What should one learn?

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Importance

  1. 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)." [1] The same idea applies to Torah study. [2]
  2. If one likes to learn and understands it, one can refrain from extending Tefillah and only say the portions that are obligatory. [3]
  3. 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 preferable than learning Daf Yomi, or Gemara and Rishonim from which one can’t derive practical halacha. [4]

Mussar

  1. It's very important to learn Mussar daily because the greater one is, the greater one's Yetzer hara is. [5] Torah was created as an antidote to the Yetzer Hara. [6] Even if learning Mussar takes away from learning other portions of Torah like Gemara, it's important to study Mussar. [7]

Shelish BeMikrah

  1. One should apportion one's time to study torah into three, one portion Torah SheBichtav (written torah; Tanach), one portion Torah SheBalpeh (oral Torah; mishna, gemara, and explanation of Torah Shebechtav), and one portion of Talmud which is thinking about Torah, extracting one thing from another, comparing things, and expounding Torah according to the Midot of the Torah. [8] The above applies when one is beginning one's study, however once one is knowledgeable in Torah and Mishna one can move on to study only Talmud. [9]
  2. 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. [10]

Learning Kabbalah

  1. 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. [11]

Learning at day and night

  1. 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 [12], 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. [13].
  2. There's a special practice to "join the day and night" with learning or davening by learning during sunset and sunrise. [14]
  3. 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 incase one misses a day. [15]

Learning Tanach at night

  1. According to the Kabbalah, it's perferable not to learn Tanach at night. [16] However, some argue that one may be lenient. [17] However, since it's not forbidden but only preferable, if not learning Tanach will cause bitul torah (Chas VeShalom) one may learn Tanach. [18]
  2. It is permissible to read Tehilim as a prayer for the sick or for another cause. [19]
  3. It is permissible to read Tanach on Friday night or the night of Yom Tov. [20]
  4. It is permissible to learn Tanach along with Rashi. [21]

References

  1. Menachot 110a
  2. Mishna Brurah 1:12 writes that this principle also applies to Torah learing. Halacha Brurah 1:11 concurs and writes that such is evident from Brachot 5b.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Sukkah 52
  6. Kedushin 30b
  7. 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.
  8. S"A Y"D 246:4 based on Rambam's understanding of Kedushin 30a
  9. Rambam (Hilchot Talmud Torah 1) writes that when one masters Torah SheBechtav one should focus on Torah SheBalPeh. Kesef Mishna (ibid.) writes that such a ruling is obvious because study of Talmud is the most time consuming. S"A YD 246:4 rules like the Rambam. Birkei Yosef YD 246:4 laments the fact that many people only read the abridged halachot and dispair from the difficult study of talmud because they are decreasing torah (against the principle of "VeYagdil Torah VeYadir") and causing the reasonings to be forgotten.
  10. The source for such a schedule is the Arizal (Shaar Mitzvot VaEtchanan). Further on the topic, see the Machzik Bracha 156:6, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 27:3, Sh”t Shalmat Chaim Zonenfeld Y”D 89, Kaf HaChaim 132:6, 155:3, and Sh”t Yabea Omer (Y”D 4:31(5), O”C 9:108(79)).
  11. 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) and Sh”t Yachave Daat 4:47.
  12. Rambam (Talmud Torah 3:13). S"A 238:1 rules this with the language one must be very careful to learn torah at night, more careful than the day!
  13. Avoda Zara 3b
  14. Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S"A 1:6), Bear Hetiev 238:1, and Mishna Brurah 1:2 in of the Shlah HaKadosh
  15. S"A 238:2, Mishna Brurah 238:5
  16. Birkei Yosef 1:13, 238:2 in name of the Arizal, Ben ISh Chai Pekudei #7, Kaf HaChaim 237:9.
  17. Shaar HaTzion 238:1 in name of the Pri Megadim.
  18. Piskei Teshuvot 238:1
  19. Sh"t Tzitiz Eliezer 8:2
  20. Piskei Teshuvot 238:1, Sh"t Yabea Omer 6:30, Sh"t Maharashdam 1:158
  21. Sh"t Veyeche Yacov O"C 9, Piskei Teshuvot 238:1

References