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It is a positive commandment to learn Torah. But the concept of bitul Torah seems to imply that it is also a negative commandment not to learn Torah. Where does this concept of bitul Torah come from?

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On the contrary! Bittul is the classical term used to describe the non-observance of a positive injunction, known as Bittul Aseh. –  Double AA Sep 5 '12 at 16:39
    
@DoubleAA True about the use of the word Bitul. But the idea could be more than a Bitul 'Aseh. It could (conceivably) be an Isur 'Aseh, perhaps. (VeHigitha Bo Yomam VaLaylah, etc.) –  Seth J Sep 5 '12 at 20:27
    
@SethJ It could be. I'm only evaluating the evidence provided by the asker. –  Double AA Sep 5 '12 at 22:43
    
Yoma 19b: אמר רבא השח שיחת חולין עובר בעשה שנאמר ודברת בם בם ולא בדברים אחרים רב אחא בר יעקב אמר עובר בלאו שנאמר (קהלת א, ח) כל הדברים יגעים לא יוכל איש לדבר –  Fred Mar 12 '13 at 0:20

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I don't know of any negative commandment per se, and as @DoubleAA pointed out in the comments, the term bitul does not imply that there is one. As for where the concept comes from, here's one place:

אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָד וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָׁב. כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת ה' חֶפְצוֹ וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה

Happy is the man who does not walk with the counsel of the wicked or stand on the way of sinners or sit in the company of mockers; but whose delight is in the law of the LORD and who meditates on his law day and night.

-Psalms 1:1-2

Note what meditating on the Law is contrasted with.

The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (18b) citing the Tosefta (ibid. 2:2 in the Vilna Shas edition) also makes this connection; equating bitul Torah with sitting in the company of mockers.

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The earliest I can find the phrase explicitly is once in the Tosefta Shabbat 7:5 –  Double AA Sep 5 '12 at 17:34
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@DoubleAA It's in Tosefta Avodah Zarah 2:2 as well, cited in the Gemara there on 18b (which discusses the verse I cited). –  Dov F Sep 5 '12 at 18:03
    
תוספתא ע"ז ב:ב וכשם שאין מוכרין להן בהמה גסה כך אין מוכרין להן חיה גסה ואף במקום שאין מוכרין להן בהמה דקה אין מוכרין להם חיה דקה: ??? Perhaps we have different numbering schemes? –  Double AA Sep 5 '12 at 18:06
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@DoubleAA I believe we do. I am using the Vilna Shas in which what you quoted is still in 2:1. In 2:2 in the Vilna Shas edition it reads ההולך לצטריונין ורואה את הנחשים ואת החברים מוליון סגילאדין סגילאדה אסור משום מושב לצים שנאמר ובמושב לצים לא ישב אלה מדות שמביאין את האדם לידי ביטול תלמוד תורה. –  Dov F Sep 5 '12 at 18:12
    
Hmm that's 2:6 for me. Oh well. –  Double AA Sep 5 '12 at 18:15

the verse "ki dvar H-shem baza hikaret tikaret" ("For they have denigrated the word of G-d" (Parsha shlach) which the talmud says refers to bitul torah

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Can you cite where the Talmud says that? –  Double AA Sep 5 '12 at 19:31
    
Sanhedrin 99a mentions ki dvar H-shem baza, however does not mention Bitul Torah only as כל שאפשר לעסוק בתורה ואינו עוסק. –  Gershon Gold Sep 5 '12 at 20:15
    
if one can learn but does not, why isn't that bitul torah? –  ray Sep 5 '12 at 20:31
    
the first page in tanya brings this verse as the source for bitul torah –  ray Sep 6 '12 at 19:47

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