If one is reading a secular book about electricity in order to understand how it works so that I can learn the halachos of using electricity on Shabbos, would the studying of the secular book be included in the mitzvah of limud torah? So too, would the study of early Zionist history in order to understand the sugya of the Shalosh She'vuos also be considered limud torah?

  • What's the difference? Either way you need to learn about them. Please edit to clarify. – Double AA Aug 31 '16 at 17:51
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    @DoubleAA From the metaphysical perspective there could be a difference on whether theurgic objectives are acheived. From a halakhic perspective, there may be ramifications on the permissibility of such study before birkhot haTorah, or in a dirty place (although the parameters of all of these are not necessarily dependent on the definition of the mitsvah ot talmud Torah). Another ramification might be if its public study exempts one form reading the megillah (According to the lechem mishneh that the public need not stop its study of Torah to read the Megillah). – mevaqesh Aug 31 '16 at 18:17
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    There is a distinct possibility that according to Rambam the study of Natural Law qualifies as Torah study, as it is included in "maaseh b'reshit" which is included in "pardes" which is included in "talmud" the third category of Torah study (see hilkhot talmud Torah chapter one), and hilkhot yesodei hatorah chapters 1-4. According to R. Qafih this is only when, as in your case, the study is geared towards some higher religious objective. – mevaqesh Aug 31 '16 at 18:20
  • the Ramchal in derech Hashem section torah says the study of torah draws down spiritual light to one's soul more than anything else in creation. sounds like specifically – ray Sep 1 '16 at 5:20
  • Take a look at Rabbeinu Yonah to the last Mishnah in Avos 3, who says that learning math is a mitzvah as it "sharpens the mind" and thus allows one to learn Torah better. – DonielF Sep 2 '16 at 4:25

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