In Devarim 33:18 Rashi cites Breishit Rabbah 99:9 saying that Zevulun preceded Yissachar in receiving Moshe’s bracha because that shevet enabled Yissachar to learn Torah by providing for their material and financial needs.

In Bamidbar 7:18 Yissachar offers his offerings before Zevulun and Rashi says that he was the second of the tribes to offer korbanot because he was learned in Torah (citing Divrei Hayamim I 12:32). Here, one of Rashi’s criteria for precedence is being learned in Torah. In Devarim 33:18 Rashi said Zevulun’s ability to finance Yissachar’s Torah learning was more important and allowed Zevulun precedence. If so, why doesn’t Zevulun get to offer his korbanot before Yissachar in Bamidbar 7:18?

Why does Rashi seem to contradict himself? Which is more important according to Rashi: learning Torah full time (Yissachar) or providing for one who learns full time (Zevulun)?

  • Can you think of a better way to demonstrate both are important? – Double AA Jun 1 at 12:20
  • Note that in Bereishis 49:13-15 Zevulun goes before Yissachar in those Berachos as well. While Rashi makes several references to the fact that Zevulun provided for Yissachar who learned Torah, not once does he say that’s why Zevulun went first. – DonielF Jun 3 at 17:52
  • @DonielF The Midrash that is the source for this points out that Zevulun is first in both sets of blessings. In fact, the Midrash actually appears by Yaakov's blessings. – Alex Jun 3 at 19:47
  • @Alex Of course, but the OP was going in Rashi, so I thought I’d point out Rashi by those Berachos as well. (Rashi generally goes by the Shirah Chadashah version of the end of Bereishis Rabbah, rather than Parshah 98 or 99.) – DonielF Jun 3 at 21:37

The simplest answer (as with most contradictions in Rashi's commentary) is that Rashi did not make up these ideas. In each case he is quoting a midrash, and the two midrashim are not necessarily in agreement. The comment in Bamidbar is based on a midrash in Bereishis Rabba, while the comment in Devarim is based on a midrash in Sifrei.

However, we can still address this specific question to see whether there is even a contradiction to begin with. To do this it is helpful to see the exact text. Rashi in Devarim says:

לפיכך הקדים זבולן ליששכר שתורתו של יששכר על ידי זבולן היתה

Therefore, Zevulun preceded Yissaschar [in the order of the blessings] because the Torah of Yissaschar was on account of Zevulun.

Note that Rashi does not say "Zevulun’s ability to finance Yissachar’s Torah learning was more important".

In Bamidbar Rashi states:

שבשביל שני דברים זכה להקריב שיני לשבטים אחת שהיו ידועים בתורה שנאמר ומבני יששכר יודעי בינה לעיתים ואחת שהם נתנו עצה לנשיאים להתנדב קרבנות הללו

Due to two things he merited to bring the offering second of the tribes: 1. They [the tribe of Yissaschar] were knowledgeable in Torah, as it says "and from the children of Yissaschar were knowers of the wisdom of the times". 2. They gave advice to the tribal leaders to donate these offerings.

Here Zevulun is not mentioned at all, and there are two reasons given for Yissachar's precedence. Therefore, one could argue that it was only the combination of the two reasons that gave them precedence over Zevulun, but their Torah knowledge alone would not have. Alternatively one can simply say that since neither source discusses the relative importance of studying vs financing, there may simply be different criteria for precedence by blessings and by offerings. In one case financing is deemed to have precedence while in the other case studying is deemed to have precedence.

Now one could still ask why the criteria for blessings and offerings have different orders of precedence. Of course, we could simply answer that God's calculations are unknown, and be done. However, I think we can suggest a difference:

There are two different measurements involved. There is the measurement of sechar (Divine reward) that one receives for keeping the Torah, and there is the measurement of how we must relate to people in this world.

When it comes to sechar, the Talmud lays down the following principle:

Bava Basra 9a

א"ר אלעזר גדול המעשה יותר מן העושה

R. Eleazar said: He who causes others to do good is greater than the doer (Soncino translation)

That "greater than" refers to reward is evident from Rambam's codification of this in Hilchot Matnot Aniyim 10:6

הכופה אחרים ליתן צדקה ומעשה אותן שכרו גדול משכר הנותן שנאמר והיה מעשה הצדקה שלום ועל גבאי צדקה וכיוצא בהם אומר ומצדיקי הרבים ככוכבים

A person who compels others to give charity and motivates them to do so receives a greater reward than the person who actually gives, as [alluded to by Isaiah 32:17]: "And the deed of charity is peace." With regard to the collectors of charity and the like can be applied [the words of praise, Daniel 12:3]: "Those who bring merit to the many are like the stars." (Touger translation)

Thus it would seem that in terms of reward, financing Torah surpasses studying Torah, and therefore when it comes to the Divine blessings that are received Zevulun is greater than Yissaschar.

However, when it comes to relating to people in this world, we have a law that demands that honor be given to Torah scholars. Part of this honor is that Torah scholars come first. (See e.g. Horayot 13a)

Therefore, when it comes to bringing the offerings, the Torah scholars must be honored and therefore Yissaschar comes first, even though in terms of sechar studying Torah might not be better than financing it.

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