Talmud Torah - Chapter One
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.
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