Fortunate is the person who dwells in the beis Midrash (study hall), for walking about among people when it is not needed in some way for Torah study put the person’s feet in chains and the Inclination sets out snares to his feet. Now the Inclination presents all sorts of reason why there is no problem with this and why in fact it is proper to mingle amongst people for the sake of peace and that by being out and about he can see the problems of society which he can then help rectify. Or that something good will come of seeing these deficiencies because he will be able to admonish people and spread the fear of Heaven — all to straighten the paths of others. But the God-fearing man pays no heed to such rationales and instead always lets his feet take him to the beis Midrash, for “a doubt cannot outweigh a definite” — that is, the possible advantage cannot outweigh the definite damage of going about. Let the person reckon whatever loss of a mitzvah of Torah study and the loss of forbidden speech and forbidden sights against the theoretical reward he would receive that he might receive from some unknown mitzvah that he could do. The God-fearing Jew who truly desires to do mitzvos will be given such opportunities even when he remains secluded at home. It is not proper to go to dangerous places even if it is for the sake of a mitzvah. Now, if the Sages said that even with regard to physical danger, then it is only more so of a spiritual danger.
Let the person take a lesson from those who are involved in their business or work. They don’t just interrupt their business and walk about, regardless of what people will say. Certainly we who are engaged in Torah, about which it is said “The day is short and the work is great” and even if a person were to live for a thousand years it would not suffice. Time is the most precious thing, and every minute lost is a loss that cannot be retrieved. The sages of Mussar have already written that this is like a person who was told: Take this treasure of gold coins and count them — whatever you manage to count is yours. Surly such a person will not sleep, slumber or even take a break; he will not tire or become weak in the middle of counting. This should be even more so with regard to earning reward for the World to Come and to bringing satisfaction to one’s Creator. About this it is written: If you seek it like silver and search it like treasures — then you will understand the fear of Hashem.
However, there does exist a “walking” that is mitzvah, such as when providing for a bride, visiting the sick, consoling mourner and the like. But each situation must be carefully weighed and to be vigilant that the mitzvah should not end up a sin and then whatever reward it was worth would just be a loss, Heaven forefend. It is well known Torah study has precedence over a mitzvah that can be performed by someone else, as it is written, For wisdom is better than pearls, and all desires cannot compare to it (Mishlei 8:11). However, there are times that negating Torah study is the way it is fulfilled, so it is proper for a Torah scholar to run towards a mitzvah and be counted among his colleagues who are engaged in a mitzvah, so that people will see him and learn from him. Then the merit of many people will be credited to him.