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In SA OC Siman 106 Sif 2, the Machaber says that someone that for whom "Toraso Umanaso" ("his torah is his occupation", ie a person that is constantly engaged in Torah study) like Rebbe Shimon Bar Yachai and his friends, would stop learning in order to say Krias Shema but not tefillah. The Machaber then says however we ("anu") stop learning both to say Krias Shema and tefillah. The M"B there in Sif-Katan 6 writes that R' Shimon and his friends were learning Torah all the time and would not stop to do work; however we who stop learning to do work certainly should stop learning for tefillah.

My question is: from the time of R' Shimon through the Shulchan Aruch and till today, was there anyone that we know of that was still on this level like R' Shimon that really wouldn't stop learning to daven?

Surely there were great Rishonim and Achronim that certainly we would say about them that they were learning constantly and perhaps did fit into such a category of "Toraso Umanaso". Even in our generation we find great people (like R' Eliyashuv ZT"L) about whom many say that he simply never stop learning for anything (except of course to be makayim mitzvas, daven, etc.) I think if someone would say he wasn't on this level, it could be that he would be chastised for saying such a thing. Perhaps though because of the humble nature of these Gedolim (in our generation and in previous ones) they simply wouldn't want to accept such a title on them and patur. And certainly not to practice in that way lest "normal" people come to learn from it the wrong thing. Perhaps this itself is the answer.

But again my question is if this was ever applicable to anyone after R' Shimon (whether before the Shulchan Aruch or after) and if there was someone in this category who davened anyway, why weren't they accustomed to skipping prayers, like this SA says?

  • You want to suggest that Rav Elyashiv was on this level, but Rav Yochanan (Shabbat 11a) was not? – Double AA Feb 3 '13 at 2:05
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    @DoubleAA Rabbi Elyashiv didn't have a job (to my knowledge) other than תורתו אומנתו. Rabbi Yochanan could have had a job. – b a Feb 3 '13 at 2:49
  • @DoubleAA Certainly not. Part of my question was if anyone like this existed after R' Shimon as well. And then after the Shas (anytime before Shulchan Aruch) and then after Shulchan Aruch and then also in our generation (since we also saw people like this...) Another person I asked compared R' Eliyashuv to the GR"A. He said "we see that they both did daven, so..." I thought that was quite a comparison. – Yehoshua Feb 3 '13 at 6:16
  • @ba Maybe because he "worked" for the Rabbanut that it was considered a job? However he left that position already a long time ago... – Yehoshua Feb 3 '13 at 6:17
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    In general my question was asked in light of the fact that Shulchan Aruch at least mentions this idea and the explanation given that it doesn't apply to us since we stop learning in order to do work. However we see that there were many people (in our generation) that did in fact only learn and not work at all. There were however a number of Tanoim and Amoroim that had a job. I once saw an extensive list in this quoting many sources I don't remember (and I don't think) R' Yochanan was among them -- especially because of how he was known for his love of Torah and his position in Torah. – Yehoshua Feb 3 '13 at 6:30
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I could not find anyone since Rashbi and friends in who considered themselves on this level. This is because a number of Poskim (SA Harav here, in addition to the sources below) consider the level of Rashbi and friends in addition to actually having another job or not, based on the Rav Yochanan's statement (Shabbos 11a):

דתניא חברים שהיו עוסקין בתורה מפסיקין לק"ש ואין מפסיקין לתפלה א"ר יוחנן לא שנו אלא כגון ר"ש בן יוחי וחביריו שתורתן אומנותן אבל כגון אנו מפסיקין לק"ש ולתפלה

Aruch Hashulchan in particular (OC 106:11, not according to Rambam) essentially echoed DoubleAA's original comment of "If R' Yochanan wasn't, we aren't".

Rav Moshe Feinstein (OC 2:27, discussion of missing Minyan for learning) says that no one in his generation is on this level.

עכ"פ תפלה בצבור הוא חיוב וא"כ אין שייך לחלק בין ת"ח לסתם אדם אם אינו כרשב"י וחבריו שרשאים לבטל גם עיקר תפלה שדין זה ליכא לת"ח שבזמננו.

If you wanted an earlier source, Seder Rav Amram (Keriyas Shema) explains the Rav Yochanan's statement above as follows:

לא שנו אלא בדורות הראשונים כגון רשב"י וחביריו שתורתם אומנתם, אבל אנו מפסיקין בין לק"ש בין לתפלה

All of these Gedolim and Poskim agree that Rav Eliyashiv would not qualify as being able to skip Tefillah, and should not be chastised for saying so.

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