Torah Study and Worldly Occupation

This week 2 is the third cycle of Pirkei Avos. In the second mishna of the third perek it says:

Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince said, Torah study is good with a worldly occupation, because the exertion put into both of them makes one forget sin. All Torah without work will ultimately result in desolation and will cause sinfulness.

All who work for the community should work for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of the community’s forefathers will help them, and their righteousness endures forever. And as for you, God will reward you greatly as if you accomplished it on your own.

Commentary from Rabbi Goldson from this post on Aish:

Rabban Gamliel first taught that, even though there is no higher calling than Torah study, Torah will come to nothing unless it is channeled into positive action. We might think, therefore, that we must sacrifice some Torah in order to preserve the rest.

At the end of the Mishna, Rabban Gamliel assures us that directing Torah into positive action is the highest expression of Torah itself, whether that action takes the form of professional occupation or of extending oneself to benefit the community. There is no loss. Just the opposite: by taking time away from Torah to ensure the preservation of Torah values and ideals, we receive credit as if we had immersed ourselves in Torah without interruption. By taking time away from Torah study is in order to put Torah ideals into practice, then our reward will continue to multiply over and over again.

6 comments on “Torah Study and Worldly Occupation

  1. FWIW, WADR,it is well worth seeing how the Rishonim and Acharonim define Derech Eretz. The Bartenuara and the Meiri, quoting Rashi,Rambam,and R Yonah define Derech Eretz, as quoted in the Mossad HaRav Kook edition of Avos, based on Kisvei Yad of the above Rishonim, and others, as melacha ( constructive work) or schorah ( a trade). The Sforno also writes with disaaproval of living by Torah without engaging in “Melacha.” An excellent explanation of the Gra’s commentary on Avos refers one to Avos 3:5 and 3:17 where the term “Derech Eretz” is also used in the Mishnah. In Avos 3:5, the term Derech Eretz is understood as meaning Parnasah or Schorah by R Yonah, Sforno, and by Rambam as the ups and downs of life.. In Avos 3:17, the term Derech Eretz means either either having a means of earning a living ( Rashi, being able to get along with people ( R Yonah. Meirei) and having a sense of being Poresh min HaMutar ( R Bchaye).).

  2. Rashi commentary on tractate Avot, chapter 2, paragraph 2:
    Those who study and labor in Torah and also work to support themselves will not desire or steal the money of others.

    Rambam commentary on tractate Avot, chapter 2, paragraph 2:
    Derech Eretz means working to earn a livelihood. As we explained elsewhere, he [who does not work to earn a livelihood] will eventually steal from people.

    Rabbeinu Yonah commentary on tractate Avot, chapter 2, paragraph 2:
    Not working brings a man to poverty and this causes many sins and great evil.

  3. I think both. Although they didn’t have the range of social service organizations that we do, the proper conduct of a person within his community is a recurring theme in the Gemora. In our times that proper conduct would include supporting the functioning of those organizations which the community has deemed necessary.

  4. Proper social conduct as in good manners, or as in participation in social service organizations, or both?

  5. The Maharal, Rabbeinu Yonah and the Machzor Vitry indicate that Derech Eretz means proper social conduct. Besides this Mishna the term is also used in 3.21.

  6. I realize that community activities are necessary and good, but do we have sources that link these to the term “derech eretz”?

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