According to the Shulchan Aruch (if I am not mistaken), every free hour that a man has should be spent in the study of the Torah.

With that being the case, does that mean that anything "extra" such as a hobby would be a violation?

  • yonanewman.org/kizzur/kizzur27.html - according to the kitzur it seems enough to just have kovea itim.
    – Ani Yodea
    Jan 15, 2015 at 15:59
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    If you're doing the hobby then your time isn't free. I don't understand the question
    – Double AA
    Jan 15, 2015 at 16:07
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    Please cite this alleged Shulchan Arukh as his precise language seems extremely relevant to your question. In fact I don't know how anyone could answer without it.
    – Double AA
    Jan 15, 2015 at 16:22
  • Do you mean Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 246:1? ( cc @DoubleAA )
    – MTL
    Jan 15, 2015 at 18:28
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    There is a classic story about Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, the rabbinical administrator of the Star-K and rav of Congregation Agudath Israel in Baltimore. Rabbi Heinemann's hobby is/was repairing cars. Some people thought it undignified that the rabbi should work on cars in his driveway or on the street. Reportedly, he set it up so he could repair cars in his house. Jan 15, 2015 at 20:03

5 Answers 5


There is one source who disallowed any wasting of time, but this is a singular opinion as far as I know of amongs codified halacha books. This idea has its sources in gemara, but again, it's usually not quoted lihalacha. See Shulchan Aruch Harav Hilchos Talmud Torah chapter 3 siff 5 6 & 7. He had previously spent much time addressing the requirement to learn Torah all day and all night which is pushed aside out of necessity to make a living to support oneself and family. In these siifim here he goes out of his way to point out that one can stop learning out of necessity 'but not for dvarim bateilim.' He says whoever talks devarim bateilim is over the aseh of vidibarta bam. He continues and says the only heter to not constantly learn Torah is for whatever is necessary for his livelihood and business, but there is no heter for 'dvarim bateilim ligamri' whether to speak or to hear. He goes on to to say this applies not only to wasteful things but even to learn chachmos haolam is assur to occupy ones time with because it says vidibarta bam.

You get the point. What should be pointed out, and perhaps members of Lubavitch can chime in if there is a tradition amongst them concerning this, is he keeps bouncing back and forth between 'doing' something productive for one's livelihood verses wasting time. But each time he discusses wasting time he specially mentions talking about worthless things. Even when discussing the learning of other knowledge he comes back to the idea concerning talking. So it may be argued that he is only concerned with time wasting which is talking related due to the high regard this religion puts on talking. Especially amongst the Kabbalisticaly leaning, which the baal hatanya definitely was.*

Also, even if you don't agree to this, at least agree that the only person who can claim to use this source to disallow a hobby or any other act that wastes time would have to first claim that they never shmooze. Ever.

None of this takes into consideration that a hobby or anything else that helps a person relax may be a necessary health benefit that is ignored amongst most teachers of the modern version of the far right extreme of orthodoxy, along with exercise and eating healthy.

One last point concerning a musical instrument, the students of nevua would play instrument to get themselves into the right state of mind for prophecy. More recently though the Chavos Yair in siman 205 discusses whether a Talmid Chacham can play guitar for a Chassan and Kalla or if it a bizayon to do work publicly. This is mentioned in the Pischei Tshuva in siman 244 #4. But notice he doesn't say it's a bizayon being proof that he wastes time and doesn't learn. The time this talmid chacham spent learning his instruments apparently does not bother anyone.

*See Ksuvos 5b The Rabbis taught, a person should not let dvarim bateilim into his ears because they are the first part of the body to get burnt. The Maharsha explains that 'hearing is the only sense that chazzal said to keep away from what is muttar and only talk about mitzvos. As opposed to other senses, for instance sight, a person is never warned not to look at things that are allowed to be looked at. The reason is because they get burnt first, meaning it is very easy to go from hearing things that are muttar to things that are assur, which is why they are burnt first, because issur is found by them more.'

  • I don't remember does the Shulchan Aruch Harav say one is mechyav to learn the whole Torah,I remember seeing it just don't know where,is it in the same place
    – sam
    Jan 16, 2015 at 3:18
  • @sam i think what you mean is in chapter two. Halacha 4 especially but the whole chapter keeps mentioning that. Good luck to us all!
    – user6591
    Jan 16, 2015 at 3:38
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    I rem seeing one is mechyuav to learn bavli, yerushalmi, sifri,sifra,tanach,...
    – sam
    Jan 16, 2015 at 3:48
  • @sam his list of what we need to learn is in the beginning of chapter two. Halacha one and two.
    – user6591
    Jan 16, 2015 at 4:05
  • I just looked it up,I am referring to 2:10 where he writes to make a seder for all
    – sam
    Jan 16, 2015 at 4:17

R Gil Student has a nice article on this topic (Is leisure kosher?) where he identifies a number of "kosher hobbies" focused on constructive or distractive leisure

  • opportunities for personal development (e.g., for creative hobbies such as drawing, painting, music)
  • exercise (sports, hiking) which is important for health (see Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Dei’os ch. 4) or increasing our appreciation of Hashem's creations
  • relieving pressure, e.g., napping, speaking with friends

See there for sources and examples.

  • Can you please explain the tsdadim
    – kouty
    Jun 16, 2019 at 5:26

My source text for this question is the comment of the Mesilas Yeshorim.

מסילת ישרים פ"א: נמצינו למדים כי עיקר מציאות האדם בעולם הזה הוא רק לקיים מצוות ולעבוד ולעמוד בנסיון והנאות העולם אין ראוי שיהיו לו אלא לעזר ולסיוע בלבד לשיהי' לו נחת רוח וישוב דעת למען יוכל לפנות לבו אל העבודה הזאת המוטלת עליו. ואמנם ראוי לו שתהי' כל פנייתו רק לבורא יתברך ושלא יהי' לו שום תכלית אחר בכל מעשה שיעשה אם קטן ואם גדול אלא להתקרב אליו יתברך

(The bold translated) The pleasures of the world are only to be used as an aid and a support for the person to have satisfaction and peace of mind to enable him to turn his heart towards the divine service of which he is obligated.

What is the goal of the hobby? Is it for nachas ruach and/or yishuv da'as or is it for some other goal?

Another important question is, practically speaking, would the person instead of engaging in the hobby be learning Torah? If not, better be occupied with a hobby than be bored.

כתובות נט ב : הבטלה מביאה לידי זימה

Boredom leads to immorality.


Since you didn't cite which source in the Shulchan Aruch you are referring to, I am using the link that you provided, as this seems consistent with what I have learned and heard from Rabbanim whom I have asked in the past. One is required to set a fixed time day and night to learn daily.

This does not mean that one must spend every part of the day involved in Torah study. Of course not

In every Yeshiva (elementary through High school) that I know, they have recess. Is this wasting time? The yeshiva has various "hobby clubs", BTW, debate clubs, sports clubs, math clubs. The yeshiva encourages kids to attend these clubs and even partially subsidizes some of the expenses. I know the Rashei Yeshiva, and I trust that they know the halachot far better than me. So, if they're OK with authorizing and subsidizing such hobby clubs, I assume that it's halachically permissible.

For the typical "Ba'al Habayit", Pirkei Avot says that people should work along with studying Torah. What if you love your work? My father in law was a professional musician. He played his instrument at home, often. That was his hobby. It was also his profession. How would I know if when he played his instrument what purpose it was for? What difference would it have made, anyway?

My point - "Hobby" is a very loose term. In short, I can't see any problem having one.

  • 2
    (Ani Yodeya is the guy who asked the question, just a heads-up ;)
    – MTL
    Jan 15, 2015 at 19:59
  • @DanF, there's a distinction between doing things you need and doing things to take up your time. Eating, taking short breaks are required in order for you to learn! Devoting hours on hobbies such as playing a musical instrument, fishing and watching TV are not necessary and therefore might be considered bitul torah.
    – Ani Yodea
    Jan 15, 2015 at 20:08
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    This seems to be mostly rhetorical statements of your opinion. Jan 15, 2015 at 20:14
  • This answer is merely anecdotal and doesn't cite any sources.
    – Ani Yodea
    Jun 1, 2018 at 16:43
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    @AniYodea A thought - many people develop their hobby into a career. What if someone has a hobby to play clarinet? He becomes an expert at it so that he develops a career as a musician who plays at Jewish weddings, dinners and other simchot? Now, his music is for the purpose of a mitzvah. Should we, then, discourage him to have a music hobby?
    – DanF
    Jun 1, 2018 at 16:59
  1. Of course Jews are allowed to have a hobby, namely "THE" hobby - studying Torah, as King David said (Tehillim 119):

    לוּלֵי תוֹרָתְךָ שַׁעֲשֻׁעָי אָז אָבַדְתִּי בְעָנְיִי׃

    Were not Your teaching my delight I would have perished in my affliction.

  2. In addition, having [many] kids and grandkids is another thrilling and fascinating hobby.

  3. Running a Gmac"h for just about anything surely counts as a hobby.

  4. Seriously now, the Mishna in Brochos (3,1) says:

    [נושאי המטה וחילופיהן וחילופי חילופיהן... [פטורים מקריאת שמע

    So if between Torah study or doing a Mitzvah one is engaged in an active resting activity in order to regain powers for better learning or Mitzvaing, he's not only allowed to do so but is counted as if he's continuing to be engaged in that Mitzvah.

    (In other words, what's forbidden is to have a hobby for the sake of the hobby, but for the sake of the Heavens everything goes).

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