Let us assume for the sake of discussion the following scenario.

There is a young, devout man[1] who has reached a point life where he earns more than enough money to sustain himself. He's by no means rich as in a millionaire or billionaire, but he owns a business that can allow him to live a more-or-less care free life.

He also has plenty of extra time. He could use this extra time in one of two ways.

  1. He could put more time into his work, expand his business and acquire wealth, which he could then use to perform charity and good works.
  2. He could be content with his current standard of living, and use all the spare time he has to devote himself to Torah study.
  3. There is no number 3. Balance between the two is not possible in his situation. He either chooses one route, or the other. If he pursues the path of Torah study, he will not be left with enough time and energy to increase his business. If he pursues the path of business, his time and energy for Torah study will be severely hampered and limited at best.

Please also cite sources for your answers.

What should the said person do in this situation ? [1] I did not specify whether he was a Jew or a Noachide. If there's a difference, please treat both scenarios.

  • Unfortunately lots of people who say they will acquire lots of money to give to charity end up giving a lot to their fancy car
    – Double AA
    Aug 11, 2021 at 14:00
  • @DoubleAA And unfortunately, the reverse is also true. A lot of people say they will devote lots of time to learn Torah end up devoting much of their time to slacking off... Aug 11, 2021 at 14:23
  • sefaria.org/Berakhot.35b.10?lang=bi
    – Dov
    Aug 11, 2021 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


This is a loaded question that I am sure will generate a lot of feedback. The plain and simple answer is that each and every situation is unique and different, and therefore needs to be asked to a competent Rabbi or Mentor for specific personal guidance. It depends if the person will really be able to sit and learn properly or they will waste their time. There are many sources that discuss this topic in Sifrei Mussar and other places. Here are some I can think of to start;

Berachos 35B (link in previous comments) mentions that the allowance to work at all is based on the Passuk of ואספת דגנך so it seems that once that is complete, there would no longer be a heter to continue working.

Kiddushin 29B The gemarah relates a story with R' Acha Bar Yackov who told his son that since he was not being succesful with his learning, they should switch places and the son should work and he will learn. The option of both working and giving charity was not raised.

Mishna Pe'ah 1:1 brings a list of mitzvohs that have reward in both worlds, it includes doing chesed and others, and then ends off that Torah is above all - וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶֽגֶד כֻּלָּם , so it seems that if you are presented with an opportunity to either do tzedaka or learn, learning is more important as long as the chesed will be done by others.

The Mishna in Avos in the 6th Perek brings a story from R' Yossi ben Kisma who was asked about moving to a far away city and he would be given a lot of money. He declined, saying that he only wants to live in a Makom Torah. I heard from R' Shmuel Berenbaum zt"l (RY Mir Brokklyn) that he asked why didn't Reb Yossi take the money and do tzedaka, build yeshivos, do mitzvohs? You know how much more he could of done had he of taken the money? They weren't even asking him to stop learning, just to move to their city and learn there?? He answered that we see from here that even for a lower level of quality of Torah, not even less quantity, you do not give that up for extra money beyond what you need to live.

Having said all this, I personally know someone very very well who was told by his Rosh Hayeshiva when an opportunity presented itself, that Klal Yisroel needs people who will go work and donate 50% of their money to tzedaka and he should leave learning to go to work in the opportunity that was presented. When he asked R' Chaim Kanievsky he agreed.

(I have heard from others who were told that the guideline is that once you have enough you do not go out to look for more income. However if an opportunity presents itself without you going to look for it, then you need to determine if it is a test from Heaven or your Tafkid right now. For that you need to ask your mentor for guidance.)

As for a Noachide, he only has the 7 commandments, there is no commandment for him to learn all day so it would be perfectly fine for him to work as much as he wants.

I am sure many will disagree with a lot that I mentioned here, I am just presenting one angle to the equation.

  • Another somewhat related source, is in Igros Moshe Y"D 4, 36;5 where he explains that although the best way to accomplish the mitzvah of limud hatorah is to do the minimum amount of business, it's not an absolute chiyuv. Only the generation of Chizkiya was able to get everyone to reach that level. hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=922&st=&pgnum=269. hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=922&st=&pgnum=270
    – Chatzkel
    Aug 12, 2021 at 23:31
  • IIRC, there is a Biur Halacha that encourages 2., but says 1. is also permissible. So if they are both permitted, it becomes more of a personal question as to how the individual can best serve G-d.
    – N.T.
    Aug 13, 2021 at 18:24

"better to be a tail to lions than a head to foxes" (Ethics of the Fathers 4:16

see the Tiferes Yisrael commentary who says the lions refer to torah scholars while foxes refers to businessmen.

i.e. better to be learning torah even if you are not going to be a big scholar, rather than to be a head of businessmen.

however, as the answer by chatzkel, best to consult a wise torah scholar

  • 1
    Does this apply if the businessman is using the business to further Torah and not to buy fancy cars? I don't see how you could know. Surely businessman "lishmo" is worse than minor Torah scholar, but that's not our question
    – Double AA
    Aug 11, 2021 at 19:12
  • @DoubleAA "surely" - where did you get that from? lots of chazals say torah is the highest mitzvah and shelo lishmo comes to lishmo, etc.
    – user813801
    Aug 15, 2021 at 11:04
  • Lishmo not lishmah. Businessman for the sake of business is worse than minor Torah scholar, as seen in your mishna.
    – Double AA
    Aug 15, 2021 at 13:20
  • who said the minor torah scholar is not lishma? it just says he won't be a big torah scholar
    – user813801
    Aug 16, 2021 at 11:20
  • I don't understand your point
    – Double AA
    Aug 16, 2021 at 13:11

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