If one is a software engineer by profession, is one allowed to read programming books granted one receives pleasure from doing so?

  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/79485/…
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 12:40
  • 3
    it might be useful to clarify if you are reading for pleasure or for work (work being primary, pleasure being secondary)
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 12:45
  • 1
    I think that is part of the tricky thing about programming books. Is that it is for pleasure, but it will undoubtably be helpful for work as well. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 12:46
  • see my answer below where the need for parnasa makes it easier to permit - always good if you want to edit your question to make it as precise as possible for others to help as well
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 12:48
  • Isn't this considered Metzo Chefzeycha ? See Shulchan Aruch OC 306. Even not for work, doesn't a great part of the pleasure come from {dreaming about typing this a day} => {thinking, in an apparent manner, about something forbidden in Shabbos}? [A software engineer's answer ;-)]
    – yO_
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 21:48

1 Answer 1


In general reading secular literature on Shabbat is discouraged but not forbidden - it should be a day focused on learning Torah. Here are a few opinions on the topic

R Jonathan Blass on students studying on Shabbat

It is permitted on Shabbat to read secular school books but, if possible, this should be minimized (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayyim 307 17; Mishna Berura 307, 65) [...]

see also here

R Shlomo Aviner writes

This is a dispute between the Rishonim. The Rambam wrote in his commentary on the Mishnah (Shabbat chap. 23 and quote in the Beit Yosef Orach Chaim 307) that it is forbidden to read books of wisdom, which are not Torah, on Shabbat and Yom Tov. This is interesting since the Rambam is usually thought to be the authorities most open to general wisdom. But according to the Ramban (Beit Yosef ibid.), it is permissible to read medical books since they contain wisdom.

These two opinions at quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. #17): "It is forbidden to study on Shabbat and Yom Tov aside from words of Torah, and even books of wisdom are forbidden, and there is an opinion which permits it." The Mishnah Berurah (380:65) indicated that we act leniently but it is proper to be strict.

The basic halachah is therefore that it is permissible to learn secular subjects on Shabbat but it is certainly proper to be strict. If one follows the permissible view, it includes school reading or studying for a test on the condition that one enjoys it. If such activities cause stress and fear over a test, one should refrain from studying.

DailyHalacha writes

The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 307:17) writes, “It is forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tob to study anything besides words of Torah; even scholarly matters are forbidden. But there is [an opinion] that allows it” (listen to audio recording for Hebrew citation).

The first view recorded in the Shulhan Aruch forbids reading all secular material, including scholarly textbooks, whereas the second view – which is the position taken by the Rashba (Rabbi Shelomo Ben Aderet of Barcelona, 1235-1310) – permits studying “Dibreh Hochma” – works of scholarship. (This is also the position of the Ramban.)

There is a general rule that when the Shulhan Aruch records two views in this fashion (“Setam Va’yesh”), he accepts the first opinion as the Halacha. Accordingly, it would be forbidden to read or study any secular material on Shabbat or Yom Tob, including secular textbooks.

The question arises as to whether this would apply to consulting a medical textbook for guidance in treating an ill patient on Shabbat. If, for example, a doctor is called upon to treat a patient on Shabbat, would he be allowed to review material in his medical textbooks for verification? For that matter, if a child is sick, may a parent consult a medical guidebook to determine how to best treat the child?

Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Halichot Olam, writes that in such cases one may rely on the lenient view of the Rashba, who, as we saw, permits studying secular subjects on Shabbat. Since there is a particular need to study the material in question, we may, under the circumstances, rely on the Rashba’s position. Hacham Ovadia applies this ruling even to a medical student who will be taking an exam after Shabbat. Given the present need to review the material, the student may rely on the lenient view of the Rashba and study for his exam on Shabbat.

This discussion should alert us to the importance of devoting our free time on Shabbat to Torah study. Even when it comes to reviewing medical information, Halacha permits this study only on the basis of the minority view of the Rashba. Certainly, there is no room to permit reading novels and other unnecessary material on Shabbat, and reviewing one’s bills and other financial papers is most definitely forbidden on Shabbat.

  • I find that the case of physicians is rather an exception, since many times they need to work on Shabbat for pikuach nefesh. I suppose the relevant point is whether one's allowed to read things related to her/his job - assuming that you accept the lenient view and you're not a rabbi :-) Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:08
  • @mbloch There are other opinions which hold pleasure reading is allowed. halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Reading_on_Shabbat my hahaha rebbi gave a shier about reading on shabbos abd also quoted another source permitting it (I think rav auerbach). Something about how books are different. Perhaps that part of the shier was on lists though. I'll check it up and update.
    – Orion
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 5:57
  • @Orion I also quote many sources holding it is allowed (even if discouraged). The link you provided, esp. note 8, show clearly this is not forbidden but many limit it. Permitted or allowed doesn't mean it is a good thing and that is a distinction many poskim make
    – mbloch
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 6:28
  • @Mbloch No you quoted many which agree it is permitted to read secular chochma. Not pleasure reading. Your last quote from daily halacha said there is no room to allow secular books for pleasure. I'm pointing out that this is not technically true as there are those that hold reading novels for pleasure is permitted.
    – Orion
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 5:12

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