Obviously there are discussions in Rishonim and Achronim in regards to taking money for learning. However that aside, does a person have a chiyuv (requirement) to make a living (money/parnassah) even if let's say he could be supported or "make money" from learning?

  • What else is he supposed to do, die?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 22:44
  • perhaps you could rephrase the question as follows: "Must a person who already has a sufficient amount of money work". This seems to be the core of the question.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 0:29
  • It's a fair question, plenty of people have lived and not worked solely on the money earned by others. Think of Yssachar and Zevulun, one brother who toiled while the other learned, a deal struck between them for that exact purpose. However, Rav Nachman said that (don't know the source) man must work lest he become (sic) lazy. Work is good for the soul, and learning is all theoretical whole work is physical and very real. But is it required? I don't think so, but don't know for sure. I'd bet not.
    – Jamezrp
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 1:16
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    possible dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/28500/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 5:16
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    It states in kidushin that "batala mayvi liday shi'imum" - idleness leads to insanity. Depending on how literally Chazal understand that statement, it may be a violation of vinishmartem me'od to avoid any productive work. BTW, lack of productive work is strongly linked to severe depression, and statistically gainful employment correlates with longevity. So there is certainly grounds to say it's "dangerous" to engage in voluntary unemployment. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 20:51

4 Answers 4


שלא נהנה מקופה של צדקה - שהוא דבר גנאי לאדם הגון:

Rashi on sanhedrin 81a here

It is shameful for a 'decent' person to live off charity.

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    ואל אשה נדה לא קירב שלא נהנה מקופה של צדקה וכתיב (יחזקאל יח, ט) צדיק הוא חיה יחיה The gemoro there compares it to an 'isha nidda' which has a chiyuv kares. So it seems it is really 'terrible' to live off charity. And he is also considered a 'tsadik' and will merit to live.
    – guest
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 15:01
  • the OP is not asking about charity at least the way it is phrased. there are many examples of torah scholars being supported such as the yissachar zevulun partnership.
    – ray
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 5:56

There is a (seemingly) little-known halakhah in the Mishneh Torah which leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination of whether or not it is desirable or permitted to make living from learning Torah.

The Rambam writes the following in Hilkhoth Talmudh Torah 3:10:

Everyone who determines in his heart that he will be occupied with learning Torah and will not engage in labor, and therefore sustain himself from public charity - behold, such a one profanes the Divine Name, denigrates the Torah, extinguishes the lamp of the Jewish religion, brings evil upon himself, and removes his life from `olam haba because it is forbidden to benefit from the words of the Torah in this world. The Sages said, "Everyone who derives [monetary] benefit from the words of the Torah removes his life from the world [to come]." They further commanded and said, "Don't make them [the words of the Torah] into a crown to make yourself great with them, nor a spade with which to till the ground." They further commanded and said, "Love engaging in labor and hate the service of being a public rav. And all study of Torah that is not accompanied by engaging in labor, in the end it is worthless and the one who engages in such [exclusive Torah study] will in the end become one who steals from his fellow creatures."

Now, everyone needs financial help (i.e. hesedh and ssedaqah) at certain times throughout their life, and to varying degrees. However, the Rambam writes in the next halakhah (3:11) that:

It is a great virtue for one to be sustained through the work of his own hands, and to do so was a character trait of the ancient devoted ones (the "hasidhim rishonim", a group often mentioned in the Mishnah for their particular piety and devotion to God). And in doing so, one will merit all of the honor and goodness that is available in this world and in `olam haba. As it says, "When you eat from the labor of your hands, you will be contented and it will be good for you" (Tehillim 128:2) - "contented" in this world, "good for you" stored for olam haba which is entirely good.

See also Hilkhoth `Eduth 10:4 where making a living from playing dice - or any other form of non-labor - is called "avaq gezel" (a phrase meaning, "not technically theft, but it might as well be"). In addition, it invalidates someone as being a reliable witness in a beth din.

And see also Hilkhoth `Aniyyim 10:18 which says:

A person should always push himself and exist in painful difficulty rather than cast himself on the mercy of the community. Thus the Sages commanded and said, "Make tyour Shabbath like a weekday and do not demand your needs from your fellow creatures. Even if a poor person is a greatly honored hakham, he should sustain himself through a trade, even if it is a miserable one, and not demand his needs from his fellow creatures. It is better for a person to spread out the tanned skins of neveloth in the shuq rather than saying to the people, 'I am a hakham, I am a great person, I am a kohen, so support me." And in this matter the Sages commanded us to do thus. Even the greatest of the hakhamim were woodchoppers, carriers of building materials, water drawers for use in vegetable gardens, smelters of iron and producers of charcoal, and they did not ask for charity from the community, nor would they accept gifts from the community even while serving the community."

So, there is no doubt that, YES, there is a halakhic imperative for a person to make a living to support himself.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 16:06

 (גדולה מלאכה שמכבדת את בעליה" (נדרים מט, ע"ב".

Although that does not mean that we are required to work, it encourages one to live a life with dignity.

But in אבות דרבי נתן , chapter 11, we see that there may be a source in the torah itself:

מלמד שיהא אדם אוהב את המלאכה ואל אדם יהי שונא את המלאכה. כשם שהתורה נתנה בברית, כך המלאכה נתנה בברית, שנאמר: (שמות כ) "ששת ימים תעבוד ועשית כל מלאכתך, ויום השביעי שבת לה' אלהיך".

see that whole chapter where you will find more related statments.

Now, about taking money from learning torah :

(ודאשתמש בתגא, חלף (פרקי אבות א יג

Some mefarshim say that it refers to the person that uses the Torah to get money or honor. But the Avarbanel there says that nowadays (the middle ages) it became permisible, and builds an analysis to find under what conditions it must be made. In summary he says that the person should take money from a community fund, not from an individual donor; and that the quantity should be just the necessary to live properly.

  • added format and sources to give a broader picture of chazal's view on the matter Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:18

there is no clear cut answer. if one wants to learn and not work he has what to rely on.

the Rambam says

"Anyone who decides to study Torah and not work, making his living from charity, desecrates Hashem's name , disgraces the Torah ...and any Torah that is not accompanied by work will lead to it's own undoing and cause sin....

However, in a different statement, Maimonides appears to contradict himself. He teaches the Tribe of Levi has a special dispensation from earning a living from their own labor, and he adds:

"And not only the Tribe of Levi, but any person whose spirit moves him to separate himself and stand before Hashem, to serve Him in order to know Him...behold he has become sanctified as the Holy of Holies, and Hashem becomes his portion, his inheritance for ever. And He will provide his basic necessities for him in this world, as with the Kohanim and Levi'im..."

from http://ohr.edu/ask/ask003.htm

see there for more

a Rav should be consulted.

according to the book "Reb Mendel" artscroll learning full time is only justified if the person treats it like a job. (comes on time, doesn't waste time, etc.)

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    The Rambam in Hil. Shemittah Wiyovel 13:13 is absolutely NOT saying that God will provide for people who learn in Kollel and do not work. He is referring to the blessing of someone who is "yashar" and decides to not run after vanity, that God will make sure that he has what he needs to live in this world. No contradiction, just a statement taken way, way out of context. Kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 22:50
  • @Maimonist the chafetz chaim in that link disagrees with you
    – ray
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 4:53
  • It doesn't surprise me when great tamildhei hakhamim, from Europe, misunderstand the Rambam and therefore make misstatements regarding his would-be position. The Maharal held that the Rambam held the mixture of poultry and milk is a Biblical prohibition based on a diyyuq of a defective text. The truth is that the Rambam - in Hil. Mamrim 2 makes the EXPLICIT statement that such a mixture is only prohibited Rabbinically. Reb Mosheh Feinstein z"l wrote that the Rambam believed in the power of mystical names of God. This despite the fact that he explicitly rejects this idea in the Moreh...
    – user3342
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 5:13
  • ...The Hafess Hayyim is doing this as well. The Rambam does not contradict himself. The entire idea of contradictions in the Rambam is a European "lomdus" where they had defective texts, printing errors, Christian censors, Jewish censors, and in many cases less than a full set of the entire Mishneh Torah. Plus, I find it near ludicrous when people try to project how this or that rishon "would hold now" since they are dead. And even if the statement he made regarding Shevet Lewi did contradict the other statements, it would be Rambam against an explicit Hazal. In any case, Hazal wins. Kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 5:18
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    Give me a break. You're missing the point. What I said regarding misunderstanding the Rambam is a historical fact. And further, it is discussed in the introduction to a complete pirush on the Rambam by Rav Yosef Qafihh z"l. And he could have written another MB had he so desired. Making your point through ad hominem statements, sarcasm, and holding the Hafess Hayyim to be (apparently) infallible indicates that you have nothing else. Let's stay on track and allow facts to dictate the order of the day. Kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 13:53

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