It is a positive commandment to learn Torah. But the concept of bitul Torah seems to imply that it is also a negative commandment not to learn Torah. Where does this concept of bitul Torah come from?

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    On the contrary! Bittul is the classical term used to describe the non-observance of a positive injunction, known as Bittul Aseh.
    – Double AA
    Sep 5, 2012 at 16:39
  • @DoubleAA True about the use of the word Bitul. But the idea could be more than a Bitul 'Aseh. It could (conceivably) be an Isur 'Aseh, perhaps. (VeHigitha Bo Yomam VaLaylah, etc.)
    – Seth J
    Sep 5, 2012 at 20:27
  • @SethJ It could be. I'm only evaluating the evidence provided by the asker.
    – Double AA
    Sep 5, 2012 at 22:43
  • Yoma 19b: אמר רבא השח שיחת חולין עובר בעשה שנאמר ודברת בם בם ולא בדברים אחרים רב אחא בר יעקב אמר עובר בלאו שנאמר (קהלת א, ח) כל הדברים יגעים לא יוכל איש לדבר
    – Fred
    Mar 12, 2013 at 0:20

3 Answers 3


I don't know of any negative commandment per se, and as @DoubleAA pointed out in the comments, the term bitul does not imply that there is one. As for where the concept comes from, here's one place:

אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָד וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָׁב. כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת ה' חֶפְצוֹ וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה

Happy is the man who does not walk with the counsel of the wicked or stand on the way of sinners or sit in the company of mockers; but whose delight is in the law of the LORD and who meditates on his law day and night.

-Psalms 1:1-2

Note what meditating on the Law is contrasted with.

The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (18b) citing the Tosefta (ibid. 2:2 in the Vilna Shas edition) also makes this connection; equating bitul Torah with sitting in the company of mockers.

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    The earliest I can find the phrase explicitly is once in the Tosefta Shabbat 7:5
    – Double AA
    Sep 5, 2012 at 17:34
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    @DoubleAA It's in Tosefta Avodah Zarah 2:2 as well, cited in the Gemara there on 18b (which discusses the verse I cited).
    – Dov F
    Sep 5, 2012 at 18:03
  • תוספתא ע"ז ב:ב וכשם שאין מוכרין להן בהמה גסה כך אין מוכרין להן חיה גסה ואף במקום שאין מוכרין להן בהמה דקה אין מוכרין להם חיה דקה: ??? Perhaps we have different numbering schemes?
    – Double AA
    Sep 5, 2012 at 18:06
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    @DoubleAA I believe we do. I am using the Vilna Shas in which what you quoted is still in 2:1. In 2:2 in the Vilna Shas edition it reads ההולך לצטריונין ורואה את הנחשים ואת החברים מוליון סגילאדין סגילאדה אסור משום מושב לצים שנאמר ובמושב לצים לא ישב אלה מדות שמביאין את האדם לידי ביטול תלמוד תורה.
    – Dov F
    Sep 5, 2012 at 18:12
  • Hmm that's 2:6 for me. Oh well.
    – Double AA
    Sep 5, 2012 at 18:15

the verse "ki dvar H-shem baza hikaret tikaret" ("For they have denigrated the word of G-d" (Parsha shlach) which the talmud says refers to bitul torah

  • 1
    Can you cite where the Talmud says that?
    – Double AA
    Sep 5, 2012 at 19:31
  • Sanhedrin 99a mentions ki dvar H-shem baza, however does not mention Bitul Torah only as כל שאפשר לעסוק בתורה ואינו עוסק. Sep 5, 2012 at 20:15
  • 2
    if one can learn but does not, why isn't that bitul torah?
    – ray
    Sep 5, 2012 at 20:31
  • the first page in tanya brings this verse as the source for bitul torah
    – ray
    Sep 6, 2012 at 19:47

It seems that the crux of the question is whether or not there is a general obligation to learn all day (and night). If there is, then one would be "mevatel" this assei by ceasing study (d'chiya notwithstanding.)

See here cited here. where R. Yonah is presented as holding so. The Rambam however is not cited, however (presumably) because in hilchos talmud torah he doesnt say that one must learn all day. Rather he implies (1:8) that one must merely assign time in the day and in the night.

We can infer this from the Chayei Adam (cited above) as well who writes:

וכן בשכיבה אצ"ל שבזמן שיוכל לעסוק בתורה ובמצות לא יתגרה בשינה לענג עצמו

His juxtaposition of Torah to mitzvos is telling. Just as the mitzvos he is encouraging one to fulfill are obviously praiseworthy but not obligatory (kiyumis) (for otherwise it would go without saying that one must perform them rather than taking a nap) so too we can infer that studying Torah is also praiseworthy but not obligatory (besides for the minimal requirement; see Rambam).

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