Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 3:3
3: No other Mitzva among the Mitzvot can be equated to TT; rather TT is
equal to all of the Mitzvot combined; for study leads to action.
Therefore, study takes precedence over action in all cases.
Q1: R's language here is strange; instead of "TT is equal to all of the
Mitzvot", R begins with the negative - "no other Mitzva among the
JB (Jay Bailey):
For emphasis. Compare: I have more hamentashen than anyone vs. Nobody
has as many hamentashen as I do. It's simply a way to stress a point;
proof of this is that the second clause DOES utilize the positive!
R is actually saying two things here: a) there is not one Mitzva among
the other Mitzvot which equals TT; b) all of the Mitzvot combined balance
with TT (which is, of course, an even more powerful statement about the
weight of TT). There is no simple way to state the first premise without
resorting to the negative phrasing which R employs.
Q2: R seems to be constructing an argument as follows:
1: Since TT leads to action;
2: Therefore, TT is equal to all of the Mitzvot combined; AND
3: Therefore, TT always takes precedence over action (=Mitzvot)
The argument is missing something; just because learning leads to action,
that doesn't give TT equal significance. Just the opposite - if the
significance of learning is that it leads to action, that implies a
greater weight to action over learning! What is/are the "missing
premise/s" in this argument?
JR (Judy Rubin):
In physics there is a law that for every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction. All forms of education create cognitive dissonance in
the learner hence change results. All the more so for Talmud Torah. What
is missing is the explanation given for the arba'a minim during sukkot.
Of what use is the scholar without ma'asim tovim, good deeds? While
Talmud Torah is equal to all of the mitzvot combined, combining study with
the performance of mitzvot perpetually enhances Talmud Torah. Appointing
an agent to fulfill one's own obligation to perform mitzvot so that one
can continue to study seems second rate. Like the hadas which has smell
but no taste being compared to the person who is learned but does not
perform good deeds.
Perhaps R is not talking about the intrinsic importance of learning.
R may assume that action is as important as TT in itself. But action requires
TT. Since TT is both a means and an end, it is equal to all of the
JB: You are correct that TT does not have equal significance...but
significance does not mean priority, which it _does_ sometimes have.
Keitzad? Let me try to answer this with one of my (in)famous analogies.
Consider Bill Clinton and White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta.
Who's more important? Bill. Who is the lowly "tool"? Leon. No question
about who is more important. But priority is a utilitarian issue. What
happens if Bill calls in with the flu? Leon simply has an easier day. But
if Leon calls in with the flu, Bill is up a creek (whitewater? ;-) ).
Anyway, to bring this a little closer to home, TT leads to action. It's
our Leon. Ultimately, God put us here to act, otherwise we'd simply be
amorphous beings who contemplated all day. (This is a major objection to
kollelim not aimed at the elite.[mod: this is an issue which will be
discussed in detail when we get to TT 3:10 in a couple of weeks]) TT's
goal is to teach us how to act. As a result, this "tool" is more valuable
than anything else, INCLUDING A PARTICULAR ACTION! Because while the act
is a one-shot deal, the learning is for a life time. So if possible,
allow someone else to do it (so it does, in fact, get done) while you
keep learning. We have to let Leon Panetta run the show, enter Bill's
office at will, etc., because without him, the whole program grinds to a
YE: Perhaps we have to reexamine the notion of "TT is equal to all of the
Mitzvot" - the Hebrew word for equal, as used here, is *Shaqul* - which
literally translates to "balanced" or "equally weighted". Instead of
understanding R's statement as one of value, i.e. that studying Torah is
equal in value to doing all of the Mitzvot combined - rather, understand
it as one of importance - i.e., it is as important to study as it is to
do all of the Mitzvot. Why is that? Because involvement in Torah leads
one to fulfill the Mitzvot - whereas the inverse is not true (as R stated
in TT 1:3). Therefore, TT takes precedence - since being anchored in TT
will always insure that we take the proper and necessary action when it
is called for ; but, if we remove ourselves from learning in order to
"take action" - that insures neither a further commitment to action, nor
a return to study.
In other words, his argument runs as follows:
1)Constant involvement in Torah study leads you to action - a constant
commitment to fulfilling Mitzvot;
2) Therefore, TT is an equally important involvement as doing Mitzvot
(since it insures continued fulfillment) and
3) TT takes precedence over action WHERE THAT ACTION CAN BE FULFILLED BY
Q3: R already mentioned "study leads to action" and "study takes
precedence over action" (TT 1:3). Why the repetition?
JB: The first mention is a clarification of a prooftext, one that begs
the question of order in the pasuk. This reference is in context. Once we
have accepted and discussed the value and balance of TT and action, it is
time to adress priorities.
YE: I believe that there are two applications of this principle: 1) For a
person's individual learning (which is probably the intent of the source
text in BT Kiddushin 40b) - as R discusses here. Secondly, (and this is
likely R's application of the principle) - it explains why we educate the
child in the sequence that we do. We start by teaching him Torah - but
not just practical study, such as the operative laws of Shabbat, prayer,
dietary laws etc., rather he learns Humash and other parts of our
literature which train him to be involved in the study of Torah on its
own terms. R, in Ch. 1, is laying out the sequence of raising a child -
and, if the child was not properly educated - of that child raising
himself! Study comes first, for without study, he cannot know what to do
and he cannot have the proper attitude towards fulfilling Mitzvot.
R, in Ch. 1, is defining a sequential system - TT comes before Mitzvot;
here, he is proposing a constant preference and tension - study as much
as possible, for that will strengthen your commitment to do Mitzvot,
increase your awareness of the meaning behind them etc.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project