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Nedarim, 62


AGADAH: The Beraisa cites the verse in Parshas Netzavim, "To love Hashem, your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cling to Him, because He is your life..." (Devarim 30:20). The Beraisa says that this verse teaches that "a person should not say, 'I will learn verses so that they will call me a Chacham,' or, 'I will learn Mishnah so that they will call me Rebbi,' or, 'I will learn Gemara so that I will be [called] a Zaken.' Rather, you should learn out of love, and in the end the honor will come, as it says, 'Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart' (Mishlei 7:3), and it says, 'Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all of its pathways are peace,' (Mishlei 3:17), and it says, 'It is a tree of life to those who hold on to it, and its supporters are praiseworthy' (Mishlei 3:18)."

Why does the Beraisa divide its directive about learning Torah out of love for Hashem and not out of impure motives into three different commands? It could have just said, "A person should not say, 'I will learn so that they will call me a Chacham!"

ANSWER: The KEREN ORAH points out that there are three basic, progressive levels of learning Torah: learning verses (Chumash), learning Mishnah, and learning Gemara ("Shinun," or "sharpening"). Each of these three levels has a unique purpose and effect on the person who succeeds at each level in learning for the sake of love of Hashem. In general, learning "Lishmah" at each level brings a person closer to Hashem, a state which is the true form of life, as the verse says, "And you who cling to Hashem, your G-d, you are all living today" (Devarim 4:4). At the same time, though, the Yetzer ha'Ra is active on each level to prevent a person from achieving the true goal of learning by making him have ulterior motives.

The first level is learning verses of the Chumash. This type of learning, when done out of love, brings a person to a recognition of Hashem as the Creator of the world. In addition, by learning Chumash, a person comes to a realization of Hashem's involvement in all of the activities of the world and of history. By becoming aware of the greatness and omnipotence of Hashem, a person is able to overcome the temptations of the Yetzer ha'Ra. Such a person is called a "Chacham," because he uses his wisdom gained through learning the Torah to enable him to overcome his Yetzer ha'Ra and to follow the will of Hashem. This level is alluded to in the first words of the verse in Netzavim quoted by the Beraisa, "To love Hashem, your G-d," for by learning the verses of the Torah "Lishmah," a person comes to realize the greatness of the Creator which leads to love of Hashem.

However, if a person learns Chumash with the intent of being called a "Chacham" and gaining prestige in the eyes of others, then his learning will be of no value in achieving closeness with Hashem, and he will stumble into the traps of the Yetzer ha'Ra. To emphasize this point, the Beraisa cites the verse in Mishlei (7:3), "Bind them on your fingers...," referring to words of Torah. The following verse there (7:4) says, "Say to wisdom (Chachmah), 'You are my sister,'" which the Gemara (Shabbos 145b) explains to mean that only when a person is as certain of a Halachic ruling as he is certain that his sister is forbidden to him, may he say the ruling. Likewise, only when a person is certain that he is learning Torah out of love for Hashem and not out of personal pleasure or benefit, can he be called a true "Chacham." But if he is not learning for pure motives but in order to derive worldly benefit or honor from his learning, then he is not called a "Chacham," and, on the contrary, he will stumble in sin. Hence, only when one learns Torah "Lishmah" will the words of Torah "protect you from a forbidden woman, from the seductive words of a strange woman" (Mishlei 7:5).

After one has achieved a state of Chachmah through learning the verses of the Torah, he moves on to the second level of learning, which is Mishnah. When one learns Mishnah, one learns the details of the words and ways that are written in the Torah, as explained orally by Hashem to Moshe and passed down, through the Oral Law, from generation to generation. This second level of learning to is alluded to in the second phrase of the verse in Netzavim quoted by the Beraisa, "... to listen to His voice," for the Mishnah is the Oral Law as spoken by Hashem to His people.

The purpose of learning Mishnah is to know how to walk in the ways of the Torah and to fulfill its Mitzvos properly. Moreover, one who is learned in Mishnah is able to instruct others how to follow the Mitzvos of the Torah (in the role of a "Rebbi"). To show that this is the purpose of learning Mishnah "Lishmah," the Beraisa quotes the verse, "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all of its pathways are peace" (Mishlei 3:17), implying that the purpose of knowing how to walk in the ways of the Torah is to bask in the pleasantness of Hashem's presence and to achieve eternal life, and not to achieve any worldly benefit or honor, G-d forbid. "All of its pathways are peace" means that all of its pathways, when followed with pure motives, inevitably lead to reward in this world, as the Beraisa says, "and in the end the honor will come."

The third and highest level of learning Torah is learning Gemara, which involves purifying one's thought processes and perfecting them in the ways of logical thought so that one can come to a deep awareness of Hashem and His wisdom. One cannot yet reach the pinnacle of following the will of Hashem through only learning Mishnah (as the Gemara says in Sotah 22a), because learning Mishnah does not require the sharp analytical mastery of the mind. Only when one learns Gemara "Lishmah" and is able "la'Asukei Shemaytsa Aliba d'Hilchasa" is he able to come to the pinnacle of accomplishment in learning Torah and to cling to Hashem through the light of the Torah (as the Gemara describes David ha'Melech, who lowered himself like a worm in order not to have any prideful thoughts or motives when learning Gemara (Moed Katan 16b), and he was Zocheh that his learning brought him to proper conclusions in Halachah (Eruvin 53b)). To support this assertion, the Beraisa quotes the verse, "It is a tree of life to those who hold on to it" (Mishlei 3:18), for the ultimate goal of learning Torah with purity of analytical thought is to arrive at the source of true life.

QUESTION: Rebbi Eliezer bar'Rebbi Tzadok discusses the importance of learning Torah and doing Mitzvos "Lishmah," with pure motives. He says, "Do not make them a crown with which to aggrandize oneself, and do not make them a Kurdom with which to hoe." Similarly, in Maseches Avos (4:5, in the name of Rebbi Tzadok), it is written, "Do not make them a Kurdom with which to dig."

It seems from here that a Kurdom is an instrument used for hoeing and digging, such as a spade or a shovel. However, a Kurdom is usually understood to mean an ax (as in Beitzah 31a). However, an ax is not used for hoeing or for digging! What, then, does this statement mean?

ANSWER: The NETZIV (in MEROMEI SADEH) explains that this is the point of the Gemara. One should not use the Torah for a purpose for which it is not intended (such as for self-aggrandizement and personal gain), just like one would not use an ax for a purpose for which it was not intended, like digging. However, just like an ax is used for chopping wood, so, too, it is permissible to use the Torah for the purpose for which it is intended to be used -- to bring honor and glory to the Torah. Hence, if one will make an income by bringing glory to the Torah (and that is his primary objective), then it certainly is permissible. (See Background to this Daf for sources for the definition of "Kurdom.")

(See, however, the Girsa of the ROSH here, "Do not make them a Kurdom with which to *cut*," which is the alternate Girsa in the Mishnah in Avos (see TIFERES YISRAEL there). See also Sotah 15b, "Yachol Yachpor b'Kurdomos.")

For the Halachic implications of this Gemara, see RAMBAM in Perush ha'Mishnayos and BI'UR HALACHAH (OC 231) who cites TESHUVOS D'VAR SHMUEL.


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