance of mitzvos so that they are able to devote themselves to such activities, will also receive a [spiritual] reward, and the reward will be for his own actions. However, someone who tries to buy the [spiritual] reward that is due his friend, by offering money or a gift, is contemptible and is to be scorned, for no money or treasure in the world is sufficient to acquire the [spiritual] reward due to another, as is written in The Song of Songs (8: 7) “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, he would be utterly scorned.” [The “love” mentioned here is taken by the sages as referring to the service of God]. Our sages (Sotah 21a), commenting on this verse asked: “To whom does the verse refer when it says [he will] “be utterly scorned”?

Ulla says, [it is] not [referring to the case of] Shimon Achi Azaria and not [referring to the case of] Rav Yochanan of the House of the Nasi, but to the case of Hillel and Shavna, who according to Rav Dimi were brothers, and while one involved himself with business the other was devoted to the study of Torah. [Subsequently,] one said to the other “let us split our respective rewards evenly.” Upon hearing this, a heavenly voice cried out “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, he would be utterly scorned.” End quote.

We now turn to the full text of the Halachic discourse of Rabbi Chaim Alfandari:

And the Rabbi, my father and master of blessed memory, wrote that this law [that one who buys his friend’s portion of the Leviathan (food for the righteous in the hereafter) should not prematurely rejoice, yet the seller should mourn the fact that he has made a mockery of the hereafter by selling eternal life for monetary gain] is indeed correct – based on the Rabbenu Yeruchom in TO”V (Part II): “A scholar, before occupying himself with Torah study may enter into an agreement with his friend in terms of which the friend will involve himself with business and [in return for his support] receive a portion of [the reward for] his Torah study, as in the case of Yissachar and Zevulun. However, if the scholar has already studied Torah and he offers a portion [of his reward for that study] in exchange for money, the deal is completely invalid as is written “If a man would give all the substance of his house etc.”, as in the case of Hillel and Shavna mentioned in Sotah 21a. Furthermore, apparently the scholar also loses his reward [for Torah study as a result of this transaction], as he has nullified his portion [of the reward], as the commentaries have written.” Based on this idea, Rabbi Yehuda Kimche of blessed memory explained the meaning of the verse in Koheles (2: 21) “For there is man whose labor is with wisdom (he is occupied with Torah study) … yet he will give his portion to a man who has not labored in it? This also is silliness and a great evil.” Hinted in this verse, then, is the law of one who sells his portion for studying Torah after studying, that the sale is void, and the sale is described by the verse as a “great evil,” since the scholar has lost his portion [in the reward] by demeaning the Torah, which is a great evil, as the rabbi of blessed memory [Rabbenu Yeruchom] wrote.

In my humble opinion we can also use this idea to explain what our Rabbis meant in Midrash Rabbah on Parshas Kedoshim (VaYikra, Chap.

25, par. 1):

The Almighty will build an area of shade and canopy for mitzvah performers, adjacent to the Torah Masters in the Garden of Eden.

There are three relevant verses. The first one is: (Koheles 7: 12):

“In the shade of wisdom, in the shade of silver.” The second one is (Isaiah 56: 2): “Happy is the one who does this (referring to piety, and in this context referring to Torah study), and the son of man who holds on to it (supports Torah)”. The third one is (Proverbs 3: 18): “She (Torah) is a tree of life for those who hold on to her”.

The Yefe Toar commentary (ibid) queried the necessity for quoting three verses, and provided an explanation; see there. I will also propose an answer, based on the comments of the Rema in his notes on the Yore Deah (Chapter 246), and I quote: “A person may enter into an agreement with his friend in terms of which he will dedicate himself to studying Torah and the friend will agree to support him and the reward that is accrued will be divided between them,” and the Siftei Cohen (Shach) commenting there says: “When the Rema says “the reward that is accrued will be divided between them” the reward refers to both the [spiritual] reward for studying Torah and the [physical] reward of his profit. Both these rewards are shared equally by the parties.” The basis for the Shach’s idea can be found in the Midrash Rabba on Parshas Naso (Bamidbar, Chapter 13, paragraph 17), beginning with the following


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