Since the Mishnah teaches that "talmud Torah kneged kulom", and also given those who say that one should ideally learn Torah constantly, wouldn't it follow that Torah study should be performed basically to the exclusion of other mitzvos? For if studying Torah connects you to Hashem on a greater level (even qualitatively) than any other mitzvah, it wouldn't make sense to do anything else, except the bare minimumum of things that enable you to study more Torah (like practical things such as eating/drinking or ensuring just enough livelihood to survive, etc.).

Are there any views to this effect?

  • 1
    Reading Torah texts to the extent that you ignore God's Torah isn't what Jews traditionally call "Talmud Torah"
    – Double AA
    Jun 12, 2017 at 15:03
  • You may want to refine your question in light of @DoubleAA's comment. However, there are situations when must is required to stop his learning to perform another mitzvah such as to pray on time and to read the Megillah on Purim. So even with the thinking that Torah study is more important - that's true the majority of the time, but there are numerous exceptions as well.
    – DanF
    Jun 12, 2017 at 15:09
  • "Are there any views to this effect" If there arent then this line makes it very difficult for users to provide a quality answer (as they are stuck proving the negative).
    – mevaqesh
    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:48
  • etzion.org.il/en/…
    – Double AA
    Jun 13, 2017 at 20:23
  • isnt this what Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai did in the cave?
    – ray
    Jun 13, 2017 at 21:44

2 Answers 2


The reasoning on which the question is based is highly questionable and rejected by many many many sources.

The question was whether Torah's superior status vis-à-vis other mitsvot should lead to its performance as opposed to other mitsvit.

However numerous classical sources state that this unique status of Torah study, is specifically because, and by extension, inasmuch as it leads to performance of the mitsvot!

Accordingly it would make no sense to sacrifice mitsvot in order to study Torah.

The Talmud (Kiddushin 40b) addresses the relative merits of Torah study and the performance of actions [other mitsvot]. The conclusion is that Torah study is greater...Since it leads to performance of the mitsvot.

In this vein, Rambam (Hilkhot Talmud Torah 3:3) explains the Mishna (Peah 1:1) that states that Torah is greater than all of the mitsvot -- Torah is so great, because it leads to them.

Similarly, Rabbenu Ezriel Diena writes in a responsum (II:180) that when it says that Torah study is greater than all the mitsvot, it doesn't mean that it itself is greater than mitsvot; rather that through it one will come to perform the mitsvot, which is itself the main thing that God wants from Man.

See also Tosafot to Kiddushin (40b) who suggest that it is only teaching that is superior to performing the mitsvot, but learning is not as great as performing the mitsvot. Alternatively, they suggest that only for the unlearned is study superior to an act, since they still do not know how to act. But, once a person is learned (and knows how to act), it is preferable for him to perform mitsvot. Similarly, see the Meiri to Bava Kamma (17a).

Similarly, the Meiri (on Moed Kattan 9b) writes that the normal principle that engaging in a mitsvah exempts one from engagement in other mitsvot does not apply to Torah study, since the whole point of Torah study is the performance of other mitsvot.

R. Ya'akov Emden (Mishneh Lehem printed with Lehem Shamayim to Pe'ah there) leans towards saying that Torah is only so great when it leads to action, but when it does not lead to action, it is less praiseworthy than other mitsvot.

Similarly, there is a version of the Yerushalmi Megilla (1:4) that states that the 10 people who refrain from their work and stay in the synagogue, are those like R. Yehuda who do not need to study. Rambam explains in a responsum (ed. P'er HaDor #10) that once one is learned like R. Yehuda, he should devote himself to communal affairs (in that case, conducted from the synagogue).

Accordingly, it makes sense that mitsvot are not ignored in toto in favor of learning Torah.

However, although as noted the principle that engagement in one mitsvah exempts one from other mitsvot doesn't allow Torah study to exempt the performance of other mandatory obligations, if one nevertheless has a choice of studying Torah or performing an optional mitsvah (cf. R. Zadok haCohen Rabinowitz's Otsar Hamelekh to Hilkhot Talmud Torah 3:4), one should generally prefer the former, as long as someone else will perform the mitsvah (cf. Rambam's Hilkhot Talmud Torah 3:3).

However, there is a dissenting view; the radical opinion of R. Hayyim Or Zarua (Responsum #183) who applies the principle that one engaged in a mitsvah is exempt from other mitsvot, even to one studying Torah, and writes:

בחורים ההולכים ללמוד תורה פטורים מכל המצות כל זמן שהם בבית רבם

Young people who go to study Torah are exempt from all the mitsvot the whole time they are in their teacher's house.

This view seems to be basically what you asked for with two notable exceptions.

  1. Even R. Hayyim does not peg this on the superior nature of Torah, but instead employs the general rule of osek b'mitsvah pattur min hamitsvah.
  2. He does not say whether or not someone studying should ever do any other mitsvot. He merely states that one is exempt.

if studying Torah connects you to Hashem on a greater level (even qualitatively) than any other mitzvah, it wouldn't make sense to do anything else

Even if Torah's greatness is as you claim, and even if your conclusion (that therefore it doesn't make sense to do other mitzvos) follows — neither of which I'm convinced of — still, our hands are tied: God commanded us to do those other mitzvos, and we have to obey.

This reminds me of something I heard Rabbi Yisroel Reisman paraphrase from Rabbi Tzadok, the kohen, of Lublin. As well as I can remember it, Rabbi Tzadok said that someone can rise to such heights after t'shuva, returning from sin, that he would sin and do t'shuva just for that — except that his hands were tied: God had told him not to sin, so he couldn't.

  • "God commanded us to do those other mitzvos, and we have to obey." Maybe those only apply to someone who for whatever reason can't learn. (I am playing devil's advocate; the question set a nearly impossible to clear bar of proving the negative).
    – mevaqesh
    Jun 13, 2017 at 20:33

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