Labor Gains

In the Talmud, Rabbi Ishmael states that it is important to combine regular work alongside study of Torah.

Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai claims that when Israel studies Torah, their work is done by others. Abaye then makes the wry observation: “Many have followed the advice of R. Ishmael, and it has worked well; others have followed R. Simeon b. Yohai and it has not been so successful.”

Yes, work is important for all, including those devoted to study. Not only does it nourish the soul but it contributes to the goodness of the world. Granted, it is not always easy to motivate oneself. In his classic “Three Men in a Boat,” Jerome K. Jerome speaks for many of us when he says: “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

Sure, some of us work far too much. True, work can be an escape from, or a challenge to, study, relationships, good deeds in the world, family and friends. But it is also an arena of productivity, creativity, discovery and even goodness. Rabbi Ishmael got it right. There is a balance and labor is an important part of the fullness of life. Remember, even God worked six days out of seven.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.