The Rambam on the Linearity of Time, or Its Lack of Thereof.

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    Zaphod Beeblebrox

    The קובץ הערות in the הוספות to :יבמות דף סא (found in the back of the שו״ת הרשב״א), brings the רמב״ם פ׳ ט״ו מהל׳ אישות ה״ב which says that “If someone is busy with learning תורה, he is פטור from his חיוב to marry; in order so that he won’t have to be busy with providing for his family, and thus be מבטל תורה, he can push off his obligation, שהעוסק במצוה פטור מהמצוה, and for sure if that מצוה is תלמוד תורה.”

    But the גמ׳ in :מועד קטן דף ט says that this that one can be מבטל a מצוה in order to learn תורה, only applies in a case where the מצוה can be accomplished by someone else. If so, how can the רמב״ם say that if one is learning תורה then they don’t have to get married, if this is a מצוה that no one else can accomplish? The גמ׳ is משמע that we only apply the rule of עוסק מצוה פטור מהמצוה where someone else can still do the מצוה!

    Answers ר׳ אלחנן, that from this that the רמב״ם uses language of “pushing off”, rather than “completely פטור”, we see that he holds that a מצוה that you can do yourself at a later time is considered a מצוה that “someone else” can accomplish, and you can therefore push it off until later for the purpose of learning תורה. Since it’s considered that your future self is considered “another person” the parameters in מועד קטן for when we can say עוסק במצוה פטור מהמצוה are fulfilled.

    Now. How can we say that one’s future self can be considered as “another person”? According the the standard linear understanding of time, since we constantly progress along time, with each moment in the future coming into being as we collectively experience it, and each moment in the past disappearing forever, one’s future self would not be able to be considered “another person” at all! It is simply ourselves at a later time! Since the future does not exist until experienced, our future selves too, do not come into being until the moment in which they exist, and therefore, at the moment at which one is learning, no future self exists to perform the מצוה.

    Thus, in order to make sense of this רמב״ם the only possible explanation is that in fact, time is not linear at all. Rather, all moments of time are happening simultaneously. That is to say, in every moment, every moment that has ever existed in the past, as well as every moment that will ever exist in the future are all happening together with the present at different points on the space-time continuum. Now the רמב״ם makes sense. Since your future self does in fact exist at the same time as your present self, it can now be considered as though there is indeed “another person” to whom you can push off the מצוה to, because he exists at the same time that you do.

    The point I’m trying to make, Ma, is that yes; I do in fact believe that “someone else” will clean up my room after me. I wasn’t trying to be chutzpadik. Can I please have dinner now?

    ☕️coffee addict

    What’s the chiddush? It works very well that Hashem is constantly creating the world anew so therefore you are a new creation than you were a minute ago


    @coffee addict, There’s one fault in your argument, that is, you’re negating the issue of being Mevatel Mitzvas Asei, which is very much linear (regardless of the fact that the world is being created anew every moment).

    yankel berel

    who said that, that ‘ someone else ‘ has to exist now ?
    the main thing here is that the mitsva should not become batel .
    why should there be a difference [from the mitsva’s viewpoint] between ‘presently existing’ options compared to ‘future existing options’ . In both cases the mitsve is not abandoned . There is a viable realistic option of kiyum hamitsva in both cases .
    seems that r elchonon ztsal meant the above , or not ?
    besides the point , am not sure about the two tsdadim of the she’ela , isnt it just playing with words ?
    am happy to be enlightened here


    Prof. Einstein agrees. General Relativity postulates that individual events are points on a unitary,four dimensional space/time continuum.


    OF course time is not linear. We always have said that Ha-Shem exists outside of “time”. That is why no one has any problem saying how Matan Torah could have impacted Bereisheis (and many other examples in our literature discussing non-linear time).

    If you have trouble with visualizing this, I suggest reading the SciFi classic “Flatland” (not about Brooklyn), explaining how a multi-dimensionsal multiverse can exist, even though it is not easily understood by beings (e.g humans) with limited ability to perceive all its dimensions.


    Usual explanation for Naase Adam in Bereshis is that Hashem is consulting melachim. Another one – that is consulting Adam and Hashem & Adam TOGETHER are participating in creating Adam (you might say Adam 1.0 creates Adam 1.1, then Adam 2.0…). This perfectly answers the question.

    I would add – as our next iteration will be surely better than the current one, why not let a better man do the mitzva? One would say – why not other way around and let a better man learn? This has 2 easy answers:
    1) learning will ensure next version is better
    2) from the tzad of bein adam l’makom, we should let kallah have a better version


    Not bad for chatGPT, is this a new release?


    How does thinking work without time?
    Thoughts are a progression of this then that…thinking takes time.


    This concept is also Mevuar from Tosfos at the beginning of the 3rd Perek in Kiddushin by their postulation of Rav Yochanan’s concept of “Shraga Dilivni”, which enables the paradox of קדושי מאה תופסין בה.

    String theory? Bah! Brick Theory….

    Those with 2 heads know……


    torahlife > thinking takes time.

    Indeed, see “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Nobel Reb Daniel Kahneman

    Zaphod Beeblebrox

    I just realized that like this we can solve the argument everyone on here seems to be happening about Mashiach coming from the dead. Since all time is happening simultaneously, although the our perception of the present he is no longer alive, he is still alive at a time when he was still alive. Maybe Mashiach can time travel.


    legitimate question. see kuntreisi shiurim [Rav Gustman] on bava basra on hezek shechainim, he brings the beis ephraim who says that the issue of hezek shechainim is that of ‘lifnei iver on himself’ meaning, that he is “machshil” his future self in hezek. [apologies for the atrocious spelling. cant do hebrew]
    hope this helps


    Dear Zaphod,

    The concept you pondered is based on Rav Elchonon, not the Rambam.

    There are other ways to explain the Rambam.

    Still, if he meant linear time travel, then all mitzvos could be pushed off and achieved later.

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