Women, slaves, and minors are free from the obligation of Torah study. Nevertheless, a father is obligated to teach his son Torah while he is a minor, as [Deuteronomy 11:19] states: "And you shall teach them to your sons to speak about them."
A woman is not obligated to teach her son, for only those who are obligated to learn are obligated to teach.
Just as a person is obligated to teach his son, so, too, is he obligated to teach his grandson, as [Deuteronomy 4:9] commands: "And you shall teach them to your sons and your grandsons."
[Furthermore, this charge is not confined] to one's children and grandchildren alone. Rather, it is a mitzvah for each and every wise man to teach all students, even though they are not his children, as [Deuteronomy 6:7] states: "And you shall teach them to your sons..." The oral tradition explains: "Your sons," these are your students, for students are also called sons, as [II Kings 2:3] states: "And the sons of the prophets went forth."
If so, why do the commandments [explicitly mention] one's son and grandson? To grant precedence to one's son over one's grandson, and one's grandson over the son of a colleague.
Also, one is obligated to hire a teacher for one's son, while one is not required to undertake any expense to teach a colleague's son.
A person who was not instructed by his father is obligated to arrange for his own instruction when he can understand, as [Deuteronomy 5:1] states: "And you shall study them and take heed to perform them."
Similarly, in every place, one finds that study takes precedence over deed, for study brings about deed. However, deed does not bring about study.
If a person wants to study Torah and he has a son whom he should teach Torah, his [study] takes priority over [that of] his son. If his son is wiser and a more creative thinker and thus capable of understanding what he studies more than he [himself] is, his son is given priority.
Even though his son is granted priority, he should not neglect [his own studies]. For just as he is commanded to teach his son, he is commanded to teach himself.
A person should always study Torah and, afterwards, marry. If he marries first, his mind will not be free for study. However, if his natural inclination overcomes him to the extent that his mind is not free, he should marry, and then study Torah.
At what age is a father obligated to teach [his son] Torah?
When he begins to speak, he should teach him Torah tzivah lanu Moshe... (Deuteronomy 33:4) and Shema Yisrael... (ibid. 6:4).
Afterwards, he should teach him [selected verses], little by little, verse by verse, until he is six or seven - depending on his health - [at which time] he should take him to a teacher of young children.
If it is local custom for a teacher of young children to take payment, he should be paid. [The father] is obligated to pay for his instruction until he can read the entire written Torah.
In a place where it is customary to receive a wage for teaching the written Torah, one is permitted to do so. However, it is forbidden to take a wage for teaching the Oral Law, as [implied by Deuteronomy 4:5]: "Behold, I have taught you laws and statutes, as God commanded me." [Our Sages teach that Moses was implying:] Just as I learned at no cost, so, too, have you been taught from me at no cost. Teach the coming generations in a like manner. Teach them at no cost as you have learned from me."
[Nevertheless,] if a person cannot find someone to teach him at no cost, he must pay for his studies, as [implied by Proverbs 3:23]: "Buy truth." May he charge to teach others? We learn [ibid.]: "but do not sell." Thus, it can be derived that it is forbidden to charge to teach Torah even though one's teacher charged to instruct him.
Every Jewish man is obligated to study Torah, whether he is poor or rich, whether his body is healthy and whole or afflicted by difficulties, whether he is young or an old man whose strength has diminished.
Even if he is a poor man who derives his livelihood from charity and begs from door to door, even if he is a husband and [a father of] children, he must establish a fixed time for Torah study during the day and at night, as [Joshua 1:8] commands: "You shall think about it day and night."
The greater Sages of Israel included wood choppers, water drawers, and blind men. Despite these [difficulties], they were occupied with Torah study day and night and were included among those who transmitted the Torah's teachings from [master] to [student in the chain stretching back to] Moses, our teacher.
Until when is a person obligated to study Torah? Until the day he dies, as [Deuteronomy 4:9] states: "Lest you remove it from your heart, all the days of your life." Whenever a person is not involved with study, he forgets.
A person is obligated to divide his study time in three: one third should be devoted to the Written Law; one third to the Oral Law; and one third to understanding and conceptualizing the ultimate derivation of a concept from its roots, inferring one concept from another and comparing concepts, understanding [the Torah] based on the principles of Biblical exegesis, until one appreciates the essence of those principles and how the prohibitions and the other decisions which one received according to the oral tradition can be derived using them. The latter topic is called Gemara.
How is the above expressed? A person who is a craftsman may spend three hours each day involved in his work, and [devote] nine hours to Torah study: In those nine hours, he should spend three reading the Written Law; three, the Oral Law; and three, meditating with his intellect to derive one concept from another.
The "words of the prophetic tradition" are considered part of the Written Law; and their explanation, part of the Oral Law. The matters referred to as Pardes are considered part of the Gemara.
The above applies in the early stages of a person's study. However, when a person increases his knowledge and does not have the need to read the Written Law, or occupy himself with the Oral Law constantly, he should study the Written Law and the oral tradition at designated times. Thus, he will not forget any aspect of the laws of the Torah. [However,] he should focus his attention on the Gemara alone for his entire life, according to his ambition and his ability to concentrate.
A woman who studies Torah will receive reward. However, that reward will not be [as great] as a man's, since she was not commanded [in this mitzvah]. Whoever performs a deed which he is not commanded to do, does not receive as great a reward as one who performs a mitzvah that he is commanded to do.
Even though she will receive a reward, the Sages commanded that a person should not teach his daughter Torah, because most women cannot concentrate their attention on study, and thus transform the words of Torah into idle matters because of their lack of understanding.
[Thus,] our Sages declared: "Whoever teaches his daughter Torah is like one who teaches her tales and parables." This applies to the Oral Law. [With regard to] the Written Law: at the outset, one should not teach one's daughter. However, if one teaches her, it is not considered as if she was taught idle things.
Women - Kiddushin 29b derives this concept from the use of the term bineichem - implying one's male offspring - in Deuteronomy 11:19, the verse which commands us to teach Torah to our children. Since others are not obligated to teach women, they are not obligated to study themselves.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:14) quotes this law, but also states that women are obligated to study the laws pertaining to all the mitzvot that they are required to fulfill. (See also Agur, Hilchot Tefillah 2; Sefer Mitzvot Katan, Introduction; and Sefer Chassidim 313.) This includes a large number of mitzvot - e.g., Shabbat, Niddah, and Kashrut - to the extent that many men would be proud if their Torah knowledge encompassed these areas. Furthermore, women are also obligated to perform "spiritual" mitzvot - e.g., to love God, fear Him, and believe in Him. Thus, they must also study those aspects of Torah which relate to these commandments. See also Halachah 13 and its commentary.
slaves - i.e., gentile slaves. The Torah obligations of women and slaves are identical. Furthermore, Ketubot 28a states that a person is forbidden to teach Torah to his slaves.
and minors - The latter are considered as lacking intellectual maturity. Hence, they are under no obligation at all according to Torah law. This concept is so clearly understood that some commentaries maintain that this word should not be included in the text of the Mishneh Torah. The authoritative Oxford manuscript of the Mishneh Torah indeed omits it.
are free from the obligation of Torah study. - The question arises: Why does the Rambam begin his discussion of this mitzvah with the mention of those who are not obligated? Why does he not begin with a discussion of the obligation the mitzvah implies?
Nevertheless, - though the son is not, himself, obligated to study
a father is obligated -Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 11) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 419) count this as one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.
to teach his son Torah -Nazir 29a also mentions a Rabbinic obligation to train one's children in the performance of mitzvot. The Rambam mentions this obligation with regard to many of the particular mitzvot - e.g., Hilchot Chametz U'Matzah 6:10, Hilchot Sukkah 6:1 and also with regard to the responsibilities of a guardian, Hilchot Nachalot 11:10.
while he is a minor, as [Deuteronomy 11:19] states: "And you shall teach them to your sons to speak about them." - Though this verse mentions teaching Torah only to one's children, the Rambam also maintains that the mitzvah of Torah study includes an adult's study of Torah (Sefer HaMitzvot, ibid.). Nevertheless, he begins his description of the mitzvah with the obligation to teach one's sons, since that is explicitly mentioned in the Torah.
It must be noted that Sefer HaMitzvot (ibid.) derives this mitzvah from a different verse, Deuteronomy 6:7, "And you shall teach them to your sons..."
[Homiletically, it is possible to explain that the reason the Torah mentions the commandment to study Torah with regard only to children is to teach us that we must apply ourselves to Torah study with the openness and simple faith of young children.]
A woman is not obligated to teach her son - However, according to some opinions (see Sh'lah, Sha'ar Ha'otiot), she is obligated to train him in the performance of mitzvot.
for only those who are obligated to learn are obligated to teach. - This is also derived by Kiddushin, ibid. However, Sefer HaChinuch (ibid.) writes:
Nevertheless, it is fitting that a woman endeavor that her children not be of the common people. Even though she is not commanded, she will receive a good reward for her efforts.
Just as a person is obligated to teach his son, so, too, is he obligated to teach his grandson - More precisely, the Hebrew should be translated as "your son's son." There is a difference between the obligation one has to one's son's son and one's obligation to one's daughter's son or one's great grandson (Kessef Mishneh).
as [Deuteronomy 4:9] commands: "And you shall teach them to your sons and your grandsons." -Kiddushin 30a praises the grandfather of ZevulunbenDan for teaching him "the written law, the Mishnah, the Talmud, halachot, and aggadot."
[Furthermore, this charge is not confined] to one's children and grandchildren alone. Rather, it is a mitzvah for each and every wise man -Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah, Kuntres Acharon 1) states that this applies only to an individual who merits this description. Even a student of Torah is not bound by this obligation until he attains a sufficient degree of knowledge himself.
to teach all students, even though they are not his children as [Deuteronomy 6:7] states: "And you shall teach them to your sons..." The oral tradition -Sifre, Va'etchanan. The Hebrew, mipi hash’mua, refers to a halachah transmitted by Moses from Mount Sinai for which an allusion can be found in the written law (Yad Malachi).
explains: "Your sons," these are your students, for students are also called sons - See also Chapter 5, Halachah 12, for a different dimension of this comparison.
as [II Kings 2:3] states: "And the sons of the prophets went forth." - to greet Elisha at Bet-El. That same narrative (ibid., 12) relates how Elisha called his teacher, Elijah, "Father, Father." Sanhedrin 68a relates that Rabbi Akiva used the same expression to refer to his teacher, Rabbi Eliezar ben Horkanus.
The Rambam's words are quoted from the Sifre. Similarly, Sanhedrin 19b relates, "Whoever teaches his colleague's son Torah is considered as if he sired him."
Note Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 7:5, where the Rambam defines more precisely his understanding of the term, "the sons of the prophets."
If so, why do the commandments - cited above
[explicitly mention] one's son and grandson? To grant precedence - See also the following halachah.
to one's son over one's grandson, and to one's grandson over the son of a colleague. - The Kessef Mishneh questions whether one is obligated to give precedence to one's other descendants over people at large. However, the Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 245:1) and Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:8) accept that principle.
Also - i.e., another difference between one's son and others. According to some editions of the Mishneh Torah, this sentence is included in the previous halachah.
one is obligated to hire a teacher for one's son - The Lechem Mishneh questions the source for this ruling. He quotes RavYosef Kolon, who explains that since we find that the teachers of children are allowed to charge for their services (Halachah 7), it is obvious that the fathers are required to pay them. Others explain that since the obligation is placed upon a father's person, we may assume that it extends to his financial resources as well.
Since a person is obligated to pay for his children's studies, he cannot deduct those costs from the tithe he is required to give to charity. Nevertheless, there is no need to stint in fulfilling this obligation. Beitzah 16a relates that a person's income for the entire year is fixed, with the exception of the money he spends to prepare for the Sabbaths and festivals, and that spent in teaching his sons Torah. With regard to these matters, if he spends more, he will be granted more, and if he spends less, he will be granted less.
In addition, once children pass the age of six, the cost of their living expenses can be deducted from one's tithes if their time is being devoted to Torah study (Hilchot Matnot Ani'im 10:16).
The commentaries question whether the obligation to pay for a teacher applies to one's grandson as well. The Maharshal and the Siftei Cohen (ibid.) impose such a requirement, while the Radbaz frees one of the obligation.
while one is not required to undertake any expense to teach a colleague's son. - as part of one's obligation to teach Torah. Nevertheless, every Jew is obligated to give charity, and one of the most important priorities (particularly, at present) for charity is the education of children. (See Ramah, Choshen Mishpat 163:3; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:3.)
A person who was not instructed by his father is obligated to arrange for his own instruction - even if it involves an expense (See Halachah 7.)
when he can understand - The Tzemach Tzedek (Piskei Dinim) notes that the Rambam does not state "when he matures and can understand," and questions whether, in this unique instance, the Torah has placed an obligation on a minor.
as [Deuteronomy 5:1] states: "And you shall study them and take heed to perform them."
Similarly, in every place, one finds that study takes precedence over deed - i.e., the performance of mitzvot. Kiddushin 40b relates that:
Rabbi Tarfon and the elders were dining in the loft of Bet Nitzah in Lod. This question was asked before them: Is study greater or is deed greater?
Rabbi Tarfon replied: "Deed is greater."
Rabbi Akiva replied: "Study is greater."
All of them replied: "Study is greater..."
for study brings about deed. - The commentaries explain that Rabbi Tarfon maintains that a Jew's ultimate goal in life is the fulfillment of God's will as revealed in the mitzvot. By performing the mitzvot, a person steps beyond his humanity and performs Godly acts, thus establishing a connection with God's essence.
Rabbi Akiva maintains that study is also a mitzvah, and thus, by doing so, one also fulfills God's will. Furthermore, through study a person can internalize his connection to Godliness and reveal the connection to Him, not only in the realm of deed, but also in thought.
The Sages maintain that a person must be complete in both deed and study. Therefore, study has an advantage, for study leads to deed. In particular, this applies to a person who has never studied (see Tosafot, Kiddushin, ibid.) for, unless he studies, he will never be able to perform the mitzvot properly.
However, deed does not bring about study. - This clause is the Rambam's own addition to the above Talmudic passage.
If a person wants to study Torah and he has a son whom he should teach Torah - and his financial capability allows only one of them to study.
his [study] takes priority over [that of] his son. -Kiddushin 29b relates that Rav Acha bar Ya'akov sent his son to study under Abbaye's tutelage. When his son returned, he saw that the son had not mastered his subject matter. Rav Acha told him, "Remain here, and I will go study."
Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah, Kuntres Acharon 1) limits this license, noting that a father has no right to ignore his son's Torah education entirely, regardless of his own ability for advancement. Rather, this applies after the son has gained a basis of Torah knowledge and seeks to continue his studies.
If his son is wiser and a more creative thinker and can understand what he studies more than he [himself], his son is given priority. - even though the father has not received any grounding in Torah study (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:7).
Even though his son is granted priority, he should not neglect [his own studies] - Rather, he should establish fixed times for Torah study
for just as he is commanded to teach his son, he is commanded to teach himself. - i.e., though enabling one's son to study and studying by oneself are included in the same mitzvah, a person cannot fulfill his obligation solely through facilitating his son's study. Rather, he must set aside time to learn himself, because the mitzvah is twofold in nature (Kessef Mishneh).
A person should always - i.e., even if he is older than seventeen (the age, which according to the Rambam's interpretation, the Mishnah, Avot 5:22, suggests for marriage, Merchevet HaMishneh)
study Torah and, afterwards, marry. - In Hilchot Ishut 15:2-3, the Rambam writes that the mitzvah of studying Torah is sufficient cause to postpone the mitzvah of having children. Furthermore, even if one's desire to study is so great that one never marries, it is not considered a sin.
If he marries first, his mind will not be free for study. - "With a millstone around his neck, will he be able to occupy himself in Torah study!" (Kiddushin 29b).
However, if his natural inclination overcomes him to the extent that his mind is not free - and he is continually preoccupied with sexual thoughts. Concerning these, Yoma 29a teaches: "The thoughts of sin are more severe than sin itself."
he should marry, and then study Torah - consoling himself with the knowledge that he will still be able to study for two or three years before his financial burden becomes great (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:1,2).
At what age is a father obligated to teach [his son] Torah? - Though Avot 5:22 states: "At five, one should begin the study of Scripture," the Rambam, based on Sukkah 42a, explains that certain elements of a child's study must begin earlier.
When he - the child
begins to speak, he - the father
should teach him - how to use that potential for Torah study. Two verses are selected as being of fundamental importance.
Torah tzivah lanu Moshe... - "The Torah Moses commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob." This verse emphasizes the fundamental connection a Jew has to Torah. As soon as an heir is born, he becomes the legal owner of the inheritance left to him. Thus, since the Torah is every Jew's inheritance, as soon as a child is born he acquires his full share. (See also Chapter 3, Halachah 1.)
and Shema Yisrael - "Hear Israel, God is our Lord, God is One." This verse emphasizes the fundamental unity between God and creation, teaching us, not only that there is only one God, but also that all creation is at one with Him.
The Menorat HaMaor and Rashi (Deuteronomy 11:19) emphasize that the child need not understand the verses he is reciting. The recitation of these verses refines his power of speech and makes lasting impressions on his thinking processes, even though he is unaware of their intellectual message.
Afterwards, he should teach him [selected verses] - each containing significant lessons
little by little, verse by verse, until he is six or seven - until this age, the child lacks sufficient maturity to apply himself to his studies diligently (Bava Batra 21a).
The Kessef Mishneh 2:2 explains that this decision is no contradiction to the Mishnah in Avot quoted above. The latter can be interpreted to mean "after completing five years" - i.e., at the beginning of the sixth year. However, the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (Positive Commandment 12) interprets the injunction from Avot to mean that when the child becomes five, his father teaches him to read at home, and when he becomes six or seven, he is taken to school. It is also possible to interpret the Rambam's words in this fashion.
[Indeed, that interpretation is more likely. Thought the above mentioned mishnah states: "at eighteen, one should marry," the Rambam (Hilchut Ishut 15:2) states a man is obligated to marry at the age of seventeen. Thus, we see that he interprets the different clauses of the Mishnah to mean "in his ...th year, one should..."]
depending on his health - See Tosafot, Bava Batra, ibid.
[at which time] he should take him - Kiddushin 30a relates that the Sages would physically take their children to their teachers.
to a teacher of young children. - where the child will begin the study of the written Torah in an organized fashion. Bava Batra (ibid.) relates that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla established a fixed ruled requiring all parents to take their children to teachers at this time. (See Chapter 2, Halachot 1 and 2 for further elaboration.)
If it is local custom for a teacher of young children to take payment, he should be paid. - as stated in Halachah 3.
[The father] is obligated to pay for his instruction until he can read the entire - The Kovetz and other commentaries explain that this word was added to include the works of the prophets and the holy writings (i.e., the entire T'nach). Rashi (Bava Batra, ibid.) is not of this opinion, and maintains that teaching the five books of Moses is sufficient. The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 245:5) follows the latter opinion, while Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:1) quotes the former view.
written Torah. - In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Karo notes that the Rambam's language implies that this constitutes the totality of a father's obligation, and he is not obligated to instruct his son in the Oral Law. In the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 245:6), he explains that a father's obligation also includes arranging for his son's instruction in the Oral Law, unless his financial situation is too pressing to allow him to do so.
In a place where it is customary to receive a wage for teaching the written Torah, one is permitted to do so. -Nedarim 37a relates that the wage a teacher receives is not for his actual tutelage, but rather for the effort involved in caring for the children. Alternatively, the money can be taken for teaching the proper cantillation notes. [At that time, there were few if any written texts, and the students were taught the entire Torah by heart.]
The difference between the two opinions is that according to the latter, one may also charge adults. Since the Rambam allows a wage to be charged without qualifying his words, one may assume that this applies even to teaching adults. This decision can also be derived from his Commentary on the Mishnah, Nedarim 4:3.
However, it is forbidden to take a wage for teaching the Oral Law - In his commentary on Nedarim, ibid., Rabbenu Nissim quotes the Jerusalem Talmud, which allows a teacher of Torah to receive compensation for the fact that were he not to teach, he could occupy himself in another profession which would yield him profit. The Hagahot Maimoniot develops this matter further, noting that Ketubot 106a relates that the Temple treasury would pay people to instruct the priests regarding the laws of ritual slaughter. He also notes that authors of works of Torah scholarship are allowed to demand pay for their services. These ideas are quoted as halachah by the Shulchan Aruch and the Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 246:5).
Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that the Rambam would accept such an opinion. In his Commentary on the Mishnah (ibid.), he writes:
According to our Torah, it is in no way permitted to take a wage for teaching any one of the Torah's professions...
I am amazed at the men of stature who, aroused by desire, denied the truth and had wages designated for themselves for Torah decisions and teachings, using flimsy supports.
See also the citation from the Rambam's commentary on Avot below.
as [implied by Deuteronomy 4:5]: "Behold, I have taught you laws and statutes as God commanded me." - Nedarim, ibid., interprets that verse to mean that Moses told the people:
"Just as I [Moses] learned at no cost - when God instructed me,
so, too, have you been taught from me at no cost. - i.e., "I have taught you" at no cost, "as God commanded (i.e., taught) me" at no cost. Moses continues, commanding the people to emulate his example
Teach the coming generations in a like manner. Teach them at no cost, as you have learned from me." - Though the resulting decision is the same, the Rambam's interpretation of this passage differs slightly from Rabbenu Asher's and Rabbenu Nissim's.
[Nevertheless,] if a person cannot find someone to teach him at no cost, he must pay for his studies, as [implied by Proverbs 3:23]: "Buy truth." - i.e., Torah
May he charge to teach others? We learn [ibid.]: "but do not sell." Thus, it can be derived that it is forbidden to charge to teach Torah even though one's teacher charged to instruct him. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam interprets Avot 4:7, which states: 'Do not make it (the Torah) an axe to chop with...' do not consider it a medium with which to derive a livelihood." He continues elaborating on how it is both undesirable - and forbidden - to derive benefit from Torah study or its instruction:
Some people thought foolishly that it is obligatory and fitting to support the wise men and students...who occupy themselves in Torah study...This is all erroneous. No source in the Torah or in the words of the Sages can be found to...support it.
Among the Sages [of the Talmud], one does not find that they asked for money from other people. They did not receive any funding for their precious and glorious Yeshivot...
Heaven forbid to say that those generations were not generous and did not give charity. Had a poor person stretched out his hand, they would have filled it with gold and pearls. But the poor person did not do so; rather, he was satisfied with what he could earn in his profession, whether a little or a lot... Hillel the Elder was a wood-chopper who would study before Shemayah and Avtalion and live in extreme poverty. He was so great that his students were compared to Moses and Aaron...There is no doubt that if he had taught the people to give him benefit, they would not have allowed him to continue chopping trees...
The Sages would not allow themselves to take money from people. They considered taking such funds as a desecration of God's name in public, because the people would thus consider Torah as similar to any other profession and come to scorn it.
See also Chapter 3, Halachot 10 and 11.
Every Jewish man is obligated to study Torah - This represents the second aspect of the mitzvah of Torah study; studying oneself.
whether he is poor or rich -Yoma 35b declares: "Hillel obligates the poor [in Torah study], Rabbi Eleazar ben Chersom obligates the rich."
The Talmud elaborates:
Hillel would work and earn a tarp'eick [a coin of little value] daily. Half he would give to the watchman at the Hall of Study, and half he would use for his livelihood and that of his family. One day he could not find work. The watchman at the entrance did not let him enter and so he hung himself over the window to hear "the words of the living God" from Shemayah and Avtalion.
In contrast, Rabbi Eleazar ben Chersom was extremely wealthy:
His father left him one thousand villages on land and one thousand ships at sea. Each day, he would take a sack of flour on his shoulders and go from city to city to study Torah...Throughout his entire life, he did not go to see them [the villages and the ships], but rather sat and studied Torah the entire day and night.
of a healthy and complete body or afflicted by difficulties - Bava Metzia 84b relates that Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon was afflicted by severe physical difficulties. Nevertheless, he continued to persevere in his dedication to Torah study. Indeed, Eruvin 54a counsels that Torah study will help a person with health problems recover.
whether he is young - and his youthful exuberance might prevent him from concentrating on his studies;
or an old man whose strength has diminished. - See Halachah 10.
Even if he is a poor man who derives his livelihood from charity and begs from door to door, even if he is a husband and [a father of] children, - At one extreme, Eruvin 22a relates: "Who will you find possessing Torah: A person who is cruel to his wife and children" - i.e., one who gives up some of the time he would spend with his family to dedicate himself to Torah study. However, even a person who does not make such an all-encompassing commitment to Torah must find time for study despite his family responsibilities.
he must establish a fixed time for Torah study during the day and at night, as [Joshua 1:8] commands: "You shall think about it day and night." - There are two aspects to Torah study:
a) One which requires total devotion, dedicating all of one's time and effort to Torah, because "the study of Torah has no limit." Though it is fitting for each Jew to apply himself to Torah study in this fashion, such a practice cannot be required of a person. Rather, this remains a voluntary decision to be made by a person, to quote Chapter 3, Halachah 6, "whose heart inspires him to fulfill this mitzvah in a fitting manner and to become crowned with the crown of Torah."
b) The establishment of fixed times for Torah study. Regardless of the responsibilities and difficulties a person may have, he is obligated to set aside a certain portion of his day for Torah study.
On Psalms 119:126: "It is a time to act for God. They have made void Your Torah," our Sages commented: "Those who have established fixed times for Torah (i.e., "a time to act for God") have 'made void your Torah.54
The Sh'lah (Masechet Shavuot) questions that statement, noting that the establishment of fixed times for Torah is considered of fundamental importance. He resolves the contradiction by explaining that a person who is overburdened by financial responsibilities can be expected only to "establish fixed times for Torah study." However, someone who is free of financial burdens must devote himself totally to Torah study. For him, keeping to fixed times represents "making void the Torah."
Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:4) mentions these concepts, but also emphasizes a person's potential for achievement. An individual who has the potential to achieve in Torah study should devote himself to this goal. In contrast, a person whose abilities are limited should establish fixed times for Torah study and devote his energies to business affairs, using that income to support Torah scholars.
The above concepts can be related to a more general discussion in Berachot 35b. The Talmud notes the apparent contradiction between Joshua 1:8, which commands "This Torah shall not depart from your mouth" and Deuteronomy 11:14, which relates how "you will collect your grain, your wine, and your oil," implying an involvement in work and commerce.
Rabbi Yishmael explains that a person should follow "the way of the world," involving himself in work and devoting only part of his energies to Torah study. In contrast, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai exclaims: "If a person will plow in the plowing season, sow in the sowing season,...what will happen to the Torah! Rather, when the Jews do God's will, their work is performed by others."
The Talmud concludes: Many followed Rabbi Yishmael's advice and were successful. Many followed Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's advice and were not successful.
Though the complete and total dedication demanded by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is beyond the reach of all at present, the passage is useful in order to appreciate two different approaches to the obligation of Torah study:
a) That of Rabbi Yishmael, who sees it as a responsibility to be considered within the context of our daily activities;
b) That of Rabbi Shimon, who sees Torah study as the paramount aspect of a person's life, to which he should be devoted without considering the demands of his financial position.
The greater Sages of Israel included wood choppers - Many, including the Rambam (Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot 4:7), cite the example of Hillel. However, as of yet, there is no explicit Talmudic or Midrashic source which states that Hillel was occupied in this profession. Avot D'Rabbi Natan (Chapter 6) states that Rabbi Akiva was so employed.
water drawers -Ketubot 105a states that Rav Huna earned his livelihood in this manner
and blind men. - Rav Yosef and Rav Sheshet, two of the more prominent Amoraim, were so afflicted (Pesachim 116b).
Despite these [difficulties] - See the commentary on Halachah 7, and on Chapter 3, Halachot 9-11.
they were occupied with Torah study day and night and were included among those who transmitted the Torah's teachings from [master] to [student in the chain stretching back to] Moses, our teacher. - In his introduction to the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam lists the chain of teachers who transmitted Torah from generation to generation. There he mentions that Hillel received the tradition from Shemayah and Avtalion and transmitted it to Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. Rav Huna transmitted the tradition to Rabbah and Rav Yosef, who in turn, transmitted it to Abbaye and Ravva.
Until when is a person obligated to study Torah? Until the day he dies -Shabbat 83b states that even when a person feels death approaching, he should not neglect his Torah studies.
as [Deuteronomy 4:9] states: "Lest you remove it from your heart all the days of your life." - The failure to study can be considered as "removing" one's previous study from one's heart because...
Whenever a person is not involved with study, he forgets. -Chaggigah 15a states: "The words of Torah are as difficult to acquire as gold vessels, and as easy to lose as glass utensils." Avot D'Rabbi Natan 24:6 elaborates on how easy it is to forget one's Torah knowledge.
Deuteronomy 4:9 states: "Be extremely careful... lest you forget these things." The Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, the Sefer Mitzvot Kattan, and others consider this as one of the Torah's 613 commandments, prohibiting forgetting the Torah one has studied. (See also Menachot 99b, Rav Ovadiah of Bartenura on Avot 3:10 and Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:4-10.) The Rambam does not include this as one of the Torah's prohibitions in Sefer HaMitzvot, nor does he explicitly mention the prohibition in our halachot. Nevertheless, it is possible to explain that he considers this charge as part of the command to study Torah for one's entire life explained in this halachah.
A person is obligated to divide his study time in three: - Kiddushin 30a states: "A person should always divide his years: One third should be devoted to the Written Law; one third to the Mishnah; and one third to the Talmud."
In this halachah, the Rambam defines each of the three categories mentioned. In the following halachah, he defines what it means to "divide one's years."
one third should be devoted to the Written Law - the entire T'nach, as mentioned in the following halachah.
one third to the Oral Law - i.e., Mishnah. This is not intended to mean only the Mishnah authored by Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi per se, but rather "halachic decisions without being concerned with their motivating principles" (Rashi, Sotah 22a). As is obvious from his introduction to the Mishneh Torah, where he defines it as "a collection of the entire Oral Law," the Rambam desired that his Mishneh Torah serve this purpose.
According to Siftei Cohen, Choshen Mishpat 25:7, the term Mishnah applies to the halachic decisions of contemporary authorities as well. Thus, today, study of texts like the Mishnah Berurah would fulfill this goal.
and one third to understanding and conceptualizing the ultimate derivation of a concept from its roots, inferring one concept from another and comparing concepts - Each law stated in a previous source has elements which are specific to the situation described, and general principles of greater relevance. In order to understand the proper course of action to follow in a different circumstance, one must be able to differentiate between the two. In this manner, one will be able to derive new halachic principles applicable to situations that were not described previously.
Similarly, by understanding the process by which a halachic concept is developed, one can understand how similar laws could be derived.
[Note also Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:1, Kuntres Acharon), which contrasts the Rambam's perspective on this issue with that of Rashi and Rabbenu Asher.]
understanding [the Torah] based on the principles of Biblical exegesis - e.g., the thirteen principles of Biblical exegesis mentioned by Rabbi Yishmael (introduction to the Sifre), the 32 principles mentioned by Rabbi Eleazar ben Yosse.
until one appreciates the essence of those principles and how the prohibitions and the other decisions which one received according to the oral tradition - See the note on Halachah 2.
can be derived using them. The latter topic is called Gemara. - It must be noted that most original manuscripts and early editions of the Mishneh Torah use the word Talmud rather than Gemara in this and the following halachah. This is consistent with the composition of the text, which is almost exclusively in Hebrew, with little use of Aramaic terminology.
How is the above expressed? -Kiddushin, ibid., asks this question, noting that, on the surface, it is impossible to divide one's years in three, since no one knows how long he will live.
There, the Talmud explains that one must divide "one's days." Though Rashi and other commentaries explain that directive differently, the Rambam understands it to mean...
A person who is a craftsman may spend three hours each day involved in his work, and [devote] nine hours to Torah study - Examples chosen by the Rabbis reflect common situations. Thus, these statements teach us what would be considered a commonplace division of one's time in the Rambam's age.
In those nine hours, he should spend three reading the Written Law; three, the Oral Law; and three meditating with his intellect to derive one concept from another - i.e., Gemara; dividing his daily study sessions equally among these three areas of study.
The "words of the prophetic tradition" - the remainder of the Bible - i.e., the works of the prophets and the holy writings.
are considered part of the Written Law -Berachot 5a relates that the entire T'nach has its source in the revelation at Sinai. Accordingly, though in certain regards the five books of Moses are given greater prominence, the entire Written Law is generally considered on the same footing.
and their explanation, - i.e., commentary and the explanation of the T'nach.
part of the Oral Law.
The matters referred to as Pardes - The mystic secrets describing the nature of Godliness and His creative power, which are mentioned in brief in the first four chapters of Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah. In particular, see Chapter 4, Halachah 13 there.
are considered part of the Gemara - and should be studied according to the guidelines mentioned in the halachah cited above.
The above applies in the beginning stages of a person's study. - The Lechem Mishneh explains that the Rambam offered this explanation to resolve the apparent contradiction between the commonly accepted practice of devoting most of one's time to the study of the Babylonian Talmud, and the injunction to divide one's study time in three. In response to the same question, Tosafot, Kiddushin 30a explains that the study of the Babylonian Talmud also fulfills that directive, because it combines all three areas of study in a single text.
At present, this pattern of study is not followed even in the early stages of a child's learning. Note the Maharal of Prague, Tiferet Yisrael, Chapter 56, and the Sh'lah, Masechet Shavuot, who complain that the advice given in Avot 5:22: "At five, to the study of the Written Law; at ten, to the study of the Mishnah; and at fifteen, to the study of the Gemara" is not generally followed.
The basis for this departure can be explained in terms of two differences that exist between our contemporary circumstances and the situation which prevailed in Talmudic times:
a) During the Talmudic era, written texts were rare, and it was necessary for a student to commit all his subject matter to memory. Thus, the emphasis was on teaching students by rote.
b) Hebrew was a spoken language and, therefore, it was not necessary to spend time teaching the children the meaning of the subject matter.
At present, the major emphasis is on teaching learning skills and developing a student's powers of comprehension with the understanding that once one knows how to study, since the texts are easily available, he will be able to apply himself to the actual study at his convenience. (See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:6, 11; Eglei Tal, Introduction.)
However, when a person increases his knowledge and does not have the need to read the Written Law, or occupy himself with the Oral Law constantly - because he has already mastered them
he should study the Written Law and the oral tradition at designated times. Thus, he will not forget any aspect of the laws of the Torah - as mentioned above, a lack of review will cause an individual to forget what he has already learned.
[However,] he should focus his attention - primarily
on the Gemara alone for his entire life - choosing the subject matter and the allocation of his time...
according to his ambition and his ability to concentrate.
The first halachah of this chapter relates that women are not obligated to study Torah. However,...
A woman who studies Torah will receive reward - for her efforts.
However, that reward will not be [as great] as a man's, since she was not commanded [in this mitzvah]. Whoever performs a deed which he is not commanded to do, does not receive as great a reward as one who performs a mitzvah that he is commanded to do. -Tosafot, Kiddushin 31a explains that a person who is commanded to perform a mitzvah will be more conscious of his obligation and try to fulfill it more fastidiously than a person who performs the same act voluntarily.
Chassidic thought explains the concept differently. The Hebrew word mitzvah (commandment) shares the same root as the word tzavtah (connection). Fulfilling the commandments establishes a transcendent bond with Godliness. In contrast, a good deed that is not commanded, no matter how worthy, remains an act of man and does not establish such a connection.
Even though she will receive a reward, the Sages commanded that a person should not teach his daughter Torah - There is no explicit source for the Rambam's statements, though one may draw such a conclusion from Sotah 20a. That passage relates that one prominent sage, ben Azzai, did not share this opinion.
As mentioned in the commentary on Halachah 1, the Rabbis require a woman to study the laws governing the mitzvot which she is obligated to fulfill. Based on that decision, many commentaries explain that the Rambam's statements refer only to intensive study of the subject matter described as Gemara in the previous halachot.
because most women - Commentaries have mentioned that by adding the word "most," the Rambam implies that if a father sees that his daughter is capable of such study, he should afford her the opportunity.
cannot concentrate their attention on study, and thus transform the words of Torah into idle matters because of their lack of understanding. -Kin'at Eliyahu notes the contrast between the first clause, "A woman who studies," and the command the Sages gave "a father." He differentiates between study that a woman undertakes voluntarily, which is considered desirable, and a father's training his daughter in matters which are not necessarily relevant to her.
[Thus,] our Sages declared: -Sotah 21b
"Whoever teaches his daughter Torah is like one who teaches her tales and parables." - Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Sotah 3:3). From Sotah 21b, it would appear that tiflos (translated as “idle matters”) could be understood as "romance." The Meiri renders it as "vanity," explaining that a woman who has studied will boast of her achievements.
This applies to the Oral Law. [With regard to] the Written Law: at the outset, one should not teach one's daughter. However, if one teaches her, it is not considered as if she was taught idle things. - Though the Rambam's statements are quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 246:6), the source for his statements has been questioned.
Some point to the Mishnah, Nedarim 3:3, which, in passing, mentions a daughter's study of the Written Law. However, the Rambam's own text of that Mishnah lacks the words "or daughter." Others point to Chaggigah 3a (and more specifically, to the Jerusalem Talmud, ibid. 1:1), which describes the reading of the Torah by the king during the Hakhel celebration, which women were also required to attend. Nevertheless, there is a difference between study of the Written Law in its entirety and hearing the reading of a few inspirational passages. (See Taz 246:4.)
In this context, it might be noted that the Tur's text of the Rambam reverses these statements and mentioned teaching women the Oral Law as preferable to the Written Law. This can easily be reconciled with the opinions mentioned above, which require a woman to learn the laws governing the mitzvot she is obligated to fulfill. In contrast, the Written Law is a less closely defined field of study. There, a greater possibility exists that a woman who is not gifted may misinterpret the teachings.
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