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Torah and Work

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Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

Cheshvan 14, 5769
Question
Throughout jewish history, what kind of jobs did Torah scholars have? The way I understand it is that if you dwell into other subjects other then Torah, then you are taking time away from Torah the true goal in life. I read some articles were the sages would drift there learnings to science and medicine but later drop the subjects because it took time away from Torah. So in those times and in our times were you need to go to college for a certain amount of years to get a decent job, what does one do and what did Torah scholars of the past do?
Answer
Throughout history there were Torah scholars from all professions and jobs. There were shoe makers Torah scholars [Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar], shop keepers Torah scholars [the Chafetz Chaim], physicians Torah scholars [Rambam, Ramban], farmers Torah scholars [Rava] etc. etc. The Rambam [Talmud Torah 3:10; 4:11] writes that everyone should have a profession he can work and support his family with even though his main occupation is Torah Study. If someone wants to spend more time studying and live on dry bread and water he may be blessed but that is not for the lay person. Nowadays were Torah scholars are scarcely found and the deficit in Torah scholars since The Holocaust wasn't restored, there are lenient rulings that allow people to live off stipends and not work while growing in Torah. Those who don't plan of becoming great Torah scholars can spend as much time they need in studies to become the profession which is best for them as long as their main part of the day [not necessarily time wise] is Torah study [ibid 1:8].
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