Genesis 3:17

And to man He said, "Because you listened to your wife, and you ate from the tree from which I commanded you saying, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed be the ground for your sake; with toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life.

Proverbs 13:4.

The soul of the lazy man desires but has nothing, but the soul of the diligent shall be sated.

Ecclesiastes 10:18.

Through laziness the rafter sinks, and with idleness of the hands the house leaks.

Proverbs 14:23

In every toil there will be gain, but a word of the lips is only for loss.

Proverbs 22:29

Have you seen a man quick in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before poor men.

Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, you sluggard; see her ways and become wise,

for she has no chief, overseer, or ruler;

yet she prepares her bread in the summer; she gathers her food in the harvest.

O lazy one, how long will you lie [there]; when will you get up from your sleep?

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to lie."

your poverty shall come like a fast walker and your want as an armed man.

It says in the bible that it is good and required for man to work. So if you are on welfare if you can and should work is that against the will of Hashem?

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    Are you asking because you are concerned about theft from the government or because you are concerned about laziness? Would it matter if you discovered that some people receiving aid learn in kollel? Or might get paid off the books? Are you asking a business ethics or hashkafic question?
    – rosends
    Jun 21, 2022 at 0:01
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    It is not necessary in regard to your question to target “Chassidic Jews” as having any preponderance of followers on welfare over any other Jewish demographic category. The concept of “working for a living” is complex when considering that the source of all blessings, including your paycheck, in reality comes from G-d. Personal labor is only making a proper vessel to receive that blessing. Similarly, what constitutes “work” can take many forms, including even sitting and learning all day. But all that said, we are supposed to strive to work for a living. Avoidance is frowned on. Jun 21, 2022 at 1:38
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    voted to close for being off topic as using christianity as your sources makers this question not about Judaism
    – Dude
    Jun 21, 2022 at 2:00
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    I changed the citations to the correct ones at chabad,org with the valid translations. Jun 21, 2022 at 3:23
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    I removed your observation about how certain people act as this is not relevant to the question. Jun 21, 2022 at 10:11

4 Answers 4


Your question cited Christian Scripture in support of your point -- that's not going to support it from this audience, and we'd ask you not to bring that here. (This site has accepted questions asking for the Judaic context to certain events in Christian Scripture, but that's different.) But yes, this subject has been debated within classical Jewish sources. Often with different verses; many that you quote are about generic toil. A broader point is that viewing the Torah as something to make money is a blatant disrespect to it.

The short answer is that in theory, someone able-bodied should be working. An argument has been made that if we left study for the physically weak or part-timers, we wouldn't have enough of it, so some are studying full-time out of communal necessity. Others argued this was especially vital when rebuilding the Jewish community post-Holocaust.

You will hear such attitudes among many in Israel's "ultra-Orthodox" camp today (in which, interestingly, many Hassidic communities are more open to working than their non-Hassidic ultra-Orthodox counterparts). Many will continue to argue that times are still desperate and a full-out effort is needed ... while others may see the numbers differently. I'll leave it there.

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    Consider Mishnah Avot 1:3. Also, consider who is considered to be one whose occupation, (meaning the source of their livelihood) is learning Torah. This relates to people like Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). Many have tried and most have failed. Rashbi was provided regularly, miraculous Heavenly assistance and didn’t rely on human handouts. This is the subject of the רחם paragraph in Birkat HaMazon which asks that we not be dependent upon the gifts or loans of human beings, but only upon what G-d provides directly. Jun 21, 2022 at 2:40

I write this as someone in favor of working for a living, and who agrees with Shalom's answer, that this has been debated within Jewish sources.

Your question initially cited Thessalonians, which is in the Christian Bible, and the other citations are from Biblical verses from the Hebrew Bible. However, Jews follow not just the Bible (Tanach) but various sources of Oral Law, such as Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, and so on. And, it is not just that these are competing sources of law and thought, but the latter informs upon the former, how to interpret these sources. Even within the sources of Oral Law, there are instructions that one shouldn't rule (determine law in practice) based on just the Mishnah, or based on just the Talmud. This is because one needs to know how to read these sources, know later strata of analysis, know where some statement applies or does not apply.

So, while for Christians, it may be a matter of collecting a series of Biblical verses which have a broad message, for Orthodox Jews, it may not suffice. They will want to know how these verses have been interpreted, and will also assume that Midrash, Talmud, writing of rabbis of later generations have all taken these (and other) Biblical sources as input and arrived at other conclusions, and will therefore look to the later sources. I'll play devil's advocate, to flesh this out.

To take your first example, you cite Genesis 3:17. This is a explicitly a curse to mankind. One might argue that this is therefore not the ideal situation. Are we certain that a life of hard toil is the ideal? If someone has succeeded early in life, must he still devote his life to labor in the field, rather than e.g. exploring intellectual pursuits? Womankind was cursed with pain of labor in birth. Does that mean that a woman must refuse an epidural during labor?

Your second example is from the book of Proverbs, Mishlei. This book is taken by Christians to be aphorisms of how to live a good life, but by many Jewish sources as Meshalim, allegories, where there is a literal meaning but an intended allegorical meaning of something else. Rashi, a prominent Biblical commentator, writes:

The soul of the lazy man desires but has nothing His soul desires all good, but has nothing. but the soul of the diligent shall be sated The upright who eat from the toil of their hands. This is its meaning according to its simple interpretation. According to its allegorical meaning, in the future he will see the glory of the Torah scholar and long for it, but he will not achieve it.

Such that its intended focus is on labors in Torah study. Does the literal meaning, necessary in order to understand the allegory, also have standing as instructions for life? That could be debated.

I won't go through the remainder of the Biblical sources because the above should suffice to illustrate the idea. I'll just repeat, these sources might indeed imply this, and other sources might also endorse the idea. But mere Biblical verses, cited out of context and without other analysis, is not compelling to those operating in the Jewish tradition.

For one example of many, see Berachot 35b, where competing ideas of work vs. Torah study are brought, all based on analysis of Biblical verses.


A simple answer may be that someone who is involved with the holy Torah is neither lazy nor isn't toiling (albeit in Torah). I think that everyone agrees that people should not sit at home and just take benefits. The argument and difference in Hashkafah is only whether one should work for a living or rely on Hashem and go into learning (if I am not mistaken)

  • Yes that is the question being asked. I know a lot of Jews go into a life of learning Torah but how does that in particular benefit the world? Having children who are Jewish benefits the world but say if the person does not marry or have children. There is a difference between just studying Torah for your own sake and giving back to the world or the community in some fashion, especially while receiving welfare and benefit so you can do such a thing. Jun 29, 2022 at 17:02
  • The Torah is the word of the infinite creator of all - there is nothing more important, or helpful to the world than it. That's why the gemara says if you are learning and someone is drowning (and we didn't a command from God to the contrary) we should continue learning rather than saving. Studying Torah is not just "studying Torah for your own sake" it is the ultimate "giving back to the world". Jun 30, 2022 at 21:54

You are allowed to do anything to support your Jewish life and family. As long as it is not illegal, you can procure money/ livelihood from anywhere and any which way. Don't get involved too much in these sorts of political issues. Also you, your parents and grandparents etc. gave money towards welfare in the form of taxes. There is nothing wrong with taking back what is yours. At the end of the day, G_d who is the supreme calculator of chesbonoth will take care of it. You also seem to assume that just being alive as a Jew and being Jewish is some how not doing any good to the world.

  • Maybe. I think if the person can't work, does not work, does not have children and/or does not study Torah or dedicate his life in some way to the bettering of mankind then it is a sin. Say if a Jew lives in the projects, does nothing but play video games all day, lied about having a mental illness to receive SSI/Welfare, does not marry or have children, does not study Torah and is lazy then he is committing a sin. Jun 29, 2022 at 17:00
  • @NoahQ'yain Ty for your answer. As a side note, it seems that we were all born into this welfare system, whether we like it or not. It is something that a normal person can't do anything about. I think it was introduced by President Wilson or some other President way back when our grandparents were kids. What I was saying is that taking care of your family comes first, even if it means taking welfare. Hey, I didn't decide nor did I do anything for the mess then economy is. Jul 8, 2022 at 17:13

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