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Weekly Halacha: Learning on the Road

Weekly Halacha: Learning on the Road

12-14-2018

“וישלח את אחיו וילכו ויאמר עליהם אל תרגזו בדרך” 

“And Yosef sent off his brothers and they went.  He said to them; do not become agitated on the way.”

Rashi explains do not become involved in a matter of halacha, so that the trip should not become a source of agitation for you.  Yosef wanted his brothers to return to his father as quickly as possible. He told them not to become involved in a matter of halacha lest it delay them and thus the trip might agitate them for it would be longer than they had intended (Nachalas Yaakov).The source for Rashi is R’ Elazar in the Gemara Taanis (10b).  Rashi there explains the reason for this halacha with the word תתעו that they should not lose their way.

The Gemara then asks on this איני והאמר ר’ אלעאי בר ברכיה שני תלמידי חכמים שמהלכים בדרך ואין ביניהן דברי תורה ראויין לישרף וכו’ –   Is it so but R’ Ilai the son of Berechya said Two Torah scholars who are traveling on the road and words of Torah are not spoken between them deserve to be burned.  We see that there is a mitzvah to learn when on the road. The Gemara answers לא קשיא הא למיגרס הא לעיוני – That ruling by R’ Ilai regarded reciting and reviewing one’s learning.  Since this activity does not require great concentration one must perform it while traveling. However that interpretation of R’ Elazar concerned analyzing teachings of the Torah. Since such contemplation requires great concentration one should abstain from it while traveling lest he become distracted and lose his way.  This halacha is brought in the Magen Avrohom Orach Chaim siman 110.

There is a Mishnah in Negaim (7, 4) that seems to contradict this halacha.  The Mishnah says אמר רבי עקיבא שאלתי את רבן גמליאל ואת רבי יהושע הולכין לגדוד, בתוך הסגרו מהו וכו’, התחלתי מביא להם ראיות וכו’. – R’ Akiva asked R’ Gamliel and R’ Yehoshua a question in halacha when they were on their way to גדוד.  We see that they were analyzing halacha. This seems to contradict the Gemara in Taanis. There are those who answer that this must have taken place during a stop on their trip. They did not have this Torah discussion when they were actually traveling.  Reb Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a answers that they were traveling with others who were tending to their needs. Then there is no reason to suspect that they will lose their way.

There is a Gemara in Eiruvin (39a) that also seems to contradict this halacha.  It is permissible for someone to go to the end of the techum on Yom Tov that falls out on Erev Shabbos to acquire his place of dwelling for the techum Shabbos.  The reason is because it is not evident to onlookers that he is preparing for tomorrow. Since if he is a Rabbinical student, we will say that pre-occupation with his studies led him unknowingly to the location of the eruv.  The question is how was this Talmid Chacham allowed to learn when traveling on the road? The answer given is that the issur to learn on the road only applies when one is traveling from city to city. One can get lost or put himself in danger from obstacles on the road.  However if one is traveling in the same city it is permissible to analyze one’s learning.

The Magen Avrohom in siman 110 s”k 10 says that if one is sitting in the wagon and someone else is leading the horses it is possible that it may be permissible for one to even analyze his learning.  The Shulchan Aruch Harav rules clearly without a doubt that it is permissible. According to this if someone else is driving the car or one is traveling by bus, train, or airplane one can even analyze his learning.

The Mishnah Berura (siman 110 s”k 20) says that a person should make sure to to learn Torah when he is traveling, as the Mishnah in Avos says המהלך בדרך ומפנה לבו לבטלה מתחייב בנפשו one who is traveling and is not learning Torah is deserving to die.  The Taz in his commentary on the parsha writes that even though it is prohibited to analyze one’s learning, at the same time there is an obligation for one to learn in a lighter way as the Torah says ובלכתך בדרך – you should learn Torah when you are on the road.  The Shela writes that there is an obligation to learn on the road to fulfill the passuk בהתהלכך תנחה אותך. That is why חסידים ואנשי מעשה make sure they know a masechta of gemara or mishnayos by heart so they can review it when they are on the road and do not have any seforim with them.

Prepared by R’ Avrohom Yehoshua Ziskind

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