In Berachot 5a we have the following exchange between Reis Lakish and R. Yochanan:

אמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש כל העוסק בתורה יסורין בדילין הימנו שנאמר ובני רשף יגביהו עוף ואין עוף אלא תורה שנאמר התעיף עיניך בו ואיננו ואין רשף אלא יסורין שנאמר מזי רעב ולחומי רשף אמר ליה רבי יוחנן הא אפילו תינוקות של בית רבן יודעין אותו שנאמר ויאמר אם שמוע תשמע לקול ה' אלהיך והישר בעיניו תעשה והאזנת למצותיו ושמרת כל חקיו כל המחלה אשר שמתי במצרים לא אשים עליך כי אני ה' רופאך אלא כל שאפשר לו לעסוק בתורה ואינו עוסק הקב"ה מביא עליו יסורין מכוערין ועוכרין אותו שנא' נאלמתי דומיה החשיתי מטוב וכאבי נעכר ואין טוב אלא תורה שנאמר כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם תורתי אל תעזובו

R. Simeon b. Lakish says: If one studies the Torah, painful sufferings are kept away from him. For it is said: And the sons of reshef fly upward. The word 'uf refers only to the Torah, as it is written: 'Wilt thou cause thine eyes to close upon it? It is gone'. And 'reshef' refers only to painful sufferings, as it is said: 'The wasting of hunger, and the devouring of the reshef [fiery bolt]. R. Johanan said to him: This is known even to school children. For it is said: And He said: If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His eyes, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee. Rather [should you say]: If one has the opportunity to study the Torah and does not study it, the Holy One, blessed be He, visits him with ugly and painful sufferings which stir him up. For it is said: I was dumb with silence, I kept silence from the good thing, and my pain was stirred up. 'The good thing' refers only to the Torah, as it is said: For I give you good doctrine; forsake ye not My teaching.

(Soncino translation)

Reish Lakish presented a lesson derived from a verse, and R. Yochanan objected. He clearly didn't object to the content of the lesson, as he immediately presents an even more basic source for the same lesson. It would seem, then, that he was objecting to the derivation of that lesson from this specific verse, when the verse should actually teach us something else. But then when he tells us what that something else is (that if you don't study Torah you will receive pain) he cites a completely different verse. So what did he accomplish if he didn't even use the verse that Reish Lakish was explicating?

  • Does that impression exist more from Reish Lakish’s exposition than from R. Yochanan’s opinion?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


I suspect that he's not rejecting that Reish Lakish is indeed hermeneutically interpreting Job 5:7 correctly, if only by virtue of the fact that Rav Yochanan's own principle is more difficult to derive from the words of the verse. Rather, I think he's rejecting the impression from Reish Lakish's statement that that is the full extent of the consequence of bitul torah - that one forfeits the special protection rewarded for the positive act of Torah study. Instead, Rav Yochanan posits that bitul torah is not only a lack of something proactively positive - it's an inherent negative deserving of specific punishment - an idea which he then supports with Psalms 39:3.

  • I accidentally posted this comment on the question a couple of days ago instead of here: Does that impression exist more from Reish Lakish’s exposition than from R. Yochanan’s opinion?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 18:50
  • @Alex perhaps not(?)
    – Loewian
    Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 1:32

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