Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 1:12
12: How so? If he was an artisan and he worked three hours a day
and studied Torah for nine hours a day, for those nine, he
should: read the *Torah shebikhtav* for three of them and study
*Torah sheba'al peh* for three of them; and for the other three,
he should meditate and cogitate to understand one thing from
another. *Divrei Kabala* (Prophets and Writings) are included in
*Torah shebikhtav* and their commentaries and explanations are
included in *Torah sheba'al peh*. Those matters which are called
*Pardes* are included in *Gemara*. When does this apply? At the
beginning of his learning career. However, when he grows in
wisdom and does not need to to study *Torah shebikhtav* nor to be
constantly involved in *Torah sheba'al peh*, he should read, at
set times, the *Torah shebikhtav* and teachings of tradition so
that he does not forget any one of the laws of the Torah and he
should dedicate all of his time to *Gemara* alone, according to
the breadth of his understanding and his intellectual maturity.
(for R's approach to *Pardes*, see Yesodei haTorah ch. 1-4, esp.
the last Halakha in ch. 4 and the Kessef Mishneh there).
Q1: Once R has given us the three-way division in Halakha 11,
why give an example which does the same?
JB: This took me a minute and then just hit me in the face! One
might think from the first statement, that you should learn one
on Sunday, the second on Monday and the third on Tuesday! R is
telling us not to spend an entire day on any subject, but to
always study all subjects. The question is why. The only reason I
can submit is that it assures one of completing a full complement
of subjects each day. If something comes up unexpectedly, you
won't miss an entire day's worth of a subject. Also, his
description of Gemara seems to incorporate the first 2. Hence,
you can put down a Chumash and immediately ponder it. You'd do
the cycle on the whole topic: text, comments, compare. There are
probably a whole bunch of other scenarios that support this kind
Q2: Why does this division change once we are "grown in
wisdom"? Does this mean that the ultimate level of learning is
Gemara? If so, is that because it is intellectually the most
engaging, or for some other reason?
JB: In a nutshell, R's "Gemara" is a lot more "wholesome" than
what we study today. It was a composite of other areas of study.
Today, unfortunately, there is such an emphasis on the text page,
all nicely formatted with footnotes and commentary, that's it's
much less exploratory. Until one has reached a level where all
the basics are out of the way, Gemara is just another subject.
One who has grown in Torah learns Gemara not simply by studying a
page and going to a shiur, which is NOT the ideal R describes,
but by actually developing chiddushim on one's own, creating
scenerios, and doing original comparisons. For most of us, (IMHO)
it can only be one third of a regiment...
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