This question addresses whether one may read secular material on Shabbat. All the answers indicate that it is permissible to learn Torah on Shabbat.

A common "Rebbe technique" used for years in yeshivot is to give parsha or Gemara tests on Sunday morning. This causes students and parents to study for the test on Shabbat. I understand that Shabbat is meant for עונג (loosely translated - pleasure / enjoyment) and one should avoid doing things that upset him or cause stress on Shabbat. So, the question is if one can study Torah specifically for the Sunday test when such activity is stressful?

Years ago, I asked one of my son's rebbes this question. His answer was something to the effect of using the adage (forgot where it comes from):

מתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה

I.e., ideally people should learn Torah for the sake of the Mitzvah of learning it. However, if people learn Torah without this reason (e.g. either positively, such as if you give kids a prize for learning or negatively such as giving a test) this forms a habit where, eventually they will learn it just for the mitzvah. Essentially, the rebbe used this as explaining why it's OK to study for the Sunday test.

I'm curious if this reasoning is valid for overriding the requirement of עונג שבת.

  • I'm curious if this reasoning is valid for overriding the requirement of עונג שבת. Why would it be relevant? Is it okay to do something forbidden if in the future after one does it a lot it won't be forbidden anymore?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:08
  • This post seems to ask two questions: 1) Is it permissible to study Torah on Shabbat if one finds it unpleasant. 2) Is a particular reason a reason why it should be permissible. || Consider deciding what exactly you mean to ask.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:11
  • I understand that Shabbat is meant for עונג (loosely translated - pleasure / enjoyment) and one should avoid doing things that upset him or cause stress on Shabbat. Sourcing this would greatly improve the post.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:11
  • judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/35466/… Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:37
  • 5tjt.com/word-to-the-wise-2 Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


Shmiras Shabbos Khilchosa 28:84 says that one can study for a test of Limudai Kodesh on Shabbos as the Mitzva to study Torah is applicable on Shabbos. Due to that when one is studying for a Limudai Kodesh test on Shabbos they are fulfilling a need of Shabbos. This is mentioned by the issue of Hachana. The fact that there is no mention limiting this to one who enjoys learning is a clear indication that there is no such issue and that even one who is stressed by learning may do so on Shabbos.

  • Note that by this reasoning, everything mentioned as permissible in the whole book for any reason would also be permissible even if it ruins one's shabbat...
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 20:27

Assuming for the sake of argument that studying for a stressful Torah test would be a violation of oneg Shabbat I see two reasons why it might nevertheless be permissible.

  1. It might be akin to fasting on Shabbat in the event that one has a bad dream. Although this detracts from the Shabbat experience, it is permissible (Shabbat 12b, Rambam's Hikhot Taaniyot 1:12). The Sefer HaOrah (Hilkhot Taanit Vol. I:71) indicates that although sub-optimal (according to some, one should fast to make up for fasting on Shabbat), it is the right thing to do in spite of oneg Shabbat, since if one didn't fast one would be (even more) uncomfortable since one is nervous about the dream, and the fast will help:

דקיימא לן כל היושב בתענית קורעין לו גזר דינו של שבעים שנה עונג הוא הוא לו כשמתענה וקורע גזר דינו, שאם אין מתענה יושב ודואג כל היום כולו ואינו נהנה בעונג שבת מפני הפחד

This is similarly indicted by Rashi to Ta'anit (12b s.v. Vaafilu) and by R. Hai Gaon, and "most commentators" referenced by Rashba (Berakhot 31b), and by Tur (OH 288) who write that in this case, it is considered oneg Shabbat for him to fast since it will relieve him.

Similarly, in our case it could be argued that in event that one will be nervous and uncomfortable anyway, given the looming test, and studying will alleviate the tension, that one would be allowed to study. (Whether or not this would apply even if one could've done it earlier, is debatable.)

  1. Another reason is based on Rif's understanding of a passage in Shabbat (19a) regarding riding on boats on Shabbat. Rif (Shabbat 7b) explains that it is forbidden since the motion ruins one's oneg Shabbat, but the Talmud states that it is permissible for a mitsvah, since the mitsvah supersedes oneg Shabbat. Similarly, in our case, one might suggest that the mitsvah of Torah study supersedes oneg Shabbat. One might claim, however, (cf. Tsits Eliezer 1:21) that Rif would only allow a mitsva instead of oneg Shabbat where one begin's the mitsva before the onset of Shabbat and the the mitsvah of oneg Shabbat, (such as where he get's on the boat before Shabbat). However, perhaps the Rif would not allow one to perform a mitsvah that would preclude oneg Shabbat after the onset of Shabbat.

Regarding מתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה, that sees totally irrelevant, as why would something forbidden become permissible just because it will later become permissible. It is not even entirely clear that it is relevant. Even if one values Torah study in and of itself, he might still find studying for a test stressful.

As always, consult a competent halakhic authority for practical issues.

  • Commentless downvote?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 4:48

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