Adapted from Chiddushim U’Biurim BeShas,
Vol. II, p. 167ff.

In Hilchos Talmud Torah,1 the Rambam writes:

When there is a teacher of young children, and a colleague comes and opens a school to teach children next to him to attract other children, or even to attract the children [who are studying under the first teacher], [the first teacher] may not lodge a protest against him, as it is written:2G‑d desired for the sake of [Israel’s] righteousness to make the Torah great and glorious.”

The commentaries note that the apparent source for the Rambam’s ruling is Bava Basra 21b-22a. That source, however, uses a different rationale, stating: “The envy of the scribes increases wisdom.”

The Rambam frequently will quote a prooftext or rationale other than that used in his source,3 for the Rambam quotes the rationale or prooftext which is most obvious and easily understood.

This reflects the goal stated by the Rambam in the introduction to the Mishneh Torah: “to compose clear statements…. using precise and succinct wording… so that all the laws [of the Torah] would be revealed for the great and the small.” For this reason, the Rambam will change the wording in his statement of a law from that in his source, and similarly, he will — as in the instance above — offer a rationale that is more explicit than the one quoted in the original source.

The question arises: In the instance mentioned above, if the prooftext quoted by the Rambam is preferable to the rationale stated in the Talmud, why was it not employed by the Sages of the Talmud? One might say, based on the principle:4 “The scholars of a later generation must explain their words more,” that since the Rambam was writing to later generations of scholars, it was necessary for him to be more explicit. This statement itself, however, requires explanation: How is the prooftext quoted by the Rambam more explicit than the rationale employed by our Sages?

It is possible to explain that the difference between the two sources depends on the context in which they are speaking. The Talmud is speaking within the context of the laws of usurping a colleague’s livelihood. It explains that although there are certain restrictions against opening up a business in a place where a colleague already operates a similar business, these restrictions do not apply with regard to Torah instruction. Why? Because “The envy of the scribes increases wisdom,” i.e., even the person who was teaching previously will benefit from the competition, for he will gain — and thus impart — greater knowledge.

The Rambam, by contrast, is speaking within the context of the mitzvah to teach the Torah to children. He concludes that concept by stressing the importance of the proliferation of Torah schools, stating that even when there is an existing school, another may be started. The prooftext he cites to illustrate this concept: “G‑d desired for the sake of [Israel’s] righteousness to make the Torah great and glorious,” emphasizes the worthiness of such study in G‑d’s eyes, thus encouraging people to undertake such endeavors:

May the envy and competition in the teaching and the study of the Torah in the present era lead to the age when “there is neither envy nor competition… and the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d,”5 with the coming of Mashiach; may this take place in the immediate future.