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After reading this article in Aish by a Professor of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, sadly and surprisingly bereft of Jewish sources, I asked myself:

Is there a general Jewish teaching that says: "Do only one thing at a time." ?

I know the answer depends on what "things" we are talking about. But I am asking if there is such a general drift in Judaism.

Judaism is definitely against many forms of mixing:

-En me’arvin simchah besimchah — do not mix rejoicing and rejoicing. Do not try to enjoy two different things at the same time.

-We can’t mix milk and meat in our food

-We can’t mix wool and linen in our clothing

-We can’t sow a field with two different kinds of seeds

-We can’t plough with two animals of different species

-We can’t mix the holy and the secular in our activities (we switch from one to the other after a Havdalah ceremony).

Each activity must be experienced exclusively, and not shared with another activity. Don't eat a good meal while watching TV. If something goes wrong with one activity, it does not spoil another activity. Avoid two-track relationships: When a problem develops with one track, you end up losing both tracks.

These are specifics. But is there a corresponding generality?

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    I can also list things we do do at the same time. Tallit and Tefillin. Havdala and candle and spices. Matza and Maror. Etc.
    – Double AA
    Aug 7, 2019 at 15:54
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    I think you are mixing two different concepts. There is definitely a concept of separation (e.g., shaatnez, meat and milk, not sowing mixed seeds, same with vine, and many others). There is a different question with multi tasking, which might be a good one, but I would remove the separation examples
    – mbloch
    Aug 7, 2019 at 15:56
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    Your observation about lack of Jewish sources is a broader issue. Many self help books are the latest trend in self-help clothed in enough Jewish sources or chassidic stories to grant them a place in the sefarim store. Both among FFBs, and among those who think kiruv should be more like marketing than like education. Aug 7, 2019 at 18:05
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    How is "by a Professor of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, sadly and surprisingly bereft of Jewish sources" relevant to your question? It sounds condescending and unnecessary
    – alicht
    Aug 7, 2019 at 19:45

1 Answer 1

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I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for but another, perhaps more general expression discouraging multitasking (at least in the service of G-d) is: אין עושין מצוות חבילות חבילות - one doesn't bundle commandments together (see e.g. Sotah 8a; see also here and here.

Yet another even more general relevant bit of Jewish/Rabbinic advice is: תפסת מרובה לא תפסת - if you try to accomplish too much, you end up accomplishing nothing at all (lit: "[If] you have seized a lot, you have not seized"; based on a hermeneutical rule of Rabbi Akiva in the Sifra Metzora Parshath Zavim 5, cited, e.g., here; see also here).

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  • I like your answer, but also worth follding in: . "העוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה -- one who is busy with one mitzvah is exempt from [another] mitzvah". See Sukkah 25a sefaria.org/Sukkah.25a.4 onward. Aug 7, 2019 at 18:06
  • Thanks. We are getting closer. Does it ever go beyond mitzvot -- e.g, eat and watch TV? Aug 7, 2019 at 18:35
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    "if you try to accomplish too much, you end up accomplishing nothing at all" - Isn't that essentially saying that quality is more important than quantity?
    – DanF
    Aug 7, 2019 at 22:15
  • @DanF -- Yes, it is almost self-evident. But it does not imply you should not do two things at the same time. "Two" may not be "too much" for some. But is is STILL discouraged in Judaism? Aug 8, 2019 at 2:11

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