In another answer I referred to the daily prayer Uva Lzion (translation Artscroll)

May He (God) open our heart to his Torah and imbue our heart with awe and love of him and the desire to do his will and to serve him with a wholesome heart so that we do not toil in vain nor produce for futility (see also Isaiah 65:23).

I am now wondering if bitul zman (wasting one's time) is a formal prohibition?

It is clearly not recommended but how do sources speak to the idea of focusing one's time thoughtfully?

  • 1
    "שלא ניגע לריק ולא נלד לבהלה" is not bitul zman at all!!
    – kouty
    May 3, 2016 at 18:43
  • 1
    See Yoma 19 and commentaries there.
    – mevaqesh
    May 3, 2016 at 20:04
  • "we do not toil in vain nor produce for futility" - read once in the vilna gaon's writings that this refers to learning torah shelo lishma. hence he says it is crucial to first get the lishma mindset.
    – ray
    May 4, 2016 at 6:27

2 Answers 2


Shaare Teshuva shaar I, 8:

כי יש אנשים רבים שמקבלים על נפשם להזהר מעבירות ידועות וכל ימי חייהם אינם נזהרים בהם. אבל הם אצלם כהיתר. ואלו לא היו נוהגים כן רק על עבירה אחת. חלי רע הוא בנפשם כאשר ביארנו. אף כי נוהגים על אזהרות רבות וכהנה מן החמורות. כמו שבועת חנם. ומקלל את חבירו או את עצמו בשם. והזכרת שם שמים לבטלה. או במקום שאינו טהור. או בידים לא נקיות. והעלמת עין מן העני. ולשון הרע. ושנאת חנם. וגבהות הלב. ונתינת חתית. והסתכל בעריות. וביטול תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם.‏
"to be watchfull from certains bans ... and ban of bitul torah as all together". {See Pea Yerushalmi 4a, Ukenegdan 4 dvarim, וצע"ק}

See also

mishnayot in Ketubot.5, 5

אֲפִלּוּ הִכְנִיסָה לוֹ מֵאָה שְׁפָחוֹת, כּוֹפָהּ לַעֲשׂוֹת בַּצֶּמֶר, שֶׁהַבַּטָּלָה מְבִיאָה לִידֵי זִמָּה. רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, אַף הַמַּדִּיר {יח} אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ מִלַּעֲשׂוֹת מְלָאכָה, יוֹצִיא וְיִתֵּן כְּתֻבָּתָהּ, שֶׁהַבַּטָּלָה מְבִיאָה לִידֵי שִׁעֲמוּם: ‏
R'Eliezer said: even if she brought him a hundred bondwomen he may compel her to work in wool; for idleness leads to unchastity. R'Simeon b. Gamaliel said: even if a man forbade his wife under a vow to do any work he must divorce her and give her kethubah to her for idleness leads to idiocy.
Gemara 61b:רשב"ג אומר וכו'.

היינו תנא קמא איכא בינייהו, דמיטללא בגורייתא קיטנייתא ונדרשיר. ‏
R`Simeon b. Gamaliel said etc. Is not this the same view as that of the first Tanna? - The practical difference between them [is the case of a woman] who plays with little cubs {according to Rashi walking small dogs} or [is addicted to] checkers. {lead to unchastity but not to idiocy (may be "insanity"), insanity is caused by total lake of activity}

Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 80, 2-3

הָיָה לוֹ מָמוֹן הַרְבֵּה, אֲפִלּוּ הָיָה לָהּ כַּמָּה שְׁפָחוֹת, אֵינָהּ יוֹשֶׁבֶת לְבַטָּלָה בְּלֹא מְלָאכָה, שֶׁהַבַּטָּלָה מְבִיאָה לִידֵי זִמָּה;‏
באר היטב.‏ אפי' אמרה איני ניזונית ואיני עושה חייבת לעשות דבטלה מביאה לידי זימה עב''ש.‏
הַמַּדִּיר אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא תַּעֲשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, יוֹצִיא וְיִתֵּן כְּתֻבָּה, שֶׁהַבַּטָּלָה מְבִיאָה לִידֵי זִמָּה:‏
The S.A. is stringent and consider risk of idiocy and of insanity.

It appears that the "bitul zman" in a certain proportion (I don't know how many days lead to this danger) is prohibited as a danger for moral and mental health. Bitul Tora, is more complicated, because one may be active and mevatel Tora, it is proportionally to the importance of studying torah. Annulling is annulling the greatest Mitsvat Asse. Bitul Asse is an Isur.

  • 1
    Without any English summary or translation, this is not an answer for this site (where the language of discourse is English) and will be deleted or converted to a comment, like any other reference-only answer.
    – Double AA
    May 3, 2016 at 17:03
  • @DoubleAA ok I come back to translate.
    – kouty
    May 3, 2016 at 18:14
  • @DoubleAA bitul zman has perhaps no signification without bitul tora if not the 2 mishnayot in 5st chapter of ktubot.
    – kouty
    May 3, 2016 at 18:18
  • @DanF bitul zman == bitul tora at least on Shabbat. 10 batlanim is recomanded in all city
    – kouty
    May 3, 2016 at 18:40
  • Is the mishna not only about woman?
    – hazoriz
    May 3, 2016 at 18:52

In Chovos Halevavos Gate 3 ch.4

In what has been mentioned, it has thus been demonstrated that all human activities belong either to those (1) commanded, (2) forbidden or (3) [permitted which is] sufficient. For whatever is not in the category of [permitted which is] "sufficient", and is either superfluous or deficient, must necessarily belong to the category of what is commanded, if done for the sake of G-d; or it belongs to the category of the forbidden, if it is not done for His sake.

Enquiring more closely into what is "sufficient", for example, in obtaining a livelihood, we find this too in a commandment, set forth in the account of Creation, "And G-d blessed them, and G-d said unto them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, fill the land and conquer it.'" (Genesis 1:28). And it continues, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth [.. to you it shall be for food]" (ibid. 1:29). Hence, to seek a sufficiency in food belongs to the class of the commanded.

This being the case, it has been demonstrated that all human activities are either in the category of what is commanded or in the category of what is prohibited. If what is done is in the category of the commanded, it is a good deed. If one is able to do it but neglects his obligation, he falls short in his duty. So, too, if one does one of the things that are prohibited, he is a sinner. If he abstains from doing it, he is a righteous man, provided that he abstains out of fear of G-d, as Scripture says, "They also do no iniquity. They walk in His ways." (Tehilim 119:3).

And so, if one does one of the things permitted, in the right and proper way, he is righteous, as the Psalmist said, "A good man is gracious and lends; he conducts his affairs with measure" (Tehilim 112:5). If he, however, exceeds and goes beyond what is sufficient, he falls short in his duty, because this will mislead him to what G-d warned against. So, too, if he denies himself what is sufficient when he is in a position to obtain it, his aim being to train himself in the service of G-d and to reign over his lusts, so as to come nearer to G-d or separate himself from this world and direct his attentions to the better world hereafter, he is righteous and his conduct is good. But if he does this not for the sake of G-d, he falls short in the fulfillment of his duty, and his conduct is reprehensible.

Hence, human actions fall into the categories of good and bad. The intelligent person is one who weighs his actions before he does them, as is here set forth, examines them carefully with his mind and recognition, chooses what is good among them and abandons what is not good, as David, peace be unto him, said: "I thought on my ways and turned my feet unto Your testimonies. I made haste and did not delay to keep Your commandments" (Tehilim 119:59-60)

i.e. in context there, all human activities are either mitzva or sin. so yes, wasting time is a prohibition.

nevertheless, as he says in Gate 5 regarding not looking down at other people:

And even if his appearance is bad, it is possible that the reason is because he is ignorant of his obligations to the Creator. Therefore he is more pardonable than me, because my knowledge is greater than his. For the Creator claims from a man only according to the extent of his knowledge.

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    This answer says nothing about any formal prohibition. Are you trying to say that there isnt one? How does citing one Mishnah that does not mention a formal prohibition prove that there isnt one?
    – mevaqesh
    May 3, 2016 at 19:50
  • @mevaqesh thanks for comment. it is a prohibition from svara. so it depends on each person's level of understanding. the person has to be able to hear it. you can't send everyone to gehinom for wasting a second
    – ray
    May 3, 2016 at 19:58
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    You quoted a Mishnah that says not to waste time. It does not state that this is because of a sevarah; you said that. Rather it states the sevarah. Even if there were a formal prohibition, one could still give a reason to encourage people; Avot is after all not a halakhic work. That being said, you have not provided evidence as to the intent of ובעל הבית דוחק. For all we know, this refers to a formal prohibition, so we are back to square one.
    – mevaqesh
    May 3, 2016 at 20:01
  • @mevaqesh ok point taken. changed answer
    – ray
    May 3, 2016 at 20:13

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