Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Work or learn?

Yes, that old chestnut. I just want to quote for you a short piece of Gemara that is very relevant and instructive because it shows both sides of the debate. Most of you might know it already but it doesn't hurt to do Chazara.

I will summarize Berachot 35b. R' Yishmael (great name, can you imagine anyone using it nowadays???) says that you should combine the study of Torah with a wordly occupation (as per the Soncino translation - I prefer it to Arthur Scroll any day, despite its archaicness (word?)), based on the verse in the Shema that says "you shall gather up your corn", which he views as an imperative.

Bar Yochai differs and claims that if you plough in the ploughing season and harvest in the harvesting season etc, what will happen to the study of Torah? Torah must take precedence, and if you peform G-d's will He will arrange that the work is taken care of.

Two conflicting viewpoints as to the primacy of Torah and the desirability of devoting one's life to study.

Abaye mediates between them and states that many followed Rabbi Yishmael and succeeded, while many followed Bar Yochai and failed. Bar Yochai's programme is geared towards the upper echelon, the elite, the creme de la creme. Rabbi Yishmael's works for the Joe Shmos, the hoi polloi, the reasonable man on the Clapham Omnibus (any educated people know where that is from?), the average bochur, the masses, the herd, the prols.

I accept that one can often find a source for any viewpoint in the Gemara, but this sugya fascinates me because it presents both viewpoints and says that one didn't work for the masses. It should be obvious by now where my sympathies lie. I'll probably post on this issue again, with relation to the situation in Israel specifically.



At 4/20/2005 4:44 PM, Anonymous ClooJew said...


don't get me started....

didn't we put this topic to bed between high school and the first two years of beis medrash?

Lulei demistafina, have you seen the Torah Temimah on the difference between the first two parshios of kriyas shema? Look it up and then we can have a discussion.

At 5/05/2005 11:57 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

I think I learned in seminary that that only applies in the times that the Bais HaMikdash is still standing.
However, realistically, it is unfair to expect every guy to be able to sit and learn all the time. Not everyone is cut out for it. Shoyn.


Post a Comment

<< Home