The Talmud says:

The Sages taught that there are three for whom the Holy One, Blessed be He, cries every day: (1) For one who is able to engage in Torah study and does not; (2) for one who is unable to engage in Torah study and yet does it; (3) and for a leader who lords over the community. [Ḥagigah 5b]

Why the second? Because he might then teach things that are not true? How do we know he is unable? Isn't everyone supposed to study Torah without restriction?

  • Someone who has to do another mitzvah?
    – Heshy
    Dec 9, 2022 at 19:16
  • Maybe because those who cannot concentrate their attention on study, will transform the words of Torah into idle matters, because of their lack of understanding?
    – Tamir Evan
    Dec 10, 2022 at 16:46
  • We need to reconcile these possibilities with the obligation to study Torah, knowing that occasionally all of us will understand it wrong and possibly teach it wrong. Dec 10, 2022 at 22:53

3 Answers 3


The simplest and most straightforward answer to your question is someone who is currently in the toilet or similar location.

See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 4:4 and 5:2, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 85:2 and Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Kriat Shema 3:4, Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 85:1-2.

  • So God is unhappy only about the location of the study session? I am not sure because the Talmud says "he is unable to study", not "he is not allowed to study". Dec 11, 2022 at 17:43
  • @MauriceMizrahi I actually like this question a lot. It’s not only related to place that makes one unable, it’s also condition. If you actually go through the links I provided, you’ll get the idea in a fuller sense. In comparison, there are circumstances when one can learn Torah (one of the mitzvot), but is not obliged because of engagement in another mitzvah already (don’t pass over one for the other). This is also mentioned in connection with recital of Shema. But look at the reward & cost aspect of holding off when appropriate. Yashar ko’ach on a good question. Dec 11, 2022 at 19:13
  • Also, “the unhappiness”, as you call it, is about someone not following the right path of refraining from engaging in Torah when it is inappropriate. See the discussion in Aruch HaShulchan. Dec 11, 2022 at 19:19

The explanation of the Ben Ish Chai in his בן יהוידע is somewhat parallel to what you write re: might teach things that are not true, but he elaborates to say the line in the gemara refers to someone who does not yet have sufficient understanding to delve deeply into Torah study. If such a person pursues this study in depth without learning from a rav or chacham who possesses sufficient understanding, then he will come to incorrect conclusions.

וכן מי שאי אפשר לו לעסוק בתורה ועוסק דהיינו שאין לו לב מבין לתרץ הקושיות והוא עוסק בתורה בדרך העיון לבדו שאז ישאר בקושיות בלבד שמתרבים אצלו ואין מוצא להם תירוץ אפילו לקושיא אחת כי הוא אינו בר הכי וגם אינו לומד לפני רב וחכם כדי שהוא יתרץ לו קשיותיו דנמצא נשאר זה נבוך תמיד ברבוי הקשיות הנה גם זה גורם תגבורת לקליפות מאחר דאינו מוצא תירוץ לשבר הקליפות ואז ממילא יתגברו כוחות הדינין וצריך לתקן הדבר על ידי מיתוק וביסום לכוחות הדינין כדי להכניע הקליפות.

The Maharsha offers a different explanation. "one who is unable to engage in Torah study" refers to one who wastes his time on day-to-day matters (דברים בטלים) and leaves himself unable to spend his time in Torah study. The final "ועוסק" in this instance refers not to עסק בתורה but instead to עסק בדברים בטלים.

וכל שא"א לו לעסוק בתורה לאו משום שא"א לו ממש אלא שעוסק בדברים אחרים המבטלים אותו מלימוד תורה על שניהם הקב"ה בוכה על זה שהולך בטל ואינו עוסק בתורה וגם על זה שעוסק בדברים אחרים וביטל מד"ת שהיה לו להניח כל עסקיו משום לימוד תורה כדאמרינן סוף פ"ב דקידושין מניח אני את כל אומנות שבעולם ולומד את בני תורה

  • 1
    How can the Maharsha say the following if the assumption is that he does study Torah? ----""one who is unable to engage in Torah study" refers to one who wastes his time on day-to-day matters (דברים בטלים) and leaves himself unable to spend his time in Torah study. " Dec 9, 2022 at 19:38
  • @MauriceMizrahi - the key here is that the Maharsha interprets the words of the gemara "and yet does it" to mean that the "it" doesn't refer to Torah study but instead the "it" refers to involvement with דברים בטלים
    – EraserX
    Dec 9, 2022 at 19:43

Here's a possibility in two scenarios:

I knew a man who had cancer which eventually took his life. He would try with all of his energy to study Torah, but he would be in so much pain he would bury his head in his hands and wince, not being able to focus. He was unable to engage, but studied anyway.

Or consider a housewife with young children, who is constantly interrupted in all her doings. Every time she sits down to study she must immediately get back up and tend to another child. She is unable to engage, but tries anyway.

  • Very nice, Hashem crying tears of being touched, that's beautiful and original
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 10, 2022 at 19:20
  • I like it too, but mixing in the same sentence God crying for very different reasons may be a bit of a stretch. Dec 10, 2022 at 22:53
  • Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:8 כל איש מישראל חייב בתלמוד תורה בין עני בין עשיר בין שלם בגופו בין בעל יסורין בין בחור בין שהיה זקן גדול שתשש כחו אפילו היה עני המתפרנס מן הצדקה ומחזר על הפתחים ואפילו בעל אשה ובנים חייב לקבוע לו זמן לתלמוד תורה ביום ובלילה שנאמר והגית בו יומם ולילה
    – Alex
    Dec 11, 2022 at 3:30
  • @Alex That is very good. It helps refine all of the thoughts on this-- whatever the passage in question may mean, it certainly can't be that any man is not to study Torah.
    – 1Sam1223
    Dec 11, 2022 at 15:34

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