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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Talmud Torah - Chapter Four

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Talmud Torah - Chapter Four

1

Torah should be taught only to a proper student - one whose deeds are attractive - or to a person whose behavior is unknown. However, [a potential student] who follows bad ways should be influenced to correct his behavior and trained to follow a straight path. [After he repents, his deeds] are examined and he is allowed to enter the house of study to be instructed.

Our Sages said: Whoever teaches an improper student is considered as if he throws a stone to Mercury, as [Proverbs 26:8] states: "As one who winds a stone in a sling, so is he who gives honor to a fool." There is no "honor" other than Torah, as [Proverbs 3:35] states: "The wise shall inherit honor."

Similarly, one should not study from a teacher who does not follow a proper path, even though he is a very wise man and his [instruction] is required by the entire nation, until he returns to a good path, as [implied by Malachi 2:7]: "For the priest's lips shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek Torah from his mouth, because he is a messenger from the Lord of Hosts."

Our Sages said: If a teacher resembles "a messenger of the Lord of Hosts," seek Torah from his mouth. If he does not, do not seek Torah from his mouth.

א

אין מלמדין תורה אלא לתלמיד הגון נאה במעשיו או לתם אבל אם היה הולך בדרך לא טובה מחזירין אותו למוטב ומנהיגין אותו בדרך ישרה ובודקין אותו ואח"כ מכניסין אותו לבית המדרש ומלמדין אותו אמרו חכמים כל השונה לתלמיד שאינו הגון כאילו זרק אבן למרקוליס שנאמר כצרור אבן במרגמה כן נותן לכסיל כבוד אין כבוד אלא תורה שנאמר כבוד חכמים ינחלו וכן הרב שאינו הולך בדרך טובה אף על פי שחכם גדול הוא וכל העם צריכין לו אין מתלמדין ממנו עד שובו למוטב שנאמר כי שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו כי מלאך ה' צבאות הוא אמרו חכמים אם הרב דומה למלאך ה' צבאות תורה יבקשו מפיהו אם לאו אל יבקשו תורה מפיהו:

Torah should be taught only to a proper student - Psalms 50:16 states, "Wicked man, why do you discuss My laws?"

one whose deeds - his observance of the mitzvot

are attractive - or to a person whose behavior is unknown. - Berachot 28a relates that Rabban Gamliel restricted entry to the house of study to any student "whose inside did not reflect his outside" - i.e., to anyone whose character did not match his external appearance as a Torah scholar.

Rabban Gamliel's colleagues did not agree with this approach, and when Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was appointed in his place, these restrictions were lifted. That day, hundreds of students streamed into the house of study, and even Rabban Gamliel felt the need to reconsider his approach. (See Lechem Mishneh.)

[The Chiddushei Harim questioned Rabban Gamliel's change of heart. Did he not know that when the restrictions were lifted, more students would enter the house of study? However, Rabban Gamliel saw that once the students entered the house of study, the environment had a positive effect on their characters and prompted self-refinement. Therefore, he reconsidered.]

However, [a potential student] who follows bad ways should - first

be influenced to correct his behavior and trained to follow a straight path - of Torah living.

[After he repents, his deeds] are examined and - only then

he is allowed to enter the house of study to be instructed.

Our Sages said: - Chullin 133a

Whoever teaches an improper student is considered as if he throws a stone to Mercury - i.e., Mercury, the Roman god of wayfarers. His symbol was three stones positioned in the form of a triangle. He was worshiped by throwing stones at that symbol.

as [Proverbs 26:8] states: "As one who winds a stone in a sling - the worship of Mercury

so is he who gives honor to a fool." There is no "honor" other than Torah, as [Proverbs 3:35] states: "The wise shall inherit honor." - Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:17 and Kuntres Acharon 4:1) emphasizes that the restriction applies only to the teacher. The student, himself, should endeavor to study, and it is hoped that the Torah will motivate him to improve his behavior. (See Chapter 3, Halachah 5.)

Furthermore, if the student seeks very earnestly to study, even though he has not changed his behavior, he should be instructed, the teacher carefully balancing his reproofs with positive reinforcement. Our Sages (see the uncensored text of Sotah 47a) were highly critical of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Parchiah, who "pushed Jesus away with two hands," and thus caused him to forsake Judaism entirely.

Similarly, one should not study from a teacher who does not follow a proper path, even though he - the teacher

is a very wise man and his [instruction] is required by the entire nation, until he returns to a good path - Mo'ed Katan 17a relates that there was a Torah sage whose knowledge was needed by his community. However, because of his unsavory behavior, Rav Yehudah placed him under a ban of ostracism.

as [implied by Malachi 2:7]: "For the priest's lips shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek Torah from his mouth, because he is a messenger from the Lord of Hosts."

Our Sages said: - Mo'ed Katan (ibid.)

If a teacher resembles "a messenger - The Hebrew malach also means angel.

of the Lord of Hosts," seek Torah from his mouth. - Implied is that in addition to having knowledge and the ability to communicate it, a teacher must be a paradigm of Torah behavior, fit to be emulated by his students.

If he does not, do not seek Torah from his mouth. - Chaggigah 15b questions how Rabbi Meir would study from Acher, a great sage who scorned the observance of mitzvot. It explains that Rabbi Meir followed the instruction of Proverbs 22:17: "Turn your ear, hear the words of the wise, and direct your heart to My intention," which implies that one can "hear the words of the wise" and, instead of being influenced by them, "direct your heart to My (God's) intention."

The Talmud continues, explaining that only a sage of stature who can "suck a pomegranate and discard its shell" may follow such a course of behavior. Most people should refrain from studying under such teachers.

Accordingly, the Lechem Mishneh concludes that the Rambam did not quote the passage from Chaggigah because, at present, there are none who are of a stature great enough not to be influenced by a teacher of improper character.

The Sefer Kovetz notes that the Rambam mentions this verse in the beginning of his introduction to the Guide to the Perplexed, alluding to the fact that, in composing that work, he had to follow Rabbi Meir's example and study under teachers whose behavior he would not desire to emulate. Nevertheless, this did not represent a contradiction to his omission of this teaching in the Mishneh Torah. We find that under extraordinary conditions, it is permitted to follow a minority opinion in the Talmud. Hence, when the Rambam saw the need to compose a text like the Guide to the Perplexed, he felt that under such conditions, he should follow Rabbi Meir's example.

2

How is [Torah] taught? The teacher sits at the head and the students sit around him, so that all can see the teacher and hear his words.

The teacher should not sit on a chair, [while] his students [sit] on the ground. Rather, either everyone should sit on the ground or everyone should sit on chairs.

Originally, the teacher would sit and the students would stand. [However,] before the destruction of the Second Temple, everyone followed the practice of teaching while both they and the students were seated.

ב

כיצד מלמדים הרב יושב בראש והתלמידים מוקפים לפניו כעטרה כדי שיהו כלם רואים הרב ושומעים דבריו ולא ישב הרב על הכסא ותלמידיו על הקרקע אלא או הכל על הארץ או הכל על הכסאות ובראשונה היה הרב יושב והתלמידים עומדים ומקודם חורבן בית שני נהגו הכל ללמד לתלמידים והם יושבים:


How is [Torah] taught? The teacher sits at the head and the students sit around him - in a half-circle. (See Sanhedrin 30b.)

so that all can see the teacher and hear his words. - Keritot 6a states: "When you sit before your teacher, look at his face, as [implied by Isaiah 30:20]: 'And your eyes shall behold your teachers.54

The teacher should not sit on a chair, [while] his students [sit] on the ground. Rather, either everyone should sit on the ground - Mo'ed Katan 16b praises King David for forgoing his royal honor and sitting on the floor to study together with the Rabbis.

or everyone should sit on chairs. - Megillah 21a notes that God told Moses (Deuteronomy 5:28): "stand together with me." Since God neither stands nor sits, the verse obviously refers to the proper approach to instruction, where no distinction is made between the teachers and the students.

Rabbenu Nissim and other commentators cite certain Talmudic passages which appear to contradict this principle. He explains that sometimes the teacher would sit in an upraised position, so that the students could hear his words more easily. Alternatively, when a sage possessed semichah, the distinct Rabbinic ordination conveyed in a line from teacher to teacher, stretching back to Moses, he was granted greater privileges.

Originally, the teacher would sit and the students would stand. - The Lechem Mishneh notes that this appears to be a direct contradiction to the principle of equality mentioned beforehand. However, he explains that the teachers were allowed to sit in order to be able to relax and transmit the subject matter more clearly. Hence, adopting that position does not represent any superiority over the students.

[However,] before the destruction of the Second Temple, everyone followed the practice of teaching while both they and the students were seated. - Megillah (ibid.) states:

From the time of Moses, our teacher, until Rabban Gamliel, people studied Torah only while standing; after Rabban Gamliel died, sickness descended on the world and they would study Torah while seated.

This refers to Rabban Gamliel the elder. Sotah 9:16 relates that when he died: "The honor of the Torah was nullified." Commenting on that Mishnah, the Rambam associates the nullification of the Torah's honor with the practice of studying while seated.

3

If the teacher [desires] to instruct the students personally, he is entitled to do so. If he [desires to] teach through the medium of a spokesman, the spokesman should stand between him and the students. The teacher speaks to the spokesman and he announces the teaching to all the students.

When they ask the spokesman a question, he asks the teacher. The teacher, [in turn,] replies to the spokesman and the spokesman replies to the questioner.

The teacher should not raise his voice above that of the spokesman. Similarly, when the spokesman asks a question of the teacher, he should not raise his voice above that of the teacher.

The spokesman is not allowed to detract from, add to, or change [the teacher's words], unless he is the teacher's father or teacher. If the teacher tells the spokesman: "My teacher told me the following..." or "My father and teacher told me the following...," when the spokesman relates the teaching to the people, he should quote the statement in the name of the sage [who authored it], mentioning the name of the teacher's father or teacher, saying: "So and so, the sage, said the following..." [This is allowed] despite the fact the teacher did not mention the sage's name, because it is forbidden to refer to one's teacher or father by name.

ג

אם היה מלמד מפיו לתלמידים מלמד ואם היה מלמד על פי מתרגם [המתרגם] עומד בינו ובין התלמידים והרב אומר למתרגם והמתרגם משמיע לכל התלמידים וכשהם שואלין למתרגם הוא שואל לרב והרב משיב למתרגם והמתרגם משיב לשואל ולא יגביה הרב קולו יותר מקול המתרגם ולא יגביה המתרגם קולו בעת ששואל את הרב יותר מקול הרב אין המתרגם רשאי לא לפחות ולא להוסיף ולא לשנות אלא אם כן היה המתורגמן אביו של חכם או רבו אומר הרב למתורגמן כך אמר לי רבי או כך אמר לי אבא מרי וכשאומר המתורגמן הדברים לעם אומר בשם החכם ומזכיר שמו של אבי הרב או של רבו ואומר כך אמר רבנא פלוני אע"פ שלא הזכיר הרב שמו של חכם שאסור לקרות לרבו או לאביו בשמו:

If the teacher [desires] to instruct the students personally, he is entitled to do so. - Although it was common for Torah Sages to employ the services of a spokesman, there was no obligation to do so.

If he [desires to] teach through the medium of a spokesman - There is a difference of opinion between the commentaries regarding the function of this individual. Rashi, Yoma 20b, considers him to be a translator, and, indeed, that is the literal meaning of the term metargaman. In Babylon and even in Eretz Yisrael, the popular spoken language was Aramaic, while many of the Sages preferred to teach in Hebrew. Therefore, they would speak to the spokesman in a hushed tone in Hebrew, and he would translate the teachings to Aramaic and teach them to the public in a loud voice.

Others maintain that the spokesman was no more than a "human microphone." Rather than have the sage weary himself in speaking in a tone which all could hear, he would speak softly, and the spokesman would speak in a tone that all could hear. This opinion is supported by certain passages (e.g., Kiddushin 31b), which refer to the spokesman as amoriyah, which is the Aramaic for metargaman.

The Ra'avad mentions a third perspective, explaining that the spokesman also communicated the teacher's words in a manner that could be understood and grasped by the students. Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch follows a similar, but not identical, view. In Yom Tov Shel Rosh Hashanah 5666, he elaborates on this concept in detail, explaining that the teacher was on too high a level to explain his ideas in a manner which the common people could understand. Therefore, he would employ a spokesman, who, though he was able to comprehend the teacher's statements, was on a level that his explanations would not be too sophisticated for the people to grasp. (See also Kohelet Rabbah 7:12, 9:24.)

The use of a spokesman was also a sign of honor and respect for the teacher. (See Rashi, Deuteronomy 32:44.)

the spokesman should stand between him and the students. The teacher speaks to the spokesman - in a hushed tone

and he announces the teaching to all the students - in a manner in which they could hear. (See Sotah 40a, Chullin 15a, from which we can derive a picture of the process of instruction.)

When they ask the spokesman a question, he asks the teacher - in a hushed tone, as explained.

The teacher, [in turn,] replies to the spokesman - in a hushed tone

and the spokesman replies to the questioner - out loud, so that others can hear.

The teacher should not raise his voice above that of the spokesman. - The Kessef Mishneh cites Berachot 45a, which quotes the manner in which Moses relayed God's words at the giving of the Torah (Exodus 19:19) as the source for this concept. Nevertheless, others note that the passage in Berachot refers to a metargaman who translates the Torah reading for the people, and is not necessarily relevant to the situation at hand. Rather, they suggest that the descriptions of the use of spokesmen in the passages cited above serve as the source for this idea.

Similarly, when the spokesman asks a question of the teacher, he should not raise his voice above that of the teacher. - as a mark of respect and deference.

The spokesman is not allowed to detract from, add to, or change [the teacher's words] - The Rambam's statements are quoted from the Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 4:10. The Ra'avad differs, and quotes a narrative from Yoma 20b, which relates how Rav served as a spokesman for Rav Shilat and altered the connotation of his words. The Ra'avad explains that since Rav's scholarship was greater than Rav Shilat's, he was entitled to do so.

The Kessef Mishneh states that the Rambam did not mention such a possibility, because it is very improbable that a greater sage would serve as a spokesman for a sage of lesser stature.

unless he is the teacher's father or teacher - Rabbenu Nissim explains that a teacher or father is allowed to serve as a spokesman for his students, since they will not be jealous of the honor afforded him. The Kessef Mishneh relates that the Rambam's phraseology indicates a situation which is bidievad (after the fact), and ideally, neither a father or teacher should serve in this position.

There is one exception to the above principle, and, in the following situation, the spokesman should alter the teachers words...

If the teacher tells the spokesman: "My teacher told me the following..." or "My father and teacher told me the following...," when the spokesman relates the teaching to the people, he should quote the statement in the name of the sage [who authored it] - i.e., the teacher's father or teacher

mentioning the name of the teacher's father or teacher, saying: "So and so, the sage, said the following..." - Kiddushin 31b relates that when Rav Ashi's son lectured, he would tell the spokesman: "This is what my father and teacher said...," and the spokesman would say: "This is what Rav Ashi said..."

This is allowed] despite the fact the teacher did not mention the sage's name, because it is forbidden to refer to one's teacher or father by name. -Kiddushin (ibid.) mentions this concept within the context of the laws governing the respect due to one's father. (See Hilchot Mamrim 6:3.) This concept is also quoted in Chapter 5, Halachah 5, as an expression of the proper respect due a teacher.

4

If the teacher taught [a concept] and it was not grasped by the students, he should not become upset with them and display anger. Rather, he should repeat and review the matter, even if he must do so many times, until they appreciate the depth of the halachah.

Similarly, the student should not say "I understood" when he did not understand. Rather, he should ask again and again, even if he requires several repetitions. If his teacher becomes upset with him and displays anger, he should tell him: "My teacher, this is Torah. It is necessary that I study, and my powers of comprehension are weak."

ד

הרב שלמד ולא הבינו התלמידים לא יכעוס עליהם וירגז אלא חוזר ושונה הדבר אפילו כמה פעמים עד שיבינו עומק ההלכה וכן לא יאמר התלמיד הבנתי והוא לא הבין אלא חוזר ושואל אפילו כמה פעמים ואם כעס עליו רבו ורגז יאמר לו רבי תורה היא וללמוד אני צריך ודעתי קצרה:

If the teacher taught [a concept] and it was not grasped by the students, he should not become upset with them - </>In Hilchot De'ot 2:3, the Rambam explains in detail how "anger is a very bad trait, and it is proper for a person to separate himself from it entirely."

He continues (ibid. 2:5) explaining how a teacher should instruct the students "in a composed and pleasant manner, without shouting." Here, as well, he does not center on the negative aspects of anger in its own right, but rather its impropriety as an educational technique.

and display anger. - Note the Mishnah, Avot 2:5, cited by the Rambam in the following halachah. Soferim 16:2 states: "One should teach the Talmud with a pleasant countenance and the aggadah with a patient countenance."

Rather, he should repeat and review the matter, even if he must do so many times, until they appreciate the depth of the halachah. - Deuteronomy 31:19 states that Torah must be placed in a student's mouth. Eruvin 54b interprets this as a charge to teachers, requiring them to review the subject matter with their students until the latter comprehend it fully. The passage continues, praising Rabbi Pereidah for teaching one of his students each point four hundred times.

Though patience is generally required of a teacher, there are times when he should display anger as explained in the following halachah.

Similarly, the student should not say "I understood" when he did not understand. - Derech Eretz Zuta, Chapter 2, states: If you desire to study, Do not say "I have comprehended it," when you have not.

Rather, he should ask again and again, even if he requires several repetitions. - The teacher's patient devotion to his students must be reflected by them. They must dedicate themselves to understanding their teacher's words and steadfastly apply themselves to their study until they comprehend.

If his teacher becomes upset with him and displays anger, he should tell him: "My teacher, this is Torah. It is necessary that I study, and my powers of comprehension are weak." - Megillah 28a relates that Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi gave such a reply to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korchah after the latter impatiently rebuked him for what seemed an irrelevant question.

5

A student should not be embarrassed because his colleagues grasped the subject matter the first or second time, while he did not understand it until it was repeated a number of times. If he becomes embarrassed because of such matters, he will find himself going in and out of the house of study without learning anything.

Accordingly, the Sages of the previous generations stated: "A bashful person will not learn, nor should the short-tempered teach."

When does the above apply? When the students did not understand the subject matter because of its depth or because of their limited powers of comprehension. However, if it appears to the teacher that they are not applying themselves to the words of Torah and are lax about them, and, therefore, do not understand, he is obligated to display anger towards them and shame them with his words, to sharpen their powers of concentration. In this context, our Sages said: "Cast fear into the students."

Therefore, it is not fitting for a teacher to act frivolously in the presence of his students. He should not amuse himself in their presence, nor should he eat and drink with them. [These restrictions are intended] so that they fear him and study under him at a fast pace.

ה

לא יהיה התלמיד בוש מחביריו שלמדו מפעם ראשונה או שניה והוא לא למד אלא אחר כמה פעמים שאם נתבייש מדבר זה נמצא נכנס ויוצא לבית המדרש והוא אינו למד כלום לפיכך אמרו חכמים הראשונים אין הביישן למד ולא הקפדן מלמד במה דברים אמורים בזמן שלא הבינו התלמידים הדבר מפני עומקו או מפני דעתן שהיא קצרה אבל אם ניכר לרב שהם מתרשלין בדברי תורה ומתרפין עליהן ולפיכך לא הבינו חייב לרגוז עליהן ולהכלימן בדברים כדי לחדדם וכענין זה אמרו חכמים זרוק מרה בתלמידים לפיכך אין ראוי לרב לנהוג קלות ראש לפני התלמידים ולא לשחוק בפניהם ולא לאכול ולשתות עמהם כדי שתהא אימתו עליהן וילמדו ממנו במהרה:

A student should not be embarrassed - and therefore be prevented from asking questions]

because his colleagues grasped the subject matter the first or second time, while he did not understand it until it was repeated a number of times. - On the contrary, he should ask that it be repeated, and his colleagues are obligated to show him the courtesy of patiently listening to the repetition.

If he becomes embarrassed because of such matters, he will find himself going in and out of the house of study without learning anything. - Berachot 63b teaches: "Any student who humbles himself because of the words of Torah will ultimately be uplifted." Rashi explains that this refers to a student who asks all the questions that bother him even though his colleagues look down upon him.

Accordingly - This refers to both this and the previous halachah

the Sages of the previous generations stated: - Avot 2:5

"A bashful person will not learn, nor should the short-tempered teach." - The two faults lead to the same difficulty. The teacher will explain the subject matter in a manner which he thinks is correct. However, it will not be grasped by the students.

When does the above - the directive that a teacher should patiently repeat his words without displaying anger

apply? When the students did not understand the subject matter because of its depth or because of their limited powers of comprehension. However, if it appears to the teacher that they are not applying themselves to the words of Torah and are lax about them and, therefore, do not understand - further repetition will not help, for the students will not concentrate then, either. Therefore,

he is obligated to display anger - This translation is based on Hilchot De'ot 2:3, which explains that a person may act in an angry matter to cast fear into the hearts of others. However, he, himself, should not be angry.

towards them and shame them with his words to sharpen their powers of concentration. - Since their difficulty stemmed from their lack of concentration, by forcing the students to apply themselves, the teacher will enable them to learn.

In this context, our Sages said: - Ketubot 103b relates that Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi mentioned this concept in his last will and testament. In particular, this advice was given to his son, Rabban Gamliel, with regard to the manner in which he should conduct himself as a nasi. The Rambam interprets the lesson as more general in nature and applies it to the relationship between every teacher and student.

"Cast fear into the students." - Similarly, Shabbat 30b states that a student must sit in utter dread of his teacher.

Therefore - in order to cultivate this aura of respect

it is not fitting for a teacher to act frivolously in the presence of his students. - In general, the Rambam advises against frivolous behavior, and favors a reserved, but pleasant and happy approach to others. (See Hilchot De'ot 2:7, 5:2.)

He should not amuse himself in their presence, nor should he eat and drink with them. - This does not imply that a teacher must demonstrate a totally stern approach. Shabbat (ibid.) relates how Rabbah would begin his lectures with a witty statement. His students would laugh and, afterwards, he would sit in awe and begin the lesson.

[These restrictions are intended] so that they fear him and study under him at a fast pace.

6

When the teacher enters the house of study, questions should not be posed to him until he gathers his powers of concentration. [Thus,] a student should not ask until he sits and rests.

Two should not ask at once. A teacher should not be asked about an outside matter, but rather, [only] regarding the subject which they are involved with, lest he become embarrassed.

The teacher may [deliberately] lead the students astray with his questions and the deeds he carries out in their presence to sharpen their powers of concentration and to test whether they remember what he taught them or not. Needless to say, he may ask them regarding another matter, which they are not presently involved with, to spur them on.

ו

אין שואלין את הרב כשיכנס למדרש עד שתתישב דעתו עליו ואין התלמיד שואל כשיכנס עד שיתישב וינוח ואין שואלין שנים כאחד ואין שואלין את הרב מענין אחר אלא מאותו הענין שהן עסוקין בו כדי שלא יתבייש ויש לרב להטעות את התלמידים בשאלותיו ובמעשים שעושה בפניהם כדי לחדדן וכדי שידע אם זוכרים הם מה שלמדם או אינם זוכרים ואין צריך לומר שיש לו רשות לשאול אותם בענין אחר שאין עוסקין בו כדי לזרזם:

The previous halachot mentioned the importance of asking questions. This and the next two halachot deal with the proper manner of asking such questions.

When the teacher enters the house of study, questions should not be posed to him until he gathers his powers of concentration. - lest he be prodded into responding hastily, without thinking out the matter in its entirety

[Thus,] a student should not ask until he sits - as mentioned in Halachah 2

and rests.

Two should not ask at once. - First, this is proper manners. Second, it is impossible to hear two people simultaneously.

A teacher should not be asked about an outside matter, but rather, [only] regarding the subject which they - he and the students

are involved with, lest he - not know the answer...

become embarrassed - and give an incorrect reply. Shabbat 3b relates that Rabbi Chiyya gave Rav this advice after he asked a question of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi concerning an unrelated matter.

In the process of instruction...

The teacher may [deliberately] lead the students astray with his questions - asking about matters which are unrelated, to see whether the students can follow the line of thought.

Berachot 43b relates that Rabbah made certain statements that ran contrary to the Sages' teachings about the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird. The Talmud explains that he did this in order to check his students' knowledge. Eruvin 13a relates that Rabbi Akiva also made statements with a similar intent.

and the deeds he carries out in their presence to sharpen their powers of concentration - e.g., Chullin 43b relates that Rabbah inspected an animal to see whether it was kosher or not, in a manner which contradicted his own teachings. Here, too, it is explained that his intention was to test his students.

and to test whether they remember what he taught them or not. Needless to say, he may ask them regarding another matter, which they are not presently involved with - Bava Metzia 97a relates that a teacher has the right to change the subject matter which the students are studying. However, it does not provide the explanation given by the Rambam here.

to spur them on. - to pique their curiosity and stimulate their desire to learn.

7

A person should not ask a question while standing, nor should a person respond while standing. One should not ask from a high place, from far away, or from behind the elders.

A question should be asked of the teacher regarding only the subject which they are reading. A question should be asked only with an attitude of awe. A person should ask concerning only three halachot [while studying] the same subject.

ז

אין שואלין מעומד ואין משיבין מעומד ולא מגבוה ולא מרחוק ולא מאחורי הזקנים ואין שואלין הרב אלא בענין שהן קורין בו ואין שואלין אלא מיראה ולא ישאל בענין יותר משלש הלכות:

The laws mentioned in this halachah, as well as those of previous and the subsequent halachot, are derived from the Tosefta, Sanhedrin, Chapter 7. Nevertheless, the Rambam does not quote these laws in the same order as the Tosefta.

A person should not ask a question while standing, nor should a person respond while standing. - for a person is more composed when seated. Berachot 27b and Tosafot, B'chorot 36a mention instances when questions were asked while standing. The Beit HaMelech explains that matters which do not require intense thought may be asked while standing, but matters which require concentration should be discussed when both the questioner and the teacher are seated.

Avodat HaMelech explains that the Rambam does not intend to imply that the student should not stand. On the contrary, were he to stand, that would be a sign of respect. Rather, he means that questions should not be addressed to a teacher while the latter is standing.

One should not ask from a high place, from far away, or from behind the elders. - This is not a sign of respect for the teacher.

A question should be asked of the teacher regarding only the subject which they are reading. - The Kessef Mishneh notes the apparent redundancy between this statement and a similar one in the previous halachah, and explains that, in the previous halachah, the Rambam meant that when studying the laws of the Sabbath, a student should not ask his teachers about the laws of the festivals. In this halachah, the Rambam teaches that even within the general subject of the Sabbath laws, while studying the laws of one melachah (forbidden act), a student should not inquire regarding another.

Many of the manuscript versions of the Mishneh Torah state k’inyan (to the point), rather than b’inyan sheheim koreim bo (regarding the subject they are reading). According to these texts, there is no redundancy. Rather, this halachah teaches that a student's questions should be direct, without mentioning any extraneous matters.

A question should be asked only with an attitude of awe. - Just as the Jews received the Torah on Mount Sinai with fear and awe, similarly, our study of Torah must be charged with similar emotions (Berachot 22a).

A person should ask concerning only three halachot [while studying] the same subject. - for it would be difficult for him to grasp more than three new concepts at a time. Also, it is not courteous to the other students for one person to be asking continually.

8

[The following rules apply when] two people ask questions simultaneously: If one question is to the point and the other is not to the point, attention is paid to the question which is to the point. [If one question concerns] a matter to be applied in practice, and the other is an abstract question, attention is paid to the question which concerns the matter to be applied.

[If one question concerns] Torah law, and the other the interpretation of the verses of the Torah, attention is paid to the question which concerns Torah law. [If one question concerns] the interpretation of the verses of the Torah, and the other aggadah, attention is paid to the question which concerns the interpretation of the verses of the Torah.

[If one question concerns] aggadah, and the other the inference drawn from a minor premise to a major one, attention is paid to the question which concerns the inference drawn from a minor premise to a major one. [If one question concerns] the inference drawn from a minor premise to a major one, and the other an analogy established on the basis of similar words, attention is paid to the question which concerns the analogy established on the basis of similar words.

If of the two questioners, one was a sage and one was a commoner, attention is paid to the sage; one a student and one a commoner, attention is paid to the student. However, if they are both sages, both students, or both commoners - similarly, if two people both ask questions concerning Torah law, or they both wish to reply to what has been previously stated, or both questions concern actual deeds - from this point on, the spokesman has the option [of giving precedence to whichever question he desires].

ח

שנים ששאלו שאל אחד כענין ושאל אחד שלא כענין נזקקין לענין מעשה ושאינו מעשה נזקקין למעשה הלכה ומדרש נזקקין להלכה מדרש ואגדה נזקקין למדרש אגדה וקל וחומר נזקקין לקל וחומר קל וחומר וגזירה שוה נזקקין לקל וחומר היו השואלין שנים אחד חכם ואחד תלמיד נזקקין לחכם תלמיד ועם הארץ נזקקין לתלמיד שניהם חכמים שניהם תלמידים שניהם עמי הארץ שאלו שניהם בשתי הלכות או בשתי תשובות או בשתי שאלות שני מעשים הרשות ביד המתרגם מעתה:

[The following rules apply when] two people ask questions simultaneously: - A Torah Sage is obligated to answer all questions posed to him, regardless of who the questioner is or what he asks. Thus, this halachah does not rule out a response being given to a particular questioner, but rather establishes the priorities for those responses to be given.

If one question is to the point - This translation is based on the commonly published text of the Mishneh Torah. Other texts read b’inyan, which would be rendered "with regard to the matter (under discussion)." (See Rabbenu Nissim, Megillah)

and the other is not to the point, attention is paid to the question which is to the point - because it will be possible to answer in a direct manner.

[If one question concerns] a matter to be applied in practice, and the other is an abstract question, attention is paid to the question which concerns the matter to be applied. - Since, as mentioned in Chapter 3, Halachah 3, the greatness of Torah is that it leads to deed, questions that are directly related to deed are given precedence.

[If one question concerns] Torah law, and the other the interpretation of the verses of the Torah, attention is paid to the question which concerns Torah law. - since questions of Torah law, while not necessarily immediately relevant to actual deed, provide guidelines regarding our future behavior. In contrast, the interpretation of Torah verses is a more abstract realm of study, further removed from our immediate behavior.

[If one question concerns] the interpretation of the verses of the Torah, and the other aggadah - i.e., the ethical and metaphysical realm of Torah teachings

attention is paid to the question which concerns the interpretation of the verses of the Torah. - Though they are somewhat removed from being practical guidelines for behavior, the former are still in the category of halachah - the aspect of Torah study that is related to deed and action. Hence, it is given precedence over aggadah, whose lessons are more personal and require a greater effort to internalize.

[If one question concerns] aggadah, and the other the inference drawn from a minor premise to a major one - a kal vichomer, a fortiori reasoning.This is one of the thirteen rules of Biblical exegesis mentioned by Rabbi Yishmael in the introduction to the Sifre.

For example, Bava Metzia 3b attempts to derive the following concept using a kal vichomer:

Just as a person's own statements, which do not obligate him to pay a fine [and hence, can be considered a minor premise], obligate him to take an oath, the testimony of witnesses, which does obligate him to pay a fine [and, hence, can be considered a major premise,] should also obligate him to take an oath.

attention is paid to the question which concerns the inference drawn from a minor premise to a major one. - As above, though the latter subject matter is somewhat removed from being practical guidelines for behavior, it is still in the category of halachah - the aspect of Torah study that is related to deed and action.

[If one question concerns] the inference drawn from a minor premise to a major one, and the other an analogy established on the basis of similar words - a gezeirah shaveh. This is also one of the thirteen rules of Biblical exegesis mentioned by Rabbi Yishmael, as cited above.

When a common word or phrase is found in two separate verses, an analogy is established between them, and concepts applicable to one can be related to the other. However, it must be emphasized that a gezeirah shaveh cannot be arrived at independently, but must be received from a teacher, who, in turn, received it from his teacher in a chain extending back to Moses at Mount Sinai.

attention is paid to the question which concerns the analogy established on the basis of similar words. - The Pri Chadash explains that though both of these have equal status, being included as part of the thirteen rules of Biblical exegesis, precedence is given to the gezeirah shaveh. A person is able to derive a kal vichomer on the basis of his own process of reasoning. In contrast, since a gezeirah shaveh is not the product of one's own thought process, it is more likely to be forgotten. Hence, it is given precedence.

If of the two questioners, one was a sage and one was a commoner, attention is paid to the sage - as mentioned in the next chapter, we are obligated to show Torah Sages respect and honor.

one a student and one a commoner, attention is paid to the student. - Though a student need not be honored in the same way as a sage, a student's dedication to Torah study is deserving of a certain measure of respect.

However, if they are both sages, both students, or both commoners - similarly, if two people both ask questions concerning Torah law, or they both wish to reply to what has been previously stated - The translation of the latter phrase is based on the commentary of the Kessef Mishneh.

or both questions concern actual deeds - from this point on, the spokesman - who relays the questions to the teacher, as mentioned in halachah 3.

has the option [of giving precedence to whichever question he desires].

9

One should not sleep in a house of study. When any person dozes in the house of study, his Torah will be torn in shreds. This is alluded to in Solomon's words of wisdom [Proverbs 23:21]: "Drowsiness will clothe a man in rags."

Conversation in the house of study should concern only the words of Torah. Even if someone sneezes, one should not wish him: "[To your] recovery" in the house of study. Needless to say, the discussion of other matters is prohibited.

The sanctity of a house of study exceeds that of a synagogue.

ט

אין ישינים בבית המדרש וכל המתנמנם בבית המדרש חכמתו נעשית קרעים קרעים וכן אמר שלמה בחכמתו וקרעים תלביש נומה ואין משיחין בבית המדרש אלא בדברי תורה בלבד אפילו מי שנתעטש אין אומרים לו רפואה בבית המדרש ואין צריך לומר שאר הדברים וקדושת בית המדרש חמורה מקדושת בתי כנסיות:

One should not sleep in a house of study. - Megillah 28a relates that Rabbi Zeira's students asked him why he had merited a long life. Among the reasons he gave them was that he had never slept (or even napped) in the house of study.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 151:3) allows one to sleep in a house of study. Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:12) explains that this leniency was granted when a person spent his days and nights in the house of study. Therefore, rather than cause him to waste his time going back and forth from his home, he was permitted to sleep in the house of study.

When any person dozes in the house of study, his Torah will be torn in shreds. - i.e., his memory will become faulty and he will be able to recall only what he has learned at certain times (Rashi, Sanhedrin 71a).

This is alluded to in Solomon's words of wisdom [Proverbs 23:21]: "Drowsiness will clothe a man in rags." - Sanhedrin, op. cit., quotes Rabbi Zeira (see above) as making this statement.

Conversation in the house of study should concern only the words of Torah. - There are two reasons why unnecessary conversation is forbidden in the house of study:
a) to prevent wasting time that could be used for Torah study. (See Berachot 53a);
b) as a token of respect for the house of study. According to this rationale, such conversation is forbidden even when it does not involve making an interruption in one's studies. (See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:11.)

Even if someone sneezes, one should not wish him: "[To your] recovery" - This was the Talmudic equivalent of Gesundheit or "God bless you."

in the house of study. - Berachot, loc. cit., relates that this rule was observed in Rabban Gamliel's house of study.

Needless to say - if such statements are forbidden...

[the discussion of] other matters is prohibited. - Chaggigah 12b adds that a person who discusses other matters in a house of study will be punished by being forced to eating glowing coals.

The sanctity of a house of study exceeds that of a synagogue. - Note Hilchot Tefillah, Chapter 11, where the Rambam discusses the sanctity of houses of study and synagogues in detail, mentioning various (restrictions) on our behavior that were ordained as a token of respect. (See also Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 151.)

The greater sanctity of a house of study is expressed by the law (Hilchot Tefillah, Halachah 14), that a synagogue may be transformed into a house of study. However, a house of study should not be transformed into a synagogue.

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