We should support Torah and Torah Scholars first…
Rav Elazar Menachem Shach zt”l
The leader of the Torah world of the last generation, Rabbi Shach zt”l, was quoted as saying that the exquisite sweet reward of learning Torah (Talmud Torah) is rewarded equally to those who support Torah financially, as to those who actually do the learning.
Rabbi Yosef Karo
Shulchan Aruch Yore Deah, Chap. 246, Paragraph 1
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.
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki
Hashem honors the person who supports Torah more than the Torah scholar himself. That is why the Torah mentions Zevulun, the tribe engaged in commerce and used its profits to support the Torah learning of Yissachar, before it mentions Yissachar.
Leaders of the Torah World
Since there is a great under-appreciation and lack of funding for Torah-learning in the Jewish world, the Gedolei HaDor strongly encourage Jews to use their ma’aser and/or charity (tzedakka) money to support Torah-learning.
The Talmud & Midrash
Kesubos 111b & Midrash Rabbanit on Vayikra 1:1
Indeed, the Gemorah explains the commandment to “draw close” to Hashem [Devarim 11:22] as “to draw close to Torah scholars by supporting them and giving them a means of livelihood.” [Kesubos 111b] This exalted level of being close to Hashem Yisborach through financially supporting the learning of Torah is achieved, as all great accomplishments must be, through the difficult challenge one’s nature urges. In this case, everyone has an innate inclination to use his hard-earned money exclusively on himself and his own family. The sages call those who succeed in overcoming that inclination, “strong and valiant ones who obey His word.” [Midrash Rabbanit on Vayikra 1:1]
Rav Moshe Shternbuch
Har Nof, Jerusalem
Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, one of leading authorities of Jewish law (halacha) in this generation, was quoted as saying that the 10% of income that is supposed to be given to charity (ma’aser money) should be given to poor people, and especially struggling Torah scholars (Talmidei Chachomim). Ma’aser money should not be used for other mitzvoth. Therefore, if one needs to give money to build a Synagogue [or support another cause], it should be given from money other than ma’aser (over and above 10%) and poor people should not lose out.
A Leading 2nd Generation Amora
Zevulun will have an equal share in Yissachar’s Torah because he sustains him”
Rabbi Moshe Isserles
The person who is supporting the scholar is regarded as if he himself had studied Torah.