Engaged in one precept, exempt from another

The idea that someone who is engaged in the performance of one precept of the Law is exempt from another precept is a concept in rabbinical Judaism. In Hebrew this is rendered עוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה, osek b'mitzvah patur min hamitzvah (lit. "engaged in a precept is exempt from a precept). The idea refers to exemption of someone from performing a religious obligation when one is already engaged in another religious obligation.[1][2][3]


The B.Berakhot 11a cites Deuteronomy 6:7:

 :"...בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ..."

"...when you sit in your house and when you travel on your way..."

and infers from the reference to your way that commandments are not obligatory when one is already engaged in heavenly pursuits.[citation needed]

Extensions of the rule

The Talmud makes use of a similar concept in reference to those who are not yet actively engaged in performing a commandment but also to those who are busy preparing to perform a mitzvah,(B.Sukkah 25a) with the comment that שלוחי מצוה (shluchei mitzvah, lit. "messengers of a precept") are similarly exempt from performing other religious obligations, such as sitting in a sukkah.

Jacob Joshua Falk, 1680-1756, comments that such exemptions are valid only for positive commandments, stating that one thoroughly engaged in a positive precept (such as burying the dead or learning Torah) would certainly not enable one to violate negative precepts (such as performing adultery or consuming non-kosher food).


  1. ^ Martin Sicker The Moral Maxims of the Sages of Israel: Pirkei Avot Page 83 - 2004 "Indeed, it was for this reason that the sages argued that one who was engaged in the performance of one precept was exempt from performing another at the same time
  2. ^ Moses Maimonides Commentary to Mishnah Aboth 1968 "As a consequence of this principle they said: 10 One who is engaged in a precept is exempt from the [obligation to fulfill some other] precept; [this was taught in order that he proceed] without comparing the precept he is engaged in ...
  3. ^ Gerald Friedlander Laws and customs of Israel: Volume 2; 1916 "One should not perform two precepts simultaneously lest he will not be able to give the necessary attention to both, therefore, one who is engaged in the performance of one precept is exempt (then) from the fulfilment of another.

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