Monday, December 23, 2013

bitul torah

I'll probably write more about this as the boys get older.  One thing that concerns me a little bit is the issue of "bitul zman."  I learned as a child that men basically have the obligation to be involved in Torah study all the time, every minute.  There are heterim to stop for a little so that you'll have the energy to keep learning, such as to eat, sleep, relax, etc.  Also you need to work to sustain yourself and your family.  (And work on relationships, and do chesed, and exercise, etc etc etc.)  But unless you particularly need to be doing something else at the moment, you have an obligation to learn Torah.

I kind of wondered a bit how unschooling fits into that ideal.  On one hand, young children are not emotionally capable of learning Torah for that amount of time.  Also, play is extremely important for their development.  Also, unschooling is a legitimate educational theory and therefore a child taking that route would be learning as is appropriate for his development.

I saw this quote today from the Zohar:

Zohar ( תיקוני זוהר תקונא עשרין וחד ועשרין דף ס עמוד א) says:

מצוה לאתעסקא באורייתא יומם ולילה הדא הוא דכתיב (יהושע א') והגית בו יומם ולילה וכי יכיל בר נש לאתעסקא באורייתא בכל יומי ולילי כל יומוי והא קודשא בריך הוא לית בא בטרוניא עם בריותיו אלא כל מאן דקרא קריאת שמע בכל יום ערב ובקר כאלו מקיים בו 
והגית בו יומם ולילה

Translation: "It is a mitzvah to be involved in Torah day and night, as it is stated, 'you shall contemplate it day and night' (Yehoshua 1:8). But is it possible for a human being to be involved in Torah all night and all day! אין הקב"ה בא בטרוניא עם בריותיו (Ha'Kadosh Baruch Hu doesn't conduct himself despotically with His creations!) - Rather, [this means] that anyone who reads krias shema every day, evening and morning, it is as if he fulfilled, 'you shall contemplate it day and night.'"

Growing up, I had learned that option (for some reason I thought it was part of halachic literature, like the Shulchan Aruch or something; if you know please leave a source in the comments.) It is interesting that there is both an ideal of being involved in Torah day and night, and also a minimal Halachic way to fulfill this obligation.


  1. Yesterday, as we did nothing academic and no formal Torah learning, and I was starting to feel bit regretful about not even reviewing pesukim from the previous week, Shmuli sat down to dinner with a proclamation than everything can be used to praise Hashem. He went though his cup, fork, tuna, and stopped at shwarama ("it's already Jewish"). All this whirlwind of thanksgiving happened very quickly. I guess, even if they spend the whole day doing "their own thing', they still could refocus and tap into learning and connecting everything to Torah. Torah learning is not compartmentalized into its own time.