Jewish Thought

Question About the Torah



The Torah discusses working for a living on many occasions. Why do so many religious people learn Torah instead of working?  Adam and Eve toiled for a living; they didn’t sit and learn Torah full-time.


What do you think our purpose in life is?
Wealth? Honor? Pleasure?
None of the above is eternal. Ultimately, we all get old and pass on into the next world; and none of the above accompanies us into the world of truth. The only thing we take with us is our mitzvoth. As written in Avot 6:9: “At the hour that man passes away, neither silver nor gold nor precious jewels nor gems accompany him into the next world; only Torah and good deeds.”
“Talmud Torah k’neged kulam—Torah study is equated with all of these.” Torah is the purpose of life; it is the greatest expression of serving G-d. It is how we identify the Will of Hashem and engage in it using the totality of our thoughts and energies. Torah connects man to G-d; in the merit of Torah, the world stands!
What do you think that Adam did in the Garden of Eden? The Torah teaches that he was required to work and guard the Garden. The Sages edify: “To work it—this is learning Torah; to guard it—these are the mitzvoth” (Sifri, Devarim Par. 41, U’l’ovdah).
The fact that Hashem commanded Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge means that he commanded Adam with a mitzvah that would elicit either reward or punishment.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam was kept busy learning about the wisdom of the Creator, and he thus sat down to name all the animals according to their inner essence.
However, after he sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam was punished with having to work the fields, which forced him to waste his time rather than fulfill his true purpose. This was a punishment to Adam, neither a reward nor privilege. For this reason alone there is no actual mitzvah among the 613 mitzvot commanding a person to work, and obviously, one who can avoid working in order to engage in Torah study day and night is extremely fortunate!
Simultaneously, it is very important to clarify that there is absolutely no prohibition against working, and this is evident from the fact that the vast majority of Haredi Jews do work after marriage:

Notwithstanding, on a spiritual level, there is a need for a large group of people to devote their lives to the study of Torah for the sake of the Jewish people. Sadly, the number of full-time Torah scholars doesn’t even reach 100,000! At present, there are not nearly enough soldiers in the Army of G-d whose Torah defends the Jewish nation. This is why it is recommended for every Jew who fears G-d and is able to join the legions of Torah scholars, because the Torah protects and safeguards the Jewish people.
In any case, Maimonides writes that even when a person goes out to work, he should minimize the time he spends working to the greatest extent possible so he can devote his energies to learning Torah. “And he should fulfill his work every day just a little in order to support himself, for if not, what will he eat? And the rest of the day and night he should devote to learning Torah.”
The Chafetz Chaim recommends to Torah scholars not to work at all, because the majority of men who go out to work experience a natural spiritual decline due to the secular atmosphere that prevails in most workplaces and because they do not have the ability to flourish in Torah study and become Torah scholars due to the weakness of this generation. The Chafetz Chaim writes extensively about this in the Mishnah Brurah (Biur Halachah Ch. 231).
One who learns Torah is the elite man, as he is fulfilling his spiritual purpose in the world in the truest, best way. The Maimonides writes the same in Laws of Shemittah and Yovel Ch. 13): “…He is sanctified to the level of Holy of Holies, and Hashem is his portion forever and ever!”