Rashi explains that Zevulun’s descendants would always be found in the region of the ports to which ships would bring their wares. Zevulun engaged in commerce and provided sustenance for the tribe of Yissachar, while Yissachar engaged in Torah study. This is consistent with the pasuk in Devarim 33:18 in which Moshe bids his farewell to Klal Yisrael saying, “Rejoice Zevulun in your going out (to commerce) and Yissachar in your tents.”
Indeed, the relationship between Yissachar and Zevulun was truly a remarkable one. This may be understood from the fact that the Torah places Zevulun before Yissachar, since Zevulun sustained Yissachar and availed him the opportunity to study Torah unencumbered by external financial pressures.
The Sforno on Parashas Toldos suggests that Yitzchak had intended to encourage such a “partnership” between Yaakov and Eisav. Yitzchak wanted Eisav, the “man of the field,” to arrange for Yaakov, “the man who dwelled in tents,” to be enabled to study Torah diligently. Horav Eliyahu M. Bloch z.l., explains, however, that this collaboration was not destined to succeed. Their disparate personalities and perspectives on life, in general, and religious observance, in particular, made it impossible for them to complement one another. They were hba ohud, two nations, with opposing ideas of religion. They were also ohnutk hba, two peoples, with conflicting ideas of nationalism.
Yissachar and Zevulun, in contrast, were of one “people,” one family with a single idealogical sentiment and conviction. Furthermore, the tribe of Zevulun also studied Torah. It is just that Zevulun devoted more effort to the mundane in order to share his material wealth with his brother who spent all of his time consumed in Torah study.
This is a very important lesson for us. In order for the Yissachar-Zevulun relationship to work, it is imperative that Zevulun maintain a presence in the study halls together with Yissachar. Mutual respect and admiration must dominate their interaction. This can be achieved only when both “partners” develop corresponding attitudes towards Torah and mitzvos. Zevulun will appreciate Yissachar’s achievement only when he himself uses his discretionary time for the pursuit of Torah study.