Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is 'learning' non-Jewish topics a prohibited creative process on Shabbat? If so, on what grounds is learning Tanakh exempted? I read that the study non-Jewish subjects is banned or frowned upon, and I wonder why the creative-process ban/frown on the study of non-Jewish topics doesn't apply to Tanakh.

share|improve this question
I'm confused by your question. Are you implying that Tanakh is a non-Jewish topic? – Menachem May 22 '13 at 15:50
@Menachem, I think the asker has heard that "creative processes" are banned or frowned upon, has heard the study of non-Jewish subjects is banned or frowned upon, associates the two bans/frowns in his head, and therefore wonders why the creative-process ban/frown on the study of non-Jewish topics doesn't apply to Tanach. (If I'm right, Daniel Bilar, then you would do well to include that explanation in your question.) – msh210 May 22 '13 at 15:52
There is also a statement in the Talmud discussing a ban on learning Ketuvim on Shabbat: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/12077/603 – Menachem May 22 '13 at 15:52
Thanks to you both, msh10's point is incorporated. – Daniel Bilar May 22 '13 at 17:31
you should check out the answers here judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16981/759 – Double AA May 22 '13 at 17:39
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Once again, see Rabbi Torczyner's lecture on attending conferences.

While debated by medieval rabbis, it appears that we conclude it is permissible to study science or medicine on Shabbat. (Assuming it's being done for the right reasons, assuming you're not writing, that it's not "business talk", and the like.) There had been a discussion whether an astrolabe (a tool of astronomy from centuries past) could be used on Shabbat, and contemporary authority Rabbi JD Bleich discusses a microscope (again, assuming you're not turning on the light or the like); we tend to rule that this is all permitted.

CAVEAT: Shabbat has two components, the "don't-do" and the "yes do." Don't do creative processes like planting, plowing, burning and the like. Easy enough.

But there's also the "yes-do" of "keep the day sacred." Otherwise, I could come up with 101 loopholes that aren't technically creative processes, but would wind up spending my Shabbat as pretty much just another workday. Isaiah 54:18 talks about keeping Shabbat as a "delight", not trying to do your business or even talk about it.

That's a lot more of the question: is it appropriate and within the spirit to study science? Many believe that as that assists your religious growth, yes. (If you're cramming for an exam the next day, that's a different matter.)

share|improve this answer
You're missing the main point: the prohibition, whatever books it applies to, is not because learning is a creative process! This makes it sound like there is no prohibition on reading any books on Shabbat, which is inaccurate. – Double AA May 22 '13 at 17:40
@DoubleAA, thanks -- clarified. – Shalom May 22 '13 at 18:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.