The Talmud in Shabbat 11a states that those like R. Shimon Bar Yochai whose occupation is Torah study are exempt from prayer:

דתניא חברים שהיו עוסקין בתורה מפסיקין לק"ש ואין מפסיקין לתפלה א"ר יוחנן לא שנו אלא כגון ר"ש בן יוחי וחביריו שתורתן אומנותן אבל כגון אנו מפסיקין לק"ש ולתפלה

For it was taught: If companions [scholars] are engaged in studying, they must break off for the reading of the shema', but not for prayer. R. Johanan said: This was taught only of such as R. Simeon b. Yohai and his companions, whose study was their profession; but we must break off both for the reading of the shema' and for prayer.

(Soncino translation)

Yet later on 33a we find that R. Shimon Bar Yochai himself stopped studying Torah in order to pray:

אזלו טשו במערתא איתרחיש ניסא איברי להו חרובא ועינא דמיא והוו משלחי מנייהו והוו יתבי עד צוארייהו בחלא כולי יומא גרסי בעידן צלויי לבשו מיכסו ומצלו והדר משלחי מנייהו כי היכי דלא ליבלו

So they went and hid in a cave. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a water well were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then put off their garments again, so that they should not wear out.

(Soncino translation)

Was R. Shimon Bar Yochai not included in the category of "R. Shimon Bar Yochai and his companions"? Or was he praying even though he was actually exempt? Is there some other reconciliation of these two passages?


1 Answer 1


1) Tosfos to Shabbos 11a (as well as the Ran and others) answers that prayer on 33a refers to Krias Shema specifically.

כגון רבי שמעון בן יוחי וחבריו - והא דאמר לקמן (דף לנ:) כי הוה מטי (זמן תפלה) לביש ומכסי ומצלי ההוא מצלי היינו ק"ש:

2) The Sefer Yosef Daas on Shabbos 11a suggests that according to the Rambam he still prayed one Shemonah Esrei a day, so he would have had to get dressed for that:

יש מי שכתב שרבי שמעון בן יוחאי היה מתפלל פעם אחת ביום לפחות, כדי לצאת ידי חובת תפילה מן התורה (לדעת הרמב"ם - תפלה א, והכס"מ וקרית ספר שם). כן כתב בישועות יעקב (קו סק"ד).

(It should be noted that the Yerushalmi in Shabbos 7a argues with the Bavli and quotes Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai as saying you don't even have to stop for Krias Shema:

ר' יוחנן אמר בשם ר"ש בן יוחי כגון אנו שעסוקין בתלמוד תורה אפי' לקרית שמע אין אנו מפסיקין.)

  • 1
    Why did he need to get dressed just for shema? There's only a special obligation to be dressed properly for shmone esrei. Buried in sand is more than sufficient for shema, as it is sufficient for all the Torah study they did.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 3:19
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    DoubleAA, the way I understood the Shulchan arch(OC-91:2) was that one has to get dressed properly for all times they pray. I wonder did you understand the Shulchan Aruch differently or have another source? Commented May 3, 2020 at 13:09
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    צריך לאזור אזור בשעת התפלה אפי' יש לו אבנט שאין לבו רואה את הערו' משום הכון אבל שאר ברכות מותר לברך בלא חגורה מאחר שיש לו מכנסים Commented May 3, 2020 at 13:09

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