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Tradition tells us that the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar had an understanding: Zebulon would make money in trade to support itself and Issachar, and Issachar would study Torah full-time. This tradition continued through the centuries, and to this day rich observant Jews want their daughters to marry scholars so they can have lots of scholarly grandsons, and happily support them so they can study Torah all the time and not worry about earning a living. The Rambam has a similar partnership with his brother.

Yet the Sources, in numerous strong quotes, tell us that everybody must study Torah and make time for doing so, and this is more important than all other commandments: V'Talmud Torah k'neged kullam. For example:

The following are the things for which a man enjoys the fruits in this world while the principal remains for him in the world to come: Honoring father and mother; performing righteous deeds; and making peace between a person and his friend. And the study of Torah is equal to them all. [Peah 1:1]

So, are rich scholar-supporters exempt from studying Torah? Or maybe not study it as intensely as others? Anything in the Sources on the extent of their obligation to study?

I could not find a quote on what minimal Torah study is; only this:

If a person lacks the knowledge to study Torah or it is impossible for him to do so because he is burdened with too many concerns, then he should support others who do study Torah, and it will be considered as though he himself had studied... Even so, every person should do his utmost to study Torah, even just a little, every day and every night. [Kitzur Shulḥan Arukh 27]

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    Everyone is obligated to study Torah. The partnership was to share in the merit of extra study.
    – shmosel
    Dec 22, 2023 at 18:51
  • The basic halachic obligation is fulfilled by saying shema in the morning and night. The rest of the time, there is a mitzva that should be done as much as possible, but no 'complete' obligation
    – Lo ani
    Dec 23, 2023 at 20:25
  • @shmosel -- See my last paragraph, which I just added, Dec 24, 2023 at 20:54
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    That's a last resort for someone unable to fulfill his obligation. The beginning of the halacha makes it clear that everyone is obligated to study, no matter their stature or status.
    – shmosel
    Dec 24, 2023 at 21:01
  • @shmosel -- and the minimum is ____? Dec 24, 2023 at 21:03

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I asked my Rav a shailah a few years ago about how much I am obligated to study Torah, and he told me that it is a fairly small amount of time every day (eg. 5 minutes). I'm sure that there is still a great mitzva beyond that, but that doesn't mean that everyone should prioritise it above the mitzva of earning a living to provide for yourself and family (and giving yourself the ability to give tzedaka, maaser etc). Also, if you pay someone else to learn, you get some of the merit of their learning, and I imagine that giving a really great talmid chacham the ability to learn uninterrupted because they don't need to worry about earning a living gives them the opportunity to produce learning of a far greater quality than the average person, so sharing in that might sometimes be worth more than extra learning yourself, especially if you have in mind when you work that you are working to earn money to help someone else learn.

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  • Would be good to see a source for the latter idea - that it's better for a weaker learner to work and support a stronger learner
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 24, 2023 at 17:00
  • @RabbiKaii I don't have a source for it, but if we don't have people working to support the really great talmidei chachomim, then how will they ever be able to reach the heights that they have in previous generations? Dec 24, 2023 at 19:47
  • Who says we have to, or that that's the only way?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 24, 2023 at 19:48
  • @RabbiKaii Maybe we don't have to, but it seems a shame if we miss out on that. Maybe it isn't the only way, but I can't see how else it would work? Dec 24, 2023 at 20:07
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    I vote for more Jews learning Torah and more gedolim as a result. :-) Remember that the majority of the rabbis in the Talmud had ordinary professions, and the Talmud tells us what they were. Dec 24, 2023 at 20:22
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The שדה חמד מערכה ו סימן טו Sde Chemed discusses this whole issue in length, discussing many of the points brought up above. He brings from the ספר דרכי נועם who wants to suggest that if one knows someone who is much cleverer and sharper, and can learn much better, than he himself, then he would be allowed to learn less and work to provide that person with the possibility to learn his maximum. The שדה חמד and others argue where the זבולון doesn't learn at all, but if he also learns, but less in order to support the other, they seem to be more lenient.

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