In SA OC Siman 106 Sif 2, the Machaber says that someone that for whom “Toraso Umanaso” (“his torah is his occupation”, ie a person that is constantly engaged in Torah study) like Rebbe Shimon Bar Yachai and his friends, would stop learning in order to say Krias Shema but not tefillah. The Machaber then says however we (“anu”) stop learning both to say Krias Shema and tefillah. The M”B there in Sif-Katan 6 writes that R’ Shimon and his friends were learning Torah all the time and would not stop to do work; however we who stop learning to do work certainly should stop learning for tefillah.
My question is: from the time of R’ Shimon through the Shulchan Aruch and till today, was there anyone that we know of that was still on this level like R’ Shimon that really wouldn’t stop learning to daven?
Surely there were great Rishonim and Achronim that certainly we would say about them that they were learning constantly and perhaps did fit into such a category of “Toraso Umanaso”. Even in our generation we find great people (like R’ Eliyashuv ZT”L) about whom many say that he simply never stop learning for anything (except of course to be makayim mitzvas, daven, etc.) I think if someone would say he wasn’t on this level, it could be that he would be chastised for saying such a thing. Perhaps though because of the humble nature of these Gedolim (in our generation and in previous ones) they simply wouldn’t want to accept such a title on them and patur. And certainly not to practice in that way lest “normal” people come to learn from it the wrong thing. Perhaps this itself is the answer.
But again my question is if this was ever applicable to anyone after R’ Shimon (whether before the Shulchan Aruch or after) and if there was someone in this category who davened anyway, why weren’t they accustomed to skipping prayers, like this SA says?
The Maamar Mordechai (70:4) writes as simple that the idea of Torasan Umnusan of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai does not apply to anybody in modern times, and this has been the simple assumption among halachic authorities for hundreds of years (it is implied even by the Tur and the Beis Yosef, who speak about “us” in contrast with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai).
Rashbi and his Beis Midrash were on a level of separation from the world that we do not possess, and even the great and righteous scholars among us cannot aspire to their concept of immersion in Torah study, which is why the halachah of stopping for davening does not apply to us.
Having said this, the halachah can still be applicable in cases of teaching Torah to many, as the Shulchan Aruch mentions.