Sunday, October 23, 2005

Learning vs. Knowing II

Almost exactly one year ago, I blogged about the importance of mastering the entire Torah. I know, easier said than done.

Interestingly, I found that R. Moshe Hayim Luzzatto (Ramhal) states that, from a kabbalistic perspective, studying the entire Torah is important. In Derekh Hashem (4:2:4, Kaplan translation), he writes:

There is no element in all creation that is not rectified through the Torah. Furthermore, each element of the Torah has the ability to perfect some part of creation.

An individual who wants to serve his Creator with complete devotion must therefore involve himself in every aspect of the Torah to the best of his ability. Through this, he can take part in the rectification of all creation.
In the most recent issue of Hakirah, a sponsor of this blog, the journal's editor, Heshey Zelcer, writes about this topic in reference to studying with the Daf Yomi cycle (article here - PDF).

While studying the entire Talmud is certainly a desideratum, and Zelcer quotes R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe, Yoreh De'ah 2:110) who emphasizes this specifically regarding Daf Yomi, one must both understand one's learning and retain it subsequently. If Daf Yomi facilitates this process then it is a success. If it hinders it, then not. Zelcer concludes:
If a person spends the proper amount of time on each daf so that he can analyze it, understand it, and have it sink into his memory so that he will not forget it, the obviously it does [meet the definition of ideal Torah study]... However, the current method of Daf Yomi, as practiced by many, of covering an entire daf [page of Gemara] in a single hour and then not reviewing that daf until the next cycle, seven and a half years later, is clearly not the ideal type of Talmud Torah. It is impossible for most people to properly analyze and understand two sides of Gemara in a single hour. It is even less likely that the concepts contained in the daf will sink into one's mind and be remembered the day after tomorrow.
However, and I doubt that Mr. Zelcer will disagree with this, those who attend Daf Yomi lectures who would not otherwise be learning at that time are unquestionably progressing in Torah and enriching their lives. Even the most thick-headed and attention-challenged individual will not fail to learn something in a week's worth of lectures.

Furthermore, the Mishnah (Avos 5:14) lists four types of people who attend a study hall, the first being one who goes but does not practice. According to many commentators, this is someone who attends a study hall but fails to study Torah. The Mishnah states that while he does not receive reward for the Torah study he does not do, he is rewarded for the effort he made to attend the study hall. Clearly, someone who wakes up and goes to synagogue an hour earlier than normal in order to attend a Torah lecture deserves reward for his effort, even if he fails to learn anything at the lecture. The devotion changes not only his daily routine but his attitudes and the example he sets for his children.

Is Daf Yomi for everyone? Certainly not. But I think that many, probably most, participants should be encouraged and applauded.

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