THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Avodah Zarah, 19
1) AGADAH: LEARNING TORAH WHERE ONE'S HEART DESIRES
OPINIONS: Rebbi states that a person learns Torah only from a place
("mi'Makom") from which his heart desires to learn. He derives this from the
verse, "His desire is in the Torah of Hashem" (Tehilim 1:2). In the Gemara
later, we find that Rava makes an almost identical statement, "A person
should always (l'Olam) learn Torah in a place (b'Makom) that his heart
desires." He derives this from the same verse as Rebbi derives his
Presumably, Rava was not merely restating Rebbi's teaching. He seems to be
adding something by the slightly different phraseology of his statement.
What is the meaning of these two statements?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Rebbi is referring to the topic that one
learns. One will learn well only when he learns a topic that he wants to
learn, and not when he learns something that he has no desire to learn (see
BI'UR HALACHAH, OC 553, regarding the Halachah that limits what one is
permitted to learn on Tisha b'Av). RASHI (DH mi'Makom) explains that the
fact that he wants to learn something else causes him to be unable to
concentrate on other material. In contrast, Rava is discussing the
*location* in which one learns, referring to his teacher. Rava is saying
that one can only learn from a Rebbi from whom he wants to learn. This is
why Rava says "b'Makom," "*in* a place" where one's heart desires to learn.
(b) The SEDER YAKOV gives a different explanation. Rebbi is referring to one
who learns from a teacher (see Rashi), and he states that a person cannot be
forced by another person to learn something that he does not want to learn.
Rebbi's statement, though, does not address another situation. When a person
knows that he wants to learn one subject, but he thinks that he will benefit
more if he learns a different subject (even though his desire to learn that
subject is less), what should he learn? Is Rebbi saying that a person cannot
be forced by another person to learn something, or is he saying that one is
only able to learn when he truly wants to learn? Rava's statement addresses
this question. Rava says that even when the person is experiencing an
internal conflict about what to learn, he should learn only what he truly
wants to learn. This difference between the statement of Rebbi and the
statement of Rava is implied in their wording. Rebbi says that "a person
does not learn," implying learning from a teacher. Rava states, "A person
should always learn...," implying learning where one's heart desires even
when the other option is coming from the person himself.
(c) The Seder Yakov cites another explanation of Rava's statement based on
the words of the SHEVET MUSAR (Perek 1, DH v'Im Amor Yomar). The Shevet
Musar learns that the verse in Tehilim is teaching that a person should
always pursue the field of Torah study that he prefers. He supports this
assertion with the words of the ARIZAL in the SEFER DERUSHEI HA'NESHAMOS
V'HA'GILGULIM (Perek 3). The Arizal explains that a person who completed his
learning in a prior lifetime only needs, in his present lifetime, to work on
the method of learning that he did not yet master. If someone feels that his
heart is drawn only to Gemara, this is because that area of Torah is the
area which he needs to master. (Obviously, a person must do all of the
Mitzvos, and blatantly neglecting to learn any of the Halachos for this
reason is inexcusable. The words of the Arizal refer to the rest of a
person's learning, when he is certain that he is not neglecting to learn
basic Halachah; see SHACH YD 246:5.) He warns not to heed the scorn of
others who tell him to learn other things, as this will only lead him to
have to come back to this world in yet another Gilgul.
The words of the Arizal seems to be at odds with the conclusion of the
SHULCHAN ARUCH HA'RAV (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:4), who says in the name of
the CHOCHMEI HA'EMES (the scholars of Kabalah) that every Neshamah needs to
learn all four levels of Torah learning -- Peshat, Remez, Derush, and Sod --
in order to achieve its Tikun, its perfection. According to the Arizal,
though, one needs only to learn the area to which he feels drawn.
The Seder Yakov answers that the two are not arguing. Rather, they are
referring to two different types of people. The Arizal is referring to a
person who feels that he must learn a certain area of Torah. That person
should indeed concentrate on that area. The Shulchan Aruch ha'Rav is
referring to a person who feels no particular urge to learn a certain area
of Torah, but who just wants to learn. His Neshamah's Tikun is achieved only
by learning all areas of Torah. (Y. Montrose)
2) BEING "MESHALESH" ONE'S TIME
OPINIONS: Rebbi Tanchum bar Chanila'i says that, "A person should always
divide his years into three parts (Yeshalesh) -- a third in Mikra, a third
in Mishnah, and a third in Talmud." The Gemara asks does a person know how
long he will live, such that he knows exactly how much of his life is a
third? The Gemara answers that Rebbi Tanchum is referring to the individual
days of a person's life.
How is this division of time supposed to be executed?
(a) RASHI (DH b'Yomi) comments that Rebbi Tanchum means that one should
learn Mikra for two days, Mishnah for the next two days, and then learn
Gemara for two days, every week. This also seems to be the opinion of the
According to Rashi, what should one learn on Shabbos?
1. The RI MI'LUNIL says, like Rashi, that one's week should be divided into
three sets of two days. On Shabbos, one should review everything that he
learned during the week.
2. Alternatively, we can suggest that Rashi's opinion is the opinion
expressed by RAV YAKOV EMDEN in SIDUR YA'AVETZ (Musach ha'Shabbos 183b), who
writes that one should not learn in great depth on Shabbos, since one's
learning on Shabbos also must be an Oneg, pleasurable. According to this,
Rebbi Tanchum might have given a schedule only for the six days of the week,
and not for Shabbos.
TOSFOS (DH Yeshalesh) challenges Rashi's explanation. According to Rashi,
the Gemara's original question still applies: a person does not know how
long he will live, and thus he might die before the end of the week, not
having divided his learning into thirds! (See RITVA here and MAHARIT in
Kidushin 30a, who imply that according to Rashi's explanation, we are not
concerned about the final week of a person's life.)
(b) TOSFOS explains that a person should learn all three areas of Torah each
day. This is why the Chachamim included in daily prayers the recitation of
Parshas ha'Tamid (verses of Mikra), the chapter of Eizehu Mekoman
(Mishnayos), and the Beraisa of Rebbi Yishmael (Talmud). RABEINU TAM states
that those who study Talmud Bavli also achieve this three-way division, for
the Gemara in Sanhedrin (24a) tells us that Talmud Bavli is named
appropriately, because it is "mixed" ("Belulah") with Mikra, Mishnah, and
According to Tosfos, it is apparent that "Yeshalesh" does not mean that one
should divide his time into thirds, because if that is what it means, then
it saying a few passages of Mikra, Mishnah, and Gemara each day in the daily
prayers would not fulfill this obligation, nor would saying a few verses and
Mishnayos while learning the Gemara be an equal division of time.
"Yeshalesh" obviously means, according to Tosfos, that a person should
incorporate some of each of these areas of Torah into his day. This is also
the view of the RITVA.
It is important to note that this Gemara does not contradict the Mishnah in
Avos (5:21) which says, "Five years old [is the age] for Mikra, ten years
old for Mishnah... fifteen years old for Gemara." The MAHARSHA explains that
Tosfos' explanation of the Gemara is consistent with the Mishnah there. Even
though the Mishnah seems to be saying that one should learn only Talmud
after he reaches the age of fifteen, according to the explanation of Tosfos,
our Gemara is also saying that one should focus primarily on Gemara as an
adult, while merely incorporating some Mikra and Mishnah into his day.
The SEDER YAKOV explains the Mishnah there differently. He says that the
Mishnah is referring to the ages at which one becomes ready to learn each
subjects. The requirement of "Yeshalesh" applies only after a person is able
to learn all of these subjects.
(c) However, the RAMBAM (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:12) writes that "Yeshalesh"
means that a person should study each topic for three hours each day. The
Rambam adds that this applies, though, only when a person is first starting
to learn. When he becomes greater in knowledge, he may devote only small
amounts of time to Mikra and Mishnah, while devoting most of his time to
The KESEF MISHNEH learns that the Rambam understands that it is obvious that
learning Gemara requires more time than Mikra and Mishnah, and he codifies
the Rambam's opinion as the Halachah in SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 246:4). The
LECHEM MISHNEH seems to learn that the Rambam is explaining why the practice
of focusing on Gemara is acceptable, similar to the comment of Rabeinu Tam
The SHACH (246:5) adds an important addendum to this subject. He says that
the Gemara is referring to people who have the ability to learn Torah for
many hours each day. For people who have only three or four hours a day to
learn, they must also incorporate the study of *Halachah* into their
schedule. He comments that when the Gemara (Megilah 28b) teaches that "one
who learns Halachos each day is assured that he is a Ben Olam ha'Ba," this
refers to learning practical Halachos, and not to learning Gemaras about
Halachic situations which leave the practical Halachah in doubt. (Y.