The Taz (Evven Ho'ezer 25:16) makes the following
important point when discussing how much a person should
involve himself with the necessities of olom
"We find that regarding the verse, `In all your ways you
should know Him,' the Rambam says: `This means that someone
who eats and drinks and refines his soul in order to be
healthy and strong for his service to Hashem will get as
much reward as someone who fasts.'
"This is based on the words, `You are working for nothing,
getting up early and delaying to rest and eating the bread
of irritability' (Tehillim 127:2).
"There are Torah scholars who forswear sleep from their eyes
and labor greatly in Torah, while there are others who sleep
a lot in order to be strong and have a vigorous heart to
toil in Torah. In truth, the latter person is able to learn
in one hour what the former takes pains to learn in two.
Certainly, both receive the same reward. Therefore, the
verse says, `You are working for nothing.' This means to say
that all of the pains such a person takes in getting up
early and delaying going to rest at night is in vain. Hashem
gave sleep to His beloved ones for this very purpose. If
someone sleeps a lot so that he can strengthen his mind with
Torah, Hashem will give him his portion in Torah just like
one who cuts down on his sleep and goes to great pains --
because everything depends on one's intention."
The Taz is not saying that a person should not push himself
excessively because he might become ill, though this is
true. The Taz is also not saying that a person should not
push himself excessively because he might burn himself out,
though this is also true. The Taz is saying that a person
who does not use the resources of this world as he should,
is simply wasting his time. Hashem gives His Torah to people
who do what they need to do. For example, He gave sleep for
a definite purpose and He will not give more Torah to anyone
who thinks he can deny himself the benefit to be gained from
sleep and does not use the sleep for what it is intended!
The Taz writes that this principle also applies to other
aspects of using the resources of this world, such as eating
and drinking and "adnei hanefesh," certain other
aspects of life.
Adverts for holidays and hotels give the impression that
relaxation is a luxury to be indulged in only during
vacation time. Yet the ability to relax is an important
resource for the mind which enables a person to access
abilities which cannot be accessed when a person is under
One symptom that a person is on the right track in his
learning is when he is physically enjoying his learning.
When a person is relaxed, he can "keep going."
When learning, a person needs to be able to sit back, come
"off the daf" and think around what he is
learning. He needs to think about the totality of the
sugya, where it fits into the Grand Picture of the
entire subject. [Not only in learning, but in life.] Every
mind needs to think, wander, explore, imagine, create,
reject; all the wonderful things the mind can do when it is
allowed to sit back and relax.
We are so accustomed to analyzing and digging deeper, that
some of us forget about looking for the Big Picture -- the
total picture which enables us to relate one part to another
and see the beauty of the Torah [and the meaning of our
lives, for women]. This we can do most efficiently when the
mind is relaxed and can scan the entire scope of the subject
and `play' with ideas.
In former times, it was common practice for talmidim
to take walks in the woods and fields where they were able
to think deeper into their learning and consolidate their
In our own times, the Chazon Ish zt'l and Rabbi
Avigdor Miller zt'l walked for an hour or more every
day. Obviously, they did not waste their time while they
were walking and one photograph of Rabbi Miller walking
shows him with the notebook he always carried for noting
down points as he thought about them.