I’m wondering if there’s any source/mention about learning Torah from someone who learns Torah not lishma. Specifically not lishma from honour. What I mean is, while it’s impossible to know one’s true intentions, you can sometimes “tell” that someone is just doing it for honour and Im wondering if you can learn from such a person

This question is based on the principle that one should not learn Torah from a heretic (lehavdil) and the story with Rabbi Meir and Acher and how he was able to learn from him because he could pick out the good and throw out the bad but not everyone can do that. We learn that Torah is not just about the knowledge that is transmitted it’s also about the receptacle from which it is being transmitted. Therefore I feel the question of learning from someone who is only learning for the sake of honour (they want to boast their knowledge even at the expense of putting other people down) may have some source but I haven’t found anything

  • Which kind of shelo lishma? It may matter. Tosfos says there are two kinds of "shelo lishma" -- the kind the Gemara in Taanis says is toxic is when intended to put other people down. If it's just for a good name, that's a different Gemara -- "learn shelo lishma, it will bring you to lishma."
    – Shalom
    Commented Jul 11 at 3:41
  • I personally think honour would more closely be like the first type that you mentioned, because one who seeks honour wants to boast themselves up even at the expense of putting others down. This is the main type of lo lishma that I would like to know if there are any sources not to learn from such a person Commented Jul 11 at 3:48
  • Thanks @Shalom I’ll refine the question to be more specific to this type Commented Jul 11 at 3:49

1 Answer 1


Obviously if one has a choice, he follows the best possible teacher who "is like an angel" (see explanations here). Ribbi Meir says that one is allowed to study from an imperfect teacher, since he is learning not "his (the teacher's) wisdom, but My (Hashem's) wisdom" (Hagigah 15b).

Although I don't have a source for this particular case of not lishma, there is a source for something worse.

One is not allowed to charge for teaching the oral torah, but if one cannot find a teacher who will teach him for free he should pay (B'chorot 29a).

This is even though this teacher is not following the law himself. A fair assumption is if the teacher is not following the actual law, he does not study lishmah.

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