I never liked group learning. In high school and college I preferred to hunker down and go through material myself, being completely responsible for the success or failure or any given assignment, and in my room, the café, or at a walled off desk in the library, my prevailing theory was that I learn best when no one interferes.

Until I began studying Torah.

When I first entered a learning program, I was set up with a chavruta, a learning partner, and attended lectures around a table or was assigned a partner to study with. The Jewish way to learn, I found, is as a group.

Jewish achievement is found in the collectiveThis is not surprising. It takes ten men to constitute a minyan for a formal prayer service. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews atone for their sins collectively. All lifecycle events from circumcision through burial and mourning take place publicly. Jewish achievement is found in the collective.

Eventually I found my way to a seminary, where lessons took place in a noisy study hall, around long tables where many people sit together, reading and discussing out loud in pairs. Though it is at times distracting, I found that the ongoing chatter reflects vibrancy, giving life to the material at hand.

While the Torah was initially transmitted one-way, from G‑d, to Moshe, to the Jewish people, it has since become a dialogue. The answer to many a theological question or discrepancy about Jewish law is "machloket" – there is debate. In other words, the answer to the question depends on whom you ask, remaining a debate among great thinkers.

There even exists machloket over the best way to learn. Most modern authorities agree that students of Torah should ideally learn with a chavruta because this method was practiced, or at least advocated, by the Talmud.1

"Rabbi Hama ben Hanina said: What is the meaning of the verse: 'Iron sharpens iron?' (Proverbs 27:17) This is to teach you that just as in the case of one iron sharpening the other so also do two scholars sharpen each other's mind.

Rabbah ben Hanah said: Why are the words of the Torah likened to fire, as it is said,:'Is not my word like as fire? says the Lord?' (Jeremiah 23: 29.) This is to teach you that just as fire does not ignite of itself so too the words of the Torah do not endure with him who studies alone.2

Don't get hung up on finding the "right" partnerI become "sharper" through explaining material out loud with a study partner, am more motivated to stay on track and I absorb material better than when passively learning alone. My chavrutas have pushed me to learn both in and out of the study hall, becoming friends and mentors as well.

Some Tips for Getting Started

Don't be concerned that you don't have a strong enough Torah background in order to learn with someone else or feel limited by learning only with those of a similar skill level.

The nature of any two-way relationship is that each person brings his or her strengths and weaknesses, and that is exactly why it works so well. When I first began learning in chavruta I was very self-conscious about being a beginner and thought that I wasn't giving anything back. It didn't take long before I realized that my significantly more knowledgeable partner learned from my "basic" questions as well as from the insight that I had as someone with a different background.

Don't get hung up on finding the "right" partner. The most important thing is simply to find one, and you'll switch if it's not a good match. Anyone who is truly interested in helping another person learn and grow will understand if it doesn't work.

Understand that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to learn. What you study, how long you study, or how often you take turns reading is a system that you develop with your partner. The important thing is that you establish a regular time and place to meet. This will ensure that your learning stays on track.

Chavrutas are not limited to study in a yeshiva or synagogue. People can meet during a lunch break at work, on Shabbat, or even over the phone. In order to start learning, you can ask for assistance at your local synagogue or Chabad house. Alternatively, organizations such as JNet will assign you a chavruta over the phone.

Then you will understand the wisdom of King Solomon when he wrote: "Two people are better than one because [together] they have a good reward for their hard work." (Ecclesiastes 4:9)