The Gemara in Avodah Zarah 3b lays out the 12-hour schedule of Hashem's day. I realize that any kind of description of Hashem in human terms is allegorical as Hashem is not a human bounded by time and space.

The schedule in the Gemara is:

  • First three hours: Hashem is engaged in Torah study
  • Second three hours: Hashem judges his creatures
  • Third three hours: Hashem feeds his creatures
  • Fourth three hours: Hashem sports with Leviathan

I can understand the idea of Hashem judging or feeding his creatures, and for some reason even sporting with Leviathan doesn't strike me as that odd.

But what does it really mean that Hashem studies his own Torah? Why would he do this, and what does he gain from it? What are we to learn from this statement that Hashem studies the Torah?

  • that the torah is infinite just like Him
    – ray
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 20:36
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    @ray, by that logic does that mean that Leviathan is also infinite?
    – Premundane
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 21:04
  • Leviathan is just an analogy for torah secrets. read that somewhere. dont remember the source
    – ray
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 19:51
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    No, it means that he plays games and has fun, k'veyachol. He has the Leviathan l'sachek bo. Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 1:35
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    Why do you translate "Yoshev ve-Oseq ba-Torah" as "Hashem is engaged in Torah study" (or "Hashem studies his own Torah")? why not just translate it as "Hashem is engaged in the Torah"(similar to how the Soncino edition translates it), which can also imply that he teaches Torah (as Rashi seems to suggest, in s.v. "Yomam Yetzaveh")?
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Mar 8, 2014 at 17:42

6 Answers 6


First, some background information:

In both the Torah She-Bi-Kethav and the Torah She-B`Al Peh, there is a concept of the Creator setting an example of proper ethical and moral conduct for mankind in general and for the Jewish Nation in particular. This concept of the imitation of God was developed further through the midrashic fervor of the Tanna'im and Amora'im in the Mishnah, Talmudhim, Agadoth, and other texts of Haza"l.

However, since logic tells us that the Creator does not possess positive attributes and is not subject to "accidents" (cf. Ramba"m Hilkhoth Yesodhei HaTorah 1:1ff; Pirush HaMishnayoth, Sanhedrin 10, and Moreh HaNevukhim I), ALL of these attributions must be seen as metaphorical and for our benefit as He, yith'aleh wa-yithborakh, is a Bilti Ba`al Zequq (One Who needs nothing).

The "examples" which have been [metaphorically] set for us by HaShem are in two categories: [1] how we must act one to another (ben adham le-havero), and [2] how we must act toward Him (ben adham le-Maqom).

The former are shown in the well-known examples of HaShem "performing" various misswoth, such as:

  • Biqur Holim - Visiting The Sick - when He "visited" Avraham Avinu on the third day after his berith milah (cf. Rash"i, Parashath Wayera; b.Sotah 14a)
  • Qevura - Burying The Dead - when He buried Mosheh Rabbenu (cf. b.Sotah 14a)
  • Hatarath Nedarim - Annulment Of Vows - when He removed the gezerah from Yekhonyah HaMelekh after he did teshuvah in Bavel, which resulted in the conception of Shealti'el the father of Zerubavel (cf. b.Sanhedrin 38a)

The later, however, are not shown to us by how HaShem serves the Creator (has wa-shalom), as if such a thing were even possible (halilah wa-has), but rather - ironically - how HaShem serves - as it were - the Jewish Nation. That is, since all of His dealings with His creations are based on the concept of berith (an agreement between 2 or more parties), through seeing how HaShem treats His portion of the berith with `Am Yisrael we gain insight into how we should approach our duties as spelled out in our portion of the berith. In this vein, we find the following examples:

  • Tefillin - In b.Berakhoth 6a, Haza"l discuss the concept of HaShem's "tefillin" and what passages they might contain. The conclusion is that the passages of His "tefillin" metaphorically correspond and are reciprocal to ours. Whereas ours contain (among others) the passage Shema` Yisra'el (Devarim 6:4) - expressing our unique relationship to HaShem - His contain the passage Mi KeAmekha Yisra'el (Divrei HaYamim 17:21)
  • Limudh Torah - In various places (b.Avodah Zarah 3b; Yalqut Shim`oni, Parashath KiTisa "Wayeshev HaAm"; Tanna DeBe Eliyahu Rabbah, Pereq 13) the idea of HaShem studying Torah is mentioned to illustrate His steadfast devotion to His portion of the berith, i.e. His duties (as defined by the Torah) toward the Jewish Nation.

And it is this final example which leads to answering your question.

Now, to answer your question:

I would like to suggest, based on the above explanation and the simple wording of the Gemara in b.Avodah Zarah 3b, that the proper understanding of the passage is as follows:

The Gemara list four activities:

  1. Studying Torah
  2. Judging The World
  3. Providing Sustenance To All Creatures
  4. Playing with the Lewiyathan

The common thread between the later three (i.e. judging the world, providing sustenance for the world, and playing with the Lewiyathan) is that He is focused on tending to His creations. So then, it seems to stand to reason that HaShem's Torah study is intended to have a similar thrust. Thus, it would seem that the message for Jews in HaShem's studying of the Torah is "Just as the Creator is careful to constantly keep His duties toward the Jewish Nation in His heart and mind - as it were - so also we should dedicate a significant portion of our time (e.g. a quarter of the day) studying the Torah so that we can dutifully fulfill our portion of the berith with HaShem."

According to the Shulhan `Arukh (OH 1:1), it was a practice of the Ssadiqim to constantly think of HaShem and His greatness in accordance with the pasuq (Tehillim 16:8), Shiwithi HaShem leneghdi thamidh - "I have set HaShem before me always." I suspect that this was due - at least in part - to their understanding of the above concept.

Hope this was adequate.

Kol tuv.


A thought:

The verse says (Eichah 3:23)

חדשים לבקרים רבה אמונתך

which is understood to mean that Hashem renews creation each morning, along the lines of מחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד.

The Zohar teaches that הסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא - Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world.

Therefore, in order to "recreate anew" each morning, Hashem again looks into the Torah to renew His creation.

The Gemara in Berachos (2a) says that the first 3 hours of the day are the time when it is still in the normal range of time to get up, and our souls are renewed when we awaken. Therefore, the first 3 hours would still be the time of "recreating" creation according to the blueprint of the Torah.

I subsequently found this in the Maharal Be'er HaGolah Be'er Revi'i:

דע כי יש דעות פלוםופים שאמרו עזב ה׳ את הארץ והוא מסולק מן חתחתונים.

וזה שאמר ג׳ שעות ראשונות יושב ועוסק בתורה. כי התורה הוא סדר הנמצאים איך יתנהגו הנמצאים, וכל סדר המציאות בכלל נכלל בתורה. ודבר זה ידוע מאוד מדברי חכמים, במדרש (ב״ר פ״א) אמרו הקב״ה היה מביט בתורה וברא את העולם

כלל הדבר כי התורה שהשם יתברך עוסק בה הוא סדר הנמצאים, והוא יתברך יודע סדר הנמצאים, ואינו עוזב סדר שלהם עד שיהיו מסולקים ממנו לגמרי וזהו שעוסק בתורה

Basic summary: There are some philosophers who believe that Hashem abandoned creation. This statement of Chazal responds to that: The first 3 hours Hashem is involved in the Torah, as the Torah lays out the order of reality, as we know that Hashem looked into the world and [based on it] created the world. The Torah that Hashem is involved in is the order of the world, and He is involved in it and has not abandoned the world.

See the whole piece inside for a clearer idea.

This is similar, although not the same, to what I explained.

  • I like this interpretation, but it does raise the question of timezones. The whole world doesn't get up in the same three hours. (An infinite God can of course do anything, but do you have other ideas?) Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 16:23
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    @MonicaCellio Your point also raises the interesting question of when is morning for Hashem? I don't think He resides in a specific timezone. I would assume Hashem interfaces with each person and place as they are. So "Hashem's morning" would be subjective (which isn't so far-fetched, since I imagine this to be somewhat symbolic). Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 17:29
  • Either that, or Jerusalem (like, arguably, for astronauts). Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 17:46
  • Commentless downvote? (especially since it was a Maharal) Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 16:33

Tana Devai Eliyahu Raba 13 says that Hashem questions us when we arrive at the next world and says "Why did you not learn from your father in heaven who sits on his Kisai Hakovod and learns a third of the day"?

  • The midrash in the question says it's a quarter of a day
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 16:45
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    Also what does this statement about God add to the question?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 16:47
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    @DoubleAA: Although there is a difference in the amount of time it would still explain why Hashem learns Torah. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 16:48
  • So that He can serve as a role model?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 17:11

HaShem is emulating how a person is supposed to conduct his life. God is showing us how a Jewish persons agenda should be. We should be engaged in Torah study, as well as working for a living. Reguarding the other two, judging and sporting with leviathan, I'm not sure.


HaShem studies His Torah to set an example to us. He is full of knowledge. G-d and Torah are one. He studies Torah to see how we relate to Torah issues in our day to day life. Torah laws are made, but then there are issues that come up, like chidushim, so to speak. It is almost as if "Let Me see what happens to so and so, and how creation will react when each person observes or violates a command or a certain event in their life, interaction, attitude, etc. Let Me see what may have to be done to mekarev, punish, etc."

A parent makes laws for his or her child and learns (adapts the parenting skills) in the process according to the decisions and behavior of the child.

G-d learning does not indicate ignorance, but adaptation to the outcome. Also lashon kinuy a figure of speech.


Creation has many laws to uphold it. HaShem studying would be applying and keeping to what He has set.

Like having a code for life and following it.

My reply is in a practical sense, not a scriptual sense.

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