Laws of Learning Torah
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Learning Torah is incredibly important and rivals all other mitzvot in its importance. 
- Chazal tell us that "regardless, if one brings a large Korban or a small one as long as one's intentions are for heaven one's korban is accepted."  The same idea applies to Torah study. One should learn as much as one can and that is precious in God's eyes as long as one's intentions are pure.
- If one likes to learn and really understands his learning, one can refrain from extending Tefillah and only say the portions that are obligatory. 
- Someone who learns Torah purely for the sake of heaven is deserving of great rewards. Even if a person finds himself encouraged to learn for ulterior reasons he should continue to learn and eventually reach the level of learning purely.  Many emphasize that nowadays it is critical to start learning with an external motivation in order to overcome the Yetzer Hara and become involved in learning Torah and once one is involved it'll help purify oneself.
Tanach, Mishna, and Talmud
- One should apportion one's time to study torah everyday into three, one portion for Tanach and some say it's commentaries, one portion for Mishna and Gemara, and one portion to analyze the primary ways the Torah is learnt so that one will know that which is forbidden and that which is permitted. After one grows in Torah one should review Tanach, Mishna, and Gemara, but focus on analyzing Torah. Some say that by learning Talmud Bavli one fulfills learning each area of Torah because the Bavli includes everything, nonetheless, certainly one must still know Tanach and Mishna. Some say that one should devote more time to Mishna than to Tanach and more time to Gemara than to Mishna each one according to its difficulty. 
- Many authorities emphasize that it's absolutely crucial to learn Halacha so that one knows what one must do as well as mussar which subjugates the Yetzer Hara. Some say that these are included in the above three categories.  See further in the next section regarding Halacha and Mussar.
- Based on this concept, there is a practice to recite a portion from Torah, Mishna, and Gemara after Birchot HaTorah before Pesukei DeZimrah.
- Some have the righteous practice of learning Chok LeYisrael which is a daily learning regiment set up by the Arizal that includes pesukim from Torah, Nevuim, Ketuvim, Mishnayot, Gemara, Zohar, Halacha, and Mussar. 
Halacha and Mussar
- It's very important to learn Mussar daily because the greater one is, the greater one's Yetzer hara is.  Torah was created as an antidote to the Yetzer Hara.  Even if learning Mussar takes away from learning other portions of Torah like Gemara, it's important to study Mussar. 
- Someone who only has 2 or 3 hours to learn daily should learn Halacha from Shulchan Aruch and commentaries or from contemporary Poskim so that one will be knowledgeable in practical laws and not come to do a sin without knowing. This is more preferable than learning Daf Yomi, or Gemara and Rishonim from which one can’t derive practical halacha. 
- It’s forbidden for someone to learn Kabbalah unless has learned seriously all of Gemara and Poskim, and is a Talmud Chacham ingrained with Yirat Shamayim. One should protest if someone is teaching Kabbalah to the public especially if the teacher himself isn’t fitting to learn it. 
Learning at day and night
- One should establish a fixed time to learn after davening. One should make certain that that time is fixed and one doesn't miss it even if one thinks one can make a lot of money by missing it. If one has a great need that one needs to leave for, one should learn at least one pasuk or one halacha. After finishing whatever was pressing one should complete one's daily standard amount. 
- It’s important to learn at night and not waste it all with sleep, eating, and talking because one accomplishes most of his learning at night , that learning is not easily forgotten and is considered like the Avoda of the Korbanot. The joy of Torah is specifically felt for learning at night and Hashem grants a special Chesed for one who learns at night. .
- There's a special practice to "join the day and night" with learning or davening by learning during sunset and sunrise. 
- If one has a certain daily schedule of learning and hasn't completed it yet, one should finish it at night. However, preferably one should make a stipulation not to accept the daily schedule as a neder, but rather bli neder in case one misses a day. 
Learning Tanach at night
- According to the Kabbalah, it's preferable not to learn Tanach at night.  However, some argue that one may be lenient.  However, since it's not forbidden but only preferable, if not learning Tanach will cause Bitul Torah (Chas VeShalom) one may learn Tanach. 
- It is permissible to read Tehilim at night if read as a prayer for the sick or for another cause. 
- It is permissible to read Tanach on Friday night or the night of Yom Tov. 
- It is permissible to learn Tanach along with Rashi at night. 
Women learning Torah
- Women are exempt from learning Torah. Nonetheless, women may learn torah and will be rewarded for their actions. However, women are obligated to learn the laws of the mitzvot that apply to them. 
- All who are obligated to learn Torah are also obligated to teach Torah. 
- Specifically, a father is obligated to teach his son Torah.  The obligation begins when the son begins to talk, he should be taught "Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe.." as well as the first pasuk of Kriat Shema. 
- A father is required to provide a Torah education for his son even if it will require him paying for a private teacher or private school. 
- A man is even obligated to teach his grandson Torah. 
- Children are exempt from learning Torah. 
- One should make sure to learn Torah out loud. If one learns out loud, one will be blessed to remember one's learning. 
- Bruria, the wife of Rebbe Meir, was passing a student who was studying silently without verbalizing what he was learning. She rebuked him and said that his manner of study was incorrect because the verse states, “Life comes to the one who comes upon them” which is meant to be understood as, “life comes to the one who articulates its words with one’s mouth.” 
- When one learns one should learn out loud but it’s considered Talmud Torah even if one only thinks about it. 
Learning with a Chevrusa
- Even though it is preferable and advantageous to learn with a Chevruta (partner) or in a Chabura (group) nonetheless, one who learns by oneself, fulfills the Mitzvah Deoritta of Talmud Torah. 
Interrupting Torah Learning
- Regarding what to do when learning Torah comes into conflict with other mitzvot, see Which_Mitzvot_take_precedence?#Learning_Torah_and_Other_Mitzvot.
- One should not interrupt Torah learning to answer Baruch Hu Ubaruch Shemo. 
- Should one interrupt one's learning in order to say the bracha on lightning and thunder? See Bracha_For_Seeing_Natural_Wonders#Lightning_and_Thunder.
- Mishna Peah 1:1
- Menachot 110a
- Mishna Brurah 1:12 writes that this principle also applies to Torah learning. Halacha Brurah 1:11 concurs and writes that such is evident from Brachot 5b.
- Eliyah Rabba 1:1, Lechem Chamudot (Brachot HaRoeh 84), Birkei Yosef 1:9, Mishna Brurah 1:12, Halacha Brurah 1:11, Kaf HaChaim 1:31.
- Mishna Avot 6:1
- Gemara Pesachim 50b
- Nefesh HaChaim (Shaar 3* ch. 1 s.v. vegam)
- Gra (Mishlei 25:21) writes that even learning which is shelo lishma helps combat the yetzer hara.
- See next footnote
- In Gemara Kiddushin 30a, Rav Safra interprets the word “ושננתם” as ושלשתם which means that one should split one’s time in three in study Torah, one third to study Mikrah, one third to study Mishna, and one third to study Talmud. The Gemara says that since one doesn’t know how long one will live, one should split up one’s days in three ways. Rashi s.v. LeYomi explains that one should split up the days of the week into these three parts. However, Tosfot s.v. Lo argues that it means that one should split up every single day into these three sections. Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:12) and S”A 246:4 agree with Tosfot.
- Tosfot also quotes the Rabbenu Tam who says that we rely on only learning Talmud Bavli which itself is a combination of Mikrah, Mishna, and Gemara.
- Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:11) writes that Mikrah means Torah SheBaal Peh, Mishna means Torah SheBichtav, and Gemara means comparing, analyzing, thinking, and understanding the primary ways the Torah is learnt so that one will know that which is forbidden and that which is permitted. Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:12) continues to say that this only applies in the beginning of one’s learning, however, after one has acquired wisdom one should review Torah SheBaal Peh at certain times but primarily one will spend one’s time on Gemara as he defined above. Kesef Mishna (Talmud Torah 1:12) writes that the Rambam's reason is obvious because study of Talmud is the most time consuming and this is the basis for the minhag not to apportion one's time in three parts.
- S”A 246:4 rules like the Rambam and the Rama rules like the Rabbenu Tam. Aruch HaShulchan YD 246:14 writes that the halacha and minhag follow the Rabbenu Tam, however, certainly one must still know Mikrah and Mishna.
- The Ran (Avoda Zara 5b s.v. Ki) writes that certainly Talmud requires more time than Mishna and Mishna more than Mikrah rather the Gemara just means that one should apportion each area of Torah it’s proper time. Biur HaGra YD 246:15 quotes this Ran. S”A HaRav (Talmud Torah 2:2) writes that it’s good to abide by this opinion.
- S”A YD 246:4 writes that Mikrah means the 24 books of Torah. Aruch HaShulchan 246:13 explains that Mikrah includes the 24 books of Tanach and also their explanations. However, the S”A HaRav (Talmud Torah 2:1) writes that the explanations of Tanach is considered Mishna which is all an explanation of the 613 מצות.
- The Shach 246:5 quotes the Drisha who writes that some people only learn Gemara, Rashi, and Tosfot and they don’t fulfill the statement of the Gemara Niddah 73a which says that a person should learn Halachot every day meaning Halacha Pesukot (Halachic rulings of the poskim). He adds that the Rabbenu Tam’s idea that Gemara Bavli includes everything only refers to those who can learn 9 hours a day but those who learn 3 or 4 hours shouldn’t just learn Gemara. Mishna Brurah (Introduction to Mishna Brurah, vol 1) quotes this and expands on it.
- On the other hand, Birkei Yosef YD 246:4 laments the fact that many people only read the abridged halachot as they despair from the difficult study of talmud because they are decreasing torah (against the principle of "VeYagdil Torah VeYadir") and causing the reasonings of halachot to be forgotten.
- Kitzur S”A 27:3 writes that someone who can’t learn as his main focus but can at least set aside times to learn, at those times he should learn Halacha which every Jew needs to know and Mussar which subjugate the Yetzer Hara. Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Talmud Torah 246:2) seems to say that Mussar is included in the category of Talmud.
- S”A HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:1) explains that Mishna includes the Halacha Pesuka of the Mishnayot and Britot which explain the details of the 613 מצות and nowadays Mishna includes the Halacha Pesuka of the Shulchan Aruch and Rama. S”A HaRav adds that Talmud means understanding the reasons of the halachot in the משניות and Britot and nowadays that means the Rosh and Bet Yosef who explain the reasons of the halachot.
- Rav Amram Goan (cited by Tosfot Kiddushin 30a s.v. lo) established learning a piece of torah, mishna, and talmud each day before pesukei d’zimrah. Tosfot Avoda Zara 19b s.v. yeshalesh, Ritva Avoda Zara 19b s.v. vekatvu, and Hagahot Maimoniyot (Talmud Torah 1:8) cite this establishment.
- The source for such a schedule is the Arizal (Shaar Mitzvot VaEtchanan). Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 27:3 writes that it's praiseworthy to learn the Chok LeYisrael daily. Further on the topic, see the Machzik Bracha 156:6, Sh”t Shalmat Chaim Zonenfeld Y”D 89, Kaf HaChaim 132:6, 155:3, and Sh”t Yabia Omer (Y”D 4:31(5), O”C 9:108(79)).
- Sukkah 52a
- Kedushin 30b
- Birkei Yosef 1:9 and Chaye Adam (Yom Kippur Klal 432) write that one should study Mussar daily even at the expense of torah study time. Mishna Brurah 1:12 (and Shaar Tzion 1:26), Halacha Brurah (1:11 and 55:4), and Halichot Olam (8 pg 336) quote this as halacha.
- Derisha Y”D 246:6, Shach Y”D 246:5 write that someone who only has a little time should learn from the poskim as it says in Nidda 73a someone who learns Halachot every day is a Ben Olam Haba. Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Tamud Torah 2:9), Yarot Devash, Derech HaChaim, Sh”t Teshuva MeAhava (Introduction to 2nd volume), Sh”t Yachave Daat 6:52, Kaf HaChaim Palagi 29:9, Mishna Brurah 155:3, and Halacha Brurah 155:4 concur.
- Zohar (Pekudei 247b) describes the importance of learning the secrets of Torah and it’s reward. However the poskim write that one needs to have first learned Gemara and Poskim including Etz Chaim (pg 1d), Rama Y”D 246:4, Maharsha (Chagiga 13a), Shelah (Eser Maamarot 29b), Sh"t Yabia Omer 10:23 and Sh”t Yachave Daat 4:47. Interestingly, S”A HaRav (Talmud Torah 2:1) writes that Kabbalah is included in the section of Talmud (one of the three sections a person should learn daily, see above).
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 27:1
- Rambam (Talmud Torah 3:13). Shulchan Aruch 238:1 rules this with the language one must be very careful to learn torah at night, more careful than the day!
- Avoda Zara 3b. The gemara in Eruvin 65a says that night was created specifically for Torah study. The gemara in Chagigah 12b says that one who studies Torah at night will enjoy Hashem’s grace by day, as the pasuk in Psalms 42:9 says “By day, G-d will direct His grace, and at night, His song is with me.”
- Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:6), Bear Hetiev 238:1, and Mishna Brurah 1:2 in of the Shlah HaKadosh in fulfillment of the pasuk in Yehoshua 1:8 "you shall meditate on it day and night."
- Shulchan Aruch 238:2, Mishna Brurah 238:5, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 71:1
- Birkei Yosef 1:13, 238:2 in name of the Arizal, Ben Ish Chai Pekudei #7, Kaf HaChaim 237:9.
- Shaar HaTziyun 238:1 in name of the Pri Megadim.
- Piskei Teshuvot 238:1
- Sh"t Tzitiz Eliezer 8:2
- Piskei Teshuvot 238:1, Sh"t Yabia Omer 6:30, Sh"t Maharashdam 1:158
- Sh"t Veyeche Yacov O"C 9, Piskei Teshuvot 238:1
- Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:1)
- S”A YD 246:6
- Exemption: The Gemara Kiddushin 29b derives from the pasuk that women are exempt form learning Torah. Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:1) and Shulchan Aruch YD 246:6 codify this.
- Potential Issue: The Mishna Sotah 20a cites a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Ben Azay whether a father should or should not teach a daughter torah. The Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:13) and Shulchan Aruch 246:6 codify the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that a father should not teach his daughter. According to Rashi (Sotah 21b s.v. keilu) Rabbi Eliezer holds that it is forbidden to teach a daughter Torah because it may lead to using her cleverness acquired from Torah in order to sin stealthily. Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:13) interprets the gemara to mean that teaching a daughter torah is prohibited because she might misunderstand Torah and make a mockery of its true intent.
- On her own initiative: Both the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch ibid. write that a woman may learn Torah on their own and is rewarded for it like someone who isn't obligated in a mitzvah and fulfills it. Prisha YD 246:15 explains that a woman may learn on her own even Torah SheBaal Peh because once she decided to learn on her own we can assume that she isn't going to cause Torah to become a mockery. The Chida in Tov Ayin (Siman 4) agrees. Tzitz Eliezer 9:3:1-3 supports this opinion.
- Torah Shebichtav: The Rambam ibid. writes that preferably one shouldn't teach women Torah Shebichtav. Taz YD 264:4 writes that it is permitted and even ideal to teach women Torah Shebichtav on a simple level. Sheol UMeishiv 3:41 and Atret Zekenim OC 47:3 agree.
- Learning Halacha: The Agur (Siman 2) writes that women are obligated to learn the halachot that apply to them. Sefer Chasidim 313, Maharil 45:2, Rama YD 246:6, Taz 47:14, and Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Talmud Torah 1:16) agree.
- Gemara Kiddushin 29b, Mishneh Torah Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:1
- Mishneh Torah Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:1
- Bayit HaYehudi vol. 3 pg. 136
- Bayit Yehudi vol. 3 pg. 136
- Gemara Kiddushin 30a, Mishneh Torah Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:2
- Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:1)
- Eirvuin 54a, Rambam (Talmud Torah 3:12), Shulchan Aruch YD 246:22, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 27:5. Chida in Petach Eynayim (Eruvim 54a) writes that as the pasuk in Beresheet 27:22 הקל קול יעקב one קול, voice, is spelled complete and one is complete without a vav, to indicate that when we pray we silently and when we learn we learn aloud.
- Eruvin 53b-54a
- Rav Ovadia Yosef in Halichot Olam (8 pg 390) and Anaf Etz Avot (Avot 3:3). Interestingly, the Maharal (Derech Chaim Avot 3:6) writes that when learning with someone else, such as a chevruta, one is forced explain the issue in words in order to discuss it. In this manner, one accomplishes the an awesome fulfillment of learning Torah which is spoken aloud. However, when one learns alone, even if one says the words aloud, primarily it is a mental thought process and the words are insignificant, which is a lower level of learning Torah.
- Tanna Dvei Eliyaho 23 writes that Hashem finds favor in the Jewish people because they learn in groups (Chabura’s). Pirkei Avot 3:2-3 says that an individual who learns gets reward for learning, two who learn together have their Torah written in Hashem’s Sefer Zichronot and the Shechina is present, while ten who learn together have the Shechina precede the group in wait for their learning. Brachot 63b says that one really acquires his Torah that he learns in a Chabura. From the above it just seems that there are good levels of learning and then higher forms, yet from Tanit 7a which says that Talmidei Chachamim who learn by themselves are cursed, become foolish, and sin, it seems that learning as an individual is problematic. Nonetheless, because nowadays we learn from a Sefer it’s permissible (Halichot Olam 8 pg 390) and Yavetz (Introduction) writes that it doesn’t apply to learning in Israel where the air makes one wise. Even though, Maharal (Derech Chaim (Avot 3:3)) writes that learning by oneself even if one says it out loud isn’t considered Osek in Divrei Torah, Halichot Olam rejects using this for halachic implications because one makes Brachot HaTorah for Torah one learns by oneself and also Mishna Brurah (Beiur Halacha beginning of 155) writes that the mitzvah of Talmud Torah also applies to learning individually.
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, Volume 1, Page 111